By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – It’ll be a while before Mississippi State has to address the question, but the answer is probably Ferlando Bohanna.
The redshirt freshman has been the third-string middle linebacker for the Bulldogs this season, but with seniors Brandon Wilson and Brandon Maye leaving, Bohanna is next in line.
Of course, MSU’s coaches could move some guys around, and there would be plenty of options, because Wilson and Maye are the only notable losses at linebacker. Plus, linebackers coach Geoff Collins likes to give his players practice time at all three positions.
Bohanna, a 6-foot, 235-pounder from Memphis, has spent time at both strongside and weakside linebacker, logging some playing time at the former position.
“I’m able to play any position they need me to,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter.”
One option would be moving weakside starter Cam Lawrence to the middle. The junior has had a strong season, recording 114 tackles, third in the SEC.
Lawrence said he likes playing on the outside but is open to a move. When asked who stands out as a leading candidate, though, he quickly mentioned Bohanna.
“He’s strong, powerful. He’s really good inside the box – that’s one thing I noticed,” Lawrence said. “And he’s got tremendous speed. He’s able to cover each edge.”
Playing in 10 games, Bohanna has recorded nine tackles and one tackle-for-loss. Modest numbers, but defensive coordinator Chris Wilson has high expectations for him.
“He’s a guy who’s been in the program now two seasons. It’s time for him to take that next step,” Wilson said.
Even though he’s had limited experience, Bohanna has been here long enough for Wilson to know his strengths. He seems especially built to be a middle linebacker, a position that comes with loads of responsibility.
“He’s instinctive,” Wilson said. “He’s a guy you don’t have to give a map to to get to where he’s got to get to. I’ve always believed if you’ve got to tell a stand-up guy too much, he’s probably not the guy.”
Anyone doubting Bohanna’s ability to step into the role might want to consider the entire MSU linebacking corps of 2011. Entering the season, it was seen as a weak spot, what with Chris White and K.J. Wright gone to the NFL.
Early on, the concerns were well-founded. But the group made huge strides and has become a bragging point for the defense.
“We’ve got some older guys leaving, but I feel like we’re all going to be OK,” strongside starter Deontae Skinner said. “It’s going to be a grind for all of us, so we’re working hard every day to get better, learn our fundamentals and step up.”