The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Injuries blocking offensive line’s progress

    The Bulldogs return two starters on the offensive line this season, but preseason injuries have caused varying degrees of uncertainty over any other projections.
    “Right now, there is no projected starting lineup,” said offensive line coach J.B. Grimes. “It’s hard to evaluate the group when we have so many injuries.”
    Center Chris McNeil, a 6-foot-4, 295-pounder, will provide veteran leadership for the line. He has played in 26 games in his Mississippi State career, starting 15 times. Eleven starts came at center last fall, and McNeil played every snap in six of those 11 games.
    McNeil delivered his best performance in State’s 38-31 victory over Florida, tallying 10 knockdown blocks.
    McNeil has become a respected and vocal leader among his teammates and is looking to continue to live up to the all-SEC talent many saw in him when he first joined the Bulldogs.
    Junior Brian Anderson saw all seven of his career starts last season and is projected to start at left tackle. Anderson also played his best game against Florida, scoring an 81 percent grade.
    He can also play center after being converted from tight end early in his MSU career.
    Outside of the veteran presences of McNeil and Anderson, however, the offensive line remains relatively untested.
    “We’re progressing pretty well,” McNeil said. “We’ve got young guys playing right now. They’re some tough individuals, and they’re not scared to hit anybody.”
    Left tackle Johnny Wadley has started 10 games in his career but has continued to battle injuries after undergoing surgery prior to the 2004 season.
    Wadley is the only other veteran lineman to have started games at State.
    The Bulldogs will also look for big things from Anthony Strauder, a converted defensive linemen, who the coaching staff feels will develop into a quality player on the offensive side of the ball.
    James Redmond, a 6-foot-7, 305-pound junior transfer player who coaches were counting on to help a struggling right side of the line, is out for three to six weeks due to an ailing back, which he is having surgery on.
    Roland Terry is another young player that should help at right tackle or guard, while Royce Blackledge, Dio Herrera and James Cochran will likely see reserve duty at guard, center and tackle.
    True freshmen Johnny Carpenter, Chris Spencer, Craig Jenkins and Calvin Wilson round out the depth chart but are expected to provide immediate help on the offensive line in the upcoming season.
    “We’re a young, talented team,” Grimes said, “and we’ll see how their personality develops over time.”
    Despite the current injuries, McNeil is confident the players will persevere.
    “We’ve got a lot of guys hurt right now,” he said. “We started out with about 16 guys and now we’re down to about eight or nine. But it’s nothing season-ending. We’ll have pretty much everyone back in a few days. It’s just part of football. We’ll work through it and do what we have to do.”

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    Injuries blocking offensive line’s progress