The Mississippi State offensive line has been one group that continues to draw question marks as fall camp opens.
With returning starters Gabe Jackson and Dillon Day, the Bulldogs have a talented young group to serve as the strong point up front. With the return of Tobias Smith from injury, MSU has some experience to build around up front.
“You've got Tobias and Gabe, starters,” Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said. “There is experience there.”
While there is some experience, Mullen admitted there was youth that must step up in order for State to have success this season in the Southeastern Conference. Players like Charles Siddoway, Ben Beckwith, Dylan Holley, Damien Robinson, and Archie Muniz are a big focus in camp.
“It is the backups that are going to be the whole part,” Mullen said. “That's the main emphasis, the guys who haven't played. Beckwith hasn't played a lot. Justin Malone hasn't played a lot. Archie Muniz hasn't played a lot. Dylan Holley hasn't played any SEC football. Those type of deals. When you're looking at those interior-type linemen, we've got to get them as many reps as possible to get them ready to go, and go from there.”
Mullen added that Smith is “working with the team” and it appears he will be full speed for the season opening kickoff. Blaine Clausell (6-foot-7, 305-pounds) will be relied on heavily if this football season is going to be a success. He will be stepping in at the left tackle position.
Mullen feels Clausell has added weight and is coming into SEC size now.
With the travel rosters being the size that they are, Mullen said that usually eight lineman make the travel team (three tackles, three guards, two centers). This means that all of the players on Mullen's mind need to get plenty of reps during the fall camp in case they are called upon to step up and deliver in the games.
“I think we are heading in the right direction,” said All-SEC guard Jackson. “Last year was kind of a setback and we have to bounce back, work harder - even this year so we can win more games.”
Overall, if the guys up front can stay healthy with the reserves stepping in at times, the sky is the limit for this year’s Bulldog squad.