By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Preseason camp marks the resumption of certain position battles, and Mississippi State has its share.
Three in particular stand out, and they could all be contested deep into August, and possibly beyond.
* Left tackle: James Carmon vs. Blaine Clausell.
MSU can’t expect to truly replace Derek Sherrod, an All-American and first-round draft pick of Green Bay. While the two candidates are promising, they lack experience.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Carmon, a senior, played defensive tackle last year as a junior college transfer. He was moved to offense during Gator Bowl preparations, and at 6-foot-7, 320 pounds has good size. His issues thus far have been staying low and getting his technique down.
Clausell also has size (6-7, 295) and was able to be Sherrod’s understudy during his redshirt year. But he has no on-field experience, and line coach John Hevesy said at the end of spring practices that he hopes “that light clicks” once camp begins.
* Middle linebacker: Brandon Maye vs. Brandon Wilson.
All three linebacker positions are open, but the most important is the man in the middle. Wilson enters camp as the starter, but he will be challenged by Maye, a post-graduate transfer from Clemson.
A senior, Wilson has 19 games under his belt but no starts, while Maye was a three-year starter at Clemson and has 235 career tackles to his name. Maye said in the spring, before arriving in Starkville, that he’ll try his best to fit in with the other linebackers. But he clearly came here vying for a starting job.
Something Wilson has going for him is his leadership and work ethic, which has drawn praise from coaches.
* Free safety: Wade Bonner vs. Nickoe Whitley.
As a redshirt freshman, Whitley started the first 10 games of the season before giving way to Bonner, MSU’s primary nickelback. Bonner started the next two games, but Whitley got the Gator Bowl start.
Whitley had a strong debut season with 52 tackles and three interceptions. Bonner, a fifth-year senior, made 39 tackles.
Bonner enters camp first on the depth chart, but Whitley has a slight edge in size and looks to be the long-term answer here. As for this fall, expect the pair to split duties regardless of who starts.