Mississippi State lost a lot of personnel on defense last season.
Perhaps the position hit hardest was Tony Hughes‘ group at safety. Starters Jay Hughes and Justin Cox have departed and Kendrick Market is attempting to comeback from an Achilles injury.
Needless to say, the safety group had a completely different look to it during spring practices. With Market still sidelined, juniors Kivon Coman and Deontay Evans manned the position. Both received their first significant playing time last season with Evans earning his first career start in the Orange Bowl.
Coman played safety in high school and prep school but for some reason (maybe depth?) the Bulldogs tried to make a cornerback out of him early in his career. The 6-foot-3, 196-pounder is better suited as a safety and made quite a few plays this spring in his bid to takeover one of those starting spots.
During the spring game, Coman made eight tackles. At this point, I believe he’s better against the run than in coverage but showed a lot of improvement during the spring.
Evans has had some great practices over the last few years which would lead you to believe he’s going to be special. But so far he hasn’t been able to take his full talent from the practice fields to the stadium on Saturdays.
The 5-foot-10, 204-pounder needs to do just that this fall, especially if Market isn’t full go early in the year. Evans could be one of those sleeper players that explodes onto the scene and has a stellar season. The Bulldogs certainly hope that happens, especially at a inexperienced spot in the secondary.
Market is a big question mark heading into the fall. He had a solid season and occupied the starting spot vacated when Cox was kicked off the team in November.
Achilles injuries can be tricky and do take quite some time to fully heal. Jay Hughes was able to bounce back from it in a year’s time but he hurt it in the 2013 opener. Market injured his Achilles in the Egg Bowl. Hopefully he’ll be able to return to the field for a full senior year.
Jahmere Irvin-Sills was shifted from cornerback to safety this spring. Irvin-Sills was a little undersized at the position at just 175-pounds and struggled going downhill against the run against some of State’s bigger backs. He has since transferred to North Dakota.
A player I’m excited to see on the field is redshirt freshman Brandon Bryant. He certainly looks the part at 5-foot-11, 205-pounds and seems to love contact. Bryant laid the wood more than a few times during spring drills and will play a huge role on special teams as well as in the secondary this fall.
I believe Bryant is going to be another one of those underrated players the Bulldogs found from Rosa Fort that turns into a strong contributor in the SEC.
Due to limited numbers, walk-ons Zak Neary and Hayes Walker held down the third team spots at safety during the spring.
The Bulldogs are counting on true freshmen signees Jamal Peters and Mark McLaurin to boost the depth when camp gets underway in August. Peters was an All-American in high school and has the talent and ability to challenge for a starting spot right away. If he can get the playbook down in time, that just might happen.