STARKVILLE • Mississippi State brings back three starters along its offensive line this season.
However, none of those returning starters will be in the same spot they were last year. Darryl Williams, who has 25 starts at left guard, is now at center. Stewart Reese has shifted inside to right guard after 26-straight starts at right tackle, while Greg Eiland has flipped to right tackle after 17 starts at left tackle.
“Darryl’s done well and is probably more of a natural center than Elgton (Jenkins) because he is more of a vocal guy,” said MSU offensive line coach Marcus Johnson. “I think he wanted to be in that role ... Greg’s done well at right tackle and Stew’s done well at right guard.
“All those guys have done well being in new roles but you don’t know until the spotlight comes on and once that football is kicked off next week we’ll see.”
Tyre Phillips takes over as the team’s bookend left tackle responsible for protecting quarterback Tommy Stevens’ blind side. The 6-foot-5, 345-pounder split time with Eiland at left tackle for most of last season.
“I expect a big year out of Tyree,” Johnson said. “He’s a big athlete that I think is going to hold his own. I think a lot of people are going to recognize who he is this year.”
Rounding out the offensive line is junior Dareuan Parker. The 6-foot-4, 330-pounder is getting his first opportunity to start at left guard after 25 games as a reserve. Parker is also working as the Bulldogs’ back-up center as well.
“I’m proud of him,” Johnson said. “I expect a big year out of him. I think it’s time for him to flourish and show people what he’s capable of. He’s a big, strong, sturdy, powerful kid.”
Seniors Tommy Champion and Michael Story are also serving in back-up roles and are being cross-trained at multiple positions. Juco transfer LaQuinston Sharp has worked primarily at right guard in camp but will also begin learning the left guard and center positions as well.
“They’re probably going to end up getting equal playing time anyway and the one that’s not starting on paper might get more playing time because he’s able to play multiple positions,” Johnson said.
Sophomore Cordavien Suggs will provide depth along the O-line along with redshirt freshmen Kameron Jones and Kwatrivous Johnson and true freshmen Charles Cross, Brandon Cunningham, Nick Pendley and Brevyn Jones.
Cross, a former five-star recruit from Laurel, has turned heads since his arrival in January despite being undersized at 270 pounds along his 6-foot-5 frame.
“That kid there is phenomenal,” Johnson said. “He’s going to be a superstar one day. He’s a sharp kid from a football IQ standpoint and very coachable. You tell him something one time and he applies it from the football classroom to the field.
“He’s as humble as they come and can hold his own against the starters ... I don’t think I’ve ever been around a true freshman with his ability along with his mental capacity.”