Impact Newcomers: Five to Watch

Today is report day for Mississippi State’s preseason camp, although most of these guys have been here a while anyway. Nevertheless, it marks the beginning of August camp, which kicks into full gear tomorrow with the first (closed) practice.

Seems like a good time to ponder which newcomers might have impacts on the field this year. Dan Mullen prefers to outfit his freshmen with redshirts, but a handful manage to get in the rotation every year, and there are always some junior college transfers who find a role.

So let’s look at five new guys I believe could make an impact this season, knowing full well I’m probably omitting someone or thinking much too highly of someone else. I mean, I didn’t expect P.J. Jones to play as a freshman last year, but he did, and acquitted himself well. Jones will be a big part of the defensive line rotation this fall.

OK, here are my five guys.


• DE Denico Autry (East Mississippi CC): At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Autry has size to spare, and he’s quick. He’s basically a tackle’s worst nightmare, or at least he was in junior college. Autry had 11 sacks, 13 tackles-for-loss and 41 quarterback hurries last season, and he’s expected to step in and start right away on the right side of MSU’s line. Look for State’s sack total to go up; it had 27 last year, which tied for seventh in the SEC.

• DT Quay Evans (Morton): Like Autry, Evans enrolled in January and was thus able to go through spring drills with MSU. Noticeable progress was made by the 6-3, 300-pounder, who was the top-rated prospect in Mississippi last year. Adding him to the mix should help ease the loss of Fletcher Cox on the interior, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Evans wind up as a starter before the season’s out.

• DL Nick James (Long Beach): This is a large man at 6-5, 320, although he’s still got some baby fat to shed. Strength coach Matt Balis said a few weeks ago that he doesn’t yet know James’ ideal weight, but once they whip him into shape, “he’s going to be really special.” I’m betting James could see some snaps in short-yardage/goal-line situations.

• P/K Devon Bell (Warren Central, Vicksburg): With Derek DePasquale gone, MSU is seeking a new kicker, and it’s a wide-open competition. Brian Egan has some experience, mostly on kickoffs, but he is unproven as a field goal kicker (0-for-1 last year). Bell seems to have the tools (he was 4 of 7 on field goals last year with a long of 55 yards), and since I don’t see Baker Swedenburg losing his punting job, keep an eye on Bell vs. Egan.

• OT Charles Siddoway (Butte CC, Oroville, Calif.): He’s currently listed as the backup right tackle behind Damien Robinson, but Siddoway (an early enrollee) also worked at left tackle in the spring. Robinson isn’t anywhere close to having this job locked down. Siddoway (6-7, 300) is well-traveled, having spent two years at Cal before heading to Butte, where he was named a first-team NJCAA All-American as a sophomore.