September 16, 2009 8:10:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State appreciates Wade Bonner''s effort.
The Bulldogs just want to make sure the sophomore doesn''t get overworked.
Not only does Bonner back up Zach Smith at free safety, he also helps out on special teams.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen likes Bonner''s versatility, but doesn''t want to use him too much.
"Wade does a bunch of different things for us," Mullen said. "We''ve got to watch how much we potentially use him, especially on special teams so we''re not wearing him out during the course of the game."
Bonner was a standout wide receiver and defensive back at Fayette Ware High School in Mason, Tenn. He also was recruited by Arkansas but committed to Mississippi State in December 2006.
He thanks God "every day I wake up" for the opportunity to play for the Bulldogs and wants to help the program be successful.
"We''re just trying to change things and become a championship program," Bonner said.
After redshirting in 2007, Bonner played in all 12 games for MSU last season, mainly as a running back and kick returner. He had seven carries for 12 yards and six returns for 106 yards.
When Mullen and defensive coordinator Carl Torbush arrived, Bonner moved back to defense, and was ready for whatever role Mullen had for him.
"I''m just here for the team and trying to win," Bonner said. "I asked coach Mullen when he got here what he wanted me to play and he said, ''Go to safety.'' I said, ''OK, I''m ready to roll.'' It didn''t matter really."
It may take a little more conditioning work to handle his responsibilities as a safety and kick returner, but Bonner wants to do what''s best for the Bulldogs.
He has one kick return for 15 yards this season and is anxious to get more opportunities.
"I still love having the ball in my hands," Bonner said. "It''s just whatever coach Mullen needs because he''s the special teams coach."
Bonner said playing safety in the nickel package is like splitting three positions (safety, cornerback, linebacker) into one.
Smith said the 5-foot-9, 200-pound Bonner has the size to be an effective safety in the nickel.
"He gives us a player with speed," Smith said. "If you take a linebacker off the field, he''s big and strong enough to go in there and play linebacker. He can go play in the box and can cover guys real well. He''s a real good man-coverage guy. He does a good job of coming in and doing what we ask him to do."
Bonner has made four tackles this season with two in each game.
Torbush understands how valuable Bonner is on special teams, so he''s trying to find the balance with his playing time. He felt Bonner played too much on defense against Auburn.
"It''s our fault for not getting (Bonner) off the field quicker," Torbush said. "We don''t need a secondary guy playing the whole fourth quarter. We need to do a better job of rotating the best we can.
"That''s the toughest position to substitute because you want your best players on the field at the time and you don''t want to give up a big play out there."
MSU plays at Vanderbilt at 6 p.m. Saturday (FOX SportsNet South). Even though he wasn''t recruited by the Commodores, Bonner looks forward to going against his homestate school.
Langston reaches agreement
Suspended defensive back Maurice Langston has reached a deferred guilty plea agreement in Forrest County to misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance during a Feb. 28 arrest.
The action helps downgrade it from a felony charge, which included an intent to distribute.
Langston will serve five years probation, and the case would be dropped if he has no further legal trouble. He is enrolled in classes at MSU, but remains suspended from the football team.
Sicknesses picking up
Mullen confirmed after Tuesday''s practice that several players were feeling sick, but wouldn''t say if it was because of the flu.
Senior linebacker Jamar Chaney wasn''t feeling well Monday, but was back at practice Tuesday. Mullen said sophomore Chris Relf wasn''t 100 percent and the illness hampered his progress.
"That doesn''t help his cause, but he''s working to get better," Mullen said. "We have a lot of them (sick). I''m not feeling that great."
Mullen said it was important for the Bulldogs to fight through the sickness and to continue to improve as a team.
"We''ve got a long way to go and a lot more work to do," Mullen said. "We''ve got to get them coached up. We''re cleaning things up with running the ball, catching the ball and blocking the right people."
MSU, UAB set games
The University of Alabama-Birmingham announced this week the addition of Mississippi State to its 2013 and 2014 seasons.
The Blazers will play host to the Bulldogs in 2013 and travel to Starkville in 2014. That''s an addition to scheduled games between the teams in Starkville (2010) and Birmingham (2011).
Adding the Bulldogs assures the Blazers of playing host to three straight Southeastern Conference opponents (MSU in 2011, Ole Miss in 2012, MSU in 2013).
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