The biggest reason for the questions at tackle are because of inexperience and one of the players being counted on by Coach Mike Pelton is true freshman Angelo Blackson. Playing mostly linebacker at Red Lion Academy in Deleware, the move to tackle and facing the speed and strength of the game in the SEC has been a huge transition for the 6-5, 320-pounder.
Last Saturday he finally had the opportunity to get his feet wet in college football as he took the field for the Tigers on defense. While the day didn't turn out like he and the defense had hoped Blackson said the experience gave him a good first chance to hone his skills at tackle.
"The first experience was amazing," Blackson said. "There were 87,000 people there and it was loud. It was extremely different from what high school players know. It was great having to get out there and play. Coach put it to us straight. He said we were coming in to play. When they call your name it's a different game, you've got to go. It was an awesome experience, very nerve-wracking. As a team we pulled it out."
Facing Auburn's offensive line all fall, Blackson said it was a very different experience facing another team. With four returning starters and veterans that know the game, Utah State gave the young Tigers a lesson last Saturday. It definitely got the attention of Blackson.
"It's a whole lot faster," Blackson said. "Practice is fast, but in practice you kind of get the team bonding. You know they're not coming off trying to take your head off. In a game all they want to do is knock your head off. It's a whole different experience when you get out there and are playing in a game as opposed to practicing."
Coming up with three tackles and half a tackle for a loss Blackson made some plays in his opportunities last week, but he also made some mistakes. He said some of that was caused by being tired and losing his technique, something that showed when the team watched the video.
"We were extremely high," Blackson said. "We went back and watched the film and could see ourselves getting hit underneath the helmet. We really weren't coming off the ball because after a while you get tired, but that shouldn't be an issue. It's not high school and you have to fight. That's what we've emphasized is coming off the ball and staying low and being powerful.
"This team right here is going to try to knock us in the face because we're freshmen and we're inexperienced, but coach has said that doesn't mean anything. We've got the talent and the hard work and the effort as a whole team to be able to pull together and beat this team and shock all the people who think we can't."
With Mississippi State's offense clicking on all cylinders in the Bulldogs' opening win over Memphis the Tigers will be in for a tough challenge Saturday morning when the game kicks off at 11:20 a.m. Aiming for bigger and better things out of the young defensive linemen, Blackson said Pelton has had them focused and working hard to get better in preparation for the Bulldogs.
"Coach has emphasized coming off the ball low and using your hands, being powerful, and playing your gaps," Blackson said. "Instead of this wide variety of things we're focusing on some key things that are going to make us as linemen play better than we did this past Saturday."