STARKVILLE – Ryan Brown knew his place last year, and this year he knows his role needs to evolve. That goes for a lot of his defensive linemates.
There is an abundance of youth on Mississippi State’s defensive line, including Brown, a sophomore who got on the field as a true freshman. The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder finished his rookie year with 15 tackles, one tackle for loss and two pass breakups in seven games.
Brown was new to SEC football and just tried to keep learning.
“I kind of kept that in mind, that I’m young,” Brown said. “When you’re young, you don’t really know too much, so I just try to absorb everything around me.”
MSU is now in its third week of preseason camp, and defensive line coach David Turner is looking for young players like Brown, who’s backing up Preston Smith, to keep progressing.
Tackles Quay Evans and Nick James, who were highly recruited out of high school, also played as true freshmen last year but have a long way to go.
“They come out their and their minds right, they have pretty good days,” Turner said. “Both of those guys are talented, but right now they just don’t have a clue in terms of effort and consistency.”
Turner has been pleased with the progress of redshirt freshmen Nelson Adams and Jordan Washington. Turner said he’s been especially impressed with Adams’ desire to learn and work, calling him a “hard-hat guy.”
Turner added, “All of a sudden you develop a little bit more trust in a guy because you know he’s going to be there, he’s going to battle.”
MSU’s starting defensive line has been a big banged up this preseason. End Denico Autry has been fighting through a thumb injury, while tackle P.J. Jones has an injured ankle.
That’s limited both players in practice, but there doesn’t seem to be too much worry over their being ready for the Aug. 31 opener against Oklahoma State.
“It still hurts pretty bad, but I try not to show it,” Jones said. “I’ve gotta be tough.”
Autry, who was wearing a cast on his right hand Saturday, said his thumb “feels good.”
Cowboys ranked high
The Bulldogs didn’t receive a vote in the Associated Press preseason poll, which was released Saturday. Oklahoma State, however, is ranked No. 13. (Poll, 2B)
When the teams meet in Houston, it will be the first time since 2007 that MSU has opened a season against a ranked opponent. That year, it lost to No. 2-ranked LSU, 45-0.
According to its media guide, State has lost its last five season openers against ranked teams, dating back to 1959.
The year prior to that streak’s beginning, the No. 11-ranked Bulldogs opened with a 14-7 win over No. 18 Florida.