The secret to Mississippi State football’s plans for victory this year? It might be The Force.
Like basketball coach Rick Ray, Dan Mullen said today he’s a big Star Wars fan.
“I’m kind of a Jedi knight,” Mullen said.
So strong is The Force with this one, he camped out for the release of Return of the Jedi as a kid. And I applaud him.
But outside of mystical hocus pocus and old men with cloaks and lightsabers, the most important part of MSU’s season is likely the offensive line.
As luck would have it, today was the offensive line’s turn to speak with the media.
From left to right, the Bulldogs are relatively set with returning starters Blaine Clausell, Gabe Jackson and Dillon Day at tackle, guard and center, respectively. But at right guard and right tackle, MSU is stocked with new and relatively inexperienced faces.
Senior Tobias Smith, still recovering from a knee injury suffered last year, is the presumptive starter at the guard spot, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing all he can to help the youngsters in line behind him. That will be especially important if Smith is brought along slowly, as Mullen has said he likely will be.
Walk-on Ben Beckwith has earned some trust from the coaches, aided by the tutelage of Smith, he said. Beckwith says offensive line coach John Hevesy calls him “Twinkletoes” because he moves his feet so much. According to Beckwith, though, his feet are his strength.
Redshirt freshman Justin Malone, a former basketball star, is the other guard battling with Beckwith, and he says the line of teaching often extends from Beckwith to him. Though all three are competing for the same spot, Malone said each of them receive both advice and encouragement from the others.
At right tackle, however, some of the teaching came the last couple years. Redshirt sophomore Damien Robinson, a decorated recruit a few years ago, said the man who helped him the most was former MSU and current Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Addison Lawrence.
Robinson said Lawrence would sit with him in meetings and in the film room, showing him the steps he’s supposed to make, how to read zones and how to figure out who or where he’s supposed to block and move.
“I still consider him young,” Mullen said of Robinson.
But much like Clausell and Day, Robinson may have to grow up in a hurry. After losing Lawrence to the NFL, either Robinson or junior college transfer Charles Siddoway will be filling the spot.
Robinson, of course, has more experience in the offense, and he told me last week that he’s been helping Siddoway adjust and learn, just as Lawrence helped him.
Although, Robinson has learned more than just right tackle. Now in his third fall camp, the big-footed lineman (size 20, in fact. He showed us his flip-flop) has also spent time at left tackle and guard. Mullen said the second-place finisher in the right tackle competition will be the “swing” guy who is the primary backup at both tackle spots.
If Siddoway and Robinson are close, Robinson’s versatility may make him a candidate for that rotating gig.
None of the four or five players vying for playing time on the right side of the line know who will be starting or how much they will play, but they all agree on one thing: the depth on MSU’s offensive line is strong, even if there are a few new faces.