Due to injuries to starters Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones, Mississippi State was able to get a glimpse of its future at defensive tackle this spring.
Eulls and Jones were held out of all team drills during spring workouts allowing several young defensive tackles a crack at first team reps which will benefit the Bulldogs in the fall.
Sophomores Nick James, Chris Jones and Nelson Adams received most of the first team reps and all appeared to be geared up for their second season on the field.
James was the most improved player that I saw this spring. He’s trimmed down a ton from where he was playing as a true freshman in 2012. Dropping that weight has allowed James more endurance. His talent has never been in question and when he’s focused in there are few offensive linemen who can handle him.
Redshirting last year seems to have matured James somewhat and I’m excited to see what he can do once he steps back onto the field in shape with his new attitude. He has NFL potential written all over him and could make a lot of money as a nose guard in a 3-4 defense someday if he keeps his head on straight.
Much was made about Chris Jones’ rookie season and rightfully so. Having covered his rise to the spotlight from the beginning, Jones has somehow managed to stay the same guy throughout even though he has grown into a monster of a specimen. Even though he has gotten bigger, Chris Jones maintains the athleticism that he displayed as a five-star defensive end in high school.
The shift inside last fall may not have been what Chris Jones wanted but he did not complain and simply did what was best for the team. And what he did was become one of the top young defensive tackles in the country with a bright future ahead. He worked a lot on his technique this spring and was even better than where he left off in the Liberty Bowl. If he keeps improving at this rate then he will only have two more seasons in Starkville.
Adams may not get the attention as the other two sophomore defensive tackles but he’s worked himself into a solid option for State. He too has added a lot of weight over the last two years and has improved a great deal on his fundamentals as well. Adams will get his fare share of reps this fall no matter who is listed on the depth chart in front of him, he’s that good.
Curtis Virges finished his final spring and has had plenty of opportunities throughout his career to take on a larger role. He’s had a few moments here and there but having covered him since 9th grade, I expected more at this point. He’s one of the strongest human beings I’ve ever met and probably still doesn’t know how strong he truly is.
Virges has one more season to leave his mark on the program but it’s been a pleasure to cover him all these years.
I thought Jordan Washington had a good spring and could be a guy who could contribute a little bit this fall for the Bulldogs but being arrested shortly after the spring ended put an end to that idea.
The Bulldogs have plenty of experience returning with Eulls and P.J. Jones coming back for their fourth year as starters. They are both expected to be healthy by August and there is certainly plenty of talent behind them as well.