Chris McNeil is a true freshman offensive lineman from Petal High School in Petal, Mississippi. Coming out of high school, Chris was considered one of the top three offensive linemen in the state of Mississippi and one of the top true centers in the South. Chris is expected to redshirt this year. Chris and I got together after practice Thursday to discuss how things have gone for him since he arrived on campus in early August.

Chris, how about telling my readers how it has been going for you since you have been practicing?
Chris McNeil: "So far, everything has gone really good. I have found out how much competition there is. During two-a-days everybody was competing for a spot. You find out how much dedication you need when you get out here because everybody is so much stronger and quicker than you see in high school."

You mentioned dedication. You are pulling extra duty aren't you?
Chris McNeil: "Yes sir, when they decided to redshirt me, I decided I was going to be all that I could be. What I do is lift weights with coach Grant in the mornings, go to practice in the afternoon, then go to the Sanderson building at night and do an extra workout."

Last year you were facing high school defensive linemen. Now you are facing SEC caliber defensive linemen. What has that been like for you?
Chris McNeil: "The defensive linemen up here are better at technique. They know how to use their hands much better. In high school you saw more of the bull-rush technique, but here you have people who know how to use their hands. To beat people up here, you have to have great technique. On this level, everybody is pretty much on the same level of play, so you have to learn the little things to succeed."

So, when you got to State and started practicing, you learned how little you really knew?
Chris McNeil: "Yes, once I got up here, I found out there are so many little things that you need to know. For example, where you place your hands or a certain way you shift your heel. A lot of it has to do with having proper leverage. If you don't have the leverage, you aren't going to be able to block anybody. You can block someone who can squat 600 pounds if you have good leverage."

How do you feel you have progressed?
Chris McNeil: "I feel that I am progressing really well. It just takes time. When I first came up here, they handed me the playbook and it was about three inches thick. I didn't know what to think (laugh). I'm just like any of the other freshmen. I think this redshirt year will be good for me. I will come in during the spring knowing my playbook and I will have the technique down and be ready to complete."

How much has starting center Tommy Watson helped you since you have been at Mississippi State?
Chris McNeil: "Tommy and I have lockers right beside each other. We talk about a lot of things everyday. He is a good person to watch because he has a great work ethic. He goes full-speed on every play. I really like the way that he plays because he is an aggressive ballplayer. He is the person on the team that I want to be like."

You've played against the new defensive linemen. What is your impression of them?
Chris McNeil: "(Noseguard) Ronald Fields is a great athlete. He looks like a genetic freak. He is really good with his hands. Dannie Snyder is really strong and physical.

"The thing about the guys that we have this year is not only are they great athletes on the field, but you would never meet a nicer group of guys off the field. Everybody is really getting along well and I feel that we are slowly coming together as a team. You have to have that to go to (the SEC Championship Game in) Atlanta."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is You can contact him by emailing

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