Auburn Opponent Scouting Report: Mississippi State Defense and Special Teams

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Sep 13, 2014; Mobile, AL, USA; South Alabama Jaguars quarterback Brandon Bridge (7) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive lineman Chris Jones (96) and defensive lineman Preston Smith (91) in the third quarter at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mississippi State defeated South Alabama, 35-3. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line

One of the biggest concerns for the Mississippi State defense coming into the 2014 season, much like that of the Auburn defense, was a lack of a consistent pass rush. Through five games, the Bulldogs proved there is no longer any need to worry. State leads the SEC and ranks 13th nationally with 3.6 sacks per game.

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  • The best player at getting to the quarterback so far has been Preston Smith, who leads the team with 3.5 sacks and five QB hurries. He also has 5.5 tackles for a loss and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Smith has already been named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week multiple times, and has even contributed two blocked kicks.

    However, as good as Smith has been, the most talented member of the defensive line is Chris Jones, despite the fact he is still listed as a second-teamer on the depth chart. Overshadowed in state by Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche as a true freshman last season, Jones made a major impact for the Bulldogs. He earned Freshman All-American honors for a performance that included 32 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss and three sacks last season.

    This year, Jones has 12 tackles, two sacks, 2.5 tackles for a loss and two quarterback hurries. He’s also receiving much more attention schematically from offensive coordinators, which has allowed other MSU defenders to make big plays.

    PJ Jones is actually listed as the starter ahead of Chris Jones at defensive tackle (though they like to move Chris Jones around and he is capable of playing some defensive end). PJ Jones has nine tackles and a sack so far this year. Kaleb Eulls is the other starter at defensive tackle, while Ryan Brown will start opposite Preston Smith at defensive end.