October 10, 2017 9:16:11 PM
STARKVILLE -- Montez Sweat's ideology is pretty simple: "See ball, get ball." If he's being honest and the opposing offense does what he hopes, it's probably more like see quarterback, get quarterback.
He hasn't had many opportunities to chase quarterbacks over the last four weeks. That changes Saturday.
Mississippi State's pass-rush specialist has proven he is more than just that, with three tackles each and a combined 1.5 tackles for a loss in MSU's last two games against run-based Georgia and Auburn, but BYU (1-5) and its more balanced attack gives Sweat an opportunity to star. Sweat hopes to wreak havoc on the Cougar backfield at 11 a.m. Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
"He's a guy that can make 1-on-1 plays both in the run game and in the pass," MSU defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "He's really bought into our system, worked hard and we'll continue to develop him."
In Sweat's case, developing him has turned him into a hybrid tool that keeps him on the field in all situations.
Sweat is listed as an outside linebacker, a position generally associated with standing up at the snap, but Sweat spends just as much time, if not more, with a hand on the ground in a traditional defensive lineman's stance. Grantham doesn't make much of a distinction between the two: in either position, Grantham makes Sweat responsible for the edge, meaning Sweat's stance at the snap is merely a byproduct of the personnel and formation MSU is using at the time.
It's possible that the return of defensive lineman Cory Thomas -- Mullen said he is unsure if Thomas will return this week -- throws Sweat into a more even split between standing up and the defensive lineman stance. If it does, it won't bother Sweat: he said he and Grantham never had a conversation about taking on a different role in Thomas' absence. An unspoken understanding was reached and Sweat kept playing.
The different stances may not change Sweat's responsibilities, but it does change how he takes them on.
"I think the three-point is my faster stance, I get off the ball quicker in the three-point," Sweat said. They call the defensive lineman stance three-point with three tethers to the ground, both feet and one hand, and the linebacker stance two-point with just two feet on the ground. "I can get off the ball in the two-point, but I think I'm faster in the three-point."
His affinity for the three-point stance goes back to his first stint in Power 5 conference college football.
Out of Stone Mountain, Georgia, Sweat signed with Michigan State and appeared in two games in 2015 before an indefinite suspension carried over until his eventual transfer to Co-Lin Community College. Sweat was a traditional three-point defensive end at Michigan State and got introduced to the two-point stance at Co-Lin. Grantham saw that and immediately went about developing him there: Grantham said Sweat spent almost the entirety of spring practice in a two-point stance to make him more comfortable in it.
"I like it, I like being versatile," Sweat said. "Whatever I can do for the team, I'm going to do. It gives me a chance to learn the defense inside-out and outside-in. It helps me understand the defense a lot better."
His comfort is obvious to his teammates.
"He's bought into what we do here and the program we have. Going and having that relentless effort to the ball, he's going after the ball and making effort plays," fellow outside linebacker Gerri Green said. "When he's on one side of the field, he makes plays on the other side of the field. Most guys, that's not a common play. He makes that play every day."
Grantham added, "He's pretty relentless in the rush: even if he gets stuck on a block, he continues to do it."
BYU presents Sweat the perfect opportunity. Of MSU's three Southeastern Conference opponents to date, none of them throw the ball more than 36 percent of the time: LSU 35.5 percent. Georgia 26.8 and Auburn 24.3. BYU has thrown on 51.1 percent of snaps to date.
Sweat doesn't hide it: "I'm looking forward to playing some passing teams."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter, @Brett_Hudson
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