Injuries, youth hurt MSU offensive line
MSU senior offensive lineman Addison Lawrence (62) blocks for quarterback Chris Relf (14) during the LSU game. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Dealing with injuries and playing freshmen seem to be an accurate breakdown of Mississippi State's offensive line.
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Since James Carmon suffered an injury during the Bulldogs loss at Auburn, it seems as if it has been a snowball effect on the front line.
Carmon's injury forced redshirt freshman Blaine Clausell onto the field to fill the left tackle position. Quentin Saulsberry also suffered an injury forcing redshirt freshman Dillon Day to take over at center in Auburn.
Since the Auburn game, Carmon and Saulsberry have made their way back onto the field, but neither have been at their normal position long as Tobias Smith went down with a season ending injury in the LSU game.
Since Smith's injury, it has been like musical chairs for the front five and only Addison Lawrence and Gabe Jackson have stayed in their normal positions. Carmon has seen time at right guard and left tackle and it is unsure which he will play Saturday (11 a.m.) when MSU plays at UAB in Birmingham.
Day has spent a lot of time at center while Saulsberry moved over to right guard, but both could see time on Saturday.
With all the mixing and matching, the Bulldogs are still searching for their perfect combination of lineman.
"We're still trying to improve because we are very young because of the injuries," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "We've got very young, very quick on the offensive line, but we are going to put our best five guys on the field and in position to be successful."
Going into the season, MSU was confident in the five they had out there. The injuries have forced them to move the guys around, and MSU offensive line coach John Hevesy isn't worry about all the switching around.
"Just because a guy is in a different position, fundamentals don't change," said Hevesy. "Taking steps, punching, moving your feet and competing that has nothing to do with what position your play. We have to get more fundamentally sound."
To help get the younger player fundamentally and mentally sound during the game, Hevesy relies on two of his veteran players in Lawrence and Saulsberry.
"Coach Hevesy kind of puts it on me and Quentin to kind of set the example," said Lawrence. "You can't really yell at a freshman that much so he puts it on us to get everyone together get every body going. He can't be on the field so we have take care of everybody."
Even though the Bulldogs rushing numbers have dropped off since the offensive line was hit by injuries, there are no excuses coming from any body involved with the line as they are working hard to improve.
"We've got to accelerate the learning," said Hevesy. "There will never be an excuse out of my mouth but we've got to learn faster. I'm going to make sure they're not going to lose confidence. That's a big thing for playing young. You have to have confidence. Some young guys have to learn they can do this."
To keep that confidence up, the younger guys know there is an experienced teammate encouraging and pushing them the entire time in Lawrence.
"I tell them to just relax because everybody makes mistakes," said Lawrence. "They are going to beat themselves up more than anyone can beat them up so we have to keep their mind off the mistakes and tell them they'll live to play another play.
"If you're thinking, 'Oh gosh, I gave up a sack,' then you're worried this guy's going to beat you the next play. You have to get that out of your head."
Lawrence's leadership is helping the youngsters push forward and now that they have some experience under their belt, things could start looking up for State and Hevesy is going to make sure they work to get where they need to be.
"We have a job to do as an offensive line and we understand what's expected of our group," said Hevesy. "I've got to coach harder and they've got to work harder, compete harder and play harder."