Grimes Pleased With Progress of MSU O-Line

Mississippi State offensive line coach J.B. Grimes is very pleased not only with the talent level of the offensive line, but also their intangibles. Now, all they lack is experience, SEC experience, in particular.

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"After having to shift my offensive line around a year ago, this year I feel better," said Grimes. "(Craig) Jenkins, Calvin Wilson and Roland Terry played tackle all last spring. (Anthony) Strauder, (Royce) Blackledge and (Brian) Anderson all three played their positions all last spring. So, you aren't having to move guys from one position to another. They have been there. It was a ton harder a year ago than it is now."

He also likes the attitude his players are showing this year. They aren't quite where they need to be, but there is definite improvement.

"Right now, our guys are playing with a nasty attitude, but they aren't where you want them to be from a mental toughness standpoint" he said. "We want them to think physical, to be physical. We want them to go out and practice with an attitude. And they have done that, so far."

They are also much more physically fit than in the past.

"For the most part, our guys aren't overweight. We have a few guys that have to lose a few pounds, but it's unlike what it was like when we first got here and we had a number of guys who had to drop a bunch of pounds" he said. "We have one guy who needs to lose about 19 pounds. But after that, we have guys that need to lose 6 or maybe 8 pounds. You aren't talking double digits. We've leaned up as an offensive line."

They've not only leaned up, but the talent level is much better than it was when he first got to State.

"Physically, talent-wise, we have some guys who can now compete on this level," said Grimes.

A few of them have the talent to play at an even higher level than college.

"There is no question in my mind that from a talent standpoint, we have some guys from this team who will play in the National Football League, without question," said Grimes.

When asked if tackles Calvin Wilson and J.D. Hamilton were two that fall into that category, he said, "both (Wilson and Hamilton) have NFL talent, but we have to get them where they are doing it right all the time and playing consistently. The best way to put it right now is potentially. There is an old saying that if you are still putting potentially in front of your name, then you haven't done it yet."

They've still got that P-word in front of their names due to a lack of SEC experience.

"Calvin Wilson has played 273 snaps at Mississippi State. J.D. Hamilton has never played a Southeastern Conference snap. Craig Jenkins has never played a Southeastern Conference snap. Roland Terry has maybe played 25 to 30 Southeastern Conference snaps," said Grimes. "When you put those guys together, you have less than 300 Southeastern Conference snaps combined.

"You don't know how they are going to be until you get them down in the trenches when they are playing on ESPN on a Thursday night with everybody in the nation watching them and you start firing live bullets at them."

Although the tackle position is talented but not experienced, the inside of the line, the guards and center, is another story.

"I feel that we are a little stronger inside, more from an experience standpoint than a talent standpoint," said Grimes.

One of those inside guys, starting center Royce Blackledge, has gone from potential to good and now would probably be considered the anchor inside.

"When we got here in January of '04, Royce weighed a whopping 263 pounds. He weighs 293 pounds right now and he's not a fat guy," said Grimes. "There is no question about Royce. He's mentally tough. He's a good football player. And, along with the help of (MSU strength and conditioning) Jim Nowell, he has made himself into that. I couldn't be more proud of the guy."

An advantage of having so many talented, and, in many cases, experienced players, comes the luxury of being able to redshirt his one true freshman, Mark Melichar, a very talented player in his own right.

"I think he has a tremendous upside," said Grimes. "He is a really smart guy, a tough guy, very conscientious, wants to be technique sound. He really studies hard and is dedicated."

And, like Melichar, the upside for the MSU offensive line, as a group, also looks tremendous for years to come.

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

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