Q&A With MSU DT/DE Coach David Turner

MSU defensive linemen coach David Turner talks about how his players did during spring practice, who will start, who will back them up and where the incoming freshmen figure in the picture.

How was this spring different than last year's spring as far as your four positions?
"We went into the spring with it reversed from last spring. Last spring we had two ends and had to find two tackles. This spring we had two tackles, but the ends left (due to both being seniors) so I had to find two new ends. But I think we had a productive spring and some guys stepped up."

Going into the summer who are your starters and who do you see as their backups? Start with one of the defensive ends and go across the line.
"Cortez McCraney and Brandon Cooper are probably co-starters at the left end spot going into fall camp. They both had good springs.

"Cortez has been a swing guy who has played tackle and end. Right now, he's trying to lose a little weight since he's going to play end the majority of the time."

What does he weigh?
"He was up to about 285, but he needs to be down to 270 to 275. He could play defensive end for us at that weight. He's a good athlete who is a strong kid. We just have to stay on him about his concentration, doing the little things every day and finishing plays."

What are your thoughts about Brandon Cooper?
"We moved him from the right to the left side. I don't think he played a snap for us the first four or five games last season, but he was practicing well and doing the things we asked of him. We decided he deserved some playing time. And when he got in there he played really well. He took some snaps away from Jimmie Holmes because Jimmie kind of tailed off as a backup to Avery Hannibal as the season progressed.

"Brandon is your typical hard hat kind of guy. I like the way he approaches his job. He comes to practice every day and doesn't say a whole lot. He just works to get better and sooner or later you notice him.

"He needs to have a good summer, though. He needs to get stronger and get a little faster and work on his explosiveness, which he can do with Coach Pollard in the weight room. We don't want him to get too big, somewhere in the 250 to 255 range.

"Between Brandon and Cortez, we should be ok at the left end spot. Each one gives us something a little different.

"Charles Burns is another guy who will play left end. He's coming off two shoulder surgeries and hasn't been able to make it through a season here. But his attitude and approach has been great. He's really the bonus guy - anything we can get out of him would be a bonus. So, hopefully, he can stay healthy."

Left tackle?
"At the left tackle spot I would say it's Kyle Love. He's my best defensive lineman right now. He's the most consistent and does the things we want him to do. If we can get him to improve his pass-rush and do some more things from the technical standpoint he will be that much better. He had foot surgery at the end of the spring, so that's holding him back right now. But he is doing some light jogging right now. He should be back in a week or two.

"He has to have a good summer in terms of his weight and body fat. He needs to change his body around a little bit. But he has a lot of tools to work with as far as his physical ability is concerned."

How much overweight is he? And how much does that excess weight hurt him?
"He's not that overweight. I would like to see him lose about 10 pounds. If he does that he will be find. He can do the things we want him to, but not for as long of a time as we want from him. He's a good athlete at his size and he runs well, but his endurance prevents him from playing at a high level for a long period of time.

"Kyle's backup is Reggie Odom. He's a young man who had a good spring and continues to get better. But he will probably get pushed by one or two of those freshmen this fall. So, it's critical that he have a good summer. He has to get his weight down. And he needs to get in the weight room and strengthen his lower body. But he's working at it.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see him play some in the fall. How much, I don't know. That depends on him and the development of some of the freshmen."

Right tackle?
"At the right tackle spot is Jessie Bowman. His biggest goal going into the spring was getting his hand placement better. And he got much better at that. Jessie has to be a leader for us and he's taking on that role and doing a good job at it.

"When you look at Jessie physically, he's not the most imposing guy, but he's a great athlete who moves light on his feet and can run. And he's flexible. He can do all the things you want your defensive linemen to do.

"This summer is critical for him due to the weight that he's got to lose. He tells us he's determined to do that and that he won't let us down.

"LaMarcus Williams, who played last year as a true freshman, is backing him up right now. He's got a lot of ability. He showed some natural ability as far as pass-rush, but his biggest problem, up to this point, is he hasn't been healthy over a consistent period of time. When he's about to make a move in terms of getting better, he's always set back by injuries. It's never been major injuries, just minor things that hinder his progress. Part of his problem has been his weight and his body fat. And he's working on it. He lost 10 to 15 pounds before he left for the summer, so he's well on his way.

"He's a motivated kid, a mature kid for his age. He wants to be good and he's going to work at it. He will do whatever it takes to be good.

"He should play a lot of snaps for us this fall. I'm really excited about him and look forward to seeing him come to fall camp in great shape."

Right end?
"We moved Timmy Bailey from left end to right end. He can play either side, but right now he's going to be on the right side. He's one of two guys that I look to as leaders, Timmy and Jessie (Bowman). He's a little different from the others because he's an older kid. He's a great young man who I have a lot of respect for him due to all that he's done.

"He needs to use his summer to get stronger, which is his biggest problem. His lower body's explosiveness is something that he has been working on. This is his senior season and he knows he needs to step up and be more productive. If he gets stronger this summer he can do that.

"Jimmie Holmes backs him up. He came out smoking last fall - had some big plays in the LSU and Tulane games, but as the season went on he wasn't as productive. His biggest problem is not cutting it loose. He won't play wide open all the time. If we can get him to do that and use his ability - and he has some ability - then he can make some things happen.

"Jimmie had a good spring, but he was limited due to some injuries. But when he was playing, he became more consistent. And part of that was due to the maturity process and him learning how to play at this level.

"I really think the two end spots will be by committee. I like the guys that we have because we have four guys who bring something different to the table. We are just going to have to mix and max and put them in at the right time."

Where do you think the incoming freshmen will fit in the picture?
"It's hard to say who will play, but I think we will have to have one or two play. Inside, at the tackle spot, the most logical choice would be Joshua Jackson. I say that because he's already big and physical enough to play right now.

"In addition to Jackson, I'm also going to take a look at Devin Jones at the left tackle spot and see if either one can help us there. Devin is coming off ACL surgery, but he has been cleared for a long time. He's a strong, powerful, explosive kid. On film, out of all our freshmen, he was the guy who played the hardest and showed a great motor. He's not as big as some guys, but he plays hard and plays bigger than most.

"In time, I think both of them will be very, very good players for us. And, hopefully, one or both will be able to contribute this fall because we'll probably need one to step up for us.

"At the end spot, we need someone to step up who can rush the quarterback. I don't know who it will be at this time, but if you look at it on paper, it would probably be Shane McCardell. He's a track guy who can fly. Sean Ferguson is another guy. We'll probably start both of those guys out at right end, although nothing is written in stone. On the left side, we have Trevor Stigers. He has a lot of tools and he's shown the ability to rush the quarterback.

"The main thing for them is to get here in July and get around the older guys. The older guys will be able to help them out with several things and help show them the way."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the 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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