Many Mississippi State fans were concerned at the close of the 2010 season with the departure of all three starting linebackers - two of which went on to the NFL.
But the Bulldogs got a boost this spring when Clemson rising senior linebacker Brandon Maye decided to transfer after fulfilling his undergraduate requirements and play his final season of eligibility in Starkville.
"First of all it's an honor to be at Mississippi State," Maye said. "All praise has to be for God because He's the one who set all of this up and made it possible for me to be here. I'm just excited to be a Bulldog and be able to go to work with the guys for a month now and be in the SEC playing ball."
Maye graduated with honors from Clemson with a sociology degree in May and shortly thereafter enrolled as a graduate student in MSU's sports administrative program - a program that his alma mater did not offer.
The move also brought the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder closer to his hometown of Mobile, Ala., which made it easier for his family to come watch him play on Saturdays.
"It's very big for me to have the opportunity to graduate early to branch out to an SEC school and my mom to be able to get to my games," Maye said. "My mom used to run a very, very tight schedule. She's an RN (registered nurse) so on Friday nights she used to leave early after work and have to drive seven hours. The night before the game I couldn't sleep because I was thinking about my mom driving on the road by herself because her and my stepdad come down every game. This will take a big load off of her."
Maye was a three-year starter for the Tigers racking up 233 tackles and was a former freshman All-American. He set the single-season school record with five forced fumbles in 2009 and notched 43 tackles and three tackles for loss last season despite missing four games due to injury.
The fifth-year senior plans to compete for the starting nod at middle linebacker this fall.
"My goal is to just help any way that I can," Maye said. "I'm not coming in as the big head guy that says 'I'm a three-year starter' or anything like that. I plan on coming in with my arms open and basically help the younger guys and do whatever I can do to help this team get to Atlanta."
Maye feels that Chris Wilson and Geoff Collins' scheme at State is very similar to what he played under as a redshirt freshman at Clemson where he recorded 87 tackles including five stops for loss.
"This scheme is very similar to what I played under as a freshman and was a first team freshman All-American in," Maye said. "It's a zone-based scheme that allows you to play the run a little bit more aggressively. Over at Clemson it was a match-based defense which was a pass defense and did a lot of man-to-man coverages. Both defenses have their pros and cons so it's a great opportunity for me to go back on the past of my freshman year."
Enrolling early during the first summer term has allowed Maye to not only bond with his new teammates but also get to work under Matt Balis, the Bulldogs strength and conditioning coordinator.
"Coach Balis is the real deal I can tell you that," Maye said. "He's pretty much been getting after us every day bringing his A-game. That's what you want in a strength coach. He and his staff have been doing an excellent job. The guys have been getting after it and he's got a team full of hungry guys. Whenever you get that you get great results."
Maye will be headlining a group of young linebackers that will include his cousin Chris Hughes. But Maye has already made a strong relationship with that unit and stated that they already see him as a leader.
"The linebackers have been doing a great job," Maye said. "Brandon Wilson, a guy who I'm in competition with, has been taking the extra time to make sure that I know the playbook. That tells you the character of this team. Coach Mullen and the guys have done a great job installing character in these guys. They just work hard and every day they are constantly drained because Coach Balis doesn't allow anything different."
Much of Mississippi State's leadership on defense the past two years has came from its linebackers like Jamar Chaney, Chris White or K.J. Wright. Maye hopes to continue that tren d in his one-year stint in maroon and white.
"I'm a very, very competitive guy," Maye said. "I'm a former two-star who came in and got a chance to start for three years. It's an honor from God and I expect to continue that role and do everything in my power to make that possible whether it's studying the playbook or lifting weights extra. I just want to be that guy that everybody looks up to and being a leader."
Even though his time in Starkville will be brief, Maye hopes to leave MSU and its surrounding community better than when he found it. He is currently working to establish himself to work with younger kids and give back.
"My goal is not to only come and be a football player but to also be able to get out and give back to the community," Maye said. "I want to make sure Brandon Maye leaves a brand here. I don't want to be just a football player who came through and just played football for five months. I want to come through and actually make a difference."