February 3, 2010 2:46:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Teams are often built from the inside out, so it makes sense Dan Mullen''s second recruiting class follows that plan.
Mississippi State''s defensive line, which featured freshmen Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox at defensive tackle and highly recruited junior college defensive end Pernell McPhee last season, struggled to get a consistent pass rush in 2009. Boyd and Fletcher also were undersized against the stout offensive fronts of the Southeastern Conference and struggled up the middle against the run.
Gone is plug Kyle Love and end Brandon Cooper from last year''s team, while McPhee will be a senior.
Literally MSU biggest defensive signing, 6-foot-7, 330-pound Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout tackle James Carmon, will provide an immediate solution when the Bulldogs run a three-man front. He will be joined by another massive tackle prospect: Itawamba C.C.''s Jeffrey Howie (6-4, 330).
The immediate help could allow new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and co-coordinator and defensive line coach Chris Wilson to move Cox back to end. MSU''s first defensive line commitment was West Point High School tackle Curtis Virges, who was chosen first-team All-State and a member of the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game.
Virges'' build differs greatly from Carmon and Howie, and he''s leaner at 270 pounds. He has been holding steady at that weight by playing basketball this year.
Virges'' skill set could be his biggest asset in regard to earning playing time, as he has been told the Bulldogs plan to be more aggressive this season.
"I''ve talked to coach Wilson recently and I really can''t wait to see his coaching style in the spring and be ready to adapt when I get there," Virges said. "He said it will be an attacking defense, which has me excited.
"I didn''t really have to read in high school. The harder man wins, so I went hard. I''ll have more reads at State, but it won''t be difficult. I can''t wait to be a Dog."
Virges played inside and on the edge for the Class 5A champion Green Wave. As with anyone on a college weight program, Virges will add pounds when he joins the Bulldogs. How much weight he''ll add has yet to be determined.
"My main focus is really making sure many of the aspects I have, like my size, get utilized," Virges said. "I talked to coach Wilson and he said he doesn''t have a set weight. He just wants to make sure I''m comfortable playing at whatever size I am."
Virges'' high school coach, Chris Chambless, believes Virges'' physical ability and the style the Bulldogs intends to play will enable his standout to succeed. Chambless believes Virges'' biggest weapon is his experience as a winner.
"He''s a hard worker and has great character," Chambless said. "The leadership ability he has is going to help in the future. I''m a firm believer that if you''re a winner you know how to win. There are some guys who look like Tarzan but don''t know how to win mentally. They may have all the physical aspects, but if you don''t have the ''give a crap'' factor you''re not going to win. It''s huge to recruit winners and he''s one of them."
Mississippi State''s most notable defensive line signee, Yazoo County High''s Kaleb Eulls, turned down the likes of the University of Alabama and LSU and will give the Bulldogs a versatile end who could immediately add to the Bulldogs'' pass rush.
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2. Tennessee routs No. 3 Mississippi State COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Tennessee's win against MSU flips script LOCAL COLUMNS
5. Starkville Academy boys fall in state title game HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS