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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Experienced safety corps molded under new defensive coordinator

Kelly Price | MSU Communications

Brian Cole, junior safety, works on ball handling in a drill with Tyler Dunning, freshman linebacker, on Tuesday at spring practice.

No defensive player on Mississippi State University’s football roster has played for the same defensive coordinator two seasons in a row.

Bob Shoop takes the reigns of the defense this season after Todd Grantham left with Dan Mullen to go to the University of Florida. Normally the defensive coordinator coaches linebackers, but with a new head coach comes change. Shoop heads up MSU’s group of talented safeties, led by seniors Mark McLaurin and Johnathan Abram.

Abram, from Columbia, talked about the advantages of having the defensive coordinator coach his position.

“It is a change with the (defensive coordinator) being our safeties coach now, but it is a good thing because I can pick his brain,” Abram said. “I get to learn defenses better now and it is all positive for me.”

Shoop praised the two leaders of his group.

“John Abram is sort of the alpha of the group, he has great leadership qualities and good football instincts,” Shoop said on his safety group. “Mark McLaurin is a really solid, steady and consistent player.”

The surprise success of the group have been safeties C. J. Morgan and Stephen Adoke.

“John (Abram), I knew about, and Mark (McLaurin) I knew about, but I really did not know much about C. J. Morgan or Stephen Adoke,” Shoop said. “Those guys have been as a solid as any players.”

McLaurin was the MVP of the TaxSlayer Bowl, and the Collins native said he will build off this, but it is a new season.

“I just keep building, but that is behind me,” McLaurin said. “This is a new season and a new time, and look forward to this season.”

For Abram, tackling and consistency are the two focuses for improvement this offseason.

“I have to wrap up more,” Abram said. “If I wrap up a lot more I am probably leading the team in tackles. I probably had 20 to 30 missed tackles from not wrapping up.”

Shoop also has the nickel defensive back group, which sees a competition between juniors Brian Cole and freshman Marcus Murphy for the starting job.

“The nickels are going to be very competitive,” Shoop said. “Brian Cole and Landrews are both doing a good job at that position. Marcus Murphy made a really good play at the end of practice on a pass breakup.”

With Shoop comes a new base set including the nickel defensive back. The 4-2-5 is very similar to what MSU ran last season with linebacker/safety J.T. Gray in the star linebacker role.

Shoop said they will have some more seven in the box base sets when teams pull out a couple tight ends or a fullback.

“A lot has changed about this defense and things, but we are going to be who we are,” Abram said. “Our identity is fast, physical and aggressive. That is just how we are going to play.”

MSU will hold another scrimmage this Saturday before the Maroon and White Spring game April 21. Kickoff for the spring game is set for 3 p.m. at Davis-Wade Stadium.

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Experienced safety corps molded under new defensive coordinator