STARKVILLE • Since taking over as Mississippi State’s offensive line coach last season, Marcus Johnson has been big on the concept of cross-training his linemen to play multiple positions.
Ideally, having extra offensive linemen to plug-and-play would allow the Bulldogs to keep a fresh rotation of players on the field. But during Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana, MSU had no choice but to shake up the line due to injuries to multiple starters.
Left guard Dareuan Parker went down on the first play of the season quarter and center Darryl Williams left the game just before halftime. Neither were able to return, which meant plenty of reps for Tommy Champion and LaQuinston Sharp at guard and walk-on Evans Wilkerson at center.
“We talk about a next man in philosophy and guys jumping in and having the same expectation level of the person they replace,” MSU head coach Joe Moorhead said on Monday. “I think it was a huge credit to coach Johnson and our O-line that we were able to seamlessly go through that game with a bunch of guys maybe we weren’t expecting to play certain positions.”
State had a different offensive line lineup on the field for all 11 possessions on Saturday and despite all those change, the Bulldogs’ O-line only committed one penalty and surrendered two sacks – one of which came on a blindside corner blitz.
Tyre in the fire
Tyre Phillips played all 70 offensive snaps, 68 of which came at left tackle in his first career start. Champion saw action at three different positions and Sharp was called upon to play center to close out the game when Wilkerson went down on the final drive.
“We always do quarterback-center exchange before the game but I don’t think he’s snapped a ball to the quarterback at practice since he’s been here,” Moorhead said of Sharp. “He hadn’t gotten a lot of work at doing it and he jumped in there and did a good job.”
Moorhead said Parker, Williams and Wilkerson were all day-to-day with lower body injuries.