With cornerback numbers dwindling due to injuries late last season, Mississippi State nearly pulled the redshirt off one of it’s promising young freshmen.
Maurice Smitherman‘s uniform was always kept ready inside the Seal M-Club Center just in case the Bulldogs sustained another injury at that position.
That scenario nearly unfolded on Oct. 24 against Kentucky as time was called with starting corner Taveze Calhoun shaken up with a leg injury after a play.
“Everybody was coming up to me on the sideline telling me I was about to play,” Smitherman said. “Calhoun is tough and I was glad to see him get up after that.”
MSU managed to keep the group healthy for the remainder of the season thus in turn preserving Smitherman’s redshirt.
“I’m really glad I got that redshirt because I didn’t want to waste a year,” Smitherman said. “Now this year, I can come in with my goals already set on what I can accomplish.”
The 5-foot-9, 178-pounder from Adamsville, Alabama went to work on those goals during the spring but first had to adjust to new coaches and a new scheme.
The Bulldogs lost all four defensive coaches following the 2015 season including cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend. Smitherman’s new coach, Terrell Buckley, came in with the same type of NFL and Super Bowl credentials
Smitherman admits there was some challenges during the coaching transition having to learn new terminology and technique as a young player.
“It was kind of frustrating,” Smitherman said. “But when you get new coaches and a whole new defensive staff, you have to buy into what they’re teaching you because you know we’re going to be successful in the end.”
Smitherman battled through some minor hip and knee injuries during the spring and still managed to make seven tackles including one for loss in State’s final two scrimmages.
After a year at the college level, Smitherman noticed some drastic discrepancies between playing in high school as opposed to the Southeastern Conference.
“It’s a faster game,” Smitherman said. “Not just physically, but you also have to be mentally ready for this game. I think those are the biggest differences from high school.”
Smitherman arrived in Starkville as a three-star prospect from Minor High School where he had 40 tackles, six for loss, five interceptions, 16 pass deflections and a blocked field goal as a senior. He also added a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Smitherman drew 30 scholarship offers from around the country including 10 SEC programs but the close proximity to his family is what helped put Mississippi State over the top.
“I’m glad I made this decision,” Smitherman said. “It’s close to home and that was the biggest reason so I can stay close to my parents.”