Royce Blackledge Confident at Center

When Mississippi State takes the field against Murray State Saturday night at 6 p.m., one member of the MSU football team will probably be a little more excited than most. Royce Blackledge will be backing up center Chris McNeil. Prior to this season, however, he had never played center, not even in high school.

"When I came here, I was playing guard," said the quiet youngster. "They didn't move me to center until the beginning of this training camp. I've never snapped a ball until I came up here, but I'm pretty confident now."

Although, like anything else that you do for the first time, there are adjustments to be made. Blackledge made all of them with very little problem, except for one particular snap.

"The shotgun snap was probably the toughest thing to learn," said the 6-3, 280-pounder. "But I'm gotten pretty good with that, so I'm not worried about it, now."

One of nine offensive linemen who have earned the honor of wearing a maroon jersy in practice, Blackledge feels he will receive significant playing time this season.

"(MSU offensive line) Coach (J.B.) Grimes has been very positive about things and he said that I'm going to get a pretty good number of snaps this year," he said.

Blackledge credits his position coach for helping him get to this point in his career.

"Coach Grimes is a really good coach," said Blackledge. "He's taught me a lot as well as the rest of the offensive line."

After earning first-team all-state honors as a senior in high school, Blackledge has had to, basically, sit and watch the game from the sidelines his first two years at MSU. It wasn't always easy, but he managed.

"The first two years were tough, but I hung in there and kept chugging along and doing what I was supposed to do," said the third-year sophomore. "Everything finally fell into place for me."

What kind of player will MSU fans see when Blackledge is on the field this season?

"I'm guiet, hardworking and I do what I'm supposed to do," said Blackledge.

And that's exactly the type player Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom wants in his program.

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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