December 29, 2017 9:36:33 AM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tre Brown and Ronald Walker were hoping this would happen.
Brown is a Mississippi State defensive lineman, Walker is a Louisville defensive back; before that, they were teammates at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Now, they finally meet as opponents in the TaxSlayer Bowl when No. 24 MSU (8-4) takes on the Cardinals (8-4) 11 a.m. Saturday (ESPN) at EverBank Field.
Brown and Walker were not the only ones playing in this TaxSlayer Bowl that were also on the 2015 Co-Lin team -- MSU defensive back Jaquarius Landrews was also on that team -- but the matchup means a little more for Brown and Walker. They were roommates at Co-Lin.
"Ronald, he's a good guy," Brown said. "We had a lot of arguments over the last Pop-Tarts.
"He was a pretty cool dude, he stayed to himself. He can make the whole crowd light up with a smile, he's a very charismatic guy."
Walker enters the TaxSlayer Bowl with 33 tackles, one for a loss, and two pass break-ups. Brown had 16.5 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, with two quarterbacks hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery as his role in the unit grew as injuries came.
Now that Brown got his way and the two will be on the same field once again, he just has one more wish.
"I really wish he was on offense," Brown said.
Elliott taking over
Brett Elliott may not have been MSU's offensive coordinator in title, but he was the clear choice to take over as one in a one-game situation.
MSU's quarterbacks coach will serve as its interim offensive coordinator for the bowl game, a duty earned after he was a valuable part of former MSU head coach Dan Mullen's playcalling process this season.
"He called the plays, but sometimes he'd bounce a lot off me," Elliott said. "During the season, it was mostly me and him on the headset, conversing about what to do while involving Coach Hevesy a little bit in the run game. Sometimes he'd lean on me a little bit for what I see up there since I have a better vantage point in the box."
Cleveland still on the way up
When cornerback Tolando Cleveland started his senior season, getting his first field time in over a year after tearing his ACL, he looked back on his time away as making him a better player via film study, but also a time that taught him about leadership.
It's possible MSU hasn't seen the full benefits of that time yet.
Cleveland ended his final regular season as a Bulldog with 16 tackles and three passes defended -- all while still gaining confidence in his knee. It's not uncommon for athletes returning from ACL tears to harbor some tentativeness in that knee, and Cleveland admitted that process is ongoing for him.
"Still working on it, it's an every day thing," he said.
Last practice of the season
Cold, wind and rain could have put a damper on MSU's last trip to the practice field of the 2017 season, but Elliott didn't see it that way. MSU intentionally kept the practice short for that reason.
"I thought it was good; much better than I expected," Elliott said. "Coming out here, I was worried we were going to be a little flat and not wanting to be out there, but once we got out there, guys were ready to go.
"(MSU quarterback) Keytaon's (Thompson) got those big mitts (hands), so he does fine in rain."
MSU will not practice tomorrow as it is busy with a morning press conference/luncheon, a visit at the Wolfson's Childrens Hospital and a pep rally at Jacksonville Landing at night.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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