OL: Young But Talented

Mississippi State offensive line coach J.B. Grimes is not known as a coach that throws compliments out easily. A player has to prove to him that he is a player before he hands out the compliments. Well, the Grimes I talked to Friday evening after practice was in a compliment-throwing mood when talking about his freshmen.

As a group, he has been very pleased with his true freshmen. While they have obvious talent, one other thing that has really impressed him is their willingness to be aggressive even while they are making freshmen mistakes.

"The thing I'm seeing are guys who are aggressive and work hard," said Grimes, who is in his second year as MSU's offenive line coach. "They aren't guys who walk around out there afraid to make a mistake. I don't care if they make a mistake. All we want them to do is make them going full speed. And that is what we are seeing. They are making mistakes, but they are aggressive and they are trying to be physical and trying to do it the right way. In that regard, I think we have some guys who have a little maturity about them."

While they are aggressive and doing things in a fast pace manner, they are, obviously, still freshmen and don't know the schemes and all the other things that go with that.

"The thing I'm seeing out there is they are confused from a mental standpoint because we have already thrown a tremendous amount of offense at them in two days," said Grimes. "And we are going to continue to throw a lot of offense at them."

Grimes then talked specifics about each youngster. And what he has seen, he has liked, and liked a lot.

"(Johnny Carpenter, 6-3, 282) is a tremendously aggressive kid," said Grimes, who has seen fit to move Carpenter from center to right guard. "He doesn't let it bother him if he makes a mistake. He is going to hit somebody. That is exactly what we are looking for. We will get him where he needs to be as far as his assignments are concerned. That will happen because he is a smart kid. But the thing that you like is he is not slowing down at all. He also has nice feet and will continue to get bigger and stronger as he gets older."

A surprise to me is how complimentary Grimes was of newcomer Anthony Dunning (6-3, 322). Dunning, due to having to wait on the NCAA Clearing House to clear him, missed the second summer of conditioning.

"He is very far behind in conditioning, but he's not far behind at all in toughness and grit," Grimes said of his freshman tackle. "He's got great footspeed for a guy his size. I'm really impressed with that kid. I really am. This kid's got some talent. He's really got some talent. I think we have to seriously look at getting him ready to play (this season)."

Another surprise has been Michael Gates (6-4, 291), a raw talent who played tight end in high school, but has been moved to tackle due to his weight gain.

"Michael Gates is another kid with a lot of talent," said Grimes. "He doesn't know the position yet, but I am impressed with the kid. In two days of practice, I'm really impressed. He is a heck of an athlete. He is a big-time athlete at the tackle position."

The one player who I'm not surprised about is Calvin Wilson (6-5, 366). Calvin is a player who could have signed with just about any college in the country. He signed with MSU and Grimes couldn't be happier.

"He has a chance to be an outstanding player," Grimes said. "If he is well, I think he is a kid you get ready to play (this season)."

Grimes,when referencing that Wilson has to be well, was referring to a minor knee injury that required surgery during late summer. However, all indications are he will be ready to go by the first game.

The two other freshmen linemen have shown talent, but, according to Grimes, may very well be redshirted this season.

"Chris (Spencer, 6-3, 301) is a really smart guy, but a guy that I think needs a redshirt year if we can give it to him," said Grimes, "and I think we will be able to. He's got good feet, but he's not as strong as he needs to be, nor is he in as good of shape as he needs to be."

"(Craig Jenkins, 6-4, 342) is a developmental guy who has a chance to be a big-time player. But he has to lose some weight and he's not there conditioning-wise. He's going to be a strong guy. I think in a year or two you will see a good SEC football player."

What should MSU fans expect to see from his offensive line this season?

"We are going to be playing a lot of young kids," said Grimes. "Counting redshirts, we may have as many as seven freshmen play in our rotation." He's including redshirts Dio Herrera, a 6-3, 310-pound backup center, 6-3, 300-pound starting guard guard Anthony Strauder and 6-7, 296-pound backup tackle Roland Terry among those seven.

So, MSU fans, get ready for a fun ride, bumpy, but fun from this year's offensive line youth movement.


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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