Be the Coach: Defensive Starters

A couple of days ago, I tried to forecast offensive starters for MSU’s football team and asked you to give your own thoughts on the lineup. So today, we look at the defense.

To reiterate, this is what I think the starting lineup will look like for the Sept. 4 opener against Memphis, keeping in mind that much can change over the next 28 practices, and also keeping in mind that I might not know what I’m talking about.

LE Pernell McPhee, Sr.: He moved around a lot last year, mostly out of necessity, but with added depth on the line he can stay anchored to the left side – for the most part, because you know defensive coordinator Manny Diaz likes to attack from all angles, and I doubt he can resist shifting McPhee inside from time to time.

LT Josh Boyd, So.: He had a fine freshman season in a reserve role and has done nothing to dissuade coaches from promoting him. However, he’s backed up by 345-pound juco transfer James Carmon, who should get a decent number of snaps.

RT Fletcher Cox, So.: Same kind of deal as Boyd, providing MSU with much-needed depth last fall. He led all freshmen with 29 tackles and made the SEC All-Freshman team.

RE Nick Bell, So.: You could make a good argument here for Sean Ferguson, a junior, but he got in coach Dan Mullen‘s doghouse with an offseason arrest. He remains second on the depth chart here, but he should get snaps at a position that’s hardly settled. Ferguson drew four starts last year, Bell two.

WLB K.J. Wright, Sr.: He played the strongside last year, but Diaz likes the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Wright on the other side, feeling it gives him more opportunities to make plays. And as fellow MSU writer Paul Jones noted yesterday while we watched practice, Wright might be the biggest weakside linebacker in the country.

MLB Chris White, Sr.: This kid has been nothing but fantastic, a 6-4, 245-pound ball hawk with surprising speed who played the weakside spot last season. He’s definitely got the physical tools to play here, now coaches just want him to work on being the quarterback of the defense.

SLB Emmanuel Gatling, Sr.: This one is kind of a toss-up. Sophomore Cameron Lawrence was listed the starter coming out of the spring, but Gatling had about overtaken him by the spring game. Gatling has the experience factor (23 games), while Lawrence only began working at linebacker this past offseason.

CB Johnthan Banks, So.: From what I’ve learned, Banks’ move from safety to corner is permanent, although he could play safety in certain packages. It’s a more natural position for him anyway. Interesting, this seems to put Corey Broomfield (six interceptions last year) out of the starting mix. He was spotted working at nickel safety yesterday, and he could still wind up starting at CB.

CB Maurice Langston, Sr.: After missing the first five games due to suspension, the juco transfer earned a starting role and did nothing to give it up. He’s backed up by the very experienced Damein Anderson, a junior.

SS Charles Mitchell, Jr.: On the first day of camp yesterday, several of us noticed that Mitchell is just as chiseled as always. He’s a workhorse and a big hitter, just want you want from this position.

FS Nickoe Whitley, RFr.: His impressive spring is the reason for the defensive backfield shuffle. It’s allowed Banks to move to corner, and while Whitley has no game experience and saw most of his senior season at Jackson Provine wiped out by an ACL injury, he’s a heck of an athlete.

Now, it’s your turn.

Click video to hear audio