By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State lost all of its starting linebackers at the end of last season, but senior Brandon Wilson has begun to settle in and pick up where they left off.
Wilson has started five of the six games at middle linebacker and has been on the team's list of top tacklers almost every week. After not starting the LSU game, Wilson came out and recorded 18 tackles the following week in the Bulldogs' overtime over Louisiana Tech.
Over the past three weeks, Wilson has recorded 26 tackles – nine against Georgia and UAB, eight on Saturday against South Carolina – and has 58 tackles this season.
In his nine tackle performance at UAB, he also forced and recovered a fumble, helping MSU pick up the 21-3 win. However, last Saturday they were unable to capture the victory despite Wilson and the defense holding the powerful Gamecock offense to only 289 total yards.
The Bulldogs are looking to take the next step to get their first win over a ranked team and Southeastern Conference opponent and Wilson in confident his team can do it and has an idea of how to accomplish the goal.
"We have to get us all going and on the same page," said Wilson. "I think we can definitely make that next step. We have a lot of football games left to play this season so we can go out and play to the best of our ability and get wins."
The defense has been playing extremely well the past few weeks and are responsible for keeping MSU in the game when the offense was struggling. The reason for the defensive success can be pointed to two key areas.
"It goes back to coach (Geoff) Collins and coach (Chris) Wilson," said Brandon Wilson. "They have been giving us great schemes and it basically up to us to go out and execute it. During the week, we're doing a lot of film study and I would say the more film studies get us the great positions, recognizing plays and making plays."
On Saturday, the defense had the tall task of containing South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery. They were able to do just that for most of the game, holding Lattimore to 39 rushing yards before he left with injury, and Jeffery to 24 receiving yards. However, both were able to score touchdowns, to get the win.
Once Lattimore left with an injury, the Gamecocks had to send in their back-up, a move that didn't hold any weight with Wilson.
"Our goal is to go out there and stop whoever it is," said Wilson. "We stopped Lattimore for the most part, so with the new running back coming in, it's always about us and never about them."
There are many reasons the defense has been successful this season, but two reason are in front of Wilson on almost every play in Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd.
Cox and Boyd were greedy with rushing yards last week and for a lot of the season when it comes to teams trying to run up the middle, and Cox has been honored the last two weeks by being named SEC defensive lineman of the week.
To Wilson, the play of Cox and Boyd all goes back to one of the main reasons for the defense getting the job done.
"They have put in their mind that they can go out and do it," said Wilson. "I feel like they did it (Saturday), it goes back to the film study. They were in there with us (linebackers) and those studies show up on Saturdays."
Wilson also thinks those meeting with the linebackers are key, because it gets everybody on the same page with the "leaders."
"The linebackers are the leaders of the defense," said Wilson. "We have to get everybody ready and that's what we've been doing."
MSU is currently enjoying a bye week before they hit the road for the fifth time this season Oct. 29 in Kentucky. The Bulldogs are still looking for their first SEC win. The game against the Wildcats following the bye week gives Wilson confidence that they can get the job done.
"I think with this bye week, we can get a lot of guys rested and we can go out and win," said Wilson.