McNeil: Team Attitude is Good

Starting center Chris McNeil is confident the Mississippi State Bulldogs are ready for Saturday's opponent, Murray State.

"I think everybody is excited," said McNeil. "You can tell that the (older) players are more comfortable with what they are doing. Overall, I think the attitude is pretty good."

While the veterans are comfortable, a number of freshmen will also be seeing their first playing time. And, according to McNeil, they are feeling like you would expect any first-year player to feel.

"You can see that a lot of the young guys are nervous because this is the first time that they have played in a (college) game," said the veteran of 15 starting assignments. "I think maturity-wise they are doing well. But they are only 18 years old, so you expect them to do certain things. But, overall, they have picked up on things and have good intensity and tenacity. If they keep that up, then they will be perfectly fine this year."

The freshmen aren't the only ones who will be playing their first game. McNeil's backup, Royce Blackledge, despite being a redshirt sophomore, will be backing up McNeil at center, his first time to every play a game at that position. McNeil has liked what he has seen from Blackledge in practice.

"Royce is going to be a good player for us," said the 2005 Rimington Award watch list member. "He's gotten a lot stronger in the offseason and he comes to work each day with his hard hat on. That's all you can expect out of a guy. He and I have become pretty good friends. I think he is going to be a heck of a player and should get a lot of playing time this year."

And Blackledge is just one of many offensive linemen that have impressed McNeil.

"I think the offensive line, as a group, has progressed pretty well," said McNeil. "We probably have everybody slotted in where they are going to play. The younger guys have progressed really well. I guess we will find out how much improvement we have made over the course of the past couple of weeks this Saturday."

We know his feelings about his fellow offensive linemen. What are his thoughts about the upcoming opponent?

"We've seen some film of them from last year, but a lot of the guys that they have on defense this year really didn't play that much last year," said the 6-3, 295-pounder. "But every year is like that with the first game. You kind of know what to expect and maybe not know what to expect."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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