STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - Mississippi State’s pass-rush duo of junior defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and senior defensive end Montez Sweat were selected to the Athlon Sports Preseason All-American teams, the organization announced Tuesday.
The Bulldogs were one of seven Southeastern Conference programs to have multiple student-athletes named a Preseason All-American as Simmons reeled in second-team honors and Sweat earned a spot on the third team. The duo helped forge a Bulldog defense that ranked 10th nationally in total defense, issuing only 306.3 yards per game. It was the best total defensive mark at MSU since 1999.
Despite being double-teamed for most of the 2017 season, Simmons recorded 60 tackles over his sophomore campaign and was tabbed a first-team All-SEC honoree. The Macon, Miss., native ranked 11th in the conference with 12.0 tackles for loss, which includes a career-best 5.0 sacks. Defensively, he forced and recovered two fumbles while tallying three blocks on special teams, which tied SMU's Justin Lawler for the national lead.
Simmons also scored twice last season with two touchdowns at Louisiana Tech, becoming the first MSU defensive player since Johnathan Banks in 2009 to score twice in a game. Simmons was also a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Week honoree in 2017.
Sweat collected a league-best 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in his debut season en route to a first-team All-SEC selection. The 10.5 sacks ranked seventh in MSU single-season annals as he became the first Bulldog to lead the league in sacks since Willie Evans in 2005. That total also tied for eighth nationally this season. His tackle for loss total was tied for fifth in Bulldog single-season history.
A three-time SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week recipient in 2017, Sweat recorded at least one tackle for loss in 10 of MSU's 13 games. The Stone Mountain, Ga., native ranked sixth overall on the squad in tackles in 2017 with 46.
Sweat, Simmons and the Bulldogs will open the Joe Moorhead era inside Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1 against Stephen F. Austin on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m. CT.