By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Maurice Langston admits that he was a bit lost last season. That’s understandable, considering he missed all of spring drills, August two-a-days, and the first five games of the season.
“Just about all the games I played in, I was really just out there going off natural talent,” said Langston, a senior cornerback for Mississippi State who started four of the seven games he played in.
Langston’s late start was due to a drug arrest just weeks after signing with MSU out of East Central Community College. But as the Bulldogs hit the halfway point of spring practices, Langston isn’t the only cornerback who falls into the something-to-prove department.
It’s a position that’s got plenty of talent and depth, and yet each expectation can be answered with a legitimate concern.
Can Langston stay spotless off the field and become what he was recruited to be, a big-time corner?
Can sophomore Corey Broomfield overcome offseason shoulder surgery and prove last year, when he made six interceptions and earned SEC All-Freshman honors, was no fluke?
Can junior Damein Anderson live up to the praise heaped upon him by his position coach?
Three to watch
Broomfield burst onto the scene last season, starting in only three games but seeing action in all 12. He had a pair of two-interception games, against Arkansas and Middle Tennessee State.
“He has good instincts, and he’s really a good student of the game,” cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith said. “Corey’s going to be a coach, so he studies the game a lot.”
Broomfield had surgery on his left shoulder in December after suffering a tear in his labrum, and he’s not participating in full-contact drills right now. He said he’s “about 70, 80 percent.” He and Langston are getting the first-team reps.
“I’ve got to prove that I can go a whole year and become a leader on and off the field,” Broomfield said.
The most experienced of the group is Anderson, a junior with 22 games under his belt. He made five starts last season, and last year Smith said Anderson has the potential to be one of the best in the SEC.
Anderson said he started realizing that potential in MSU’s season finale against Ole Miss. In the Bulldogs’ 41-27 victory, Anderson had two tackles and a pass break-up as the secondary owned Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead.
Anderson said he doesn’t necessarily feel like the leader of the group, preferring to share that role with Broomfield and Langston.
Langston, a leader? Sure, he was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and struck a plea deal that got him five years’ probation. Sure, that made him a late comer to the field.
But Smith said Langston has shown his commitment to being a better player.
“I’m real grateful at getting another shot,” Langston said. “I’m 100 times better than I was last year. I feel a lot quicker and a lot more sure of what I need to do.
“It’s just a great situation for me to be here.”
Room to improve
Also expected to find playing time at corner are junior Marvin Bure, redshirt freshman Arceto Clark and sophomore Louis Watson.
“All of us have got a year or two underneath our belt, we’re all experienced,” Broomfield said. “We’ve all done been through the fire, we’ve done played the Floridas and Alabamas, the LSUs, and we’re ready to go.”
There is still plenty of room for improvement. In 2009, MSU made 17 interceptions, but only seven of those were by the cornerbacks – Broomfield’s six, and one by Anderson.
The Bulldogs too often got beat in one-on-one situations, and that was part of the reason State’s pass defense ranked 11th in the SEC, allowing 220.0 yards per game.
In new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s schemes, Smith believes there will be less pressure on the corners, and a bigger, improved defensive front should help by pressuring quarterbacks (MSU’s 18 sacks last year ranked 11th in the league).
“Our corners have to do a lot of different things,” Smith said, “but it tells them exactly what to do.”
What Diaz ultimately wants his cornerbacks to do is make big plays. Broomfield has done it before, Anderson should be doing it more frequently, and Langston can start now that he’s more comfortable.
“I’m being able to learn the defense along with the other guys, and I’m not getting as far behind as I was last year,” Langston said. “And I feel like I have the talent to be a starter, so I think it’s going to work out for me.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.