It truly is a big deal to this big Dog. To adjust the proverb accordingly, familiarity breeds contentment on the offensive line. Now, if Bulldog blockers can add competence and consistency to their post-spring checklist, Mississippi State's offense will have put itself in much stronger position come August and preseason practices.
For his part Jackson, the ranking veteran of the whole unit, is giving an April thumbs-up.
"We're coming along pretty good. We've got guys stepping up, we've got guys rotating in with the ones and twos. And how things are going with the chemistry and all that stuff."
Naturally players tend to say such positive things about how their springs are progressing. Jackson's evaluation counts for more than most though. Anyone with 39 consecutive starts—not just games played but starting jobs—on his Mississippi State resume has earned the right to offer opinions. And it isn't just that the Liberty, Miss., native has started every game he's participated in for three complete seasons.
We're talking about an All-Southeastern Conference selection of 2012, playing a position where only the informed can say who is worthy of recognition. Jackson was named to the SEC's first-team by the media vote and second-squad by conference coaches. He will of course begin the senior season ranked with the very elite linemen of this league, which is the same as saying among the best blockers in the country.
An obvious bonus-benefit to such status is Jackson being able to enjoy his final college spring camp, should he so wish. Interestingly then, he's gone at his task as if still trying to stay in the starting squad. No, nobody is pushing for Jackson's place; it is the matter of setting a tone for the rest of the team, and instructing others.
"Because you never know who might go down in the course of a game or what might happen. So you have to be prepared for whatever."
Jackson can surely attest to the unpredictability of line-life. He might have maintained a place of his own at left guard for three years, but in this time he's seen facemasks come and go to either side whether from injury or graduation or whatever. "Yeah, I've been through a lot since the first year!"
So don't blame the old guy if he's enjoyed some consistent presences through most of this spring, with junior and rising star in his own right Dillon Day at center and Clausell back at left tackle. However…there's more going on at that latter spot here in late spring. A week ago Clausell began taking turns with Damien Robinson on the first team.
Junior Robinson, of course, is in a tight fight with senior Charles Siddoway over on the other end of the line. For a week, and the first half of the first scrimmage, it was Robinson with the number-one line. Then Siddoway returned to first-team and coincidence or not the offense got hot. A week later Siddoway went the first half, then Robinson began the second half as first team; before Robinson went to left tackle. That has continued into this final week of camp, too.
Promotions? Demotions? Not really according to Jackson who has the meeting-room insight to offer. Call it more a case of in-motion.
"The left tackle might play right tackle and the right tackle go play left," Jackson reported. "And we're mixing up the guards a little bit. It's just switching-up and seeing how things go."
That is indeed the plan. Contrary as it can sound to fans figuring that at the end of spring the goal would be settling on a depth chart, Mississippi State works from the other direction apparently. The first two, three weeks are spent evaluating the individuals; and at the end the mixing-and-matching takes over as guys are thrown together almost at random.
"I mean he's just trying to see who likes to play, or who can play with who," Jackson said. "And just getting used to it." Getting that comfort level he means, or familiarity, or whatever one calls it.
Since Saturday's spring game is a split-squad affair with a directed draft of players, today's practice will be the last real chance to gauge what the summer depth chart is looking like. If based solely on observations so-far, the first offensive line would look like (right to left) Siddoway, RG Justin Malone, Day, Jackson, and Clausell.
When at right tackle Robinson would be backed by redshirt Cole Carter. Archie Muniz and Devon Desper are the right guards, though both also have been taking snaps at left guard where veteran Ben Beckwith is settled. Senior Dylan Holley is second center and redshirt Justin Senior the backup left tackle. But of course as Jackson reminded, listing ‘right' and ‘left' is not something written in ink, much less spring stone.
The Bulldogs are on the practice field in full pads today around 4:00 for the last real practice of spring. Friday will be a helmets and shorts session with drills before the squad splits to run through some plays to be used Saturday. As for the day's to-do list, "Just polish up on the things we're working on from the end of spring," Jackson said. "That's pretty much it."