Clausell, Blockers Getting The Word Heard

Yeah, two months into the season and the voice is showing strains. Just don’t suggest Blaine Clausell sounds a lot like his position coach. “Oh, man, don’t say that!” the Bulldog tackle reacts in only-partly mock horror. “I’ve been fighting that. But you’re not the first person to say that!”

That Clausell’s speech has taken on the gravelly tones of Coach John Hevesy is amusing, admittedly. There is good reason for it though. And Clausell is not the only Bulldog blocker who growls these days. It’s just part of the down-and-dirty life on the line.

“It takes a lot of yelling,” Clausell said. “You know, my voices sounds like it’s going now! But it just takes a lot of concentration and listening from the other guys.”

Fact. What fans in the stands can’t hear is the degree of dialogue involved in getting a single Mississippi State play snapped. Sure, we can see center Dillon Day point one direction or the other to ID a defensive look. Same for how the other four helmets turn as word is passed down the, umm, line in response to quarterback Dak Prescott’s final instructions.

What is only appreciated at field level is the volume involved. No wonder Clausell’s vocal chords have been stretched and stressed. To make himself heard from out there at left tackle in time means twisting the dial to a Spinal Tap-like eleven.

No wonder then Clausell zeroes in immediately on what he says is his priority for improvement.

“I would say communication, talking up front. It makes your job easier when everybody is on the same page and making the same calls and knows what everybody else is doing. So I feel I’ve been doing better with my communication this year.”

Actually, this senior season has been better than better. Clausell has performed with such consistency on the left end of the line that hardly anybody has noticed. That’s often the ideal situation for a blocker, since the fastest way to get attention is get beaten. Especially the left tackle for a right-handed quarterback.

Through seven games his whiff-list has been fortunately short. Though, Clausell freely agrees, much of this can be credited to the primary people he blocks for. Between Prescott’s run/pass potential and the tackle-busting talents of running back Josh Robinson, things get a lot simpler for the front five.

Not easier, necessarily. But simpler. “They don’t need a lot of time,” said Clausell. “But we still pride ourselves on the offensive line to still be blocking somebody when the whistle blows. A lot of times if you do that it’s six.”

Or even if not six, perhaps the play becomes pure highlight material. Such as Robinson’s ridiculous ramble at Kentucky where the Bulldog back went straight-ahead for eight or nine yards, bounced off a couple of Wildcats and spun from another’s grasp to run leftward, then swing allllll the way back around and nearly to the original scrimmage line before turning upfield again on the right side.

The 23-yard gainer that covered at least three times as much distance still boggles minds. Not to mention leaves teammates shaking their heads.

“I didn’t know what was going on!” Clausell said. “I’m looking around, trying to find him, and saw everybody run this way and back this way. Actually that inspires you even more.” Exhausts you, too. Still such big-play possibility when the big Dogs have the ball gives every teammate a second, or third wind as needed to get through the four quarters.

As well as the next phase of a 2014 season that has exceeded all honest expectations. For the past three polling weeks Mississippi State has been ranked #1 in both national polls. The win at Kentucky was their first time actually playing with the best number before the name.

Now comes the latest and in the big-picture view greatest ranking. The Bulldogs are also first in the inaugural College Football Playoff standings, which will assure Mississippi State one place in the trivia-question history of this format. The news broke as Tuesday’s post-practice film session and team meal were breaking up and players heading for evening obligations.

Funny thing. For all the fuss and fun this initial CFP release released elsewhere, the Bulldogs took it entirely in-stride. Clausell certainly has, just like the #1 polls status.

“We’re not really paying attention to that stuff. We’re taking a game at a time and what happens, happens. I mean it’s nice to be there but it’s not our main focus.”

That would be Arkansas, which comes to campus for a 6:15 Saturday kickoff on Scott Field. The Razorbacks arrive 4-4, 0-4 SEC and steaming to snap their multi-season league losing streak. Meanwhile Mississippi State (7-0, 4-0) wants to protect the only number-one that really matters in November; first place in the SEC, as the last unbeaten conference club.

State also is on a ten-win streak that dates back to last November with a 24-17 overtime victory over, coincidentally, Arkansas.

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