Grimes Pinch Hits for McCorvey

Mississippi State offensive line coach J.B. Grimes, pinch-hitting for offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey, talked about the Murray State defense. And also discussed his offensive line.

According to Grimes, the speed of the Murray State defense, especially at linebacker, is something that stands out.

"We think they are a team that has tremendous team speed," said the second-year MSU coach. "Their outside linebackers aren't real big guys, but they can really run. Number 15, Tony Ryan, is a 6-2, 218-pound outside linebacker who has a lot of experience and flies to the football. Of their inside linebackers, Patrick Schultz, who is 5-11, 208, is a heck of a player who started for them last year."

How does Mississippi State plan on off-setting the speed of the Murray State linebackers?

"You hope that we have guys on our side that can run, too," said Grimes. "That's the bottom line."

Although the MSU coaching staff has some knowledge of the Murray State linebackers, their front four is a question mark.

"Defensive line-wise, we don't know a lot about them because they are new guys," said Grimes. "But they are big inside. They have Fabian Bean, who is 6-5, 315 pounds. And they have a kid in there by the name of Barry Thomas, who is 6-2, 275 pounds. Keith McClain, who is one of their defensive ends, is a converted outside linebacker who can really run. Adam Speeg is the other defensive end.

"They really do a great job of stopping the run. And they've done that in the past. It's something that we'll have to contend with."

He'll have to contend with their defensive front and linebackers with a mixture of veterans and newcomers on the offensive line. Although he has three experience starters, seniors Chris McNeil and Johnny Wadley and junior Brian Anderson, the rest of his linemen are either young or inexperienced. One starter is Avery House, a senior who has never started a game, and another one is redshirt freshman Anthony Strauder, a converted defensive lineman. The backups are sophomore Royce Blackledge, a veteran of four games, redshirt freshman Dio Herrera and true freshmen Anthony Dunning and Michael Gates.

"We are throwing a bunch of puppies out there," said Grimes. "It's a nervous time to be honest with you. You send them out there and let them play. Then, you get up the next morning, look at the tape and see what you have."

Grimes talked about Royce Blackledge and Anthony Strauder.

"Royce Blackledge is a smart guy who has come a long way from a physical standpoint," said Grimes. "When we first got here, Blackledge was somewhere around 264 to 265. Now, he's a solid 290-pound guy that runs pretty good. He's a tough guy who has good football sense and who has really come on as a player. But he's still just a sophomore. It's gotten to a point in our program where we think a sophomore is an old guy.

"Anthony has a tremendous amount of talent. But it's a new game for him being on the offensive line. You just send him out there and see what is going to happen."

That's basically the same kind of feeling he has about the true freshmen that will see playing time against Murray State.

"If you are going to play a true freshman, then you play him," said Grimes, matter of factly. "I think Coach Croom would agree with this: When a freshman (who plays) comes out of that season, he needs to be a veteran player. He needs to be a guy who comes out of the season with the type experience you receive from playing in tough stadiums and tough game situations."

And that will happen starting at 6 p.m. Saturday night against a Murray State defense that is fast at linebacker and defensive end and big at defensive tackle.

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

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