‘Sky’s the limit’: If healthy, MSU defensive line could be a strength

Chris Jones led Mississippi State's defensive tackles with 32 stops despite being listed as a backup. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Chris Jones led Mississippi State’s defensive tackles with 32 stops despite being listed as a backup. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – During the spring, Mississippi State had both of its starting defensive tackles out of action.

Seniors P.J. Jones and Kaleb Eulls were both held out of team drills while recovering from ankle and foot injuries. However, that time provided some of the Bulldogs’ younger interior defensive linemen to get first team reps which will only help their cause this fall.

MSU’s defensive tackles have a wealth of talent consisting of a five-star, three four-stars and and four three-star prospects.

“The talent isn’t an issue here,” said sophomore Chris Jones. “The issue will be to stay healthy. If everyone is healthy then the sky is the limit for us.”

The Bulldogs’ returning defensive tackles notched 103 tackles last season including 15.5 for loss and five sacks.

Jones led that group with 32 stops and was tied for the team lead with seven tackles for loss and had three sacks. But despite his success, the former Houston standout is still listed as a backup behind P.J. Jones and Eulls.

“I was a backup last year and if coach (Dan) Mullen feels more comfortable with me coming off the bench then that’s what I’ll have to do,” Jones said. “I’m going to go out there and make plays no matter if I’m a backup or a starter.”

Chris Jones, along with Nelson Adams and Grant Harris, will work as both defensive tackles and ends depending on the play call and situation.

Curtis Virges is back for his senior campaign.

The West Point native is determined to make an impact this fall after averaging 10 tackles a year in his first three seasons.

Kaleb Eulls, left, a starter at defensive tackle, missed time in the spring due to injury, opening the door for younger players. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Kaleb Eulls, left, a starter at defensive tackle, missed time in the spring due to injury, opening the door for younger players. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

“I see him working harder and trying to do a little bit better,” said defensive line coach David Turner. “That’s good and is only going to make our group stronger.”

Nick James was a highly touted recruit from Long Beach and played as a true freshman in 2012. The decision was made to redshirt the 6-foot-5, 325-pounder last season to get in better shape both mentally and physically.

“Nick’s wanting to play just as much as I do,” Jones said. “He’s trying to compete every day and is a hard working guy. I feel like he’ll come out and have a great year.”

The Bulldogs ventured across the state line to sign Alabama prospects Braxton Hoyett and Corey Thomas from the Birmingham area. Both were three-star prospects and have impressed in fall camp although Turner hopes to redshirt both.

“Those young guys have had flashes,” Turner said. “Braxton Hoyett and Corey Thomas have done some good things. Thomas. Big Corey moves well and is probably quicker than he looks. I’m real pleased with them.”

logan.lowery@journalinc.com