It is no secret when you say SEC Football one of the last teams that come to mind are the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Over their history – more times than not they just have not mattered.
Since day one of his arrival in Starkville head coach Dan Mullen has been trying to change the attitude and perception of the SEC Western Division Bulldogs. In just three short years he has taken this team from also-ran to a mid tear SEC program. Mullen has won two consecutive bowl games and dominated his instate rival Ole Miss. However, the mark on Mullen is that’s about all he has done – which is he has only beaten one SEC Western Division opponent during his time in Starkville.
Many will tell you it is a success that is skewed by easy out of conference wins and beating up on inferior SEC Eastern Divisional opponents. For all Mullen has done for Starkville, others want to see more. This season – a season that sets up perfectly schedule wise for the Bulldogs, Mississippi State must have five players that are considered average players, step up and be big time players.
Today we begin with that first diamond that needs to come out of the rough in junior safety Nickoe Whitley.
When you scan the 2012 Mississippi State defense you will see depth and plenty of it along the defensive line, linebackers and even on the corners. One spot that does not have that luxury of “proven depth” is that of the free safety position. Whitley who is coming off an injury and appears by all accounts to be healthy and back to full speed is a guy the Bulldogs cannot afford to live without. His knack for being in the right place at the right time and his ability to come up and stop the run are unparalleled on this team.
As a red-shirt freshman Whitley played in all 13 games, earning 11 starts and finished the season tied for the team lead with three interceptions .
As a sophomore Whitley was an All-SEC candidate before rupturing his Achilles’ tendon in the first quarter of the game against then No. 3 Alabama . Before going down with a season ending injury he recorded 34 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, four interceptions, one pass breakup and one forced fumble .
If the Bulldogs intend on getting over that SEC Western Division hump and beating the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M then Whitley has to stay healthy.
As good as corners John Banks and Corey Brumfield are and as solid as their back ups are – there is no replacing Whitley. There is a different feel and spark when he is on the field. The corners tend to play more aggressive and with a different swagger.
John Banks and Corey Brumfield are bonafide cover corners with the NFL in their sites but for this secondary to be all it can be, Nickoe Whitley must be apart of that in a big way.
About the Author
Written by Jake Wimberly
Mississippi State alum, co-founder of makeitrainsports, co-host to makeitrainsports radio on Rebel sports radio and Bulldog sports radio all on the Vsporto Network. Lover of SEC Sports, fitness and married to my best friend. Enjoy ketchup in large amounts and in search for a flying unicorn.