Continuing our look at Bulldogs who could be picked in the 2012 NFL Draft, we delve into Chris Wilson's defense and look for future professionals.
Mississippi State had two players selected in 2010 and four in 2011. Of those six, four were from the defense. It looks like that trend will be reversed in 2012. MSU has a number of offensive players who have a strong chance of being drafted, but there are no sure things on the defensive side. That could change in 2013, but there will not be a ton of senior leadership on defense for Dan Mullen's team in the fall.
As with all potential draftees, much will depend on MSU's success in 2011 and the individual performances of the players. We covered the offense yesterday, and we'll have juniors who could potentially leave early tomorrow. Now, here are the defenders.
As a safety, Mitchell was the team's third-leading tackler in 2010 with 93 total, including 55 solo, just behind K.J. Wright and Chris White. Though he had no interceptions and only one pass break up, he started every game and his numbers were an improvement over his sophomore campaign in 2009, when he recorded 65 tackles, starting every game, and also had four interceptions, including one he returned for a 71-yard touchdown against Houston. Now, if he continues to improve, his draft stock could rise, but he does not seem like a guy who really jumps off the tape or would have a spectacular combine. Mitchell was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Mississippi as a senior at Clarksdale High School, and for that reason some MSU fans may feel he is better or more pro-ready than he actually is. That's not to say he is a bad player, at all, and he could be All-SEC in 2011. He could be similar to Florida safety Ahmad Black, who was selected in the fifth round last weekend, despite being an incredible player for years at Florida.
MSU fans are probably hoping Maye gets drafted, because that would mean he's a big contributor and player for the Bulldogs in the fall. After his sophomore year at Clemson, Maye looked like a sure-fire draft pick in a couple years. Then, his reps dropped and so did his production, leading him to transfer. Now that he's at MSU, he could bring his stock back up. If Chris Wilson runs the same defense Manny Diaz did, it makes the middle linebacker look All-World, so long as Maye can keep up. His draft status has more to do with him getting on the field. It appears Maye has the ability and the defensive scheme will help, so long as he can get to the top of the depth chart ahead of Brandon Wilson, which could be hard. Maybe has the size at 6'2" 235 pounds, and as a sophomore he set a Clemson record with five forced fumbles, and also had a team-leading 103 tackles.
Is Ferguson a long shot? You bet. But here's why it could happen: someone is going to have to step up at defensive end. Someone is going to have to be a star off the edge. And someone is going to be the benefactor of an absolutely stellar group of defensive tackles. Maybe that someone is Ferguson in 2011. He's played in every single game MSU has played since he got to campus, being pressed into service his true freshman year. Last year as a junior he recorded 23 tackles at defensive end, including five for loss. He managed to get five starts as a freshman and four as a sophomore, when he recorded 25 tackles, including 5.5 for loss. It would require serious improvement, but if he can take his game to the next level in 2011, the 6'3", 255-pound Ferguson could make a name for himself.