By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – The departure of Johnthan Banks will leave a big void in Mississippi State’s secondary, but his presence and influence will remain.
The All-American, who has 32 career starts and 16 interceptions under his belt, leaves behind quite a legacy. And he’s not the only big loss: cornerback Darius Slay (five interceptions this season) and corner-turned-safety Corey Broomfield (10 career picks) will also be gone.
It will be up to the likes of sophomore Jamerson Love of Aberdeen, redshirt freshman Taveze Calhoun and freshman Cedric Jiles to fill those big shoes next season. They will be leaning heavily on what they’ve learned from Banks and the others.
“It’s going to help so much, because they were so hard on us all year,” said Jiles, who played in the first three games before a hand injury sidelined him. “I think we’ll be really good next year, because they taught us a lot, and they were great people on and off the field.”
What Jiles has learned is that there is no room for error. He’s not been allowed to get away with mistakes.
“If you mess up and get beat deep, they’re going go be on you in the film room, on the field, everywhere,” Jiles said. “It’s going to be hard on you, now.”
Love has the most experience of the young group, having played in 24 games. So he sees himself as the leader and the one responsible to keep the cornerback position a strong one.
“I’m just going to take on my role in the corner(back) room, just lead the guys in the right direction and just try to be the leader that Banks was towards this team. Just keep it going,” Love said.
Head coach Dan Mullen said earlier this season that Love “has tremendous potential to be another great corner for us as we’ve had in the past. He has all of that ability to be the next great player.”
Jiles has a lot of potential as well. The Clinton product has been drawing praise from coaches and teammates since the preseason. He’s had the normal freshman adjustment period, getting used to the speed of the game and the intensity of the coaching.
Love likes what he’s seen of Jiles so far, citing his speed and physical nature of play.
“He’s a true corner, and he’s got it all,” Love said.
Calhoun has played in all 12 games this season. His build (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) is similar to that of Banks.
“He teaches me a lot of things about football and how to play, the game flow,” Calhoun said. “He’s been playing a long time, ever since he was a freshman, so I try to take all the advice from him, try to do the best I can, learn techniques from him.”
This group will have a lot to prove next season, and Mullen is hoping to shore the position up further on signing day in February. But with Banks as their role model, MSU’s young cornerbacks should be in pretty good shape.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to just work hard, and if you work hard, good things will come,” Jiles said. “Johnthan Banks told me that.”