Grimes Talks About The Tackles

With the loss of Michael Brown, who started at left tackle for Mississippi State last season, offensive line coach J.B. Grimes has had to make post-spring decisions on who would be the starters and backups at both tackle positions. He talks about those plans in this interview.

With Michael Brown no longer on the team, who will be your starting tackles and who will back them up?
"We've taken Derek Sherrod and moved him over to the left side. We've moved Mark Melichar, who was the back up at right tackle, to number one at right tackle.

"To try to create a little competition we have moved Quentin Saulsberry behind Mark Melichar on the right side. We're doing that to not only create some competition but to also to see how he develops. (Quentin) had a good spring, but we have to do some things as far as the mental aspect is concerned.

"We've taken (junior college transfer) Phillip Freeman and moved him behind Sherrod at left tackle. But we've also got an experiment going where we have moved Chris Spencer behind Sherrod as well. Basically, we have Spencer and Freeman on the left side to see who will win the backup job."

Why move Spencer to left tackle?
"He was our third center. But, philosophically, your number one priority is to put the best five guys on the field that Coach Croom and and we coaches think are our best five offensive linemen, and the guys that we think are our starters.

"Then, you want to get your next best five as backups and try to place them in strategic positions so that you are creating competition for the starters.

"We have Chris Spencer, who we think is a good athlete. He's got the footspeed, the experience, he's going into his fourth year - so it's time for him to contribute. And as the third center, he's standing around with his helmet in his hand. Getting the third center ready to play is like getting a third quarterback ready to play. It's extremely difficult to get those guys the quantity of reps it takes to get them ready to play. But if you put that guy on the left side as the backup left tackle, now you are creating competition at that position between him and another guy to see who can win the spot. Both will receive equal reps and we will figure out in (preseason) camp which one of those guys is the one we want to go to battle with against Louisiana Tech."

Why did you not put Saulsberry at the backup left tackle position?
"Because we wanted to create competition on the right side with a guy that we know has already had his redshirt year, as Saulsberry has. Freeman is a guy who technically can still redshirt. If Spencer comes along, we might be able to redshirt Freeman, which would, ultimately, be best for him and best for our football team. But we may not be able to do that, but we are certainly going to find out."

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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