Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Senior Center Expects Big 2016 Season From Bulldog Offensive Line

A year ago he was not just starting in a new position. Jamaal Clayborn was beginning a whole new identity. Having spent his pre-college career firing off the ball to block, now he was first snapping the ball and then firing off.

On the whole Clayborn’s move to center has been a good one for him and for Mississippi State. He started the whole regular season there before missing the Belk Bowl with a knee injury. Now he’s back for the senior season as the #1 center…

…and not snapping the ball to Dak Prescott. A senior center will hike to a new starting quarterback in 2016. That’s where today’s Q&A begins.

 

Is there a quarterback you’ve got a better chemistry with than others? “Oh, I have chemistry with all of them. Damian Williams came in with me as a freshman. Nick Fitzgerald has been in the program a while, Elijah (Staley). All those guys are great guys, and I’d be fortunate to play with any one of those guys.”

 

Watching spring ball, after a playing a whole season you seemed to be refining your position? “Oh yeah, I’ve definitely made some strides. I’m definitely confident in what I can do. I understand the role of playing center a lot better compared to last year. That was my first time ever playing center in a season, so it was eye-opening. And I’m ready for camp to continue to make those strides and improve.”

 

Did you play any center in high school? “I did not. I played center in little league for like one game, literally. Twelve years old. But I never played center until I got here.”

 

What did Coach Hevesy see in you to make you a center? “He said I liked to talk a lot with my teammates, so I should be pretty decent communicating!”

 

So it wasn’t the physical skills? “Nah, that’s what I’m leaning toward. It was the communication thing.”

 

Here a center has to be able to play guard or tackle. You saw what Justin Malone did last year? “I just want to be in the best position possible to help the team win ball games, do what we need to win. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

 

What are the technical things you are working on? “Definitely communicate, continue to communicate. Also knowing what I have to. You can’t tell someone else what to do if you don’t know what to do. So I’m just making sure I polish those things going into the season here as a Bulldog and make the best of it.”

 

Are there physical things? “The biggest thing I’m trying to work on is consistently bending, pad-level, hands on pass protection. Things of that sort.”

 

Because at times last year you looked a little ‘rigid’ out there? “Right. Yeah, it’s just based on me coming back from seasonal things.”

 

What was it like missing the bowl game? “I mean it was tough not playing with my teammates and things of that sort. But we’re going to play another bowl game this year so I better make up for it.”

 

Were you proud how Justin played at center, or thinking that should have been me? “Oh, no. I was happy for him, being his senior year and getting to play his last game as a Bulldog. It didn’t matter, we got the W and that’s all that matters. It’s about a program, not me as a person.”

 

How do you change practicing for four quarterbacks? “I just go out there and do my job. And they’re going to do their job. Coach is going to make the right decision who fits the program best.”

 

With so many young guys on the line, and communication are those guys you have to spend a lot of time with? “No. I’m comfortable, I feel confident in this O-line this year. I mean we worked hard this summer. We’re going to shock a lot of people.”

 

Do you have to adjust anything for the different quarterbacks? “I just do my job. I just go out there and do what I do.”

 

But some of them like Nick and Elijah are taller, do you change how you snap the ball? “Right. No, I snap the same to all of them. I don’t change anything, I go out there and do my job and everything falls into place.”

 

Talk about developing the chemistry with Deion Calhoun and Devon Desper on the inside? “Well, Devon is on my right side, so that’s my right-hand man and my roommate. Devon and I, our communication is pretty solid. Deion, he’s a guy that is eager to learn. I don’t think it will be any problems. The biggest thing is staying healthy this year and just play hard.”

 

Of the starting five linemen, assuming Martinas Rankin and Justin Senior are there too…in the weightroom who is the strongest? “Uhh, me! Yeah, me. But they’re all pretty strong.”

 

How would you rank everyone one through five? “I don’t know, I just know I’m stronger.”

 

Who is the closest competition? “Probably Deion. He’s pretty strong. Like I said, we all have our different suits that we’re strong in.”

 

When a guy like Harrison Moon is having snapping problems some days, do you tell him you had to learn and it was all new to you? “Yeah, he’s going to do fine. Coach Hevesy does a great job with helping guys transition to different positions. It shows how versatile we are as players and I think he’s going to do fine.”


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