STARKVILLE – Mississippi State junior safety Kivon Coman doesn’t hide the fact that he’s a leader.
In fact, he references being a leader in nearly every question asked to him by a reporter. The Bulldogs move on at the safety position as Jay Hughes and Justin Cox both played their last season in Starkville last fall. That leaves a leadership role open, and Coman has pounced on it.
“I think me and (senior) Kendrick (Market) are doing a great job coming in every day,” Coman said. “We set the standard high. We go out there first and I think we have to be on our Ps and Qs every single day because the younger guys look up to us.
“Sometimes you have to be a follower, but me, I have to be a leader. Therefore, I have to be on top of the totem pole every time I step on the field.”
Market is the lone senior safety, but he is coming off a torn Achilles tendon that he suffered in the last regular season game last fall against Ole Miss.
After spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia, Coman saw immediate playing time when he arrived on the MSU campus in 2013. He played in all 13 games as a freshman with 15 total tackles. He appeared in all 13 games as a sophomore and tallied 39 tackles and six pass breakups.
He is expected to be a starter alongside Market this season and his leadership role will be seen on the gridiron.
“He was a backup or a role player,” safeties coach Tony Hughes said. “He played a major, major role in a lot of success here. Now it’s his turn. Just like in the past, we’ve had guys like Charles Mitchell, Wade Bonner, Nickoe Whitley, Jay, all of those guys that embraced that role. Kivon has embraced that role also just like those other kids in the past.”
The Sheffield, Alabama, native will also be the main vocal leader of the secondary. Market and junior Deontay Evans will also have a vocal role, but Coman will handle most of it. Jay handled that job last season.
When coach Hughes approached Coman about being more vocal, he tackled the job head on.
“I love taking on the challenge,” Coman said. “Coach gives me a challenge every day to be very vocal and set the standard high. Poke Dawg (Market) isn’t going to say too much, so I have to be that guy. We have a great group of guys and I wouldn’t want to be apart of another group, so I love being the vocal leader. I’d be that any time of the day.”
Being the vocal leader means Coman will have to read the offense before the ball is snapped and get the secondary in the right alignment. He worked hard in spring and summer to get ready for the role and one of the things he did was watch other safeties.
He watched clips of Seattle Seahawk safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, as well as, clips of Sean Taylor while at the University of Miami, Mark Barron when he played at the University of Alabama and former Bulldog Whitley.
“I just see what success they have and I just want to see how they do it every day and that’s how I want to do it,” Coman said.
Coman learned a great deal about being a vocal leader in the secondary from watching the NFL players, but he picked up on something else too.
“They love the game,” Coman said. “That’s one thing about football, you’ve got to love it. They did. They put everything they have, all their passion into it. That’s why I try to come out every day and show the young guys, it takes hard work and dedication but if you love the game, it shouldn’t be hard to you at all.”
Both Coman and Market learned a great deal from Jay last season. Coman talks with his former teammate at least once a day and Coman keeps up with Jay’s progress as he is playing for the St. Louis Rams in the preseason.
Coman considers Jay a role model and because of that, Coman is trying to model his game after Jay’s.
“He was so hungry about the game,” Coman said. “He took everything like it was his last day he had to do it. He sent me clips of him in practice and I try to see what they’re doing and bring it to my game.”
During their conversations, Jay emphasized to Coman how vocal he needed to be for the upcoming season.
“The first thing he told me to be is very vocal,” Coman said. “He over exaggerated being vocal. He said, ‘No matter if you’ve got someone older than you, still try to be a leader. The game itself is pretty explanatory, you either know it or you don’t. So you’ve to come out every day and find a way in your game to get better.'”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.