Mississippi State’s defense will be without a standout lineman for the rest of the 2020 season.

Defensive tackle Nathan Pickering, an SEC All-Freshman selection for 2019, announced he will not be playing in the Bulldogs’ remaining games this season.

“I love Mississippi State University and all the people surrounding it,” Pickering wrote in a note posted on his Twitter account. “There’s not a school I rather play for. God has a plan for everything. This is not about transferring but something I have to do. That being said I will be opting out of the 2020 season! #HailStateForever”

Pickering’s situation will be closely watched. As a class of 2019 signee and true sophomore, he is not yet eligible for the NFL Draft. Bulldogs fans will certainly be hoping Pickering returns for the 2021 season.

If he were to decide to enter the NCAA transfer portal, he has familiarity with many SEC coaching staffs. As a recruit, Pickering was rated 4-stars, the No. 5 Mississippi product, No. 6 defensive tackle and No. 73 prospect overall nationally on the 247Sports Composite. He chose MSU over 20 other scholarship offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M.

In his MSU career, Pickering has played in 14 games, recording 27 tackles including 8 TFL and 5 sacks.

Mike Leach’s Bulldogs are scheduled to play Georgia on Saturday, followed by Ole Miss (Nov. 28), Missouri (Dec. 5) and Auburn (Dec. 12).