Steve Robertson/Genespage.com

Mississippi State center Jamaal Clayborn prepares for his final season in Starkville.

Mississippi State center Jamaal Clayborn started in every regular season game in 2015. Clayborn's lone absence was the Bulldogs' 51-28 shelling of NC State in the Belk Bowl. An an ankle injury in the early moments of Bowl preparations forced the Jackson, Mississippi native to miss out in the action in Charlotte. Back to full health this spring, Clayborn was ready to get the show on the road for his senior season.

"I think I did pretty good," Jamaal Clayborn said of his spring practice progress. "There are some things that I need to work on like my hand placement and continue to play low. I need to be a knee bender and not a waist bender. Those are really the big things that I am going to continue to work on going into fall camp."

Mississippi State offensive line coach John Hevesy was working hard this spring to find the right mix of players to push the Bulldog offense forward. Hevesy is charged with rebuilding the left side of the offensive front with departed seniors Rufus Warren and Justin Malone moving into a post-SEC existence. 

During the 15 spring practices, Justin Senior spent most of his time playing left tackle rather than his customary right tackle spot. The right side was bolstered by Mendenhall, Mississippi native Martins Rankin who redshirted last fall.

"Martinas is a hard working guy," Clayborn said. "He was working hard last year, so now he's getting his opportunity. I think he's going to polish and be a great right tackle for us."

While the Bulldogs have to find a pair of new starters, many of the players expected to contribute gained some valuable experience last fall. Clayborn believes that the first team unit is rounding into shape.

"We are going to continue to get better," Clayborn said. "I am really excited about going into the summer. We are going to continue to work on technique and fundamentals as Coach Hevesy has preached to us everyday. We will continue to get better as a unit and do well this year,"

The Bulldog snapping battery will be a lot different this fall as well. Clayborn sent most of his snaps last fall to program poster boy Dak Prescott. With Prescott now a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Clayborn will begin each play by delivering the pigskin to another set of capable quarterback hands.

"I just have to make sure that I do my job exceptionally well," Clayborn said. "With Dak, if the snap was a little to the right, he could catch it and make a move and keep moving forward. I just have to do my job."

With Mississippi State transitioning to a 3-4 defensive alignment under Coach Peter Sirmon, the Bulldog blockers have had to become more familiar with the blocking schemes necessary to protect their quarterback.

Clayborn reports that the experience gained against the new scheme this spring should make the Mississippi State offensive line a more versatile unit once the season begins.

"I think that's huge," Clayborn said of learning the new blocking schemes. "We get to practice against the 3-4 and we play against a lot of teams that go into the 3-4. The School up North gets into the 3-4 every now and again, Alabama and Kentucky. Those are big games that we need to prepare for, so I feel like this gives us an edge rather than just preparing for it in a week.

"It's huge to see that front. 4-3 is really more of a base front and the 3-4 is more bizarre. It's huge."

Now an elder statesmen of Bulldog football, Clayborn is determined to see his team be successful in this his senior year. While a bowl game is now an expectation in Starkville, Clayborn wants much more than just another holiday destination. The veteran center is striving for excellence in execution.

"If we just take it one day at a time and do the small things great, then I believe we will be very successful," Clayborn said. "First of all, I put it on myself to provide the best options for our quarterback. I am going to be vocal out there for the rest of the offensive linemen.

"I want to be up tempo and keep a solid heartbeat on the team. I just want to be sure that we do everything right and that's really the biggest thing. Going into the summer, I am going to be working hard on my technique and I want to help everybody else that I can. I believe the biggest thing right now is to be technically sound."


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