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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

    Anderson’s pulse pumps blood through offensive line

    If the quarterback is the brains of the offense, the running back is the legs and the wide receivers are the hands, then the offensive line is the heartbeat. And the heartbeat keeps the brain thinking, the hands catching and the legs pumping.
    Without a consistent effort by the offensive line on every single play the quarterback would find himself helpless, the receivers couldn’t catch and the running game would be non-existent.
    After getting blown out by LSU 51-0 in the fourth game of the season, Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom realized that there was no heartbeat to his offense. The blood was just not flowing.
    He found a pulse in offensive guard Brian Anderson, who acted as the lifesaver to an offensive unit that was crying for help.
    Anderson originally came into the 2004 season as a back up center/guard, but in the Bulldogs’ fifth game of the year versus Vanderbilt he got his first career start at left guard and helped the Bulldogs average five yards a rush in a 31-13 loss in Nashville. Anderson was recruited out of Patrician Academy in Butler, Ala., as an offensive tackle by former head coach Jackie Sherrill. The 6-foot-5, 309-pounder played very little last year as a true freshman. Anderson was a reserve tight end for Sherrill and played only in short yardage situations in a multiple tight end set.
    “Looking back on it you wish you were red-shirted,” Anderson said. “I thought I probably needed to red shirt (last year). I was immature. I needed an extra year in the weight room, but I didn’t see myself telling coach I didn’t want to play.”
    Anderson entered spring drills as a tackle but soon moved to center where he immediately earned a slot on the second string behind center Chris McNeil. Midway through spring drills McNeil was suspended, vaulting Anderson to the starting center position, a position he held at the end of spring practice.
    But his position switched again at the beginning of fall camp when Croom moved him to guard, where ankle and knee problems have side-lined guard Johnny Wadley.
    “If I knew all the plays right and I felt confident enough I’d like playing center, but I like playing left guard right now,” Anderson said.
    When Brian Anderson approaches the line of scrimmage he is surrounded by two veteran players left tackle Richard Burch, who stands to his left, and McNeil, who resides to his right. Burch and McNeil give the sophomore a since of comfort, but as McNeil says Anderson gives him a lot of help.
    “I call him my wingman because he’s my guy,” McNeil said of his friend and teammate. “A lot of times I will be one-on-one with a guy on pass protection and Brian doesn’t have anybody (to block). He’ll just come in there and he’ll just clean the whole pocket out.”
    Cleaning the whole pocket out is what Anderson does best. That’s why running back Jerious Norwood and Fred Reid have totaled 509 rushing yards on 91 carries over the last three games. Anderson has started. The two backs have averaged 5.6 yards a carry over that span.
    “I’d say the offensive line has done pretty good, but you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Jerious and Fred,” Anderson said.
    Anderson is a quiet guy at practice. He doesn’t call attention to himself. He doesn’t yell or scream like some do. He’s just not that type of a player. But as Croom points out, he has a relentless fight in him that has helped the MSU offense attain success.
    “Brian is a fighter,” Croom said. “He’s a guy who does not quit even when the odds are against him and no matter how difficult it gets, he shows up at practice every day. Even when he is out-manned he continues to fight and find a way.”
    Only four days before the Bulldogs game faced UAB, Anderson was in a walking boot due to a severe ankle sprain he sustained in the loss to Vanderbilt.
    Croom and the training staff didn’t give Anderson a chance to return for the UAB game.
    “We thought he was down for the count,” Croom said.
    But his mind was set on playing. When the game rolled around Anderson started and helped open massive holes in the defensive front helping Norwood gain more than 200 rushing yards.
    Anderson has a busload of heart. He can be compared, not physically but mentally, to Brett Favre or Titans quarterback Steve McNair. When those players get hurt they play through the pain and find ways to help their team.
    “He’s always working hard even if he is injured he is always going to work hard to help the team out,” Burch said.
    The updated Mississippi State depth chart has Anderson listed as the starting left guard, the backup center and the backup right guard. One could say he is a lineman of all trades.
    “He’s brought versatility (to the O-line) because he can play guard and center. And I’m pretty sure if coach asked him, he can play some tackle too,” Burch said with a smile.
    McNeil and Anderson are close friends. They are similar in their build. But they are different in the way they lead: while McNeil is vocal, Anderson is reserved.
    “The first thing I think of is the way he explains stuff. He’s real country. It’s kind of hilarious and all,” McNeil said with a laugh. “He’s just kind of a laid back kind of guy who’s always smiling. But on the field I think he is developing into a very good football player.”

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    Anderson’s pulse pumps blood through offensive line