MSU Linebacker Update

Mississippi State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Ellis Johnson talks about his linebackers - who would start if State was playing LSU today, who will back them up, how the freshmen have done, and who the surprise linebacker of the training camp has been?

As of today, who would be your starters for the LSU game?
"Right now - and I wouldn't say this is written in stone - our starting lineup has been very consistent - (Gabe) O'Neal at SAM, (Jamar) Chaney at MIKE and (Dominic) Douglas at WILL. We toyed with shuffling them around a little bit , moving Chaney back out to WILL and moving Hughes up to the starting MIKE and worked Douglas over to SAM a little bit, just to make sure, if we had an emergency, that we could move them around."

Who looks to be their backups at this time?
"I feel good about their backups. Hughes is backing up Chaney and Littlejohn is backing up Douglas. Devon Edwards, who is backing up O'Neal, has made great progress the last three or four days. I was really concerned about him early because the learning curve had him (confused) a few days. And I was really concerned whether he was going to be able to play. But he had a pretty good scrimmage last Saturday. Then, every day this week he has gotten better and better and better.

"For the first time since we have been here I feel like we have a two that can play on that level and give you good snaps at any of those positions. I don't think the twos have played as consistent as the ones, but they can come in and give you the same performance most of the time."

What can you tell me about Devon Edwards (6-0, 217)?
"He's a junior college walk-on (from Georgia Military College) who had some offers but kind of got stuck in the middle of nowhere, but we we able to bring him in. The kid is a Division-I football player. He is a good football player who has good speed, great mobility, he's physical and he's fundamentally ahead of the freshmen. I could see in the first two or three days just in drills his explosion, his contact in tacking and getting off blocks. You could tell he wasn't a high school kid coming in. Then, as soon as he learned what to do, some of that started to show up (in team drills)."

How have the four freshmen linebackers - Jamie Jones, K.J. Wright, Terrell Johnson and Karlin Brown - performed?
"They are going to be a really good group of players who are going to be really good linebackers down the road and they are also going to be tremendous special teams players. I've had another freshman walk-on linebacker, Josh Hines (5-11, 215; Rome, GA), who has played well. He is as good of a football player as our signees.

"The freshmen aren't ready to play in a game right now because they aren't ready for the big picture. There are still making too many mistakes, too many missed alignments, too many things that would give up big plays. But, physically, they can play. Mentally, they just haven't gotten it yet.

"K.J. is probably a step ahead of most of them. Karlin is pretty close behind him. Jamie is as good, physically, as any of them but he seems to have a little bit slower learning curve picking everything up. Terrell is the same way. But, physcially, Terrell's as good of a linebacker as we signed. But they are freshmen and making freshmen mistakes. In two weeks they will still be making some, but not as many. That's why freshmen can't play in this league very often."

Who has been the biggest surprise of all your linebackers including verterans and newcomers?
"Probably Devon because I can't say any of the other guys have surprised me with their performances. I have been really pleased with the way Hughes has stepped it up and been more consistent. I have also been pleased with the way Douglas has made the adjustment at WILL. And I have been really pleased with Littlejohn making the adjustment to go back to WILL. He was moved to SAM last year, but I thought he had a better year two years ago. We thought he was a SAM 'backer, but that was my mistake last year. I think he is a better WILL linebacker, but we didn't have anybody to back up Gabe. I have also been pleased with the talent level of all of the freshmen and what they will mean to us in the future. But the pleasant surprise, no question, is Devon, a walk-on who we were able to convince to come to our program. After he got through the learning curve, he has been a very pleasant surprise and I think he is going to give us some reps."

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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