Mississippi State’s depth at safety took a major blow on the sixth play of the 2013 season. Jay Hughes ruptured his Achilles and was lost for the year bumping then sophomore Kendrick Market into a starting role.
Market finished the season in fine fashion as the Bulldogs third leading tackler and will be battling to keep his starting job this fall. With Hughes still unable to participate in team drills this spring Market, or “Poke Dawg” as Geoff Collins calls him, got the majority of reps.
It will be a battle between those two to who gets the starting job in the fall but both will get their share of action. Market’s experience in 2013 definitely upgraded his play and has him ahead of schedule for this year.
Hughes went through a lot of the individual drills this spring but told me he didn’t want to rush back just for spring ball. I agreed. There isn’t any need to have any sort of setback by coming back too soon. Hughes is the son of MSU safeties coach Tony Hughes and has been around the game his entire life. He told me at SEC Media Days he was healthy and will be ready to go this fall.
With Nickoe Whitley gone, I think Hughes will be the go-to veteran in the secondary for leadership.
As I mentioned in the cornerbacks review, I think Justin Cox’s move to safety will be benefit both him and the Bulldogs. Cox never seemed comfortable at cornerback and I think his natural ball hawking skills will come more into play at safety.
I’ve known Cox since he was in eighth grade and know the exceptional athlete he is. He had a solid spring and the transition to safety was seamless since he played there his first two seasons in junior college. I expect him to make the same type of jump Darius Slay did in his final season in Starkville.
Kivon Coman also made the move from corner to safety this spring. I like this move as well as Coman seemed to be a step slow at corner, which was a new position for him. Like Cox, Coman played safety prior to arriving at State and his transition back seemed natural.
Coman is a big hitter which will bode better as a safety than corner.
Deontay Evans had a huge spring in 2013 and I thought he’d have a big impact last season. He did okay in his first collegiate season but I think he will put it all together this fall.
Evans is another big hitter who also has strong instincts in coverage. He made several big plays during spring practice. Now all he has to do is take that ability on the practice field and move it to game days.
This was an important spring for Quadry Antione and it will be an equally important fall camp. Antoine is attempting to claw his way up the depth chart while also maintaining his position
Antoine might fit best into the same role Dee Arrington was working in during bowl practice last season. Collins used the larger safeties as more of a small, quick linebacker lining them up close to the line of scrimmage. I really think Antione (and also Arrington if healthy) could shine in those spots and also on special teams.
After a redshirt season, Brandon Wells still has a ways to go and was still working with the third team defense in the spring. It’s not surprising to see Wells still deep on the depth chart as he adjusts to life in the SEC from Class 1A Bogue Chitto.
Wells was a playmaker in high school at several different positions but it remains to be seen if his talent translates best at safety in college. He has worked hard to add weight which should help him become more physical this fall.