A Q&A with DL Coach Chris Wilson

Mississippi State defensive line coach Chris Wilson talks about his defensive ends and defensive tackles and who is projected to be on the 1st team and who are their backups.

Who wound up first team at the defensive end position?
"Right now, there is only one starter set at defensive end. And that's Pernell McPhee. I don't believe we have found the starter opposite of him. We have some guys who we feel good about that are competing for that position."

What do you like about McPhee?
"He is very talented. When I mean talented, I mean he is very instinctive. He's one of those guys that you don't have to tell him too much. He is also very strong at the point of contact in the running game. He's very physical in that regard. He's almost 280 pounds but still runs like he is 260 pounds. He is also a pretty good pass-rusher. And I think with our new style of play where we are in a more attack front, instead of having 5 or 6 sacks like he had a year ago there is a possibility that he could double those numbers if he plays up to his ability."

You are talking about All-SEC and maybe even All-American.
"Yes, All-American.

"He is no different than the kids that we coached at Oklahoma or the kids they had at Florida. He's that kind of guy. The biggest thing is how quickly he grasps this system. He also had to get used to my style of coaching. And I think we are getting used to each other.

"He is also, in my mind, the bell-cow of our football team. He is a leader. Now, he has to combine both of those."

You mentioned there are several players who are competing for the other defensive end spot. Who are those guys?
"We really have three candidates - Sean Ferguson who has played in games for us, Nick Bell is a guy who has played and has experience, and Shane McCardell who hasn't been a player at this point in his career, but from an athletic standpoint and a physical standpoint he might be the most prototypical guy. We just have to get the learning curve up for him in regard to playing at an SEC level. I think, as he continues taking reps, that is going to happen for him."

I've heard Shane may be one of the fastest players on the team, despite being a defensive end. What is his speed?
"I don't have the numbers in front of me, but he is really fast."

Would you say he's one of the fastest players on the football team?
"I would say yes. I'll say this, he's one of the fastest big skill guys that I have ever had a chance to coach. And I've been fortunate to coach a first-rounder and guys who are extremely athletic and he fits in that group. What he's got to do now is become a football player. He's a guy who has a great tools-set. We just have to get it going in the right direction."

What do you like about Nick Bell?
"The biggest thing for Nick is him getting comfortable in our scheme. Basically, just turning loose. I think the more someone does something the better they become. And Nick is really that way. He's a guy who wants to do it right and really works at it. We just have to get him comfortable in our new system and with our coaching style."

Sean Ferguson?
"He's got a lot of tools. He's athletic. He's a natural knee-bender. He can change directions. And another thing we believe he gives us is a really good pass-rusher."

Will one of those guys move over and back up McPhee or will that be somebody else?
"One of them could be. Then, there is also the chance of a young guy like Kaleb Eulls or Johnathan McKenzie."

What do you like about McKenzie?
"One thing I like about Johnathan is his tremendous motor He is relentless. He plays at a high effort level. And he's very strong. He's a guy who I could see, at some point after being in our system, being a Pernell McPhee type guy. He's long and athletic."

You mentioned Eulls as a possibility. What do you like about him?
"I had a chance to evaluate him at Oklahoma. We knew about him and we offered him a scholarship at Oklahoma. From that standpoint, we know he has some physical tools that can help us. We'll see how he does as well as see how (signees) Curtis Virges and Jeff Howie do. And another one we have is Trevor Stigers The jury hasn't come in on him yet."

Who stand out at defensive tackle?
"One guy who really stood out was Devin Jones. While he's not a big guy, we will take quickness and speed over size. And he's a very physical guy who is very productive.

"And you also have to look at the two guys who have been here. Josh Boyd had a tremendous spring. He is strong and very competitive. And he picked up the fundamentals probably as quick as anybody. Then there is Fletcher Cox who is a tremendous talent. I rank his talent up there with guys like (Ndamukong) Suh, Gerald McCoy. He's that kind of physically talented guy. And there is also James Carmon. As the spring progressed, he really started becoming what we thought he could be. He is a big space-eater who is athletic. The more reps he can get and the more we can get him into shape to play this style, the more likely he can really help our ballclub."

What position do you see Jeff Howie and Curtis Virges playing?
"They could be ends or defensive tackles, depending on who we are playing that week. Obviously, when you are going to line up against people who are going to hammer you and knock you off the ball, you like to play with some bigger guys."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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