Lashard Durr was playing junior college football at Copiah-Lincoln a year ago at this time and was dreaming of an opportunity in the Southeastern Conference.
Just one year later, the Harrison Central alum is living that dream out as the starter at cornerback for Mississippi State.
Durr might have played his way into a starting position in year one but he wasn’t slated to get the first snaps just a few weeks ago. Those were set to go to seniors Tolando Cleveland and Cedric Jiles before the two encountered serious injuries that opened the door for Durr and fellow junior Jamoral Graham.
Defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon feels like their time in the fire against South Alabama last week is going to be much more beneficial than if they had to learn under the older players. Even though the Bulldogs lost, progress was made.
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“I think it’s hard to watch somebody else and learn a lot because you don’t know exactly what they were thinking,” Sirmon said. “As a football player so much of how you play is between your ears, and what your thoughts were before the ball was snapped; if you identified any splits or any tendencies.
“As they gain experience we should see improvement. It’s just how fast that experience and how fast that improvement comes along.”
Durr had the best day of any of the cornerbacks. The first-year starter clamped down defensively and had just two passes thrown his way. One of those passes was incomplete and the other was a touchdown pass that saw an improbable catch made by the receiver.
He assessed his game as a success. Especially with the respect shown by South Alabama to go somewhere else with the ball.
“I feel like I did pretty good. It surprised me that they only really tried me one time and I thought that was a sign of respect,” Durr said. “I just kept playing my game and stayed deep so no one threw the ball over my head.”
Game one as a starter in the SEC had to be nerve-racking, right? Not for Durr who felt like he was prepared for the moment. He ended the game with three tackles and an increase in confidence.
“Usually before the game I’ll be nervous. When I got out there (against South Alabama), I really wasn’t nervous,” Durr Said. “I was just ready to get out there and play my game.”
The sting of the loss still resonates more than his strong performance. After Durr and the defense had a big first half that included a shutout, they surrendered three touchdowns in the second half and he felt the team had let off the gas.
The good news from Durr is that they have a chance to redeem themselves this weekend. Practice has been spent correcting the wrongs and adjusting for SEC play which begins against South Carolina (1-0) on Saturday.
“We’ve just got to make plays and play hard every down,” Durr said. “We got lazy in the second half and felt like we had it. We’ve got to capitalize on it and play hard throughout the game.
“We’re really excited to get back out there. We’ve been running around and practicing hard and playing fast. Everything is tempo now so we’re out there going hard at practice. Everybody is staying in their playbook, learning what they’ve got to do, staying focused and running to the ball.”
The Gamecocks present many problems on the offensive side of the ball under new head coach Will Muschamp. For Durr, wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards as well as running back A.J. Turner are players to watch for.
After a 100-yard performance through the air from the freshman Edwards and 70 yards on the ground from Turner, there are plenty of things to be prepared for when the Gamecocks come to town.
“They’ve got some really good receivers (Samuel) and (Edwards) and their running back is really good,” Durr said. “We’ve got to key on them and make plays and we should be fine.”