Defensive Scheme Causes Problems

MSU defensive coordinator Manny Diaz unleashed his new defense during Saturday's scrimmage and caused the offense problems in the passing and running game. He did the same thing in Thursday's practice and the results were the same, causing both quarterbacks to struggle a bit.


Quarterback Battle

Chris Relf and Tyler Russell have been battling for the starting job coming into the last practice before the Maroon-White game. Neither quarterback has done enough to separate himself up to this point in the spring. The tug-of-war remained at a stalemate as neither played overwhelmingly well Thursday.

Chris Relf started the day strong, completing 10 of 13 passes during 7 on 7s. However, he began to struggle in 11 on 11s as Coach Manny Diaz amped up the pressure, showing multiple looks, causing Relf to complete 6 of 14 passes.

Tyler Russell had a solid start to the day, completing 8 of 12 passes in 7 on 7s. He fared a little better than Relf in 11 on 11s, completing 8 of 14 passes.

Overall, I was hoping that one quarterback would have a big day and carry some momentum into the Maroon-White game. Relf and Russell added pressure to themselves going into the spring game but it should provide good entertainment for the fans.

Wide Receiver

Although the quarterbacks didn't play their best, the receivers played at a high level Thursday.

Chad Bumphis continued to lead to troops with five catches on the day and also took a few handoffs on some Jet plays.

Brandon Heavens continued a strong spring with four catches, including a nice jumping catch along the sideline.

Charles Bailey and Ricco Sanders have both been coming along this week, combining for 15 catches on the week with eight of them during Thursday's practice.

The receiving corps continues to impress with new guys emerging every week. The spring game could be their coming out party.


Defensive Line

The defensive line was causing their usual problems during Thursday's practice, seeming to get into the backfield just about every play.

James Carmon is developing solid skills to go along with his massive size. Carmon had a nice sequence where he chased down Russell on a bootleg and broke up a pass the next play. Carmon's continued development will only make the defensive line even more dangerous thanks to the depth he will provide in the defensive tackle rotation.

Johnathon McKenzie, who took some first team reps, looked good Thursday, getting into the backfield several times. The amazing thing is that at times a casual observer can't tell that McPhee is the starter and McKenzie is his back up. The kid is just that good and should give opposing offensive lines fits next season.

The defensive line is poised to dominate the spring game, so the 40,000 fans expected to attend the game should just sit back and enjoy the show.

Defensive Backs

The defensive backfield experienced a bit of a shakeup within the past week with Arceto Clark moving to offense and Johnthan Banks moving to cornerback.

Banks move to that position seems permanent as he ran with the first team today alongside Maurice Langston. Banks gives Coach Diaz a few options, including being able to be used at free safety, nickel safety, or cornerback.

I will be interested in seeing how the defensive backfield adjusts to Banks occupying a starting cornerback spot in the spring game.

Players to Watch Saturday

  • Arceto Clark-Clark may play both ways in the spring game and it could be a factor in deciding which side of the ball he plays next season.
  • Dennis Thames-Thames hasn't got many reps during spring practice due to being down the depth chart, but he could get a chance to showcase himself during the spring game. I expect him to play well.
  • Shane McCardell-This athletic freak hasn't had a good spring, earning the ire of defensive line coach Chris Wilson several times. But the spring game could be his chance for redemption.
  • Trevor Stigers- Stigers has shown a spark of late. I will be interested in seeing if his light bulb goes off in the spring game.
  • Jamie Jones- Jones has the most talent out of any of the backup linebackers and the spring game could be a great chance to show that.
  • Montrell Conner- Conner has had an injury-plagued spring but the spring game will be an excellent opportunity for him to get back in the mix at running back.

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    Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for He can be reached by email at

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