August 21, 2013 12:19:40 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE - There are only 12 regular season games left in the career of Mississippi State University defensive end Denico Autry.
Such is the life of a junior college transfer, it appears just after the minute they sign with the Division 1 college program, they're out of eligibility and walking out of the door. Autry is feeling that sense of desperation in his final season on the Starkville campus.
"I think about that a little bit but it's hard to not let that thought get in the way of doing my job on a daily basis," Autry said.
All eyes are pointed at Autry as the 265-pound pass rusher is trying to quickly impress professional scouts in order to make a spot for himself at the next level. Autry leads a MSU defensive front that accounted for just 19 sacks last season, which was good enough for 13th in a 14-team Southeastern Conference. In order for new MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to break what he has called "the havoc" to a chaotic aggressive scheme in 2013, Autry is going to have to produce more than four sacks this season.
"You come into the building and see a Denico Autry, Kaleb Eulls and Jay Hughes where it's a pleasure to coach them and I'd be doing them a disservice if I didn't have that energy to match them," Collins said. "Getting the football is all we talk about and turnovers happen because guys are flying around with energy."
The summer didn't get off to the best start for Autry as he will play the season opener in Houston against Oklahoma State with a cast on his right hand after suffering a severe injury to his wrist in fall camp. Autry has been withheld from most of team exercises until Tuesday when practices resumed this week after the first day of classes.
"I think the key (for MSU's pass rush) has to be Denico Autry becoming a force for them and being that player everybody thought he would be out of junior college," ESPN college football analyst Edward Ashcoff said.
Autry Standout defensive end East Mississippi Community College and was a big part in helping the Lions to 12-0 record, state championship and National Junior College Athletic Association national title. In the undefeated season, Autry was named a 2011 NJCAA All-America first team selection after posting 81 tackles with 13.0 tackles for loss, 11.0 sacks and a remarkable 41 quarterback hurries for defensive coordinator William Jones.
It was Jones that had MSU fans hoping his numbers will be similar to former MSU player Pernell McPhee that turned a transfer from Itawamba Community College into a being a significant contributor to the NFL's Baltimore Ravens.
"Let me stop you there -- he's better than Pernell," Jones said in 2011. "He can take a game over an SEC game right now."
After Autry signed with MSU in Dec. of 2011 over offers from University of Alabama, Auburn University, University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Mississippi, University of Southern California and University of Texas, Mullen proclaimed his winning culture would instantly bring a new intensity to the MSU defense. He was right - for the first seven games. However, in the games against ranked teams (Alabama, Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University and Northwestern University in the 2013 Gator Bowl), Autry had just three tackles for loss and one sack.
"In the second half of the season last year I don't know if there was a finer defensive end in the country than Denico Autry," Collins said in defense of his lineman. "He was doing everything we've ever asked out of him in the late part of the season."
n Fan Day Saturday: MSU's annual Fan Day will be held from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at the Palmeiro Center and will once again be open to the public, family-friendly and free for all who attend. Doors will open at noon.
Bulldog football fans are invited to receive autographs from head coach Dan Mullen and the 2013 team. To help ensure everyone in attendance has a chance to meet all the players and Coach Mullen, fans are asked to limit their autograph requests to one item per person, and players will only sign the 2013 football posters that the athletic department will provide.
Posters and schedule cards for football, soccer, and volleyball will be available to fans. Other attractions include photo opportunities with Bully and Champ in addition to a free kids' zone with an inflatable bounce house, giant slide, and face-painting.
Special guests include the 2013 Bulldog Volleyball team as well as MSU Spirit Squads. Barnes & Noble at Mississippi State will be on-site for fans to purchase the latest gear and merchandise. Free refreshments will also be served.