MSU NOTEBOOK: Redshirt gamble pays off for James

Lauren Wood |Buy at photos.djournal.com Nick James redshirted in 2013 after appearing in eight games as a freshman in 2012.

Lauren Wood |Buy at photos.djournal.com
Nick James redshirted in 2013 after appearing in eight games as a freshman in 2012.

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Nick James was one of eight defensive linemen Mississippi State signed in 2012 and he was talented enough to play right away.

James appeared in eight games two years ago and made five tackles.

But the unorthodox decision was made to redshirt the 6-foot-5 defensive tackle from Long Beach last fall, in order for James to not only drop his weight down but also to mature.

The gamble appears to have paid off, as James has dropped his weight from 345 to 325 and is splitting reps with first and second teams this spring.

“I know sitting out last year hurt him,” said defensive line coach David Turner. “He’s approached football a little bit differently and is maturing some. He missed playing while he was sitting out. Right now he has an opportunity to do some things in there. He’s athletic and big. He’s still raw in his technique but he’s working to try and get better.”

James was a four-star prospect coming out of high school with offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Tennessee, among others.

Fitzgerald adjusting

Nick Fitzgerald should be preparing for his senior prom and high school graduation this semester.

But instead the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder is learning the intricacies of a Southeastern Conference offense at quarterback. Fitzgerald began practicing with the Bulldogs during Liberty Bowl preparations and is running the third-team offense this spring.

“He’s coming along,” said head coach Dan Mullen. “It’s going fast for him. He’s running a much more complicated offense than he’s run, going up against a much more complicated defense than he’s ever seen. He’s got a great attitude and is working hard at it. These are great reps he’s getting out here. He’s a high school guy who shouldn’t even be here until the summer, so he’ll be way ahead.”

During Saturday’s initial spring scrimmage, Fitzgerald completed 11 of 20 passes for 173 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

All-purpose Holloway

Brandon Holloway is listed on the roster as an athlete, and justifiably so.

The sophomore shares times at both wide receiver and running back on offense and works as a kick and punt returner on special teams.

A former high school track star from Tampa, Fla., Holloway is used in a variety of way to take advantage of his quickness.

“He’s a unique kid with great speed,” said wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales. “He’s been out there working with (running backs coach Greg) Knox and also doing different things for me at the receiver position. He’s a guy with speed that we’ve got to utilize and we should be able to more than we have in the past.”

Holloway was the second-leading rusher in Saturday’s scrimmage, carrying 15 times for 67 yards.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com