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The Mississippi State Bulldog secondary has loads of experience going into the 2011 season, and this includes two safeties Charles Mitchell and Nickoe Whitley.
Mitchell and Whitley have 50 games (Mitchell 37, Whitley 13) experience between them and have started all but 14 of those games. Also in the mix will be Wade Bonner, who has earned four starts in the 23 games he has competed in over the past two years.
Between Mitchell, Bonner and Whitley there are sure to be some fireworks in the secondary in 2011, but safeties coach Tony Hughes has set a high goal for his players.
"Our goal is to be the best safeties in the SEC," said Hughes. "So far we have gotten off to a good start, and I'm really excited about these guys."
Hughes feels the way for his safeties to accomplish their goal is to work hard, be dedicated, and staying focused and Mitchell, who enters his senior season with 188 career tackles and four interceptions, echoes that.
"We have to make the commitment to ourselves and to our team," said Mitchell about the safeties becoming the best in the SEC. "We have to work hard every day and be dedicated to what we are doing."
Mitchell will be an All-Star candidate in 2011. However, the former Gatorade Player of the Year, isn't focusing on any individual accolades.
"I'm just focusing on making my team better," said Mitchell. "I'm just out here going hard every day for my team."
Mitchell, Bonner and Whitley are instilling that in the younger safeties and Hughes has taken notice.
"The young kids came in and they (Mitchell, Bonner, Whitley) have grabbed them and are coaching them on the field," said Hughes. "They are telling them all the things they need to do so they can be a good player."
Other than verbally teaching, the upperclassmen are leading with their actions during their reps which Hughes thinks is necessary.Â
"They have to lead by example, but we have a group of work ethic kids," said Hughes. "They don't think that they have arrived. They know that we have got to work harder everyday to fulfill our goals."
Mitchell has been sharing his words of wisdom with the underclassmen and he takes his leadership role seriously.
"Just go hard every day and give it everything they got," said Mitchell about teaching the young guys. "I have to encourage them to stay positive even when they mess up and lead by to example to let them know they can do it."
Now that a week of camp is over, Mitchell has noticed improvement in the younger guys.
"They are starting to not look like freshmen anymore," said Mitchell. "Jay Hughes, who moved over to safety, is doing well, and him and Kendrick (Market) are progressing everyday."
While he is teaching the younger guys, Mitchell is also doing things to improving his game.
"Everyday I'm working on my technique, back peddle and stance," said Mitchell. "The only way I get better at it is to stay focused even when I'm tired and do the little things right."
On Wednesday, head coach Dan Mullen said, "Give me 11 Charles Mitchell's and I don't know if anybody would score on us."
Mitchell was honored by what the head coach said.
"Him (Mullen) saying that means a lot to me," said Mitchell.
Mullen isn't the only one who can brag on players, as Mitchell took on that role Thursday afternoon.
"Wade (Bonner) stepped up a lot let year and started some game at the end of the season," said Mitchell. "He's just like me, he's a leader, very energized, a playmaker and he's probably one of the toughest guys on the team."
As the season draws closer, Mitchell and the entire Bulldog team is ready to hit the field.
"I'm very ready," said Mitchell about starting the season. "I feel like the defense is going to be really exciting and create a lot of turnovers because we have a lot of speed on 'd' now and I'm ready to see what we can do."
Before they get to hit the field in Memphis and show what they can do, the safeties have a lot of practices left and begin classes next week. With the mixture of practice and classes, the next few weeks will fly by and it will be game time very soon.