By Brad Locke | Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s new-look linebackers have drawn lukewarm reviews, and that’s coming from within.
While the No. 20-ranked Bulldogs dominated Memphis in last week’s 59-14 season-opening win, concerns surfaced about the linebackers, a position populated by a lot of new and inexperienced faces. There were good moments – sophomore Deontae Skinner led the team with seven tackles – but there was a lot not to like.
“We probably did an OK job,” junior middle linebacker Brandon Wilson on Monday. “There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. Our goal now is to continue to improve each and every week, especially for Auburn this Saturday.”
The Bulldogs gave up 164 rushing yards to Memphis – 45 yards above last season’s average. The linebackers at times looked unsure of themselves and didn’t deliver many big hits.
“We were a little tentative at times, but that was across the board,” defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. “You’ve got a new group of guys. Obviously our veteran guys played fast, because they’ve seen the movie 1,000 times. And when you’ve got young guys, again, they’re trying to process that information.”
Wilson saw nice things from the younger players, citing the play of Ferlando Bohanna, Christian Holmes, Matt Wells and Skinner.
This week, this group has to do more than just show promise. A visit to No. 23 Auburn is looming, and the Tigers boast an offense that remains powerful even without Cam Newton.
Running backs Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb can do serious damage to ill-prepared linebackers, and new quarterback Barrett Trotter had a strong game in a 42-38 comeback win over Utah State on Saturday
So there is plenty for MSU’s linebackers to work on this week.
“It’ll be more downhill play, hunting those TFLs – tackles-for-losses – and hunting those plays,” Brandon Wilson said. “I would definitely say it’ll be more downhill, aggressive, getting in the backfield more.”