Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Bulldog Blocker Accepts His Senior-ity

He’s not the oldest lineman. He doesn’t quite have the most starts among this latest lineup. And he still has two complete college seasons ahead. So Justin Senior is not ready to claim any seniority.

“I don’t know, because I don’t really feel an older guy,” Senior said. “I kind of feel like another player just working on his craft, basically.”

However he may feel, Justin Senior accepts the 2015 facts. He is a ranking veterans in this offensive line roster, one of the two returning full-season starters of 2014. And having reached the ripe age of 21, he no longer can be a kid on the club.

Remember, this is a still-young Montreal man who came south for prep school at an age most American peers would be high school juniors. Or sophomores. When Dan Mullen signed him out of Hargrave Military it was regarded by recruiting writers as a reach since Senior was A) so young and B) not all that seasoned in football.

Well, as the country artist sings it, how do you like him now?

When Mississippi State’s offense lines it up Saturday evening, there Senior will be taking his stance at right tackle. It’s where he started all 13 games as a sophomore and played quite capably. If Senior did not get a lot of attention out there it probably meant he was doing the job and not blowing too many assignments.

Such obscurity is over. As the Bulldog front-five is restructured Senior has to set a tone. Not just at tackle but within the huddle, the meeting room, at practices, everywhere. “I mean I just like to show that it’s your responsibility to get the job done.”

Senior has carried responsibility just fine so far. For that matter he has always made favorable impressions since arriving in Starkville. Maybe he was an import and certainly he was younger and less-experienced than most peers. That never seemed a factor.

So now it’s only natural Senior can calmly assume a higher profile.

“People around here have always treated me with respect any way so it’s not like that has changed very much. If anything it’s just given me more responsibility, more things to think about.”

Yeah, think about. If there is any concern it is here. No, not that Senior is lax in attention or tunes-out on anything involved with offensive line play. Just the opposite in fact. By his own admission, “I’m never really relaxed. Not very much!”

“I mean I’m always working on something. Like my game is not perfect, I still want to be able to play harder, play smarter, and be a better player. So every day I’m working on it.”

Talk about taking his tasks seriously. Senior’s focus sounds something almost like obsession. Just hear what he says about his meeting room reviews of practices and games as Coach John Hevesy finds every flaw…even makes some up if necessary to make a point.

“It kind of bothers me sometimes when we’re watching film when he doesn’t criticize me. He criticizes other people and I’m looking at film that I didn’t really do that properly.”

Hollllld on a moment. Did Senior just say he is worried when Hevesy is not targeting him for, ahhh, let’s call it correction? (There are other words for it.) This has to be a first for any, any Bulldog blocker.

“Oh, I mean it’s a difference between being criticized and being yelled at! He’s a good coach, he knows what he’s talking about. So whenever he gives me tips on what to do I’ll try my best to do that. And it usually works out.”

Mississippi State really needs the re-vamped blocking to work out well. Because all looks at the rest of offense show this may, may be the best overall collection of runners, throwers, and receivers ever assembled in a Bulldog locker room. At least it is in pure potential.

But even in this day of spreads, tempo, no-huddle, push the pace schemes…football is always blocking and tackling. If the Bulldogs block would-be tacklers often enough and well enough, their eligible teammates will make plays.

Senior knows it. Just don’t go listening for Senior to be the rah-rah guy of the group. Oh sure, he is about as wound-up as a Bulldog can get by game time. In fact, former line-mates Dillon Day and Ben Beckwith used to advise their younger cohort to “just take it easy, basically. Just play the game. Take it seriously when it’s time and other times just relax.”

Simpler said than done in this Dog’s case. But if Senior gets intense that does not translate into barking at everyone. First, he said, “The guys on my squad don’t really need that much energy.” And second?

“End of the day off the field I’m not one of the guys to tell you what to do or how to do it. I tell you to get your job done, you know, we’re all here for a reason.”

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