There are many reasons to believe Mississippi State will equal or exceed last season’s success – 31 reasons, in fact. Here’s Reason No. 16.
We all know this: MSU’s secondary is all kinds of loaded. Five returnees started at least two games last season, and most of the reserves have gotten significant playing time. The secondary has accounted for most of State’s 30 interceptions the past two seasons.
At cornerback: Corey Broomfield and Johnthan Banks, both juniors. Those two have 16 career interceptions between them. At safety are senior Charles Mitchell and sophomore Nickoe Whitley, who started most of the games last year but is currently battling junior Wade Bonner for the job.
Broomfield is smallish (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) and said he needs to improve his tackling, but he’s a savvy player. Three of his interceptions have been returned for touchdowns, and his average return on a pick is 17.6 yards.
Banks is taller (6-2) but skinny (180), and he’s been moved around. Dan Mullen said recently that Banks could again see time at safety this fall, although Banks prefers cornerback.
As the safety spots, Mitchell has been a stalwart, especially against the run. He’s got 188 career tackles, and all four of his career interceptions came in 2009. Whitley (6-1, 200), one of the best-looking pure athletes on the team, made some huge plays in the passing game last year, with three interceptions – including this one – and two fumble recoveries. Dude jacks people up.
Now, MSU gave up a few passing yards last year, but as mentioned before, it rarely got burned by the big play and excelled in red zone defense. With all these guys back, one would expect a more well-rounded unit that will force teams to the run game more often.