STARKVILLE -- David Turner is a veteran of his trade. The Mississippi State defensive line coach is a seasoned coach and is key to the success at two different SEC schools on the line.
After helping build MSU's strong defensive front when Dan Mullen arrived in 2009, Turner left to coach with Joker Phillips at Kentucky and started a new tradition of big-time players on the Wildcat front. When Chris Wilson left Starkville after 2012, Turner was at the top of the board for Mullen.
As the MSU and Kentucky ball game has become a rivalry between the SEC West and SEC East schools, there's no rivalry for Turner. He appreciated his time in Lexington but he's worried about winning games and producing defensive lineman in Starkville, now.
"It's a good place with a lot of good people there and a lot of fond memories," Turner said. "I'm not concerned with them and what I did there. I'm just trying to get us better and focus on Mississippi State and what we can do to win Saturday."
MSU's defensive line will be key for a win to be possible and no position has been more impressive than at defensive end with A.J. Jefferson and Ryan Brown. With the success those two have had, it's easy to miss the opportunities opened up by the tackles.
Turner sees the group continuing to improve at every practice, something that is key to success.
"They're coming along," Turner said. "I'm starting to see some progress in the young guys, primarily Braxton Hoyett and Cory Thomas. Chris Jones has played better the last two or three weeks which is good. I'm starting to see a little bit of a chemistry and guys understanding what to get done. Hopefully we can keep that going the last half of the season."
Hoyett and Thomas have seen reps increase as the year goes on and even with six tackles between them, Turner said they show up on film. More experience is the key for two talented redshirt freshmen.
"(Their redshirt year) was good but the last time they played other than this season they were in high school," Turner said. "It's a learning curve and you never know it as good as you need to. Each year and each game you try to get a little bit better. Those guys now have seen SEC, big-time football and they know it's a step up. They've got the ability and have been working hard. They had an extremely good week this week."
As for Jones, he's gone through his own transition period. Ideally, Turner would have liked to redshirt the former five-star but Jones had to play right away his true freshman season.
Moving back and forth from tackle to end has been a part of his growth taking longer, but he really things he's developing and the stats don't tell the story.
The whole unit looks to play better for Turner but they've had a good start. With 27.5 tackles for loss this season and 9.5 sacks through seven games, they're already on their way to exceeding expectations.