Blessing in disguise for Bulldogs' Chaney

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Jamar Chaney is a big believer that everything happens for a reason.

He probably wouldn't have chosen to still be at Mississippi State this time a year ago, but he is.

And as he says with conviction, "I wouldn't change it for nothing."

Chaney, the Bulldogs' fifth-year senior middle linebacker, suffered a nasty injury in the opener a year ago. He tore ligaments in his ankle and broke his left fibula, which turned out to be a terrible omen for the Bulldogs.

He was lost for the season, and Mississippi State's season quickly went down the tubes.

Undecided about whether to enter his name in the NFL draft or apply for a medical redshirt and return to Mississippi State, Chaney admits that he went back and forth.

It didn't take him long once first-year coach Dan Mullen and the rest of his staff settled in to realize that he'd made the right choice.

"I see it as a blessing in disguise," said Chaney, a second-team All-SEC selection in 2007. "At first, I was down and wondering about everything, wondering if this was the right thing. But to come back and go through a whole offseason and now a season with Coach Mullen and his staff has been exactly what I needed.

"Coach (Matt) Balis (the Bulldogs' strength coach) has me in the best shape of my life, and Coach (Carl) Torbush is the best linebacker coach I've had and the best defensive coordinator I've had. I'm happy where I'm at. I'm happy with the career I've had, and I'm happy with how it's going to end."

Chaney is part of a Mississippi State linebacker unit that rivals any in the league. All three of the Bulldogs' starters are at least 240 pounds, and they all can run. The 6-1, 245-pound Chaney has been timed at just under 4.5 seconds.

Junior K.J. Wright will play one of the two outside spots. The 6-4 Wright is pushing 250 pounds, while junior college newcomer Chris White (6-3, 245) will play the other outside spot.

"It's going to be the best linebacker corps we've had in years here at Mississippi State," Chaney said. "We have a lot of guys who can really get to the ball, and it's not just at linebacker."

He said that junior college newcomer Pernell McPhee continues to be dominant at defensive tackle after bursting onto the scene in the spring.

"You're not going to be able to block him one-on-one," Chaney said. "If you try, you're going to suffer the consequences."

The Bulldogs might be able to slide the 275-pound McPhee outside to end some, too, especially if true freshmen Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox keep progressing the way they are.

"They don't play like freshmen. They're going to play this year," Chaney said.

Getting Chaney back for another season was a huge coup for Mullen, and it goes much deeper than just Chaney's ability to blow up opposing ball-carriers.

"It's the leadership he brings, and not only the leadership he brings on the field, but that demeanor he brings off the field," Mullen said. "He comes in as an older guy who everybody looks up to and is experienced, and he 100 percent buys into the new coach's program.

"As soon as Jamar Chaney buys in, the younger kids look at each other and say, 'If he buys in, then we need to buy in.' That's what makes him irreplaceable for our team."