Mississippi State All-Decade Team: Simmons, Sweat, Cox highlight Bulldogs' defense
Editor’s note: Saturday Down South has selected an all-decade offensive and defensive team for all 14 SEC programs. Our series stays in the SEC West with Mississippi State. Coming Monday: Ole Miss’ All-Decade teams.
From 2010-19, the Mississippi State football team had one of the most successful runs in program history. MSU will end this decade by playing in its 10th consecutive bowl game.
No year was more memorable than 2014, when the Bulldogs were No. 1 in the College Football Playoff ranking midway through the season following a thrilling win over Auburn. Around the celebrations of Fletcher Cox and Chris Jones celebrating a sack, the Bulldogs made their stamp on the college football world over the past 10 years.
Here is the All-Decade defensive team for Mississippi State.
DL: Fletcher Cox
Cox could be the best defensive lineman in the history of MSU football, and that says a lot. The program is synonymous with putting defensive linemen in the NFL. An All-American selection, Cox left Starkville with 114 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss.
His biggest season was his final on in 2011, when he finished with 14.5 tackles for loss and led the Bulldogs to a win over Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl.
DL: Pernell McPhee
A 2-time All-SEC selection, McPhee was a force for the Bulldogs defense in 2009 and 2010 and saw his career end in win over Michigan in the Gator Bowl. You won’t see McPhee’s name in the record books much, mainly due to the fact that he was double- and triple-teamed his entire career. The Pahokee, Fla., native finished his final season tied for 6th in the SEC with 12 tackles for loss.
DL: Jeffery Simmons
While Simmons came to Mississippi State with some baggage from high school, he was a model citizen during his time as a Bulldog and proved to be a force along the defensive line. His 32.5 career tackles for loss put him 6th in the MSU record books. Simmons finished the 2018 season with 17 tackles for loss and earned 2nd-team All-America honors.
DL: Montez Sweat
An All-American during his final 2 seasons, Sweat became a force in the sack department. He finished his MSU career with 22.0 sacks, with 10.5 in 2017 and 11.5 in 2018. Sweat was a two-time All-SEC selection during his time in Starkville, finishing his career with 29.5 tackles for loss, good for eighth all time.
Backups: Preston Smith, Chris Jones
A leader on and off the field, the All-SEC performer finished his career in the MSU record books with 15 tackles for loss in 2014, one of the most successful seasons in MSU history. Smith finished his career with 27 tackles for loss, tied enough for ninth in MSU history. Jones, a highly decorated recruit out of Houston, Miss., finished his career as a 2nd-team All-American and a 2-time All-SEC recipient. A dynamic player on the field, Jones drew a triple-team the entire first half against Auburn in 2014. Jones finished his career with 102 tackles and 18 tackles for loss.
LB: Chris White
An All-SEC selection, White had a huge season in his final one, finishing with 110 tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss in 2010.
LB: Erroll Thompson
A team leader on and off the field, Thompson has been a key during a three-year run at middle linebacker and has seen his team go bowling all three seasons. An All-SEC selection, Thompson finished his career with 217 tackles and 18 tackles for loss, including 9 in 2018. Some terrific linebackers have come out of Starkville, but Thompson will be remembered more than others due to his tenacity on the field.
LB: Benardrick McKinney
An All-SEC selection, McKinney had his best season as a freshman in 2012, when he had 102 tackles. He finished his career with 19.5 tackles for loss and 122 solo tackles out of 243 total tackles. McKinney was a focal point of the MSU defense during the 2014 season, when his team reached No. 1 in the College Football Playoff rankings after beating Auburn.
Backups: Cam Lawrence, Richie Brown
Lawrence was a tactician on defense and a quarterback on that side of the ball. A fan favorite in the early years of head coach Dan Mullen’s tenure, Lawrence had most of his success in his final two seasons, with 123 tackles in 2011 and 120 in 2012, when he added 10 tackles for loss. In what many believe was an important recruit for Mullen, the highly recruited Brown is a native of Long Beach, Miss., on the Gulf coast. The area was not one MSU recruited well, and grabbing Brown was a big deal. The linebacker had a big junior season in 2015, finishing with 109 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
DB: Johnthan Banks
When I look up Mississippi State football, I picture Banks. The All-American and All-SEC Cumberland, Miss., native was a Bulldog through and through, and it showed on the field. He owns most of the awards in the defensive back category and was an absolute star in Starkville.
Banks leads the MSU history books with 16 career interceptions, a 100-yard interception return, 3 interception returns for touchdowns a 36.2-yard average on interception returns as a freshman in 2009.
Suffice to say, Banks is the most decorated defensive back in Bulldogs history.
DB: Johnathan Abram
The All-SEC and 3d-team All-America corner became famous for his antics on Hard Knocks this preseason as a member of the Oakland Raiders. Abram was a fantastic defensive back in Starkville. A transfer from Georgia, Abram finished his final season in 2018 with 99 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions.
DB: Nickoe Whitley
Known for “The Play” against Ole Miss in 2013, when he saved the game by knocking the ball from Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace’s hands as the Rebels tried to tie the score in OT, Whitley had a nice career in Starkville. He finished with 229 tackles and 8.0 tackles for loss. He was an interception machine, finishing with 15 during his career, 3rd in MSU history.
DB: Mark McLaurin
Like many others in the past decade for MSU, McLaurin saw his teams reach the postseason in all four seasons in Starkville. He finished with 224 career tackles and led the 2017 defense with 6 interceptions, tied for first in school history.
Backups: Corey Broomfield, Darius Slay
Broomfield had a knack for finding the ball, grabbing 10 interceptions in his career, tied for 8th in MSU history. Slay played only 2 seasons in Starkville, but he made his mark. The second-team All-SEC selection finished with 64 tackles and was a force against opposing wide receivers, locking them down. He had 5 interceptions as a senior in 2012.
P: Logan Cooke
Cooke finished with 150 punts that traveled 6,250 yards. He is 10th all-time at MSU with a 42.69 average per kick during the 2017 season. For his career, he’s sixth with a 41.67-yard average.