August 13, 2012
No position was hit harder at Mississippi State this spring than at safety.
The Bulldogs graduated two seniors, Charles Mitchell and Wade Bonner, to the NFL and rising junior Nickoe Whitley was still recovering from a ruptured Achilles leaving no returning starters to practice with.
But MSU safeties coach Tony Hughes used the extra reps to prepare some of his younger safeties like Dee Arrington and Jay Hughes for action. Now with Whitley back in the fold this fall the secondary is starting to shape up.
"It's always great to have some experience," Tony Hughes said. "The work that they are getting in right now is good for the transition. Getting Nickoe back is big but then you've got Dee and Jay who saw some action last year. Having those three guys and Louis Watson is good."
Whitley's return gives the Bulldogs an All-SEC candidate with 18 starts under his best and 22 career games played. The hard-hitting 6-foot-1, 205-pounder has recorded 86 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and seven career interceptions.
Whitley went down in the first quarter of the Alabama game last season but is back practicing with the team this fall.
"It's tremendous having him back," Tony Hughes said. "He's a very good player. He's a playmaker who has made a lot of plays so we're real excited to get him back."
Vying for the other starting spot at safety will be Jay Hughes and Watson. Both players were former cornerbacks at one point in their careers. Watson, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior, has been utilized mainly on special teams making 11 tackles in 28 career contests.
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