Playing in the uber competitive SEC you better have a strong defense, and the Mississippi State defense is up for the challenge.
Defense wins games while the offense sells tickets is the phrase that has echoed throughout many football fields and locker rooms for as long as the game has been played.
For State to upset the likes of LSU and Alabama the defense will have to force turnovers and hold these teams to field goals instead of touchdowns when in the red zone.
Competing with the elites in the SEC west the Bulldogs have to make big plays on defense and special teams and create short fields for the MSU offense to upset the perennial national title contenders.
The defense is led by the premiere cornerback in the nation and preseason All-American Johnthan Banks, who introduced himself to the college football world with two interceptions of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in 2009 returning one for a touchdown.
Banks turned down the chance to enter the draft last season to return to Starkville for a chance to compete against the nation’s best for one more season and try to help the Bulldogs back to their third straight bowl game.
He likely will become the third Bulldog drafted in the NFL draft’s first round in as many years.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox went 12th to the Philadelphia Eagles last year after offensive tackle Derrek Sherrod went to the Green Bay Packers with the 32nd selection in 2011.
Joining Banks as headliners on the defense is linebacker Cam Lawrence, defensive back Nickoe Whitley, and defensive lineman Josh Boyd.
Two intriguing names to monitor early this season are middle linebackers Benardrick McKinney and Ferlando Bohanna.
McKinney, a former two-star recruit in the 2011 recruiting class from Rosa Fort high school in Tunica is an imposing figure at 6-5 and 235 pounds. The redshirt freshman has caught the attention of coaches in spring ball and continued his maturation during summer camp.
The defense will be led by the leadership of Banks, the sideline-to-sideline tackles of Lawrence, and the pass rush of Boyd, but the impact of newcomers like McKinney will be tantamount to the overall success of the Bulldog defense.
Last year’s defense limited opposing teams to 19.7 points per game that placed the team 16th in the nation.
If this year’s unit can produce a similar number, the Bulldogs will be looking at a possible nine win team and a New Year’s Day bowl berth.
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and avid college football fan, and the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.