By Brad Locke | NEMS Daily Journal
Marvin Bure has made special teams cool at Mississippi State.
It’s an underappreciated, unsung role Bure plays, but he’s been playing it awfully well. On kickoff and punt coverage, he’s the guy on the outside racing downfield searching for a big hit on the return man.
He’s made quite a few of those hits.
“That’s the only role I have, I’ve got to embrace it,” Bure said. “I love my role, so I do my job, I do it the best I can.”
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior is also a reserve defensive back, but he’s not seen the field much in that capacity. Coming out of Vicksburg High School, his expectation was to be a key player on defense, but once Dan Mullen took over he learned the value of being a strong special teams player.
Mullen’s philosophy is that if a player wants to start on offense or defense, he’s got to prove himself first on special teams. While Bure’s not been able to crack a deep and talented secondary rotation, he’s distinguished himself in kick coverage.
He was MSU’s special teams player of the year in 2010, and this season Bure has made 17 tackles, 12 of them solo, and could earn that honor again.
“A lot of young players think, oh, the guy that’s the special teams guy, if I’m not a returner, I’m not a star of special teams,” Mullen said. “That’s not it in college football. It’s who’s making the tackles, who’s making the plays, who’s containing the ball. …
“He’s been a great role model for some young guys in how hard he goes at it, and that’s his role.”
While special teams is ultimately a means to an end – becoming a starter – for most Bulldogs, there is a passion among those playing that role. Bure has had a lot to do with that.
He recalled speaking with redshirt freshman defensive back Jamerson Love prior to the season. Love has seen time on defense, but he’s had to earn his way on special teams.
“He emerged into a great special teams player,” Bure said. “He competes with me every day, so that makes me work harder on the field.”
He sees other young players “fighting to get on special teams,” and there is a competition to see who can make the most plays each game.
The most memorable play this season for Bure came against Ole Miss. He and Love both took down Philander Moore for a 4-yard loss on a punt return late in the third quarter.
That same game, Charles Mitchell and Deontae Skinner – both defensive starters – forced fumbles on kickoff returns. Those can have an effect beyond one play – it can set a tone for the defense as it trots onto the field.
“When you see a guy flying down the field and the guy lays a big hit on the opposing team, that gets the whole sidelines amped, and when the defense takes the field it’s just kind of a snowball effect,” linebacker Cam Lawrence said.
Bure said that sure, he’d like to see more time on defense, but he’s happy in what he’s doing. He still has a big impact on the game.
“It’s just another way to make a play,” he said.