STARKVILLE – Most of Mississippi State’s offense returns intact.
But the Bulldogs do have a couple of positions along their offensive line that must be addressed in training camp. MSU lost All-American left guard Gabe Jackson and right tackle Charles Siddoway to graduation, leaving a little uncertainly up front.
“The kids that are replacing Gabe have been around him so they know how hard he worked,” said offensive line coach John Hevesy. “He’s an example of working to be successful. Replacing Charles at right tackle, Justin Senior (started) the Bowling Green game and Damien Robinson has played in games.
“Justin Malone is capable of going out to tackle and Cole Carter had a great offseason. Rufus Warren moved out to tackle from tight end so we’ve got four or five bodies now, so between now and Aug. 30 we’ll find out who’s going to take that job.”
Entering fall camp, sophomore Jamaal Clayborn was listed as Jackson’s replacement at left guard, backed up by redshirt freshman Kent Flowers. Clayborn had his redshirt pulled midway through last season due to injuries.
“You never know when your number is going to be called so you always have to be prepared,” Clayborn said. “The biggest thing for me last year was doing what I needed to do to try and win ball games. That hasn’t changed for me at all, now I just have to work on the mental aspect.”
Robinson and Malone are listed as co-starters at right tackle on the preseason depth chart, followed by redshirt freshman Jake Thomas.
Malone started last season at right guard but broke his foot in the opener against Oklahoma State and was lost for the year. Ben Beckwith finished the final 12 games at right guard and returns as one of three senior starters along the offensive line.
Center Dillon Day and left tackle Blaine Clausell have combined for 63 career starts, bringing a wealth of experience to their respective positions.
“We’re kind of an underrated group but we want to be a surprise going into the season,” Beckwith said. “We’ve got a lot of seniors. Between Dillon, Blaine and me, there’s a lot of starts there. Jamaal got a lot of playing time last year when some guys got banged up. We’ve got a lot of depth.”
Senior Archie Muniz is the second-string center behind Day, while sophomore Devon Desper is Beckwith’s backup at right guard.
The Bulldogs brought in three more offensive linemen in the 2014 recruiting class. Junior college transfer Jocquell Johnson enrolled in January but was unable to practice in the spring while recovering from labium surgery.
True freshmen Deion Calhoun and Ronald Cochran have both caught their coach’s eye as well in camp.
“We’ve got great competition,” Hevesy said. “Even though it’s early, I’ve seen young guys step up. I’ve been impressed with the carry over from the spring and they’ve come along in the summer.”