The Record Book: Interceptions

Over the next several weeks here on the HailState Beat, we’ll be running a new football-related series each week, a series of series, if you will. We continue today with The Record Book: highlighting the records to watch this fall as old Dawgs climb up the all-time lists while others will have chances for single-season greatness.

Today in The Record Book: Interceptions

With 12 picks under his belt already entering 2012, the moment senior cornerback Johnthan Banks makes his first interception this fall, he will move into sole possession of second place on the all-time interceptions list at Mississippi State. Lucky No. 13 for No. 13, it will be. And considering the talented defensive backs in Bulldog history, to be that far along already is impressive on its own.

The other two making up the fearsome threesome tied at 12 picks apiece are Derek Pegues (2005-08) and Izell McGill (1994-97). But it’s not those two Banks is worried about passing.

The senior corner hopes to not only set the picks record at State, but become a first round NFL Draft pick, as well.

The last guy to do both: Walt Harris, whose 16 interceptions from 1992-95 at MSU set a mark that has yet to be passed.

An odd twist to tie it all together even neater than before? Harris was the No. 13 pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, selected by the San Francisco 49ers. Again, if the picture was too subtle of a hint, Banks wears No. 13.

So, how likely is it that Banks gets the record? Well, simple math (which is the only kind of math I’m good for) tells us that, if he keeps up his average of four per year, he will ties Harris’s mark of 16. However, looking at each of his three individual seasons might provide more insight.

As a freshman in 2009, Banks didn’t even start a game until week six, getting his four picks on an accelerated timetable. He had two per outing against Middle Tennessee State and Florida that year.

Calling 2010 a “slump” year for Banks might be too strong of a statement, but even he admitted he had some sophomore struggles, and his coaches agreed. Still, Banks was able to record three interceptions that year.

Then, in 2011, we saw a new Banks. We saw the Banks that cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith told us was there, even if we hadn’t seen him in action yet. Smith told me last August he thought Banks, as far as talent goes, was the closest person he’d seen to former MSU star corner Fred Smoot. Banks got focused as a junior and picked off five passes last year for the Bulldog defense.

If Banks is able to repeat those 2011 numbers, that will be it. He’ll be the record holder, all on his own at the top of the list. Anything more is just gravy, though I’m sure both Banks and Smith have reasons other than record books for wanting interceptions.

The ability is there for Banks to pick off more than enough passes to get the No. 1 spot. The only question is if he will have the opportunity.

The preseason All-American candidate and Thorpe Award semfinalist will have the eyes of not only fans and media on him this season, but opposing coaches and quarterbacks, as well. Offenses may try to avoid him, which could naturally hold Banks numbers down. But he will regularly cover the top receivers in the SEC, and those players can’t be ignored. Banks also has the good fortune to play alongside defensive backs Corey Broomfield, Nickoe Whitley and Darius Slay, who are more than adept at covering receivers and picking off passes themselves. Against MSU, teams will have to pick their poison. (Get it? “Pick” their poison? Yeah, OK, I’ll stop.)

For cornerbacks, interceptions are the bragging points. Interceptions, fairly or not, are often how observers define the successes of DBs.

Entering his senior season, Banks has a chance to become the top intercepter in MSU history, marking his place in the record books as one of the best corners to ever don the Maroon and White.

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