MSU O-Line: Center

Mississippi State offensive line coach J.B. Grimes talks about the four candidates for the opening at the center position, a position that was ably played the last two years by senior Royce Blackledge.

Royce Blackledge, who started all 25 games at center for the past two seasons recently graduated. Who are the candidates that will be competing for that position during the upcoming spring practice and what are your thoughts about each?
"We have to replace a guy who took a tremendous number of snaps at Mississippi State and played good football in Royce Blackledge. He was the leader of our offensive line and probably one of the better leaders on our football team as evidenced by the fact that he was voted by his peers as one of the captains of this football team. Because of that, we have a tremendous hole to fill at the center position.

"(Fourth-year junior) John Carpenter (6-2, 290) is the heir apparent. He has, basically, been grooming for this job for two years, and he has been the backup for two years. It's his job to lose. He is in a situation now where he has competition. And competition either brings out the best in us or the worst in us. We don't want that just at the center position, but at every position. When they know there is someone behind them that can take their job, then they know they have to continue working and continue to get better.

"We moved a young J. C. Brignone (6-1, 290), who had 184 snaps during the course of the season and graded somewhere around 84% in those 184 snaps as a redshirt freshman, to center. We moved a proven, tested player in J. C. behind John Carpenter to created the competition that we were really looking for. In doing that, we think we did two things - 1) we think we may have put J.C. at a position where he can flourish because of his height, and 2) we have created competition for John Carpenter so that he knows that he will have to work to keep the job.

"We also have (third-year sophomore) Chris Spencer (6-3, 305) and (true freshman) D.J. Looney (6-1, 290).

"Chris has been at the center position all year long and did some good things, but he has some other things that he has to do physically to make himself more competitive from a physical standpoint.

"D.J. Looney has all the attributes that you are looking for - he has leadership ability, he's a smart guy, he's a student of the game, he's big enough. You can't have a team full of 6-0 or 6-1 guys, but with D.J., he provides some other things - he has long arms for a short guy, he has tremendous leverage, and he really loves the game and studies the games.

"For John Carpenter, J.C. Brignone, Chris Spencer and D.J. Looney, it's a big spring. I'm really looking forward to it and looking forward to seeing who emerges."

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

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