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By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi Stateâ€™s nominee for the stateâ€™s best college football player is a senior linebacker Chris White.
White was one of 10 players from the selected state of Mississippi schools to be nominated for the 2010 Cellular South Conerly Trophy. Former Bulldogs tailback Anthony Dixon won the award last year becoming the third Mississippi State player to earn the honor.
White has a team-high 96 tackles, 14 of them for loss and is the leader on the squad with six sacks, which is 3.5 more than anybody else on the roster.
â€śI think itâ€™s fantastic,â€ť Mullen said when asked about Whiteâ€™s nomination. â€śItâ€™s his first year playing that position and put up huge numbers along with being the foundation of our defense all season.â€ť
White, a 245-pound inside linebacker, is currently tied for fourth in the Southeastern Conference in total tackles and in tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The junior-college transfer from Gulf Coast Community College had one other scholarship offer from South Florida before committing to State in August 2008.
â€śIt definitely feels good to be nominated for it, but my goal was not to win postseason awards,â€ť White said. â€śMississippi State has a tradition of playing great defense and Iâ€™m proud to be a part of that. Even if Iâ€™d had other offers, I remember wanting to be a player in this schoolâ€™s tradition.â€ť
The Vancleave native posted 11 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in the Bulldogs 10-7 victory at Florida on Oct. 16. The day after Stateâ€™s first victory in Gainesville since 1965, White was named both the Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week and SEC Defensive Player of the Week marking the first time a MSU player earned that league honor since 2007. White then made it two weeks with the conference honor following his 15-tackle game against Kentucky that included an interception.
â€śI think weâ€™ve been a pretty strong defense this year and heâ€™s been the rock center of it,â€ť Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. â€śA lot of whatâ€™s made us really good on defense has come from his play. Heâ€™s done everything weâ€™ve asked and has played with great toughness along with great playmaking ability.â€ť
White is coming off a seven-tackle performance with one sack in last weekâ€™s 38-31 double-overtime loss to Arkansas. He will be trying to leave undefeated in the Egg Bowl after having five tackles and a quarterback hurry in last seasonâ€™s 41-27 victory in Starkville.
â€śI just take what the offense gives me and donâ€™t try to do too much,â€ť White said. â€śIf they do block me, Iâ€™m still usually in a position to make a play or a tackle for my team. Itâ€™s a pretty simple system for me.â€ť
If heâ€™s selected this year, White would become the first Mississippi State defensive player to win the award since its inception in 1996 with defensive back Fred Smoot being the last MSU player nominated from that side of the ball in 2000.
Among the other nominees for the award were Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, and Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis.
Masoli, a highly polarizing transfer situation among the fan bases, has thrown for 1,778 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 220-pound signal caller from Oregon also has rushed for 532 yards.
Davis, a redshirt junior from Meridian, has passed for 2,527 yards and 16 touchdowns. He missed the last half of the 2009 season with a foot injury.
The last player to claim the trophy that was not one of the three Division 1 schools in the Magnolia State was Millsaps College quarterback Juan Joseph.
The Conerly Trophy will be presented Tuesday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson.