Chris Rayford knew that he would see more action this season after Mississippi State graduated two cornerbacks last year.
After injuries to seniors Cedric Jiles and Tolando Cleveland however, Rayford’s role in the secondary has drastically increased.
“Even before those injuries, I was working towards this opportunity just in case something like this happened,” Rayford said.
Rayford received his first taste of SEC action last season after a redshirt year. The 6-foot, 199-pounder appeared in 13 games for the Bulldogs making five tackles in 2015.
Rayford enters Saturday’s season opener against South Alabama battling juco transfer Lashard Durr for one of the the starting cornerback jobs.
“I’m really excited to showcase my talents,” Rayford said. “Coming into this year with the little bit of reps I had last year, I really feel like those made an impact. I’ve really been watching and learning from the older guys.”
Rayford has also been working with new MSU cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley since the spring. Buckley was an All-American at Florida State and spent 14 years in the NFL where he won a Super Bowl with the with the New England Patriots.
Buckley is now passing that firsthand knowledge along that knowledge to his players.
“It’s really amazing because you get to look at the game through the eyes of someone that made it as far as he did,” Rayford said. “I won’t say that he’s cocky, but he’s really confident and really understands the game.”
Rayford arrived at MSU as a two-way standout at Byhalia High School where he earned First Team All-State as a defensive back. He made 64 tackles, six for loss, two sacks and recovered three fumbles – two of which he returned for touchdowns. He also added 395 yards of offense and four touchdown on offense as a senior.
As solid as his high school statistics were, Rayford feels as if he’s a much better football player now.
“I’ve made a big step up from high school until Year 3 just based off my confidence and knowledge of the game,” Rayford said. “I think I made the greatest decision of my life coming here.”