By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Jamerson Love is a backup playing in the long shadows of Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, but meekness is not a quality he can afford to embrace.
Love, a third-year sophomore cornerback, has not put up the numbers of Banks and Slay, a pair of seniors who have combined for seven of Mississippi State’s nine interceptions this season.
But the Aberdeen product is seeing plenty of playing time and is trying to make the most of it.
Love doesn’t have some of the advantages as the other two. At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, he’s a bit smaller than both Banks (6-2, 185) and Slay (6-1, 190). That doesn’t deter him.
“When I’m going out there, I don’t look at myself as a two,” Love said. “I look at myself as a one out there. I try to play up to those guys’ ability. They’ve got length over me, so I feel like I’ve got to play like I’m a giant.”
In three games – he was suspended for the season opener – Love has recorded 10 tackles and a pass break-up. Last year he had 18 tackles (12 solo) and two tackles-for-loss, and he’s still seeking his first career interception.
He’s considered one of MSU’s better special teams players, and in last week’s win over South Alabama he made a nice open-field tackle in punt coverage, holding the returner to a short gain.
“A lot of the contributions and the big plays he makes on special teams is really giving him confidence on the field,” head coach Dan Mullen said, “and the fact he’s sitting there with John Banks and Darius Slay and competing for reps with those guys is really causing him to improve and watch how big-time guys prepare and get ready to play.
“Hopefully he absorbs all of that in because he has tremendous potential to be another great corner for us as we’ve had in the past. He has all of that ability to be that next great player.”
In fact, Mullen added, “We expect him to be the star corner next year for us.”
Love does get some snaps with Banks and Slay, particularly when facing a spread offense. MSU has seen a good bit of that early on, and Love has had opportunities to make plays.
He’d like to have one back against South Alabama.
“The last game, I think they called a third down and I felt like if I could have played my technique just a little bit better I probably would have been able to get a pick,” he said. “But that’s what practice is for.”
As he practices and plays and gains experience, Love should improve. Studying Banks, a preseason All-American, should also help.
So far, Banks has three interceptions this year and 15 for his career, one shy of the school record. He’s a different type of player than Love, but there is much to be learned from him.
“What I look at, I see how he plays his technique, he stays square on the receiver as long as he can and he goes and gets the ball when it’s in the air,” Love said.
This is an important season for Love as he gets ready to step into a full-time role next season. Not only is State losing Banks and Slay, but safety Corey Broomfield – recently converted from corner – is also a senior.
“Hopefully this time next year he’s the leader out there,” Mullen said, “and he is being the guy who is setting the standard for our corners’ play.”