Looking for Improved Play Saturday

MSU offensive guard Anthony Strauder looks for improved play from the Bulldog team this Saturday against Tulane.

During his childhood days, Mississippi State junior offensive lineman Anthony Strauder learned valuable lessons by observing his uncle on the field. But Strauder's lessons were not limited to the gridiron. Strauder also saw his uncle - former Bulldog standout Herman Carroll - excel off the field, which helped secured his future after football.

"Really it was all about watching my uncle (former Bulldog defensive end) Herman Carroll," said Strauder. "He got to play in the NFL for a short period of time. If football works out for me in the NFL then that would just be a blessing.

"But I can't control that and my uncle and I have talked about that. What I can control is getting my degree and preparing myself for a future after football."

And getting a bachelor's degree is something Strauder did in three years.

Strauder, a Natchez native, graduated in May with a degree in exercise physiology and is currently working on his master's degree in business administration.

Strauder also has plans of going to physical therapy school once his master's degree is finished and if the NFL does not come calling. His work off the field has constantly drawn praise from Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom.

"He is an excellent student," said Croom. "It is almost disappointing to me when he is not up around the 3.4 or 3.5 grade range, feeling like he is slipping a bit. But seriously, he is an excellent student in the classroom and student of the game as well. He has been able to balance it all out and is the perfect example of what a college student-athlete should be."

Strauder has been just as steady on the field.

Strauder started last Thursday's game against LSU, lining up at left guard and collecting his 18th collegiate game.

However, it wasn't the start to his junior season that Strauder and the rest of the Bulldogs had hoped for this fall. Second-ranked LSU dominated the Bulldogs' offense, shutting State out and collecting seven turnovers in the process.

"I felt like the offense did some good things," said Strauder. "But unlike the defense where different players were making great plays, if 11 people are not on the same page on the same play then it's not going to work.

"It was just a day where a lot of errors occurred. Mike Henig is a good quarterback, made some mistakes and some receivers were not in the right place. We didn't play well but the whole offense is going back to the drawing board to get ready to beat Tulane."

Strauder and State's offensive line faced possibly their biggest challenge this season last Thursday. The force ahead of Strauder and company was LSU's defensive line, which features more than likely a pair of first round NFL picks, particularly noseguard Glenn Dorsey. But in the first half before the turnovers took their toil, Strauder liked the way the offensive line competed against the best D-line in the land.

Strauder also came away impressed with the new-found depth up front.

"I think, basically, we have just gotten to a point where the talent level is good, we have guys that can lead and have a group that can compete with teams like LSU and anybody," Strauder said.

"Overall, the depth makes for more competition in practice. That lets you know that during a game when you might get tired, then we have a quality person to put in your place and not miss a beat."

For the first time in the Croom era, the Bulldogs actually had plenty of familiar faces back on the offensive line this season, including Strauder.

And no face is more familiar than Bulldog senior lineman J.D. Hamilton's.

With Strauder at left guard and Hamilton at right tackle, the pair of Natchez High School graduates continued to be teammates at the collegiate level.

It took a little recruiting from Strauder to re-unite the offensive linemen, though.

"It's great for myself and J.D. to be on the same offensive line and see two guys make it from a small place," said Strauder. "It makes the transition easier having somebody from your home town on the team, off the field and on the field. That was a positive thing.

"Coach (J.B.) Grimes was recruiting me and I told him I wanted him to be here. I am glad it all worked out."

With basically two years left to play, Strauder has turned into one of the top guards in the SEC, and has become a steady leader for the Bulldogs.

"Anthony has excellent build for the position," said Croom. "His speed, size and agility were created for his position. He has improved so much from this point last year. We think he has a chance to be an excellent guard. I don't think there is any question that he is a guy that will have a chance at the next level."

Like all college football players, reaching that next level would be a dream come true for Strauder. Yes, he has given the NFL plenty of thought since he first started playing the sport.

"I still believe I have a chance to play at the next level," said Strauder. "It would be a dream come true."

But Strauder also believe his talents on the line have yet to completely stand out.

"I still feel my best days of football are ahead of me and I have not come close to reaching my potential and have loads of room for improvement."

And this Saturday in the Louisiana Superdome, Strauder is expecting loads of improvement from the Bulldogs.

Sure the 45-0 drubbing in the opener hurt but it was still just one game with 11 more left on the schedule. Strauder believes the healing process will start on Saturday against Tulane.

"I feel like we are going to rebound from this, pick up our wounds and go back to work," said Strauder. "We are still going to have a successful season and go to a bowl game."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. He can be reached by email at pdjmsu@yahoo.com.

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