And a happy one, he and the entire Bulldog family are expecting as Mississippi State (2-0) visits South Alabama (1-0). The 3:05 contest will be State’s first-ever football game in Mobile, though not the first for a few players. Particularly Clausell, a product of Baker High.
“I never thought that I’d get an opportunity to go back home and play again. So I’m real excited, you know.”
More than a trip to the old stomping grounds has Clausell excited these Dog days. Not only has Mississippi State scored consecutive victories to open this senior season, they’ve just plain scored. Hanging 96 points on the first two foes with 1,066 combined yards and an average gain of 6.4 every time the ball is hiked is sure to excite the guys doing the dirty work up-front. Even if their statistics are confined to the offensive line meeting room grade sheets.
Left tackle Clausell isn’t reporting blocking scores for himself or anyone of course. He does agree that his unit did OK in the opener and improved for week-two. Just like they are told to.
“I’d just say we come in every day with the mindset to get better than we were the day before. Everybody is doing that. Dillon (Day) is a great leader, he’s making sure everybody is on the same page and everything, and that’s great. And everybody has the same mindset.”
Nor has it hurt having an established quintet here in September. Well, ‘established’ might be over-stating the situation. Coach John Hevesy has used the first two games to rotate his blockers not just when practical but early enough in games that the pressure to perform is genuine. That rotation got a little skewed over the second weekend by the absence of the third of three top guards, Jamaal Clayborn, for the passing of his grandmother. Coach Dan Mullen said Monday Clayborn’s status for game-three will be learned during the week.
But then this only offers more chances to test the available blockers both individually and collectively in advance of SEC season. Here, Clausell agrees, is where the wisdom of mixing-and-matching during both spring and preseason practices shows. As does having a pretty mature group with seniors Clausell, OC Day, and LG Ben Beckwith. Note, the trio are aligned center-to-left together.
“Offensive line is a unit game,” Clausell said. “You can’t just have one person that is going sit out. All of us playing together for a while and you get a feel how everybody plays and you know how they think on certain plays and when certain things are going on. So it helps a lot.”
Nothing helps offense more than a play-making quarterback of course. And Dak Prescott is surely doing that so far. Not perfect by any means with a couple of uncharacteristic interceptions, and a few un-completed connections in the air. But if that’s all anyone can critique then yeah, Prescott is off to a scorching junior-year start with eight touchdowns tossed already and another running score.
Clausell isn’t surprised; “Man, I’m just as shocked! He’s doing real good.” Which is a way of also saying that things can be done even better as the rougher spots get further early-season polishing. And of course Prescott was not 100% speed in week-two anyway with an unspecified issue to the right ankle or foot which has him exiting the locker room wearing a precautionary boot. But a 95% Prescott is better than most any other quarterback at 105%, right?
“We’re just going to keep doing what we have to do up front to try to contribute to that, to help Dak where he wants to go for his career,” Clausell said. At the same time Bulldog blocking has been charged with helping develop the younger quarterback too. There’s no way Damian Williams is going to out-shine his elder of course and changing triggermen has not produced the same fast points Prescott has on opening series.
Yet Clausell is right there on the field with both, and evaluates results afterwards with a better perspective than any game-day observer. He insists things don’t change on offense when the quarterback changes, which upon further thought makes perfect sense and explains why the older Dog gets better results than the younger. If he didn’t, there would be a real problem.
So, “When Damian gets in there it’s a little bit less experience so you want to try to help him out a little bit more,” Clausell said. “But the way Damian is playing it’s unbelievable at his age, to come in and be able to run the offense like that. He really doesn’t need our help, he’s got it on his own I believe.”
Clausell certainly won’t be on his own upon arrival in the home town. He reported requests from family and friends for “about thirty” tickets to the game. “It’s a bunch, alright!” And he is one Bulldog who can tell others about the city’s stadium from personal perspective, if a bit historic by now.
“Last time I played in that stadium was I think the second or third week of my senior year in high school. I’ve never went to the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, but I went to Senior Bowls and stuff. And they used to have the Battle of the Bands and I would go to that when I was younger.”
Clausell doesn’t know any varsity Jaguars personally, but he wholeheartedly approves of having a college program in Mobile. “Honestly I think it’s a great thing.” Though, his comment that maybe South Alabama football could unite the city behind one local team rather than the state’s SEC powers is rather optimistic.
More to the Mississippi State point, this first road trip completes an opening stretch of non-league opposition the Bulldogs are using to prepare for the upcoming conference schedule. In fact there already is the inevitable question about looking a week ahead to the next trip and first SEC contest, a few hours along I-10 West in fact.
Oddsmakers are helping by forecasting a fairly competitive test this week. And Clausell was a sophomore on the 2012 State squad which did not exactly blow away South Alabama in a 30-10 outcome on Scott Field. So staying on-schedule is simpler this week than it might seem, Clausell said.
“I mean it’s not really hard. We’re all going into every game with the mindset it is a SEC game. You don’t want to underestimate anybody, when you do that it’s perfect time to lose one. So we look at every game as a big game for us and we’re focused on South Alabama right now.”
Like he said, this is a job. Though he will try to make some family ‘n friend opportunities upon arrival at the team hotel. Clausell also advised ever-hungry media to check out the Spot of Tea, too, where he has family connections. Otherwise…
“It’s going to be a business trip. They keep telling me we’ve got tailgating before the game, I’m like well I won’t be able to see it so take some pictures for me! But hopefully after the game I’ll be able to spend a little time with them before we get back on the bus.”
Presumably, with another W in the gear bag.