"With the offensive line, you look from last spring to this spring," said Brian Anderson. "I mean, last year we couldn't even throw a pass and that was discouraging to be on national television and not give our quarterback time to throw the ball."
Anderson also spotted a major difference in attitude. No longer were guys on the field just trying to survive but to improve their skills and return the Bulldogs to the past decade that featured dominating offensive lines en route to productive offensive attacks.
"We had some guys fighting out there," said Anderson. "Guys are wanting to be nasty like (offensive line) Coach (J.B.) Grimes wants us to be and that's the biggest difference I saw.
"This year, we've moved some guys around with myself and Royce Backledge to center and we are probably better now. I hope that we can be the same line that played against Ole Miss. We got after some guys that game. I think the attitude is right and the experience is there. We are still somewhat young but we've got some good guys."
The Butler, Ala., native also believes one new face and two sophomores could be the key to State's success on offense. He likes what he sees in junior college transfer J.D. Hamilton along with Calvin Wilson's and Craig Jenkins' improvements.
"J.D looks good right now," said Anderson. "Now it may be different in the fall but that guy is as strong as anything. I think Calvin Wilson will step up, too, and with those two guys stepping up, we could be really good. And I think Craig Jenkins has shown that he wants to play."
Anderson was among the moves in the trenches. In the spring, Anderson made the move from left tackle to right guard, his third position to play up front after also seeing action at tight end as a rookie in 2003.
"Yeah, I keep waiting on them to line me up at quarterback," Anderson joked. "But it's been fun playing different positions. It's been one big learning experience. You know, I realize those guys on the end are more athletic and faster than me. So I moved back down to guard so I could go with the more physical guys. It took some getting used to again but I feel that I finished up well. I just had to knock the rust off a bit, I guess."
Which meant Anderson was back to his expected reliable self on the offensive line. Anderson has overcome injuries in the past but always manages to be there ready and willing on game day. Anderson has played in 29 career games, and started the last 18 on State's offensive front.
He understands the importance of being a senior leader, and helping the younger O-line mates whenever questions arise. But he also considers himself "one of the guys" as do his teammates.
"I guess I try to be an older figure but they look at me as one of the guys," said Anderson. "I help them with some techniques and they ask a few questions but they don't look at me as the old man. I try to be a leader but we are all good buddies and treat each other equal."
Yet he is still taking some ribbing from head coach Sylvester Croom, also an offensive lineman during his collegiate career at Alabama.
"I try to stay out of his office as much as I can," said Anderson. "But he would come around during practice sometimes and pick at me about things. He will joke around with me, telling me that I am as bad an athlete on the line as he was during his playing days."
Anderson is set to graduate in December 2007 with a degree in teaching and coaching. When he initially arrived on campus, the thoughts of coaching one day were constantly on Anderson's mind. But with graduating now on the horizon, Anderson isn't quite as sure as he once was about his future job.
"You always hope the NFL works out," said Anderson. "I'm just like any other kid wanting to play in the NFL. But the chances are not good to make it in the NFL.
"But when I first got to school, I wanted to be a coach but the closer I get to graduating, it gets more and more confusing. I would love to coach but I don't know now. I have seen two coaching changes here at Sate and you never know about your future. It's scary."
However, facing and overcoming obstacles is nothing new for the 6-foot-5 and 299-pound Anderson. He knew the odds were stacked against him coming out of a small high school and small town.
But some four years later, Anderson has made his presence known in the toughest league in America - the Southeastern Conference.
Despite his accomplishments on the gridiron, however, Anderson has never taken anything for granted. Nor does he ever forget just how far he has come from his senior year at Patrician Academy.
"Before I went to Patrician Academy, I played two years at a public school, a 1A school at Sweet Water," said Anderson. "When I got to Patrician Academy, I just knew I was a big guy playing and that I wouldn't make it to where I am today. When I first got to State, I was just feeling lucky and fortunate to be here. Then if I was able to play and stick around for a couple of years, I would be happy with that.
"But I got to play right away and I think I've had a fair career, nothing great or anything. But to this day, it still amazes me where I am and I feel fortunate to be here. I really think about it a lot."
Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at email@example.com.