Q and A with MSU O-Line Coach J.B. Grimes

Mississippi State offensive line coach J. B. Grimes talks about his offensive line, including the strengths as well as weaknesses, the overall depth, who he expects to step up and how much a couple of position moves may help this year's line.

Q: What were your thoughts about the offensive line exiting spring practice?
Grimes: I felt like we were better and made a lot of progress. We had a couple of very positive moves when we moved Royce Blackledge from right guard to center and moved Brian Anderson back inside to right guard, which is Brian's true position.

I feel real good about our two guards and center. The talent level at the tackle positions is there. The thing that scares you is the lack of experience and the only way to get experience is to throw them out there and see how they play.

Q: Where is the depth on the offensive line in your opinion?
Grimes: It's probably better from a talent level since we arrived at State with Coach Croom. But it's young talent without much experience.

Q: What about junior college transfer J.D. Hamilton?
Grimes: First of all, J.D. brings a lot of maturity to the offensive line. He may have played at a different level but he's played the past two years against guys that are in Division I football. It's not he's coming straight from high school. Even though he hasn't taken a snap at Mississippi State, he brings a maturity level we haven't seen at Mississippi State. He is a great athlete and a great kid.

Q: What about Florida transfer Mike Brown?
Grimes: What a Mike Brown does for you is like recruiting a junior college player that you can redshirt, which doesn't happen very often. And that's the worst-case scenario if he can't play this year. With his athleticism and size, he's the guy you go looking for. If he plays this year or not till next year, either way it's a win-win situation for Mississippi State and I am every excited about that young man. He will have an impact for us, either this fall or in 2007.

Q: Who has made the biggest stride on the offensive line in your opinion?
Grimes: We've had a lot of names and faces chance in that offensive line room since 2004. We've had a lot of changes and we were very young a year ago and are still very young. But you have a guy like Anthony Strauder, who started 11 games last year and got great experience. He played well at times and not so well at other times. But you can't put a price on experience.

I will tell you this right now about Anthony. I expect him to have a great year and he understands what it's like to play the LSU's and Auburn's on the road in this league. He really has a good chance to have a great year and I've had nothing but great things to say about Anthony Strauder since the Egg Bowl. He saw in that game that he could be dominant and that's what we've been telling him. But when it matters is when the player believes it and does it.

Academically, you won't find a better student than Anthony Strauder and athletically, he's as good as there is in the Southeastern Conference.

What Anthony has to do is bring the same intensity, athletically and academically, but separate the two. He has to approach them the same way but keep them separate. You can't be thinking about a test on the football field and then think about football in the class room.

Q: Where is the strong point of this offensive line?
Grimes: Well, I would have to say today it's the guards and our center. From a maturation and experience standpoint, we have Royce who took 428 snaps last year. Brian Anderson has countless snaps in the SEC and Anthony Strauder played every game last year. You can't replace that type of experience in big games.

Q: So is it safe to say the tackles are the weak point?
Grimes: Well, I do feel a lot better about our tackles. J.D. will help us out a lot, but with some of them you just throw them out there and see how they respond.

Q: What about the emergence of Calvin Wilson?
Grimes: Calvin Wilson is as gifted an athlete as I've ever coached. He has the size and quickness but just needs to learn how to play quick. You can be quick but not play quick. On the offensive line, you need to have no hesitation when you know what you are doing and then you can play quick.

Calvin played about 283 snaps last year in the SEC. But he missed the first three games because of lack of knowledge. He doesn't need his mind to tie up his feet, if you know what I'm talking about. As Calvin Wilson learns though, he will only get better.

Calvin understands more now what is expected and who he will be facing in this league. And you have to go through that, which he did as a true freshman, to really get a good grasp in this league.

Q: In your opinion, how good can this offensive line be in the fall?
Grimes: I strongly believe we can be a good offensive line but there are always ifs with this job. We have an extremely important game on August 31st so we need a lot of reps before then so our minds don't tie up our feet.

I will say we will be as good as our young tackles come along. Our guards and center know what to do and they will lead us from the start. But at tackle, J.D. hasn't taken a snap at MSU, Craig Jenkins and Roland Terry haven't been in big game situations before. The way our tackles come on will determine how we operate against South Carolina on August 31.

But the real judgment of our offensive line this year will come at the mid-season point. Then those guys with little experience will have experience and that will give us a better reading as to where we are.


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 pjones@cdispatch.com.

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