Malone Emerging As Lead Blocker

Mississippi State is looking to replace three quality offensive linemen from a season ago. Senior Justin Malone returns as the program's most experienced path paver. Malone reports that the Bulldogs are working hard to prove that last season's race to #1 was far from a fluke.


Malone arrived in Starkville as a wide eyed freshman with a rather limited high school resume. As an underclassmen, Malone had plenty of questions. Now a senior, Malone has matured into the answer man in the offensive line meeting room.

"It feels weird," Malone admitted. "I came in with a group of guys that played a lot, Dillon Day, Ben Beckwith, Blaine Clausell and Gabe Jackson. I have always been the youngest guy on the line, even last year.

"Now it's different. I am a senior and (Justin) Senior is a junior. We're the old ones now. A couple of years ago, we were just the kids. Now, we're the guys people look to and the guys the young guys ask questions. We have to really be on top of things, so we can help them along.

"It's a little different situation for me, but so far things are going well."

When the coaches are not around, it is up to the veteran members of the team to step up and provide guidance. Perhaps one of the biggest areas of need for supervision is in film study. Malone reports that the offensive line meeting room is still a very productive place despite the loss of three starters from a season ago.

"It's a lot different, because you always knew those three guys were always on it," Malone shared. "Any question you had, they had the answer to. They knew every exception and everything we needed to know.

"Senior and I know everything we need to know now, Devon Desper knows it, Jamaal Clayborn knows it, Rufus Warren knows it. We still have some exceptions to handle, but we have some younger guys learning all of the stuff.

"The meeting room is a little different in that respect, but Coach (John) Hevesy says we have the best group he's had here as far as knowing things. We just have to make sure that all of that translates onto the field."

The 2014 offensive line was considered a group of under recruited players with a junkyard dog mentality. The returning group of sled pushers are still looking to find their identity as a unit.

"We're still figuring all of that out in camp," Malone said. "We don't really have that real nasty guy like Dillon (Day). We are working on being on top of everything and knowing our trade. We're just trying to handle our double teams, our combos and all of our plays. We want to be great technicians and be known for that and not just be known as the nasty guys.

"I feel like we're developing a new identity this year with this group of guys and it's exciting.

Replacing Day at center will be Jamaal Clayborn. Malone has played his entire career with Day calling the cadence, so there has been a bit of a transition for all involved with Clayborn taking over as the trigger man on the snap.

"Things have really gone well with the transition," Malone explained. "He had some excellent guys to learn from. He knows everything from our IDs and what calls to make. It's just a matter of putting it all together and playing at a high level all of the time. That's sort of the way it is for all of us. We all have to do what we're supposed to do at a high level all of the time.

"Jamaal knows his job and we have a lot of confidence in him. We know that he can do the things we need him to do."

As one of two seniors on a unit that has some experience, Malone is working hard to be the glue guy for players who are making the move to full time starters this season.

"I am trying to be to them what Blaine, Dillon and Ben were to me," Malone said. "I was the guy asking all of the questions a couple of years ago and now I am the guy having to answer all of those questions. I have to be on top of everything. I have to know the looks and know how to adjust.

"There is a bigger eye on me now. I have to make sure that I stay on top of things, so these younger guys can get it down too. I want to be able to be the guy that can answer all of their questions to help them get ready to play."

Heading into his fourth year of regular work as a Bulldog blocker, Malone gives a lot of credit to Bulldog offensive line boss John Hevesy for his development. The three graduated seniors averaged just two stars a piece and had just two SEC offers between the three of them.

Malone reports that high school press clippings mean very little once a player finds a spot on Hevesy's depth chart.

"Coach Hevesy has just done a great job with us," Malone said. "The way our program works, we don't always get the stars. It's like our coaches say, stars only matter when you're in high school.

"When you get here, the stars go away and nobody cares about any of that. People are always going to talk about who we should sign and who we shouldn't sign. Our coaches evaluate talent. They will determine if you can do it or you can't do it and how they are going to be able to motivate you to do it the right way.

"Coach Hevesy is going to get you to do it one way or another and the way he does things works.

"People said that we should have never signed Dillon Day and that I should have never been signed. In the time I have been here, our program has gone up to a new level. We don't need those stars to go play. We just go to work. It's what we do and who we are."

Malone graduated last December with a degree in Criminology and is working towards a second degree in Broadcast Journalism. The Madison Ridgeland Academy product had one major college offer when he completed his senior season and that was from Mississippi State. Malone enters his senior campaign a two time letter winner with 16 career starts at offensive guard.


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