Thursday, August 4, 2011
Saulsberry in center of Bulldogs' plans
By Chris Low
Mississippi State's Quentin Saulsberry spent the summer working as an intern in the Starkville Police Department.
Yes, he's already had more than a few teammates hit him up trying to get some help with speeding tickets. No, he didn't dare go there for obvious reasons.
The Bulldogs are looking to Quentin Saulsberry to anchor their offensive line.
"Plus, I didn't have that kind of clout," Saulsberry joked.
On the field this fall, it figures to be a different story.
The 6-2, 305-pound senior will be one of the mainstays of Mississippi State's offensive line and will start out at center. It's the fourth different position he's played up front for the Bulldogs. He started most of last season at right guard, but also filled in at center when J.C. Brignone was out for two games.
Two seasons ago, Saulsberry started all 12 games at left guard. And as a redshirt freshman in 2008, he started all 12 games at right tackle.
"I've played everywhere and am ready to do that again this season if that's what it takes," Saulsberry said. "My job is to be a leader for the young guys, answer their questions and be an example. I don't care where that is -- center, guard or tackle."
Saulsberry's leadership will be vital this season, which is one of the reasons the Bulldogs are moving him to the middle of the offensive line. Gone are All-America left tackle Derek Sherrod and Brignone, who anchored the middle of Mississippi State's line the last three seasons at center.
"We've got to make sure we're good students of the game in the offensive line, and a lot of that is on me," Saulsberry said. "Knowing what to do and how to do it is one thing. But when you know why you're doing certain things, that's when you play faster and the game slows down."
Running the football has been Mississippi State's forte each of the past two seasons, and Saulsberry thinks that will again be the case in 2011. One of the key battles up front during preseason camp, which opened Thursday, will be at left tackle where redshirt freshman Blaine Clausell and senior James Carmon will vie for the starting job. Carmon moves over from defensive tackle, while the 6-7 Clausell has bulked up close to 300 pounds.
"We sort of look at what we do on offense up front as being part of the defense," Saulsberry said. "We play defense, too, and that's by running the ball, keeping our offense on the field and keeping the ball out of the opposite players' hands."
Mississippi State led the SEC in time of possession last season and was second to Auburn in rushing, averaging 214.8 yards per game on the ground.
Saulsberry said the nine-win season a year ago was "just a little taste." He said the Bulldogs expect to be in the SEC championship game this season, something they've done only one other time (1998).
"You always want to go beyond where people think you can," Saulsberry said. "And, really, you want to go beyond where you think you can. You never stop pushing."