We’re counting down to MSU’s season opener against Oklahoma State on Aug. 31, giving you a significant number to ponder as August trudges on. Today’s number is…
One of the few bright spots during MSU’s season-ending skid last fall – five losses in its last six games – was the play of safety Nickoe Whitley. In back-to-back losses to Texas A&M and LSU, Whitley made a total of 25 tackles – 12 in the first game, 13 in the second. Those marked the only times in his career he’s reached double digits in tackles.
He went on to make 17 tackles over the last three games, finishing the season with a career-high 88 stops. Whitley is known, of course, for getting the most out of his tackles, with several bone-rattling hits to his credit. But in the end, a tackle is a tackle, and it had to be encouraging to see him playing so well after coming back from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.
On the other hand, the fact that Whitley was making so many tackles meant opponents were getting the ball down the field way too often. Texas A&M racked up 693 total yards, while LSU totaled 392, and MSU was outscored 75-30 in those two games. Johnny Manziel and Zach Mettenberger both picked apart MSU’s pass defense, combining to complete 49 of 66 passes for 584 yards.
Whitley is back for his senior season and is fully healthy, and he’s also the most experienced member of the secondary. He’ll be one of the more dependable tacklers on the team, but MSU will be better off if the guys in the front seven can steal some of his tackles.