Mississippi State’s secondary does not return many starters from last year’s team.
There are no returning starters at cornerback and the only returning starter in the secondary plays safety.
Senior safety Nickoe Whitley will anchor the secondary and the safeties this season, as he is the most experienced player on the backend of the defense.
Whitley tested the National Football League waters last spring. It was mainly to get feedback, but he decided to return for his last season with the Bulldogs.
Safeties coach Tony Hughes is glad he has a starter returning.
“Having Nickoe Whitley back, as the veteran leader of our secondary, he’s having a really, really good camp,” Hughes said. “He’s come back, he’s healthy, he’s playing fast and he’s making a really big difference in our secondary.
“He elected to come back for his fifth year. With that, he knew what to expect and what to do. In doing those things, he’s a smart kid. Now he’s become a student of the game because he wants to carry his game to the next level.”
The other safety position will more than likely be occupied by Hughes’s son, Jay.
Jay came to MSU after a long recruiting process. He almost didn’t come and play for his father but decided to in the end.
He originally came to the Bulldogs as a cornerback, but was moved to safety.
Tony believes in what Dan Mullen and the MSU football program is doing.
That’s why he thinks Jay’s progression to safety has been successful.
“He’s progressed really well,” Tony said. “He’s a product of our program. What Coach Mullen built our program on, was developing kids. Taking the best athletes in the state of Mississippi and putting them in a program where they can one day be successful and be outstanding football players. Jay is just a product of the system.”