"The main thing I wanted to do this spring was to introduce my offensive line philosophy to the kids
"The first and foremost thing you have to have as an offensive lineman is an unselfish player because, unlike most of the other positions, you don't get much attention unless you do something wrong. I also wanted to instill a strong work ethic and an attitude that we have to go out and get better every day. Realizing that we have a young group and that we are not going to be a finished product after 15 days of practice, the main thing we wanted to do was get better every day.
"I was very pleased with the kids. They had a tremendous attitude and a very good work ethic. I thought that we made a lot of progress every day and got the players to play hard.
"I was real pleased with a lot of the young guys."
With all your injuries, you had to play a lot of the younger guys during the spring.
"Right, we were in a situation where I believe in the long run it will wind up being a positive for us because we were forced to throw a lot of the young guys right in the fire immediately. At different times, we had as many as two true freshmen working with the ones this spring. Monte Collins and Otis Riddley got a lot of work with the ones. Otis actually finished up the spring as a first-team left guard because we moved Brad Weathers to left tackle. That will pay off for us down the road.
"I was pleased with all of the guys as far as making progress."
I've given you a depth chart list. Just go down the line and talk about each player.
"Chris (McNeil) showed that he is a hard-working kid that has a lot of ability. Physically, he is a strong kid that has good feet. He is in excellent condition and is below 20% body fat which is excellent for an offensive lineman. He plays extremely hard and with a lot of emotion. The thing that Chris showed is that he can play guard or center. He will give us some flexibility there. He finished the spring at guard but I believe his natural position is center but he has enough natural tools and works enough in the weight room where he has made himself big and strong enough to be an effective guard."
Brad Weathers finished the spring at tackle but he will wind up at guard.
"Brad brings a lot to the table. He was probably our bell-cow this spring. He was the guy who was out there every day. Brad really improved his past protection this spring due to having to play left tackle, kind of like being on an island. Brad has a good head on his shoulders and shows a lot of maturity. He comes off the ball well. He is a guy that we will count heavily on, not only as a player but be a leader for us up front.
"I was very impressed with Johnny Wadley. He can be an outstanding football player for us. He has a lot of ability. Johnny has real quick feet and a lot of explosion. He probably has as much pop and explosion as any of our guys up front. He is also the typical guy that you hear about that is a nice guy off the field and a tough guy on the field. Johnny should come in during the fall and definitely compete for a starting job at guard. I'm counting on Johnny to have a very good summer workout. Right now, he is on a weight loss program. Hopefully, he will be able to take off a few pounds. That will help his conditioning. Johnny's biggest obstacle right now is to lose a few pounds so that he will be in playing shape. I am going to be disappointed if he doesn't come in and really push for a starting job."
You mentioned Otis Riddley earlier. You seem to really like him.
"Otis, this spring, moved over from defense and really took to the offensive line very quickly. I think that is his natural position. He showed a lot of maturity for a freshman. He was able to pick up the offense very quickly. He has a very good head on his shoulders. He has good feet and a low center of gravity. He plays with a good base, which is a plus for him as far as maintaining contact on defenders. He is a strong young man. He did a good job of knocking people off the ball. Otis has a very good future. He is in the same boat as Johnny. The biggest thing he needs to do is improve his conditioning over the summer. If he does that, he will have a chance to get a lot of quality reps and a lot of playing time in the fall."
Last season's two starting tackles, David Stewart and Richard Burch, were hurt all or most of the spring.
"We had David out there for the first four practices and he got hurt in practice five. I saw a lot of positive things out of him. He has all of the tools to be a very good offensive lineman for us and to win in the Southeastern Conference. David has good footwork. He is a big, strong young man. Conditioning is not a problem for him. We are counting on some real good things out of David in the fall. Right now, he is still rehabilitating his thigh bruise."
How long do you think it will take for him to heal?
"I would think in a matter of two to three weeks it will be a non-factor."
Talk about Richard Burch.
"Richard was able to go through a lot of the drill work with us but he wasn't released for any full-speed, multiple-people contact. He got to do the one-on-one drill but didn't get to do the team work with a lot of people in close quarters because we didn't want someone rolling on his ankle.
"The thing you notice about Richard is he has very good feet. He probably has some of the quickest feet on the offensive line. Richard appears to pick up on things very well. He has a very good mentality for playing offensive line. From what I could tell, he has a very good mean streak. We are looking for some very good things out of him in the fall."
You have another big offensive tackle that you saw for a few days before he got hurt in practice, James Redmond.
"I was very impressed with James. We got to work with James for about four practices. James really showed that he has the potential to be a heck of a player. He should push for a starting position and should definitely have playing time in the fall. He is a big, strong young man who is built a little bit bigger than David and Richard. He has real good feet. He has the potential to be an outstanding player. The biggest thing that he needs is practice. The same could be said for Richard. Richard got in a couple games before he got hurt. The main thing with Richard and Redmond is reps at practice and playing experience.
"Missing spring hurt David, Richard and James but all three of them have the tools and the talent to be good players."
Talk about freshmen Monte Collins and James Cochran.
"Both of those guys showed us that they have potential to be real good players for us in the future. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum right now. James needs to get bigger and stronger and adding to his frame. Monte has been working hard and has lost about 45 pounds since he got here. Today, he was down in the 350's for the first time. He will only improve as his weight comes down. I like Monte. He didn't seem the least bit intimidated when he got pushed up to the first group due to the other injuries at tackle. He was kind of thrown into the fire and got a lot of good quality work against Tommy Kelly. That will force you to get better. Monte made a lot of improvement this spring and needs to have an outstanding summer. He doesn't need to miss a day in his workouts and needs to continue to get in better shape and condition. He has a very good future here.
"James Cochran just needs to keep adding to his frame and keep getting in the weight room and keep getting bigger and stronger. James has some bright things in his future."
A few players are Avery House, Will Rogers and Rusty Holloway.
"Avery is a player that came on. We had to move him from center out to tackle due to the injuries. He really came on and did some good things for us at tackle. Avery needs to have a real good summer in the weight room and the off-season conditioning. He is going to be able to provide us with some depth in the fall.
"Will played hurt for the majority of the spring, but he showed that he has a good deal of mental toughness. Will was a guy that I was counting on to step up and push for a starting job this spring, but his ankle injury really slowed him down. Will needs to get healthy and come back in the fall and battle for some playing time at guard.
"Rusty needs to continue working hard and he could figure in our depth chart in the fall. He has lost 23 pounds since January. But he still has a little ways to go as far as that is concerned."
Talk about your centers.
"Blake had a real good first part of the spring. Then, he sustained an ankle injury which really slowed him down. Then, Manuel Dickson really came on and had a really good spring. The thing that is so good about Blake is that he has played in a lot of football games and has a lot of experience. When he is healthy, he is a very good football player. It should shape up to be a real good battle at the center position entering fall. But I feel good about that position because there is some real good competition, Manuel Dickson who came on and showed that he is going to be able to contribute there in the fall. Then, we have Chris McNeil in there as well."
It sounds like you have a lot of talent, mostly young talent. It might be a little difficult to figure out who your starters will be early on.
"The biggest thing that we want to do on the offensive line is to get the best five players out on the field at the same time, regardless of position.
"The thing that we have to do as a unit is each one of them needs to have a great summer program, where they are lifting, running, doing our footwork drills, and really pushing themselves to get into top physical condition so that they can get the top five guys out there come opening day.
"Championship teams, their players bust their tails over the summer. A big key for us is what they do from this point until reporting day. Now is when it needs to kick into high gear. As a coaching staff, we can't be there with them, so it is self-accountability for them. It is up to them to come back in top physical condition. I know these guys will because they want to be successful."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.