By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State tight end Malcolm Johnson is out with an undisclosed injury, a team spokesman said Wednesday.
No details were given about the nature of the injury or how long it might keep Johnson out. Losing the third-year sophomore for any amount of time during the season could hurt MSU’s offense, as Johnson is one of quarterback Tyler Russell’s best downfield threats.
Last season, Johnson made 11 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and his 18.7 yards per catch ranked second on the team. After sharing time with Marcus Green last year, Johnson was expected to be the full-time starter.
Green, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, could see more playing time as a result if he can remain healthy. He had 11 catches for 188 yards last season.
MSU also has sophomore Brandon Hill, redshirt freshman Rufus Warren and freshman Gus Walley at that position.
Smoot helping Banks
For Johnthan Banks, MSU’s career interceptions record is well within reach.
With 12 picks over his first three years, Banks is tied for second with Derek Pegues and Izell McGill, four behind leader Walt Harris.
“I’m not going to lie. I’m looking forward to breaking that record,” Banks said Wednesday. “If I don’t, I’m going to be pretty disappointed, but if I don’t break it, I hope I at least get one pick. That’ll move me up to second (alone).”
He’s already passed Fred Smoot (10 interceptions), with whom Banks has become fairly close. Like Harris, Smoot had a long, productive NFL career, and he helped Banks work through the decision to return for his senior year.
“He’s going to tell you (if) you need to work on something. He’s going to let you know,” Banks said. “He’s not going to sugarcoat nothing. I appreciate him for that. I could shoot him a text right now, and he’d have something for me, some good information, some motivation for me.”
Balis likes newcomers
Strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis is the man working with players this summer, so he’s been able to size up the newest Bulldogs. MSU had 19 signees arrive on campus in June, and running back Xavier Grindle enrolled for the second summer session.
“You can tell it’s a great class in terms of talent,” Balis said. “Obviously they haven’t played a lick of (college) football, but just watching them run and move, there are some guys who can run and move.”
Freshman defensive tackle Nick James has made a particular impression upon Balis.
James is listed at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, and he’s shown good explosiveness during workouts.
“He moves really well for how big he is, so once he gets some training under his belt and gets used to everything, how we do things, get with the coaches, learn everything, he’s going to be really special,” Balis said.