STARKVILLE – Mississippi State returns four offensive linemen that started five or more games last season and have two more who are eligible after transferring in from Alabama and LSU.
But whenever the Bulldogs are allowed to start preparing for the 2020, there will be a fresh set of eyes evaluating their every move in new offensive line coach Mason Miller.
“I want to start fresh - new coach, new opportunities,” Miller said. “Somebody who may not have done something one way might be able to do it a little better for what we do. Everybody’s got a clean slate and I’ve got a clean slate as we move forward.”
Dareuan Parker started 11 games at guard in 2019 while Greg Eiland and Stewart Reese started eight games each and LaQuinston Sharp earned five starts. All four are rising seniors for MSU.
Charles Cross, Kwatrivous Johnson, Nick Pendley, Brevyn Jones and Cordavien Suggs also saw action last season.
“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back who fortunately played last year,” Miller said. “It may only be a few snaps, but they’ve seen some game action. That’s a positive thing.”
The Bulldogs also have the benefit of former West Point standout Scott Lashley coming in as a graduate transfer tackle from Alabama and former Pontotoc and LSU center Cole Smith eligible after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules.
Miller made the move to MSU after spending the past two seasons on Mike Leach’s staff at Washington State. The Marietta, Georgia native also has experience coaching at Nevada, Tarleton State, New Mexico State, Southeastern Louisiana, Washington and Lee and was the head coach at McMurry University in 2013.
“For me, it was coming home,” Miller said. “As a competitor, obviously you want to compete at the highest level and I think the SEC West is the highest level of college football. It’s produced more national championships in recent years than anybody. Also, the talent level in the state of Mississippi and the South is above and beyond most places.”
Miller has a track record of being able to cultivate undersized high school offensive linemen into first and second round draft picks during his career such as Andre Dillard at Washington State and Austin Corbett at Nevada.
While Miller is admittedly ecstatic about the size of the lineman he has inherited in Starkville, he’s just as interested in their demeanor on the field and discovering if their grit matches up with their girth.
“The kids down here are a little thicker than what we’re used to, which is a good thing – more mass,” Miller said. “But the biggest things are can they run, are they long and are they nasty enough? We’ve got a lot of large humans trying to get our quarterback so we’ve got to make sure we combat that with people who have the same type of tenacity.”