Russell, Banks dish on summer workouts

Several things occur over the course of the summer that prevent us from getting much information on what’s happening with the football team, and even the coaches can end up in the same boat as the rest of us. Under the guidelines of the NCAA rulebook, only strength coach Matt Balis and his staff are allowed to work with the players, while the coaching staff has to sit back and hope for the best.

The summer is also a down time for interviews, a three-month stretch where the team is free from being constantly asked bad questions by us media folk and allowed to enjoy being out of the public eye for a while.

However, with SEC Media Days this week, we were able to hear from a few of the players and get some reports on how everyone is doing in summer workouts.

Specifically, quarterback Tyler Russell told us a bit about some of the receivers and cornerback Johnthan Banks told us about some of the young defensive backs.

I asked Russell yesterday who had been standing out and he jumped to a pair of true freshmen receivers.

“As far as new guys,” Russell said. “I really like Brandon Holloway and Fred Brown. They’ve been doing really well. They show up to every workout. They’re hungry. They’ve been catching balls a lot. I think those two freshmen have really been stepping up and we’ll see if they play this year and help make plays. You can’t really judge it just from throwing on air.”

Holloway, who we wrote about on Monday, is a 5’7” speedster from Florida who will also be running track at Mississippi State, and Brown is a 6’0” receiver out of Jackson, Miss., with long arms and substantial speed himself.

Russell was also asked if he has a favorite receiver or someone he’s more comfortable with. While he did his best to give a political answer, he was also honest in his reply, saying fellow Meridian native Chris Smith was at the top of the list.

“I think it’s because we went to the same high school,” Russell said. “But I think Chris knows what I’m thinking a little more than anyone else. But that’s not a knock on anyone else, because everybody else is doing good, too. But I do feel a little bit more of a connection with Chris. I do feel like I’m gaining a lot more trust with all those other receivers and I think they’re gonna have a big year all together.”

One of the receivers who many are hoping will have a strong season is redshirt freshman Joe Morrow. Standing 6’5” with an even longer wingspan, the Bulldogs are hoping he can become the downfield and red zone threat they’ve lacked in recent years.

“Joe is looking really good,” Russell said. “He’s fast, he’s what you look for in a receiver. He’s tall. If you throw it up, he can go get it. He’s been working really hard this offseason. I think he’ll step up and make some big plays for us.”

Of course, Russell isn’t the only one who knows about MSU’s pass catchers. Banks was asked in the main interview room who the hardest receiver to cover in the SEC was. I don’t think the reporter got the answer he was expecting.

“Arceto Clark has been the toughest receiver I’ve had to guard since I’ve been in college,” Banks said. “And he’s on my team.”

Clark, of course, was the team’s leading receiver as a junior last year and is one of five seniors at the position this fall.

Johnthan Banks answers questions at SEC Media Days

As for the defensive backs, Banks had quite the praise for one true freshman corner, as well as another corner who redshirted last year, when I asked him who among the young pups has stood out.

“Oh, Will Redmond.” Banks said. “He’s the best looking freshman I’ve ever seen. I tell Coach Mullen about it. And [redshirt freshman] Taveze Calhoun, those two guys are two of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Between those two and a few other youngsters, Banks isn’t concerned about the future of the position after he, Corey Broomfield and Darius Slay graduate this year.

“I think we’ll be good at corner for the next four or five years with [freshmen] Cedric Jiles and Xavier Grindle [and sophomore] Jamerson Love, guys like that. They won’t have no worries out of the corners, because I’ll make sure they’re prepared for when we’re gone.”

I also asked Banks how the safety position is holding up after losing Charles Mitchell and Wade Bonner to graduation last year and having Nickoe Whitley still recovering from an injury.

In addition to another sophomore, Banks said his fellow corners have the versatility to play safety, and he isn’t worried about Whitley missing a step.

“We’ve got [sophomore safety] Jay Hughes. Broomfield can do both, Slay can do both, I can do both,” Banks said. “Nickoe, he’s coming back, he’s looked real good in these little workout sessions we’ve had.”

MSU’s fully updated roster, depth chart and media guide can all be found here.

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