By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Some change comes naturally to Josh Boyd, other change not so much. But he is embracing all of it.
Mississippi State’s senior defensive tackle is stepping into the shoes of his old linemate, Fletcher Cox, who left a year early for the NFL. Boyd has not only filled the leadership void, he’s playing Cox’s old position.
The move from nose guard to three-technique tackle is something coaches thought Boyd could make pretty easily. In fact, defensive coordinator Chris Wilson sees it as a natural fit for the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder.
“If there was ever going to be a guy who could make that move, it would be Josh,” Wilson said. “I say this often: Josh was born to be a three-technique. He was born to be a defensive tackle.”
The switch is going to test Boyd’s athleticism and playmaking ability, but he feels ready for it.
“It’s a little more wide open,” Boyd said. “Nose guard is kind of (in) tight, constricted areas, and three-technique is a little more open, a little more one-on-one.”
Boyd said it took a while to get comfortable with the position switch, but repetition has solved that. Plus, he saw spot duty there last year, such as the season opener when Cox was serving a one-game suspension.
His biggest adjustment, according to Wilson, will be facing different blocking schemes.
“The biggest thing that you see is the combination of blocking schemes that you get from a center-guard combination to a tackle-guard combination,” Wilson said.
Last season, Boyd made 51 tackles, 8.0 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks. He’s the most productive returnee up front and has 28 career starts under his belt.
Becoming a leader
He’s a natural successor to Cox as a leader. But it’s not necessarily something that comes naturally.
“I don’t think it’s all natural for Josh to be a leader as much as it is for other guys,” head coach Dan Mullen said. “But I think that he’s worked at it and he knows that it is his responsibility.”
Boyd said during preseason camp he established his role as the leader. That will be important, because MSU has a very deep defensive line with a mixture of experience and promising youth.
Someone on the field will need to guide it.
“I’ve seen him mature, not only from him as a player – he’s really stepped his level of play up – but really taking ownership of the defensive line,” Wilson said. “I think that’s the first part of him becoming a really good leader.”
Said Boyd, “I’m just going to do everything that coach wants me to do, try to get the guys’ mindset for the game. It’s real now. It’s not practice any more, it’s time to put on the pads and go to work. Try to keep everybody focused and keep their mind in check. It’s for real.”