Defensive tackle was a veteran spot for Mississippi State last season with two senior starters and another senior providing depth.
But now that P.J. Jones, Kaleb Eulls and Curtis Virges have graduated, some of the Bulldogs young pups will have to step into those roles. This spring coach David Turner gave us a first look at what MSU’s defensive line might look like in 2015.
Rising junior Chris Jones will finally get his shot to start full-time. Jones had a few spot starts as a true freshman but didn’t have a single start last season. I fully believe the more this kids plays then the brighter his light will shine.
Jones is a freak of nature and could likely be headed to the NFL if he has a good year. He reminds me a lot of Fletcher Cox but a little taller and perhaps even more athletic.
Jones has the size of a defensive tackle and the speed of a defensive end. The 6-foot-6, 308-pounder will require double teams which should open things up for the linebackers to make plays.
Nelson Adams had a solid sophomore season last year and has a chance to earn the other starting defensive tackle spot. Adams split time shifting inside and outside last season but with more depth at end, he will likely focus on tackle this fall.
The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder has been a good contributor for the Bulldogs the last two years but will need more than that as his reps continually increase this year. Adams’ younger brother, Fletcher, will join Mississippi State’s defensive line this fall.
I’m expecting Nick James to have a breakout year as a junior. It’s his fourth year in the program and if he shows up to camp in shape and with his head on straight, he can certainly be a force. James isn’t just a space-eater anymore and has shed down enough to where he can get after the quarterback as well as clog holes.
I’d go ahead and get ready for some flags to fly whenever James gets his first sack. His celebrations in practice have been fun to watch. I mean, who doesn’t like to see a 6-foot-5, 325-pound man dance? James will battle Adams for one of the starting jobs.
Two redshirt freshmen will get their first chances to contribute on the field. Both Braxton Hoyett and Cory Thomas had a sack during the spring game and interchanged as the second-team defensive tackle during the spring.
Hoyett and Thomas will both play a good bit this year but it will be a fight to see which sees the most reps behind the group of veterans. Thomas was the higher recruited of the two and probably the more talented but Hoyett was surprisingly good during his first year on campus.
Hoyett and Thomas are close friends from Alabama and Hoyett played a big part in convincing Thomas to flip his commitment from Tennessee to State on signing day.