Sherrod Has Good Words For State's Line

Derek Sherrod was relating the interviewing tips he'd been given in preparation for SEC Media Day. "They said just not get ahead of myself, just to take my time and be cool about everything and be comfortable with myself." Hmm, isn't that a lot like his day job? At which suggestion Sherrod laughs. "See, you can always apply offensive line techniques to any life skill!"

Seriously though, the real gameplan is for Mississippi State's starting left tackle to apply his techniques and talents to blocking for the Bulldog offense this coming fall. That did not keep the true junior from applying similar principals to his appearance in Hoover for the pleasure and probing of conference media. And indeed he did handle most queries with cool comfort…well, until asked the exact size of the natty new suit he wore to the press fest.

"I'm not sure, you'll have to ask my Momma!," he laughed, further amused at the suggesting his mother still picks his clothes. "They always say Momma knows best and she got me some good gear for SEC Media Days! I'd have to say I had a little of input so the tie might be my idea."

Of course it takes a lot of fine wool blend fabrics to outfit a 6-7, 310-or-so-pounder. The ‘or-so' bit is because Sherrod, like many of his big-body cohorts on the Bulldog summer roster, continues refining his physiques in the strength-conditioning program. Whatever the exact number, it's clear enough Sherrod's figure has been upgraded just in the months since spring training.

"I think I've made a lot of improvements, especially with my strength. Coach (Matt) Balis has had us in the weightroom working pretty hard and I've gained a lot of strength so far. That will be a big improvement for me on the field." And speaking of on the field, what has Sherrod spent the summer hours outside the weightroom doing? "Basically I've been working on my fundamentals, going from ground-up and I'm going to have everything set once training camp starts."

Which is less than two weeks away now, with an August 2 reporting date prior to the opening Monday practice. These are just officially-designated days though because just about the entire Bulldog roster has been on campus the past three weeks. Sherrod and other veterans were here in June for that matter, along with spring semester freshman center Sam Watts. Thus the 2009 offensive line corps has had plenty time together already, and Sherrod says the results are showing now.

"I think the chemistry with the offensive linemen is going very well. We got our last piece in the puzzle in (freshman) Gabriel Jackson in July so we've been teaching him some ropes. We've been working hard at it and studying our playbook together so we're ready when training camp comes."

Sherrod's place in the playbook is the left tackle slot he held for ten-straight starts as a true sophomore. He missed the '08 opener entirely after a pre-season ankle infection and worked his way back into action in game-two as a backup. For that matter it's arguable if Sherrod ever really got up to 100% strength over the course of that season. Barring another unexpected development there should be no such issues going into 2009. Even if the new season brings an entirely new offense he's being asked to block for.

Which raises the question, what exactly does a ‘spread' demand of an interior lineman? (And for the record, Sherrod only laughed at a curious query about the chance of working a tackle-eligible play into the plans.) More seriously this non-eligible receiver is already a fan of Coach Dan Mullen's system, even if it means the big bodies will have to cover a lot more ground.

"We're going to have a high-paced offense of course," he says. "(The biggest change is) Probably a lot more physical aspects of the game because we're going to be going down the field very fast. We're going to have to be more physical and of course more in-shape because we're going to have to keep running. I think we're going to deal pretty good with that part because we've been training and getting ready for that."

The training has been under a new strength coach; the getting-ready will be directed by Sherrod's new position coach. This tackle does get another good laugh at suggestions the ‘biggest' contrast between John Hevesy and J.B. Grimes is their stature. "Really, there isn't too many differences," Sherrod reports.

They're both about big physical linemen, the biggest difference is Coach Hevesy is going to make sure we're a lot meaner on the field. That's a very valuable thing when it comes to offensive linemen." Oh, and the guy being cool and comfortable in front of SEC cameras intends to get mean when lined up against SEC defenders? Absolutely, and that applies to all five big Dogs who take their place at the line of scrimmage.

"It's always going to be pretty intense. All our linemen expect to handle these things well because we're a unit, we're always going to be a unit. And it will take care of the physical aspects." Thing is, some folk are starting to agree with Sherrod. Because the Mississippi State o-line has been getting some favorable words since springtime. No, it is not a finished product by any means, but the potential has been glimpsed and the future is encouraging. So are some people, Sherrod notes.

"It's always a good thing to hear good things about you. We're going to take that and keep it in the back of our minds when we're practicing, and going into that first game we're going to do everything we've worked hard for." Not just the guys doing the blocking, either. "And we're going to have a different defense, I expect them to do very well this season. I see a lot of great things coming for us."

And who knows, if enough great things come to pass this fall maybe Sherrod will have need for the nice suit again to do more interviews at the end of the schedule? He seems to have handled his SEC Media Day obligations easily enough. "I think I'm doing it pretty good so far."

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