Douglas, Linebackers Working For Fun

It was almost too cliché to be true, but there they were. The three first-team linebackers not only leaving the Shira Center as a group, but aligned properly with Jamar Chaney in the middle, K.J. Wright to his right and Dominic Douglas on the left. The ‘weak' side since a reporter awaited Douglas to ask…why all the laughter after an hour of weights with conditioning work still in store?

"We were talking about who is the fastest," reported Douglas. "That's all we were kidding about."

That's the sort of daily summer routine for Mississippi State linebackers in general and the top trio in particular. Work, joke; sweat, laugh. And most importantly, do it together. "Yes, we try to practice as a group and we try to play as a group," says Douglas. "We go out and do a bunch of drills and one-on-ones every day. We're becoming closer as one unit."

Oh, and by the way, who was picked as fastest of the three? "We don't know just yet!" cackled Douglas, which was the same as admitting…not him. "I ain't going to lie to you, I know I'm not the fastest," he agreed. "But I get the job done!"

Very well, too. In 2007 Douglas, signed out of Hinds Community College as a big safety-type prospect, turned into a big contributor at linebacker. Taking over the weak-side job in August he started 11 of 13 games and overcame mid-year ankle issues to compile 78 tackles. That was second-best on the Dog defense; his 8.5 tackles for losses were best on the whole squad.

Now, ratchet up the forecasts for this senior season. Douglas already has. As steady as his play was in '07, aided of course by enrolling the previous spring, he is unabashedly optimistic about what can be done in 2008. More tackles, more sacks, more big hits. Just plain more.

"I'm trying to reach those goals. I set high expectations about myself and try to reach them. That's one of the key elements as far as coming here a year ago, impact the team as best I could and impact Mississippi itself. I believe we represent it doing everything 100%."

Including this off-season's strength and conditioning work. Douglas played last fall at 227 pounds; as of today he was up to "about 235" and none of it looks like fat. The upper body has certainly progressed with a full calendar year in State's system.

"Coach Ben Pollard is getting us right and everything is going to the positive side," Douglas agrees. And if he's worried about running around with the bonus bulk, well, "Coach Croom says every linebacker weighs-in in the NFL at 235 so I'll be OK!"

Pro talk though is just that, talk, for the moment. Prepping for his final fall at State is the matter of the June moment and the defensive staff has offered some ‘suggestions' about items to fine-tune for all his corps. "A linebacker works on his technique, that's basically all it amounts to. Cutting down on seconds getting to the ball as far as pass rushing. Working on footwork, the first step, cover drills, different things like that. And by the time summer ends and practice is here you'll be full-force."

Not just that, but colliding full-force. If there is one thing young linebackers miss in summer it's contact. Even elders like Douglas miss the extra zest knocking bodies around brings. "I ain't going to lie, we're ready to hit somebody!" Fortunately good sense prevails for these unpadded lads; they keep it to talking tough, for now. "We know when the time comes we're going to be exhausted so we're trying to wait. We're just trying to count down the days and everybody be patient. That's all everybody talks about, is they're ready to hit. But I know when the time comes they won't be wanting to hit. But we have fun out here."

Fun? Summer workouts can be called a lot of things, but…fun? Even Douglas is surprised by spontaneous bursts of levity when a bunch of Bulldogs get together on the field. "We used to have fun in high school doing different things, when you get to college level it's all about business. But since I got here, you can laugh about a whole lot of things. You get comfortable.

"You really give it your all when you're having fun, that's what Coach Croom tells us to do. Just have fun and make sure you do your work while you're doing that. You do this pretty much all your live and you've got to find some positive side of it. So you might as well have fun while you're doing it."

Naturally the best fun of all is winning. Douglas was part of the Bulldogs' breakout season and like every returning varsity man he wants more. Doing that though will mean re-filling the defensive gaps left by graduated starters and alternates, and replacing their strong points. Particularly in pass-rushing, a topic of summer stress for the guys who will be backing up a revised line.

Douglas says the linebackers will bring some new and different approaches to the game this year, but it's really still a straight-forward concept. "We pretty much pride ourselves on getting at the ball, you know.

"We're looking forward to living up to the expectations. I believe we can get the job done. I know we'll get the job done." Not only ‘we' but ‘he' that is, as Douglas adds a senior-leadership role to his resume. "I won't say my game has reached its peak yet but I know I can get there."

But again, back to an earlier topic. Who really is the flat-out faster of the starting Bulldog linebackers? "Jamar Chaney," Douglas admits. "He probably has a three-yard step on me in the 40. But getting to the ball? Most definitely it's me! Because when you cut on the TV there's #10 around the ball, for sure!" Which is why the weak-side man believes this year he, and not middle-man Chaney, will win the team tackle-tally title.

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