Greg Eiland (Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page)

Redshirting Develops Big Tackle for Fall Camp Competition

It’s assumed. Freshmen linemen will redshirt. Everyone understands this.

Greg Eiland just required a little more convincing on this. Which, the Philadelphia kid now agrees, he got first-hand. On the scout team.

“During my scout year I realized there is way more talent here. And that it is a lot different than when I was high school.”

A whole lot different. Now, by August Eiland will be a pretty different Dog in his own right. For one thing, redshirting year is over and Eiland is contending for his first real college football snaps.

Second difference? Eiland has matured of both body and brain. The latter, he now believes, matters maybe even more.

“I had to get my mind mentally strong,” he said. “Get in the weightroom and learn the playbook.”

So here we have a strapping and still-young figure, now listed in his first Mississippi State spring at a legitimate 6-8 tall and 319 pounds. It’s only that sheer height which makes the muscle look a bit lean, actually, even in game gear.

What anyone can recognize is ‘offensive tackle’. Which is where Eiland is indeed practicing, on both ends of the spring offensive line in drills but generally the left tackle slot for team drills. Now this isn’t an absolute assignment understand.

As Bulldog fans know, for this spring returning left tackle and senior Martinas Rankin is camping out at center. It is both by injury to expected starter Deion Calhoun, and to have this pivotal position’s depth developed. Come fall camp Rankin will be back at tackle, presumably.

Then there is Coach John Hevesy’s requirement ever blocker be able to play both sides of center. So which tackle sides Eiland, and fellow redshirt Stewart Reese, claim this Saturday on Scott Field is a clue. Not a conclusion.

On the contrary, Eiland is barely beginning his Bulldog adventure. Though he said, left tackle is where he feels most comfortable. “That’s what I played in high school,” he reminded. At Philadelphia High, where he was a national top-50 lineman prospect. Oh and where he also played baseball, no small feat for such a big fellow and a good hint at Eiland’s athletic ability.

But, for all that, accepting that red shirt wasn’t as automatic as Mississippi State’s assignment. Not until he saw the sport in action.

“College is a much different ballgame and there is so much more to it. You have to know the playbook every day. You have to learn the fundamentals, be able to read defenses, things like that.”

Things Eiland did for three months on the scout offense; then in bowl camp alternating with the varsity tackles out at left end. He said by then he’d gotten comfortable with this new level.

“Toward the end of the season. By then, I, basically, knew everything but I still wasn’t at the level that I needed to be.” Eiland did make some further strides though in the winter off-months leading up to this spring.

“I tried to work out almost every day and tried to learn the playbook,” he said. “It has been really good. I still have a lot of work to do fundamental-wise, reading defenses and learning the playbook.”

But the advantage to spring, coming after St. Petersburg Bowl practices, is Eiland has just enough exposure to real football to know why as well as what. Like, why the feet have to placed specifically such such; why the hands must come up at this angle and that extension; and on and on.

“Yeah, in high school it was straight-up the run game every single play. We never did any pass protection. So my main goal when I came here was to get my footwork right and fundamentals right for pass protection.”

Eiland and line-mates have four more working days of spring to get more of those things right or at least right-er. Really two more days, Tuesday and Thursday, since the week ends with the roster divvied-up by coaches for Saturday’s 3:00 Maroon-White Game kickoff on Scott Field.

After which, Eiland is no longer redshirting. Officially.

“I’m very excited about that. I am really looking forward to this fall.”

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