From Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen's perspective, Justin Cox has some learning to do.
One of the nation's top junior-college cornerback prospects a year ago wasn't quite ready to play within the Bulldogs' defensive system when the season began, but as the weather in the South has begun to cool, Cox has begun warming up to assignment-centric football.
"There's a very fine line between being a playmaker and doing your job," Mullen said, according to cdispatch.com. "The most important thing is do your job then be a playmaker within the description of your job. That's tough for some guys."
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Mullen suggested JuCo transfers such as Cox are able to freelance more on the JuCo level, and subsequently struggle with assignments when they enter a major four-year program such as MSU. But when Cox's two years in Starkville, Miss., are done, will his struggles with the system even matter to the NFL? With impressive measurables for a cornerback (6-foot-3) and athletic ability that defensive coordinator Geoff Collins described as "dynamic," Cox may have a foot in the NFL door regardless. In fact, according to the report, Mullen indicated that a departed Bulldogs cornerback who came from the JuCo ranks, Darius Slay, didn't pick up the intricacies of his assignments until the end of his time at MSU.
"He ended up a second-round pick and (is) putting together the beginning of a nice professional career," Mullen said. "Everybody is different in when it all clicks, but all we can ask for is they continue to put the work in."
Cox chose the Bulldogs over such top-flight programs as Alabama and Georgia, and has made two starts with three pass breakups in Mississippi State's first six games. From the sound of it, playing time for Cox will be on the rise in the second half of the season. While he would technically be eligible to turn pro after this season, expect Cox to return to MSU for his senior year in 2014 and delay his NFL draft eligibility until 2015.