By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
There’s been talk aplenty about how Tyler Russell will perform as Mississippi State’s full-time quarterback. But every play starts with Dillon Day.
While Russell’s ascension to starter has been a certainty, the center position was unsettled following last season. Even though Day started nine games as a redshirt freshman, he was expected to be pushed hard by juco transfer Dylan Holley.
It became apparent even in the spring, however, that Day wasn’t going to let go of this job.
“Dillon has embraced it a lot, and Dillon’s taken it to be a leader,” offensive line coach John Hevesy said. “I think I knew that in recruiting with Dillon, was he’s got a little attitude to have a chip on his shoulder and stay ahead of people.”
Day, a 6-foot-4, 300-pounder, was only a two-star prospect out of West Monroe (La.) High School, which he helped win a state championship as a senior. He entered last season as Gabe Jackson’s backup, and when injuries riddled the offensive line, Day was forced into action.
He logged significant snaps in Week 3 against LSU, a game he admitted made him “wide-eyed.” Day started the next week against Louisiana Tech, and he was getting more work that he had figured on.
“I didn’t really think I was going to do anything. That was kind of my mindset,” Day said.
He had 31 takedown blocks for the season, including a season-high six against Louisiana Tech. He helped pave the way for tailback Vick Ballard, who rushed for 1,189 yards and 10 touchdowns as MSU went 7-6 and beat Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl.
Day has a different mindset now, and he said the arrival of Holley provided some extra motivation to become the No. 1 guy.
“This year I know I’m going to be the guy, and I’m out there, and I’m trying to hustle around everything, trying to know way more than I knew last year so everything will come more easy and help out other guys,” Day said.
Day has helped solidify the interior of MSU’s offensive line. He’s flanked on the right by Tobias Smith – probably the most talented lineman on the team when healthy – and on the left by Gabe Jackson, who was a second-team All-SEC pick last season.
With question marks lingering at both tackle spots, the interior linemen must lead the way for State this fall. And as the center, Day must naturally be the one out front.
His teammates see a growing confidence in Day.
“I talk to Dillon Day every day, especially when we get in the huddle,” junior tailback LaDarius Perkins said. “I make sure he has his guys right, and we’re ready to rock and roll.”