By Matthew Stevens, [email protected]
August 5, 2011 8:27:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Johnthan Banks isn''t lacking for confidence entering this season.
Even after getting burned by an incoming freshman on a deep pass Friday in a morning practice session, Mississippi State''s junior starting cornerback hasn''t lowered his expectations for himself in 2011.
"We going to be great back there," the East Webster High School product said. "We all know what we''re doing. I probably know the least because of how I move around (from positions)."
And after that play Friday morning, (freshman wide receiver Joe) Morrow may want watch out for No. 13 in a white jersey.
"I still like him, though, but I''m looking to go stalk Joe Morrow and just let him know what''s up," Banks said. "I''m ready to come out here tomorrow and the first person I''m going to call out is Morrow. It''s on. Me and Morrow."
Banks is beginning his second season at cornerback. He joins three players -- cornerback Corey Broomfield and safeties Charles Mitchell and Nickoe Whitley -- with starting experience in the backfield.
After being a potential question mark entering a 2010 season that ended with a 9-4 record, a top-15 finish in the Associated Press poll, and a 52-14 victory against the University of Michigan in the Gator Bowl, MSU hopes its experience in the secondary is one of its biggest strength this year.
"Everybody has come out here like they really want to win this year," Banks said. "Everybody is flying around and these freshmen are going hard. There''s a difference from weight room to actually playing football."
Banks, who is still well known around the Starkville campus for what he did as a freshman free safety, including the two touchdowns scored at against Florida at Davis Wade Stadium, didn''t receive preseason Southeastern Conference honors. He had two interceptions in 2010, but coaches ignored his side of the field after the success of his first season.
To showcase what MSU coach Dan Mullen has referred in previous years as "the ball skills of John Banks," MSU has the 185-pound junior working with the punt return team in camp.
"I feel back at home back there (because) that''s what I did in high school, but that''s what Coach Mullen wants me to do now," Banks said. "I think I''m pretty dynamic with the ball in my hands. Every time I had it in my hands I did something with it. I feel comfortable with the ball in my hands, and if coach didn''t trust me, he wouldn''t have had me out there."
Wells thriving at new position
The look Matthew Wells gave members of the coaching staff when they told him his new position was one of confusion.
"I didn''t know what to expect when they said I should play linebacker," Wells said. "I was kind of scared I wouldn''t know what to do."
He didn''t understand how his 200-pound body would hold up as a linebacker in an athletic and physically demanding league like the SEC.
The answer was simple. It wouldn''t.
"I''ve spent this past summer getting bigger physically," said Wells, now a 215-pound outside linebacker. "I''ve matured as my body has gotten different."
In a new brand of spread offense that showcase more 7-on-7 passing game skills, Wells'' athleticism and coverage ability is why new linebacker coach Geoff Collins sees him as a perfect fit.
"He''s going to have to come in and develop those young guys right away," Mullen said in January when he announced the hiring of Collins. "There''s not pre-made guys waiting for him there like last year when we were able to bring Manny (Diaz) in a great situation."
In the first two fall practices of the 2011 season, Wells is normally seen in pre-snap motion following a tight end or slot receiver across the line of scrimmage.
"(Collins) is a great coach and makes us understand what is important before and after a play, but the key is his intensity in getting everybody up for what they have to do every day," Wells said. "We will do things the right way because he''ll demand it of us."
After Scout.com listed Wells as the sixth-best prospect in the state regardless of position, the four-star prospect choose MSU over the University of Mississippi despite having offers to play on offense at Southern Mississippi, Tennessee and Stanford.
Wells began to shadow MSU linebacker Chris Hughes last spring to learn the position. The Mobile, Ala., native watched as Hughes, a 215-pounder, played in 11 games and saw action on special teams. Hughes had 13 tackles with one tackle for loss last season.
"As I got into the position, I had Chris Hughes teaching me the basics about the transition," said Wells, who is battling for time with Hughes. "When I started listening to him and my coaches then it went really smooth in the spring."
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