MSU Defensive Line Update

Mississippi State defensive line coach David Turner provides an update about his players after the first few weeks of preseason practice.

How have the defensive linemen done so far, overall?
"Overall, we've had more good days than bad days. I'm talking to them about being consistent because right now we are not near as consistent as we need to be. We've had about four good days in a row, then a bad day; we have about two or three good days, then a bad day.

"The ends are probably the most consistent group - Titus (Brown) and Caveman (Avery Hannibal), when he's been in there. Timmy Bailey had a great scrimmage and I think he's going to be able to help us. But we are really struggling at finding a backup at right end behind Caveman.

"The tackles are still a big question mark. I think that Jessie Bowman took a step forward during Saturday's scrimmage. And after evaluating the tape, he's running first team. But right now I don't know who the other tackle will be."

What did Jessie do that was so impressive during the scrimmage?
"He fought through some things and he made some plays when he was tired. He lined up and executed the defense. He played a couple of series and had 20 snaps in a row. So, he took a step forward mentally."

Other than Jessie starting, who would you say is the leading candidate at the other starting position and who are the potential backups?
"Kyle Love would start if we had to play tomorrow. Rodney Prince has shown some promise but he missed Saturday's scrimmage with an injury. Cortez McCraney had done some good things, but Saturday he didn't perform as well as I was hoping he would in normal downs, although he did good in short yardage and goal line. Quinton Wesley missed due to some family issues. And LaMarcus Williams had performed well, but I think he took a step back Saturday. I had high expectations for him and I still do because I think he's going to be a fine football player, but he's still a freshman. He's only been here three weeks. So, it's still kind of a question mark."

What do you mean by taking a step back?
"It's a combination of missing assignments and not making proper reads and seeing what they should have seen and executing the defense. Sometimes when you scrimmage, especially with the young guys, you go to the stadium and they see the stands and it's a little bit different atmosphere and different intensity. And sometimes they don't execute because they aren't as mentally sharp as they should be."

Have Titus Brown and Avery Hannibal performed about like you expected them to?
"Yes, they have. But I'm still on Titus about some things in the run game that he has to get better at. He's excelled in the passing game and done some good things there. And Caveman has made as much improvement as anybody that I have in terms of being consistent. He's a whole lot better in the run and is doing some good things in the passing game now, so I feel good about those guys. Titus has proven that he can play well in this league and Caveman has played a lot of snaps. He hadn't found a (position) home up until this year. But I feel good about him at right end."

You mentioned that Bailey has looked good backing up Titus. Who are the backup candidates behind Avery?
"Brandon Cooper has taken a step forward. Jimmie Holmes has started out pretty good, but has kind of hit a wall which is not unusual for a first-year guy. He's a junior college guy, but he's still a first-year guy. I feel good about the group of guys, but it's just a matter of somebody taking the bull by the horn and stepping forward."


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

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