Hand Jive, Football-Wise

When you think of hand jiving, you almost immediately think of rock and role music or the rhythm and blues music of the 1950s. Well, the next time you are at a football game, pay particular attention to the players' hands immediately after the ball is snapped. While watching them, you might think the players are doing their own version of the hand jive.

"When I go back in May and help my high school linebackers they ask how it is like going against D-lineman and I tell them that it's kind of like playing freeze tag - if they touch you you are frozen because they are so powerful," said sophomore middle linebacker Bo Walters. "When they shoot their hands out at you it's almost like martial arts trying to bat their hands away and get them off of you. It's almost like who can have their hands on you last."

Using his hands wasn't something that Bo was particularly good at when he first got to Mississippi State because using them in high school was something that he didn't really need to do.

"I wasn't good with my hands when I came in because in high school I was bigger, stronger and faster than everybody we played," said Bo. "I could run through linemen in high school. It was nothing for me to run through a guard or a left tackle even when they put their hands on me. I could get off of them due to my strength."

He learned early on that wasn't going to be the case when it came to collegiate football.

"I quickly learned when I got here you can't run through these guys at this level," said the 6-0, 238-pounder. "It's all about using your hands and pre-snap reads that put you in the right position so that you don't get cut off by linemen."

Bo has worked hard to develop his hands. And he has a couple of veteran linebackers that have helped him learn how to better use them.

"I watch (senior) Jamar (Chaney) every day in practice," said Bo. "He's one of the best that I have ever seen. But I think that comes with experience. (Junior) K.J. (Wright's) hands are good but not as good as Jamar's. It's almost seems like the longer you are here, the better your hands get."

But while he is improving his hands, the guys that he faces across the line of scrimmage are doing the same. And every day in practice he faces a couple of offensive linemen that are really good with their hands.

"You can bat (junior center) J.C. Brignone's hands away but they are right back up there," said Bo, who normally goes against the interior offensive linemen. "It's the same thing with (junior offensive tackle) Derek Sherrod coming off the edge - you swat his hands away and, wham, he hits you with a right hand again."

And considering Bo is a linebacker, he has numerous other things he's also having to deal with in addition to doing the hand jive with the offensive linemen.

"That's just the hands - you are also trying to get your reads, watch where the receivers are and see where the ball is," said Bo.

You can watch Bo and his teammates do their own version of the hand jive beginning at 2:30 Saturday afternoon when Jackson State comes to town.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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