Heading into spring, Mississippi State had a dilemma on its hands. While there were few questions about an offense returning most of a unit that averaged 401.3 yards per game in 2010, the defense had to replace three starting linebackers – and in the SEC, that’s a troublesome situation to be in.
Those linebackers – Chris White, K.J. Wright and Emmanuel Gatling -- accounted for 253 tackles, including 24.5 for loss last fall. The Bulldogs had the bodies to throw out onto the field, but they all lacked ideal experience.
Enter Clemson transfer Brandon Maye.
Maye, who was a three-year starter at for the Tigers and compiled 233 total tackles, graduated with his bachelors' degree in May and abruptly transferred to Mississippi State because of a personal issue -- that he did not disclose -- at home in Mobile, Ala. The three-time Academic All-ACC selection said the short distance between Starkville, Miss., and Mobile motivated his transfer.
Now, the Bulldogs have a true weapon to plug in at middle linebacker, where Maye could end up starting for the Mississippi State's season opener at Memphis.
Maye, who arrived on campus last week, brings valuable experience and playmaking skills to a position of need for the Bulldogs. He proved in 2009 that he's got a nose for the ball and packs some extra punch out there when he set the Clemson single-season record by forcing five fumbles.
Maye didn't have a great final year at Clemson; starting just eight of the nine games he played in and recorded 43 tackles. His starting spot also wasn’t guaranteed this spring with all the young talent Clemson acquired. Now that he’s in a new place and possibly a better situation, expect that figurative chip to be on one of his shoulders this fall.
Though he didn't go through practice with the Bulldogs this spring and will have to get used to defensive coordinator Chris Wilson's philosophy, it will be tough for any of the Bulldogs' current linebackers to keep Maye off the field.
People at Mississippi State feel like could come right in and immediately be the guy in the middle for the Bulldogs. He's talented enough and has enough field knowledge that he should be able to pick everything up pretty quickly.
For the Bulldogs to ease some of the pain from losing three starters from a year ago, they need to find someone to man this linebacker ship. Maye seems to be that person.
He might be the newcomer, but he could be the most talented of the bunch, and he certainly is the most experienced to see a majority of the playing time at linebacker.