The biggest question for me entering last season was at cornerback for Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs were losing NFL second round picks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay and also breaking in a coach to the college ranks for the first time in Deshea Townsend.
Young corners like Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun were tested right from the start and held their own against Oklahoma State in Week 1. After that my concerns were gone as it appeared to be a seamless transition for all involved.
This spring those once young corners were back as veterans. The starters – Love and Calhoun – have seven career interceptions between them and have proved they can hold their own against the top offenses in the Southeastern Conference.
Love is a guy I have known since he was a junior in high school tearing it up as a running back at Aberdeen. I know initially it was hard for him to give up having the ball in his hands at the college level but once he made the move to defense and got used to initiating the contact things started to look up.
Love still has that same blazing speed and athleticism he had in high school. But he has put on weight which has really helped him become more physical at the point of attack. Since he is the only senior left at cornerback, it was imperative for him to have a good spring from a leadership standpoint and I believe he did so. Love’s kind of a quiet guy by nature but his play on the field resounds.
Calhoun really came into his own as a sophomore, especially late in the year. His two interception performance against Alabama was really something special to behold. Calhoun was somewhat of an afterthought being a late commitment in the 2011 class being overshadowed by his teammate at Morton, Quay Evans.
Calhoun bounced back from a shoulder injury during his redshirt freshman season and has been making plays ever since. He his confidence has grown as a corner over the past year and I expect him to be a huge playmaker in the secondary for the Bulldogs this fall.
Will Redmond has some catching up to do to make up for lost time. The NCAA finally reached a decision on his case which cost him a year and a half of eligibility. Redmond is now listed as a junior and has only appeared in eight games so he will only have two more seasons to make an impact on the field.
Redmond was thrown into the mix midseason last year when his suspension was lifted. All of that is in the past now and Redmond appeared focused on his future this spring. He will take on much more of a role this fall and could see his share of starting action depending on which defensive formation takes the field. He has all the tools to be a solid corner but needs the on field experience and he’ll get that this year.
Cedric Jiles is a gifted athlete and natural instincts as a corner. We saw that in his debut in 2012 against Jackson State. Injuries hobbled the start to his career after that but was able to get a redshirt allowing him a sophomore status this year with 14 games of experience and three starts under his belt. Jiles rounds out a solid group of four corners that Townsend should feel comfortable with in any situation.
I believe the move by Justin Cox and Kivon Coman from cornerback to safety this spring was a good decision. Both displayed amazing skills at that position prior to their arrival in Starkville and appeared to be a natural transition for both. I’ll get into more of that when I breakdown the safeties.
I thought playing Tolando Cleveland right away as a true freshman was a mistake. But then again with Redmond having to sit out a portion of the year and Calhoun and Love both missing time with injuries it was probably the only option the coaching staff had.
That is not a knock on Cleveland at all. He did get 12 games of experience making nine tackles, a half tackle for loss, recovered a fumble and had a pass deflection which will only help his progression. Cleveland had a good spring and will get some time both in the secondary and on special teams as a sophomore.
Jahmere Irvin-Sills is the only corner that was redshirted last season. I really think he’s going to be a good one in the future and reminds me a lot of Love at this same stage in their careers. Irvin-Sills has already been through a lot in his young life which makes you want to root for him to succeed. He will get his first chance on the field this fall and I am interested to see what he does with those opportunities.