Talk about your battle with Chris McNeil for the center position, how young the offensive linemen are and all the injuries on the offensive line.
"I don't know if it has been a battle. Everybody has been practicing hard and everybody is trying to get to first-string. With all of us getting a lot of reps, it allows us to get a lot of plays in and get on film. (The coaches) look to put the best linemen up front no matter what position it is. Chris can play center and guard. I guess I could play guard but the only thing I have ever played is center." (Chris has been moved to first-string guard due to the injuries.-Gene)
"We have a lot of people who can play. I'm the only senior but we still have people with experience. Whether they are young or not, they have played in games and have experience. Those that don't have experience, we expect them to play well because we have done a lot of full-speed work in practice and they have looked good."
Knowing that there is a very talented player right there ready to take your spot, how much better does it make you as a player?
"You know that people are pushing you, but you can't worry about that. You don't see it as a threat; you see it as everybody is trying to get better and be a better offensive lineman. You can't worry about what other people are doing. In fact, you want them to do well because they are on our line. They are going to help us win games all through the season."
With all the injuries on the offensive line and Oregon's strength being on the defensive line, how much can you help those guys who don't have much game experience?
"On every play that I'm in there I will put them in the right position; try to put them on the right people. But everybody on the line knows their assignments pretty well. However, I'm still going to do my best to call it out so that they will know it."
What specific player will you go against on the Oregon defensive line?
"It will depend on the front they run. They have different fronts. They have a three-man front, a four-man front and a five-man front. They'll play all of them at some point, depending on the situations.
"As for as who I will go against, they have numbers 96 (Haloti Ngata) and 94 (Junior Siavii) who will be playing in the middle. Both of them are pretty big boys. I think they are in the 330 and 340 range."
Did you see either any of them during last year's game?
"Yeah, the guys we will go against the most are people we played against last year."
What are your impressions of them?
"They play their technique really well. I don't think they just blow up field and try to penetrate. They read really well and play along the line of scrimmage. They get up and down the line of scrimmage really well. They are good, solid players."
While everybody is talking about how good their defensive linemen are, you play in the SEC and play very talented defensive linemen every game. Didn't you play similarly talented guys in the SEC?
"Anybody is going to have good talent or they wouldn't be playing in the games we play in. I'm sure there is talent in the northeast. I'll say this: I'm not looking at it as how good they are and what they are going to do as much as I'm looking at it as what we are going to do. They are going to be big and strong. I'm sure they will make some plays in the game, but I'm to the point where I think, based on how we have practiced and things that we have shown, it is going to depend on how we perform instead of how they perform."
In a way the odds have always been against you. You came in here as a walk-on and had to work your way up to being a scholarship player. Even your senior year you were being challenged for the first-string position and eventually won the job. Do you ever just sit back and reflect on how far you have come and what you have accomplished?
"I really don't. I don't know whether it's that I don't have time to think about it or just that I don't choose to. The minute that you think that you've accomplished something, the next minute you are fighting to do something else. If you sit there and think about what you have accomplished, that takes focus off where you still want to go. I want to win games this year. If I sit there and think about what I've accomplished, it might make me not fight as hard for what I'm about to do. So, if I've done some things, that's good and I'm glad I'm in the position that I'm in, but I'm really trying to think forward and not backwards."
But you must still be proud of what you've accomplished even though you don't really have the time to think much about it?
"I'm proud, I guess. I guess my dad and my family might like the things I've accomplished. But I don't really want to think as much about that as I want to think about winning football games."
Do you think that everything the offensive line went through last year, such as all the injuries and the young guys having to play, will help the line this year?
"You never want injuries and last year we had a bunch of them. But it did give people an opportunity to get game experience under their belts. Game experience is one of the best things a person can have. That is definitely a plus for this year."
Because of the injuries and the youth of last year, the offensive line, I guess you could say, was a problem area of last year's team. Do you feel that you guys will not be one of the problem areas on this year's team?
"Being a problem for the team hasn't crossed our mind at all. We don't so much think that we have something to prove as we want to go out and try and do our job. If we do our part, then that will take care of itself. The games are won and loss up front in the trenches. Whoever controls the line of scrimmage usually wins the game."
Coach Sherrill has talked about how well Otis Riddley, a redshirt freshman offensive guard, has played. What have you seen from him that makes you feel good about him?
"The fact that he came from defensive line to offensive line and has gotten ready to play as quickly as he has is very impressive. He is a big, strong guy, but he also is very sharp on all of his calls. Plus, he has his technique down pretty well. I think it speaks well of him that he could switch over and pick up the offense and the techniques and get ready to play as quickly as he has. The fact that he moved over and has become one of our best offensive linemen just shows that he wants it very badly."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.