By Brad Locke/Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Benardrick McKinney will be at the heart of Mississippi State’s “defensive mayhem.”
That’s a term being used by first-year defensive coordinator Geoff Collins this offseason. McKinney, a sophomore middle line- backer, will be a key part of a scheme that’s expected to be more aggressive than in the past.
McKinney, the team’s top returning tackler with 102 stops, is taking on more responsibility this year. Part of that extra load is setting the chaotic tone Collins is seeking.
“We’re going to be more active, we’re going to be more juiced,” McKinney said Wednesday at SEC Media Days. “The defense is going to create more mayhem. It’s going to be more live.”
What does that mean exactly? For one, more sacks, of which MSU had 19 last season. That ranked 100th nationally.
McKinney realizes he can’t do it alone.
“I’m going to do my part, but I’m going to make sure everybody does their part, make sure we come as a unit and make all the plays we didn’t make last year, making sure everybody makes the plays this year.”
Collins, who’s coached the linebackers the last two seasons, has his group learn all three positions. And coach Dan Mullen said he would like to move the 6-foot-5, 235-pound McKinney around the field to utilize his length and athleticism in different nickel and dime packages.
“We’ll move him around a little bit and try to create some mismatches with him on the defensive side of the ball,” Mullen said.
After starting 3-0 in his career against rival Ole Miss, Mullen fell short in last year’s Egg Bowl. He managed to give that loss a positive spin on Wednesday.
“I think it’s certainly sparking the rivalry even more,” Mullen said. “They come up, are starting to create some stir. I think certainly when you go around the state of Mississippi, it will make Thanksgiving night this fall a pretty important day throughout the whole state.”
Mullen has a habit of not calling Ole Miss by its name. On Wednesday he referred to it as “the other school in our state.”
This year’s Egg Bowl is set for Nov. 28 in Starkville.
Kaleb Eulls is ready to dive into marriage, but flying is another matter.
While Mullen, McKinney and quarterback Tyler Russell flew to Hoover, Eulls arrived by car.
“Oh, man I’m afraid of heights,” the defensive lineman said. “I’ll fly, but going from a big team jet to a smaller plane just kind of got me.”
The junior from Yazoo City recently got engaged. He hopes to get married next year, “but I’m trying to get football and school all under control first.”