Ben Beckwith: "Yeah, It's Worth It"

The heads-up came from media relations director Bill Martin. But Ben Beckwith wasn’t sure what to make of it. “I got a text saying turn on the SEC Network. I didn’t know what to expect, I thought maybe I was in trouble or something! He said nah, you’ll be happy!”

And know what? He was, though Beckwith admits he was still more shocked than excited to discover he was the SEC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week. Here he was, a guy from a smallest-level Mississippi academy and a walk-on to boot, tabbed as best blocker in the toughest conference in the country for a week.

It’s enough to make even a 305-pound guard’s head spin.

“I really didn’t know how to take it, I sat there in awe! But it was kind of an award for our group, it shows we all played well. I mean it was an all-around effort. It just shows how far we’ve come as a team that we had two people get an award from Mississippi State. You just don’t hear about that.”

No, one doesn’t. Because with QB Dak Prescott sharing the overall Offensive Player of the Week honor, this was the first time two Bulldogs were tabbed top dogs for a SEC weekend. Ever. It was fitting though, because Prescott took advantage of brilliant Bulldog blocking to lead the 34-29 victory at Louisiana State which has pushed State to a 4-0 record and 1-0 start to conference play. Or as Coach Dan Mullen aptly put it, SEC West play.

The head coach said something else even more interesting in the Tiger Stadium press area: his team did not consider it an upset. Right guard Beckwith confirmed it three days later.

“It showed how much of a mature group we had. Yeah we won, but we expected to win and do what we did.”

That might seem easy to say now, but Beckwith actually has a basis to compare such things. He was a redshirting freshman (and again, a volunteer) back in 2010, Mullen’s second team, when those Dogs knocked off top-twenty Florida at Gainesville. The post-victory comparison is clear to Beckwith.

“Back in Florida in 2010 the locker room was crazy nuts, people were going insane. They didn’t expect to win that game. But Saturday we came into the locker room and it was like a normal game for us.”

Well, not entirely a normal outcome for Beckwith himself. It isn’t just earning league OLOTW. “You can’t put in words what that win was, beating them in Baton Rouge. I went out a winner in Death Valley, at nighttime, and you can’t take that away from any of these seniors. ‘Til the day I die I’ll tell people about it. The award, is like you played a good game, but the win definitely tops the award.”

It is another SEC announcement though which will keep the spotlight on Beckwith this and next week. The league has suspended senior center Dillon Day for the next game for in-game actions at Baton Rouge. Mullen doesn’t agree with the one-game penalty but accepts it. And while it is not an official move, everyone anticipates Beckwith will take a step to his left and snap the ball against Texas A&M.

Is Beckwith bothered? Judge for yourself.

“I think the main reason they want to put me there is they need somebody with long hair at center, you know?!” he quips, referring to the lengthy locks he and Day sport…though at least Beckwith leaves his black hair as is while Day has been known to highlight his blonde with blues or greens or whatevers. Fortunately there’s more than follicles to setting Mississippi State’s center.

Also, Beckwith has practiced the position every year here, even starting there in the 2014 spring game when Day was sidelined with an elbow injury. As for his most recent experience hiking a football with a defender his facemask?

“You count spring game or real game? I guess high school, my junior year I played a little center. But that was the last time.” And it has been a long time since he left Benton Academy, too.

Not to worry, Beckwith said. “It’s really not that much different, just a few technique differences, maybe timing. You’ve got somebody right on top of you. I talk a lot anyway, some people tell me to shut up sometimes because I’m always up there pointing and stuff. Especially last week when Dillon had his head down doing silent cadence. The difference is timing, talking, getting everybody where they need to be.”

Goodness knows that got as tough a test as possible last Saturday evening. The silent cadence tactic was out of sheer necessity, even if some younger linemen didn’t get it at first. “(Right tackle) Justin Senior in pregame was like are we really going to need silent cadence? I said just wait. The first series he said I cannot hear Dillon talking, I said I tried to tell you!”

Senior was able to get on the line wavelength just fine, and “We did awesome communicating in front of 102,000 and couldn’t hear anything,” Beckwith said. Now though it will be a different communication chain against the Aggie defense; in front of the home fans fortunately, who should know when to shut up for Beckwith and blockers to get the word. The 11:00am kickoff might mute things even more at Scott Field, for that matter.

It also needs repeating that Beckwith is not absolutely assured he will be starting at center on October 4. For one thing, Day has still practiced as first center this week while the State staff works on issues exposed in the first four wins. Specific game prep for Texas A&M comes next. Though he had a spectacularly-bad snap over Prescott’s head in the fourth quarter, senior Archie Muniz remains part of the depth chart along with young guard/center Devon Desper.

The other factor is the status of Jamaal Clayborn, the other guard in Coach John Hevesy’s three-man rotation for the two spots. The true sophomore was excused two games for a death in the family, then did not play at LSU though Mullen reports Clayborn has been practicing. If Beckwith goes to center then either Clayborn or Desper will have to take one of the guard jobs, pending the potential flip of Justin Malone from left to right guard if that’s the best matchup for next week.

At least there is an open date to begin shuffling everyone around, agreed Beckwith. “It’s going to help Devon and Jamaal get in there and get in rhythm with us. It’s not a good thing what happened, but it kind of works out that it happened now that we can get time.” Plus, some gimpy linemen can get healthy in time for A&M. Senior had a minor knee procedure done Monday and Malone wears a boot on the left leg after getting rolled-up at LSU.

On top of it all, even if the Bulldogs expected to succeed against their top-ten rival last week, there has to be some come-back-to-earth time. This open date couldn’t have been better scheduled. “It was a good win, it was great for everybody,” Beckwith said.

Especially for him, as it turned out. As best the SEC can tell, Beckwith is the first former walk-on to earn this sort of conference honor.

“It was crazy. I got on the phone and heard the beep from people calling. My twitter was blowing up. They posted a picture of me getting lineman of the week and it was nuts. Everybody was just showing me love and made me feel good about all the work I’ve put in over the years and how far I’ve come. It was like saying yeah, it’s worth it.”

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