MSU DL: Talented, Experienced and In Shape

With seniors such as defensive tackles Deljuan Robinson, Andrew Powell and Antonio Johnson and defensive end Michael Heard, the Mississippi State defensive front is not short on what you need to win in the SEC - Talent and Experience.

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"I think all the kids that we have up front are good kids and good athletes. I have been pleased with the progress that they are making," said defensive line coach Brick Haley of his veteran unit. "I don't think there is anything that can replace experience. Having those guys up front gives you a little bit of a leeway to get the other guys going. They can show the young guys what they've been through and how to get to where they want to go."

Coach Haley also feels this team has some depth up front.

"I feel like we are real close (to having two-deep)," said Haley. "We still have some guys who haven't been battlefield tested. We have some guys who have only played 39, 40, 50 snaps. You can't say that that guy has been battlefield tested. But I feel really good about the group that we have."

Sophomore DE Charles Burns and junior DE Titus Brown will see plenty of action on the first and second units, while redshirt freshman DT Quinton Wesley will be a first-time guy this season.

Haley knows what he has in Burns and Brown, and he likes what he sees from Wesley, a converted DE.

"I like all the things about him right now, his body build, his enthusiasm, all the things he brings to the table. He has great attributes," said Haley. "He is a big, physical guy who has some quickness and long arms. He's 6-4, 300 pounds and can run. Who wouldn't like a tackle like that?"

He also likes the overall attitude of his group.

"I like their enthusiasm. Guys are bouncing around and acting like they are having fun. They are flying around the ball," he said.

While there's experienced players at all four starting positions, he's also got a bunch of true freshmen, probably more than any other group on the team. But based on summer reports from MSU head strength and conditioning coach Jim Nowell, he likes what he has heard.

"I think that Jim (Nowell) thought that they were in pretty good condition and that they were mentally tough," said Haley. "I think for him it may have been the best group that has come in since we've been here as far as being in decent shape and getting in shape."

Coach Haley talked about the things he likes about each of the true freshmen.

DT Kyle Love (6-1, 320)- "He is a big, strong guy that is very physical."

DT Reggie Odom (6-0, 295) - "He is a young man who has a little ways to go, but I think he is going to be a good player for us. Right now, he's just young and I think a lot of things that we are putting in is kind of blowing his mind."

DT J. C. Brignone (6-1, 290) - "He is another big, strong guy who can be a good inside player that can control the gap. He's got some things to do due to being young, but he'll be fine."

DE Brandon Cooper (6-3, 240) - "He is young and has a lot to learn. He is going to be a good player for us in the future."

DE Rodney Prince (6-3, 240) - "I think he is a really good player. He has done good things and has been noticed in practice. We are excited about having him."

With so many seniors on the first unit, you would think a few of the freshmen will get a chance to play their first year. What are Coach Haley's thoughts on that?

"Time will tell on that. But I think we have to play with the guys that we have, our seniors. With the second group, we have to work with them as much as we can and get them some reps and get them ready to go," he said. "When the seniors leave, the other guys have to take over, so we have to put them in a position where they can ease into that role."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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