Position Previews: Getting to know Mississippi State football’s LB room - The Dispatch

8/2/2023
STARKVILLE — The countdown to this year’s college football season has begun in earnest with just 31 days until Mississippi State football kicks off its season on Sept. 2 against Southeastern Louisiana at Davis Wade Stadium.
The Bulldogs, under first-year head coach Zach Arnett, will open fall camp on Aug. 3 with the team’s first practice taking place on Aug 4.
Until then, The Dispatch will be taking a look at each position group on MSU’s roster, noting who could be the potential starters, backups and impact players to look out for on the gridiron.
MSU’s defense returns arguably the Southeastern Conference’s best linebacker duo in Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson, who finished the 2022 season first and second in the league, respectively, for total tackles.
Here is what to know about MSU’s 2023 offensive linemen.
THE STARTERS
Nathaniel Watson, Graduate Senior
Intangibles: 6-2, 245 pounds, Maplesville, Alabama
Watson was voted by the media to the All-SEC second team after finishing second in the conference last season with 113 tackles. In his MSU career, Watson has tallied 242 total tackles, 11 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.
Watson played more than 500 defensive snaps in 2022, with the majority spent at inside linebacker, where he will be again this fall. MSU could also shift him to outside linebacker at times, where he played nearly 50 snaps last season.
J.P. Purvis, Senior
Intangibles: 6-1, 255 pounds, Pelahatchie, Mississippi
Purvis has played in 27 games in his MSU career, tallying 26 tackles and one sack. Purvis spent the majority of his snaps last season as an inside linebacker, but also has the versatility to move to the edge as well dropping back in coverage as a slot corner.
Jett Johnson, Graduate Senior
Intangibles: 6-2, 230 pounds, Tupelo, Mississippi
Johnson is primed for one more big season in Starkville after leading the SEC in tackles in 2022 with 115. In his career, Johnson has totaled 206 tackles, two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble. Most of Johnson’s 500-plus defensive snaps last season were played inside the box at linebacker, but he has the ability to rush some off of the edge and drop back as a slot corner.
THE BACKUPS
DeShawn Page, Senior
Intangibles: 6-2, 235 pounds, Knoxville, Tennessee
Page has played in 24 games at MSU since transferring from East Mississippi Community College before the 2021 season, tallying 45 tackles during that time. Most of Page’s snaps last season were spent inside the box as an inside linebacker. He was also used in a VYPER-type role with some snaps at defensive end and some as a slot cornerback. That versatility could be huge for MSU’s defense this fall.
John Lewis, Sophomore
Intangibles: 6-3, 240 pounds, Canton, Mississippi
Lewis has played in 12 games during his MSU career, but only appeared in one last season, maintaining a redshirt year. Lewis could push for a starting spot this fall, but will likely be slotted for a backup role.
Nic Mitchell, Sophomore
Intangibles: 6-2, 230 pounds
Mitchell has played in 15 career games through two seasons, including all 13 last year, primarily in a special teams role. He projects as a backup inside linebacker this fall.
THE REST
Zakari Tillman, Freshman
Intangibles: 6-2, 225 pounds, Florence, Mississippi
Tillman was a three-star prospect in MSU’s 2023 class. He is a redshirt candidate for this season.
Javae Gilmore, Redshirt Freshman
Intangibles: 6-4, 225, Amite, Louisiana
Gilmore played in one game last season against East Tennessee State, maintaining his redshirt status. At best, Gilmore will be a rotational body who sees sparing playing time this season.
Avery Sledge, Redshirt Freshman
Intangibles: 6-3, 220 pounds, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Sledge played in two games last season for MSU, maintaining his redshirt status. He projects to be a rotational player this fall.
Ty Jones, Freshman
Intangibles: 6-1, 205 pounds, Bay Springs, Mississippi
Jones was a four-star prospect in MSU’s 2023 class. He could push for some playing time throughout the fall but is a potential redshirt candidate.
Tabias Hinton, Freshman
Intangibles: 6-3, 215 pounds, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Hinton was a four-star prospect in MSU’s 2023 class. He could push for some playing time throughout the fall but is a potential redshirt candidate.
Khalid Moore, Redshirt Freshman
Intangibles: 6-2, 250 pounds, Poplarville, Mississippi
Moore did not play last season for MSU during his redshirt year. He projects to be a sparingly used linebacker again this fall.
Michael Robinson, Redshirt Sophomore
Intangibles: 6-2, 235 pounds, Vicksburg, Mississippi
Robinson has not played through his first two seasons in Starkville and projects to be used sparingly again this fall.

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