STARKVILLE – One of the most highly contested position battles in fall camp will be at right tackle.
Charles Siddoway, a two-year starter for Mississippi State, was lost to graduation, leaving several potential replacements for offensive line coach John Hevesy to consider.
Senior Damien Robinson and junior Justin Malone both entered camp as co-starters at the position with redshirt freshman Jake Thomas following them on the depth chart.
But those are not the only options for Hevesy.
Sophomore Justin Senior made a start last season, sophomore Cole Carter appeared in 11 games and junior Rufus Warren is making the transition to tackle from tight end.
“We’d be fortunate to have two or three of them, but that’s the fight, the competition,” Hevesy said. “Having competition in my room is great. It makes you show up everyday to practice. Because if you don’t, one day you are sitting in that front row as a starter and the next practice you may be sitting in the second row as a back up.”
‘Hotbed for guards’
Three of the Bulldogs’ offensive guards hail from Mississippi’s private school ranks, a recruiting area Dan Mullen referred to as “a hotbed for guards.”
Malone is a Madison-Ridgeland Academy product while senior Ben Beckwith is from Benton Academy and sophomore Jamaal Clayborn is out of Jackson Academy.
All three will figure prominently into Mississippi State’s plans this season and none were rated above a three-star by recruiting services.
“I don’t think any of the three were highly recruited guys coming out of high school,” Mullen said. “Ben was a fullback and the other two hadn’t played tons of football. We looked and they had the athleticism, size and growth potential that we wanted.”
Malone started the season opener at right guard last season before suffering a broken foot that kept him out the remainder of the year. Beckwith filled in as a starter in the final 12 games.
Injuries also forced Clayborn’s redshirt to be pulled off midway through the year and he saw action in the final seven games.
“They have experience and even though you lose a Gabe Jackson, there’s still three other guards on the roster that have played in games,” Mullen said. “Hopefully we can stay healthy throughout the entire season and those three can rotate and play. It’s also good to know that you have those guys in place in case there is an injury.”
The Bulldogs have also dipped into the academy ranks in Alabama in 2014, signing Restoration Academy offensive lineman Deion Calhoun. The 6-foot-3, 325-pounder was rated as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com.