By JOEL COLEMAN
Kendrick Market likely won’t be stepping on the playing field again for Mississippi State after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in last Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M. That doesn’t mean that the senior safety’s impact won’t continue to be felt.
Because of Market’s injury, redshirt freshman Brandon Bryant and true freshmen Jamal Peters and Mark McLaurin’s roles should significantly increase. When the first-year players are on the gridiron in the weeks to come, they plan to perform in honor of their former teammate.
“(Market) was the core of our safety group,” Bryant said. “We’ve got to play for him because he can’t get that (playing time) anymore. We’ve got to play like he did and get it right.”
With Market out, the dynamics at safety have shifted for Mississippi State. Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen says he liked having Market play the majority of each game allowing the young safeties to slowly get their feet wet.
“(Market) is the one you want to play every snap of the game and have the other guys rotate at the other safety position,” Mullen said. “But that guy goes away now, so everybody’s role will have to increase and guys will have to grow up in a hurry at that position. For three of our safeties – Brandon Bryant, Jamal Peters and Mark McLaurin – this is their first year playing college football. With that lack of experience, they will have to grow up in a hurry, especially with the explosive offenses we will be playing against.”
Bryant isn’t too concerned about having to play an increased role. He’s already played in all five of MSU’s games this season, recording 18 tackles, one tackle for loss and a half a sack. He also takes with him lessons that he learned from Market.
“He taught me how to be a better tackler,” Bryant said of Market. “I used to tackle with a high target and try to knock somebody out or run them over. Now, he taught me how to tackle better and keep my head below the helmet so I won’t get a targeting penalty.
“He taught me a lot really on the field. He taught me techniques and he stayed on me all the time because he knew I was going to be good. So he stayed on me anytime I was messing up or anything. If I made a mistake, he’d come to me on the sidelines and give me some little tips to get me right.”
Peters had similar thoughts on how Market had impacted him.
“He told me to just keep working hard to be an outstanding football player at Mississippi State,” Peters said. “He said if I could just keep working hard and learn the playbook and go out there with confidence and not get down, I’d be alright.”
It has been tough for the Bulldogs to see Market go down again. Last season in the Egg Bowl, Market tore an Achilles tendon. Normally an injury that takes close to a calendar year to fully recover from, Market was back on the field for MSU’s season opener at Southern Miss.
“It’s sad to see him go down his senior season after everything he’s worked for,” Bryant said. “To get back from an Achilles injury and then to have this, that’s not a good deal.”
MSU quarterback Dak Prescott echoed those sentiments.
“(Market) is such a good leader for this team,” Prescott said. “He just led by example and did everything right. We used to call him Mr. Dependable. So it hurts for this team and we wish him the best. It’s a sad loss.”
As disheartening as it has been, there is a bright side for the Bulldogs in the promise of Bryant, Peters and McLaurin. Together with juniors Kivon Coman and Deontay Evans, Mullen is hopeful MSU won’t skip much of a beat on the back end of the secondary.
“We’ve built a program with some depth so when you have an injury, the drop-off in talent hopefully won’t be as much as it was six or seven years ago,” Mullen said.