(Devon Desper) Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Veteran Line Group Carries Greater 2016 Responsibility for Success

Devon Desper certainly did the heavy lifting in the weightroom and on the practice field. Both earned his status as a starting guard in the Southeastern Conference. Ahhh, but look what hitting it just as hard in the classroom has produced.

An accounting degree. Graduation on schedule, an A-grade average, and solid job prospects. All of which eases Desper’s off-field schedule and allows him to focus on 2016’s football schedule.

“That’s going to be good this season, having more time to watch film and be here with the coaches and stuff like that.”

Well, it does make sense Desper plans more studying his sport. He showed a knack for study these last four school years. Plus, his continuing classroom regimen lightens up a lot with nine fall hours on only Tuesdays and Thursdays. All because he attacked the degree track same as he will defensive tackles.

“I worked hard at it, I think my GPA was a 3.5 or higher. It’s not easy, it’s a lot for a normal student to do accounting. Then you throw in football, get home at night and have to do a lot of schoolwork. And come back up here at 7:00. But it’s definitely worth it, I wouldn’t change anything. I’m glad I did what I did.”

Bulldog blocking is glad to have a fifth-year guard in Desper. With a full season’s starting experience now, Desper is part of the all-upperclassman right side returning from 2015. He takes his stance between fellow seniors center Jamaal Clayborn and tackle Justin Senior. That’s assuming no lineup shifts or depth chart changes, of course.

This trio started 11 of 13 games together last fall. And nowhere does football familiarity matter more than offensive line.

“It’s awesome,” Desper said. “We work great together, we really do. I mean we know what each other is doing which helps out a lot. So we communicate well, if Senior says something I know exactly what he means. I know how he’s going to run a certain play. That helps me out because I know what I need to do.”

Ditto for Clayborn. Now, with nine practice days left before kickoff there still might be changes in the front-fivesome. In spring ball Desper worked daily with Martinas Rankin or Elgton Jenkins at right tackle; and some shuffling of centers as well.

For that matter, as the Belk Bowl showed, Desper himself can switch around. He started that victory at left guard. The scoreboard and stat sheet showed it worked well. Just, Desper would rather stay right-of-center.

“I’ll play left if I have to. I don’t really enjoy playing left,” he admitted. Some of it is just plain staying put and consistent, and some of hit is what Desper called ‘tight hips’. Whatever that is.

“I can do right better, it’s not like I know what I’m doing on both sides but I’m much more comfortable in a right-handed stance.” The thing is, Desper came out of Madison Central High as an All-State center, having started over the ball in both the Mississippi-Alabama and Under Armor all-star games.

He hasn’t done a lot of snapping since then, though.

“They told me to play guard, so I played guard! I like guard better to tell you the truth.” Right guard, as he already said. “I don’t know what it is to tell you the truth. I guess it’s gotten to where my hips are aligned to the right!”

Desper took the standard career track; redshirting, then half a season in reserve duty as a second-year freshman; backup work and even two 2014 starts; and finally ’15 promotion. Along with being part of a senior-heavy first team, Desper is also serving another standard role for upperclassman.

He’s preparing the next generation of Bulldog interior linemen.

“I try to work with them my best. They’re young, they don’t want to listen sometimes. They have a lot of talent, they really do. You’ve got (Michael) Story, Darryl (Williams), Dareuan (Parker), they’re all talented.” Then again, size and talent are just starting-points on the long road to starting jobs. This is where Desper translates Coach John Hevesy’s teaching for the rookies.

“Seeing little things you have to make calls on, are the difference in winning and losing games. And it’s hard for them to realize that because you practice and practice. But when a game comes and you miss that call it’s the difference in winning and losing.”

It’s an analytical approach for sure. Which seems to mesh with Desper’s major pretty nicely, huh?

“Yeah, that really is accounting. You’ve got to look at things and see what you can do with it, for sure.” Oh, and keep emotion out of the equations, something that offensive linemen learn fast. “No, you just have to do what you’re told.”

Keeping cool counts during SEC insanity. This year’s Bulldog blocking may have to stay calmer more than usual, too. First, 2016 is supposed to see more emphasis on the ground game than last season. Which Desper admits, he likes the idea of.

But the real theme is after two whole years with Dak Prescott making plays himself and taking some load off everyone, this offensive line will protect a new quarterback. Or quarterbacks. It’s pressure, Desper agreed. But nothing the blocking bunch won’t be ready for.

“There’s always pressure on the offensive line. And we have to do a better job making it easier for them. You’ve got to give them more time, because they haven’t seen it all. We’ve seen it.”

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