Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

The Bulldogs look to be settling in on a starting five on the offensive line.

Mississippi State offensive line coach John Hevesy began fall practice just like he ended spring practice, with Deion Calhoun at left guard. Last fall, senior Justin Malone played just about every position on the line including center, which provided some opportunities for Calhoun to get some SEC snaps. With Malone now graduated, Calhoun looks to be at home as the Bulldogs' starting left guard.

With the Bulldogs wrapping up two-a-day practices, Calhoun continues to hold down his spot with the starting offensive line. The Pleasant Grove, Alabama native reports that the battle for the spot at the top of the depth chart is a daily undertaking. If another Bulldog wants Calhoun's starting spot, it appears they will have to go and take it.

"I am just a lot more comfortable in my spot now," Deion Calhoun said. "I know all of my plays now and everything isn't moving as fast. I can play faster now that I know what I am doing and why I am doing it."

As a redshirt freshman in 2015, Calhoun played in all thirteen Bulldog games including the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 51-28 triumph over North Carolina State provided Calhoun has first starting nod. 

The Bulldogs return three starters on the offensive line from the 2015 line-up. Add in Calhoun, who played 282 regular season snaps a season ago and Martinas Rankin, scout.com's top junior college offensive lineman for 2014 and there is room for optimism.

"We all know each other," Calhoun said of his line mates. "We have been doing a lot of team stuff during the off season. I feel like we have bonded together and that makes it easier to play together. I feel like our starting five knows how to communicate and we all know what's going on. We have good chemistry and communication."

Calhoun's left side partner, Rankin, will be playing major college football for the first time this fall. After a redshirt year in 2015, the Mendenhall, Mississippi native is expected to start at left tackle this season. Calhoun reports that the two have begun to learn how to look out for each other on and off the field.

"We have a good relationship and we're working on learning to communicate better," Calhoun said. "We just need to be able to call our calls and move a little faster with all of that. We're getting everything down and we will be ready to go when the season gets here."

While Calhoun and Rankin are settling into full time starting roles for the first time in Starkville, the man to Calhoun's right, center Jamaal Clayborn, has three years of experience under his belt. Calhoun reports that Clayborn has been an able and willing mentor.

"He makes all of the calls," Calhoun said of Clayborn. "I noticed last night that he knows all of the offensive calls not just our calls, but the calls from the sideline that the wide receivers get. He's a big help to me, because he's experienced and he knows everything."

Being a year bigger and stronger is always a benefit, but Calhoun reports having the experience of playing in front of the big crowds of the SEC has prepared him for what to expect this season as a full time starter.

"I just feel like I am a lot more confident this year," Calhoun said. "I feel like being confident in what I am doing is one of the biggest things. I know what I am doing and now I just have to go and do it. Coach Hevesy told me that he liked how I come off of the ball and that I am not scared to hit anybody. He wants me to get a little better with my feet when I am pass setting. I listen to what he says about things technique wise."

The Bulldogs have just over three weeks of practice left before they take to Scott Field and Davis Wade Stadium to open their season against the Jaguars of South Alabama. Calhoun reports that his team still has some work to do to prepare, but that the attitude and effort of the squad is very good.

"We just need everybody to be confident," Calhoun said. "We know that we are a young team that has some areas that we need to improve. I think these next two weeks of practice will help everybody be more confident with what they're doing."

Much of the pre-season questions about the Bulldogs revolve around the quarterback position and who will be the man to replace Dak Prescott. From Calhoun's vantage point, he sees no real difference between the players calling the cadence. 

"We can't really tell a difference other than it's a different voice in the backfield," Calhoun said. "They're all real talented and they're all working hard. I am going to be excited about the season no matter who the quarterback is. We're going to be ready to play either way."

The 2016 season kicks off at 11 A.M. September 3rd as Coach Joey Jones and South Alabama visit Mississippi State for the second time in school history. The Bulldogs are 2-0 all-time against the Jaguars. Tickets for this year's season opener remain available. 


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