Steve Robertson - Genespage.com

Junior offensive tackle Martinas Rankin has made the move to right tackle and is making plays this spring.

Martinas Rankin was ranked as the #1 junior college offensive line prospect in the country when he signed on with Mississippi State in December of 2014. Expectations ran high as Bulldog fans believed they had found their blind side protector for Dak Prescott's senior campaign. When Rankin's first spring in Starkville ended, his name was not at the top of the depth chart.

Mississippi State offensive line coach John Hevesy elected to redshirt the talented Rankin to give him more time to learn the offense and acclimate to the demands of the Southeastern Conference. Now a year stronger and wiser, the Mendenhall, Mississippi native is running first team at right tackle.

While not seeing game snaps last year was a difficult task for Rankin, he is more confident now that he can compete at a high level this fall and beyond. 

"I am a lot more mature now," Martinas Rankin said. "I bought into the program completely. Now, I see why we do what we do what makes us great on the field. It's all paying off for me now. I just have to keep going and work hard to get better every single day."

With a year of practice under his belt and a better grasp of the Mississippi State playbook, Rankin reports that he is doing less thinking and more reacting. The quality of his play and the confidence in his abilities are on the rise as a result.

"When I came in last year, I really wasn't in great shape like I should have been," Rankin said. "I feel like I grew up a lot during the season and worked really hard during this past off season. Everything is starting to slow down for me, but I have to keep working hard every day."

While Rankin was originally slated to play left tackle, the first few spring practice sessions of 2016 have the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College product lining up on the other side of the formation at right tackle.

The position change appears to be suiting Rankin just fine. 

"I feel pretty comfortable out there," Rankin said. "It doesn't really matter if I am at right tackle or left tackle. I have to work hard and I have to know my job. I am trying to get better at everything and be ready to play wherever they need me."

Rankin worked hard last season, but as the Bulldogs got deeper into their schedule, it was clear the redshirt would stay on. From day one of spring practice this year, Rankin has been working with the first team offensive line against the Bulldogs' best defense lineman. Game preparations have already begun for the redshirt junior.

"The first day it was a little fast," Rankin admitted. "It took me a few days to get adjusted to it. I feel like I am up to par now. I just have to keep pushing forward and doing my best to get better with every practice"

The Bulldogs will look to replace starters Justin Malone and Rufus Warren this year. Veteran tackle Justin Senior is now working over at left tackle, so Bulldog big man boss Coach Hevesy is getting a fresh look at his personnel grouping.

Finding the right mix of players who can develop some chemistry is job one for the offensive line who had their share of struggles last fall. Rankin expects some improved play from himself as well as his teammates this year.

"I feel like things are going pretty good," Rankin said. "We are gelling together and we're out there talking. We have to look at every rep and see what we need to get better on. We just have to get the right looks and profiles. Right now, I feel like it's all going pretty good. It's our first time working together as a group, but I know that if we keep working hard together, that we will be good."

Rankin reports that he is spent a lot of time gathering feedback from Coach Hevesy. In the quest for self improvement, Rankin reports that he is open to whatever helps him sharpen the saw.

"Coach Hevesy is having me work on everything like my base and my bending," Rankin said. "He was just telling me to keep my feet moving when I make contact. I feel like I am getting better at everything.

"Just being in better shape this year has really helped me. I can play fast now. I know what's going on around me a lot better. I feel like I know the offense a lot better and that's just made me better at just about everything else."


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