August 20, 2009

Position Preview: Offensive Line

Mississippi State's offensive line was under fire from the fans and media alike after a forgettable 4-8 season.

The beleaguered line the third most sacks in the league for an offense that finished 10th in the conference averaging just 274.9 yards per game. But that was last year.

The 2009 o-line is bigger, stronger, more experienced returning four starters and headed up John Hevesy, who led Florida to two National Championships.

"I don't talk about what happened before," Hevesy said. "I'm sure the players don't want to hear it. I wasn't here so I don't really care honestly. It's about what we are doing from the day we started until the day we finish. I told everyone when we got here that they've got a clean slate. You're impression is what you make on me not something that someone told me like the internet people, the fans, or the alumni. I will figure it out for myself. I think the whole thing is they've all fought and want to get better. They are all competing and I can't ask any more than that. We've just got to go find a way to win games."

The offensive line a year ago was spread thin even before the season began. Left tackle Michael Brown was expelled from school after an on-campus shooting incident in the spring causing Derek Sherrod to move from right tackle to left. The move also forced a then redshirt freshman guard Quentin Saulsberry into action at right tackle.

But the problems didn't stop there. Tobias Smith went down for the season in the first scrimmage with an ankle injury leaving a gaping hole at guard. Another preseason injury to Sherrod's toe caused him to lose over 10-pounds and miss the season opener. Mark Melichar also missed time and shed weight after catching mononucleosis during the season.

But then again, that was last year also.

New strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis has been on a mission to shape up the offensive line since he took over the weight program in January. Balis has added nearly an average of 10-pounds per lineman and increased their overall strength and endurance over the summer.

"I've worked with that guy for eight years so I know how Matt works," Hevesy said. "I think the biggest difference is the kids took the training and adapted to it and learned to fight. They are still learning how to fight and how to win and compete all the time. But that is something you have to keep instilling in your kids to make a habit around here."

Sherrod has put on seven-pounds (305), Saulsberry packed on 14-pounds (300) and junior center J.C. Brignone has added an additional 10-pounds (300) under Balis.



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