Grimes Sees Improvement In The OL

Mississippi State offensive line coach J.B. Grimes has seen improvement in the offensive line across the board since the first fall camp scrimmage.

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"Obviously, in the first scrimmage, we didn't protect very well and we didn't run the ball very well. But I thought in our second scrimmage our protection was better and I thought we ran the ball better," said Grimes. "Every time you go into a season, early on, if you are pretty good on defense, your defense should be ahead of your offense. And I think we are a pretty good defensive football team."

Despite the fact that the MSU defense is very, very good, Grimes wasn't surprised the offense performed better in the second scrimmage.

"I think we have made natural improvement," he said. "We made a natural improvement because we had gotten more reps. You had another week where you were able to execute the same plays over and over. Through repetition comes execution and when you get execution you move the football forward."

He's even seen more improvement this week from his group.

"We've gotten better this week," said Grimes. "Right now, we are working with four tackles in maroon jerseys, three guards in maroon jerseys and two centers in maroon jerseys. Those guys are receiving the lion's share of the reps. Again, it goes back to repetition. You repeat things over and over you should get better. And I believe we are."

The four tackles wearing maroon are starters Brian Anderson and Craig Jenkins and backups Calvin Wilson and J.D. Hamilton. Jenkins has really come on since the first scrimmage.

"(Redshirt freshman) Craig Jenkins came on and had a really outstanding second scrimmage and by-passed some guys. Right now, he's our first-team right tackle," said Grimes. "At this point, he's outplaying both (sophomore) Calvin (Wilson) and (juco transfer) J.D. Hamilton. Right now, he deserves to start. I'll say this about that kid; he's a tough guy, he'll fight you, he'll play with pain."

Grimes has also been very impressed with what he's seen from Hamilton, a junior college transfer.

"J.D., from a fundamental standpoint, is a little bit behind in the protection stuff. But I'll be honest with you; he's beyond where I thought he would be at this point." said Grimes. "Playing in the offensive line in the Southeastern Conference is not an easy thing to do. J.D. Hamilton graded out at 68% in his second scrimmage. Just to give you an idea, last spring Craig Jenkins graded 68%. I've been astounded at his ability to learn. We have thrown two seasons at that kid and he's not making a lot of mental mistakes. What will happen is J.D., as he receives more reps and feels more comfortable with the offense and knowing what he is supposed to do, will continue to get better and better."

Grimes has also been impressed with the play of his offensive guards and feels comfortable with the three guys currently wearing the maroon jerseys, Michael Gates, Anthony Strauder and Anthony Dunning. Plus, he sees a fourth player with the potential to make an impact this season.

"(Sophomore) Michael Gates is starting to get a lot better because he is getting more reps. He's got a lot of natural ability and pop in his body. He's got a lot of explosive in his body," said Grimes. "(Junior) Anthony Strauder continues to improve as he has gone through the fire of training camp. (Redshirt freshman) Anthony Dunning is a quality backup now. And I believe, in time, we will be able to count on (redshirt freshman) Chris Spencer to be a swing guy. I feel good about those guys."

As for his centers, Royce Blackledge and Johnny Carpenter are both solid players.

"Royce is doing a really great job. He's doing a great job of directing our offense," said Grimes of his junior center. "(Redshirt freshman) John Carpenter is really coming on. I've been pleased with him."

With the continued improvement, Coach Grimes sees better things ahead for the offensive line.

"I'm never happy, but we are better than we were last year. There is no question about that," he said.

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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