STARKVILLE — Mississippi State offensive line coach John Hevesy said going against the University of Florida will be different for him.
When Hevesy left Florida to join Dan Mullen”s staff at Mississippi State he knew it meant one day having to see the players he helped recruit at Florida.
That”s something he has never experienced.
MSU plays host to Florida at 6:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) and Hevesy admits it will be a little strange.
“When I left Bowling Green and Utah, I was able to talk to the kids I had,” Hevesy said. “This is the first time I”ve ever had to play against kids I”ve coached three or four years, but it”s going to be fun. It”s still a game. It”s still fun to watch kids play. You just hope they come out on the wrong end of it.”
Although he was eager for his next challenge of coaching at Mississippi State, Hevesy said it was difficult to leave players like Carl Johnson, Marcus Gilbert, Aaron Hernandez and other offensive linemen of the Gators.
Hevesy was a part of the good and bad times with those players the last three years, including everything from family matters, problems with girlfriends and winning national championships in football.
Championships are something Hevesy hopes to eventually experience at MSU.
“Those big games and the experiences are something I”ve had in my life, and hopefully it”s something these kids will have soon enough and 10 years down the road you”re talking about all of that,” Hevesy said.
Florida coach Urban Meyer, Mullen and Hevesy were all together at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida the last eight seasons.
Meyer said there”s a reason why quarterback Alex Smith was “fantastic” at Utah.
“That offensive line was the bulk of our team and (Hevesy) did a tremendous job there and at Florida,” Meyer said. “He really has a great understanding for zone blocking and the intricacies of the spread offenses he”s been involved with and actually sat in meetings as we first put that thing together nine years ago and was very involved with the architects of that offense.”
Mullen said the understanding of the spread was the reason he wanted Hevesy on his staff at MSU.
“He was my first choice from day one,” Mullen said. “John, to his credit, took a chance to come here with me and believed we could build a program here and that was huge. I was fortunate to get him to come along with me.”
It wasn”t difficult for the Bulldogs to buy into what Hevesy was trying to teach because of his reputation of coaching at Florida.
MSU junior left offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, of Caledonia, has tried to soak everything in from Hevesy.
“I”ve learned a lot from the offseason and back in the spring,” Sherrod said. “As we”ve progressed through half the season thus far and actually having gone through some games with him, I see he takes his job very seriously and he does a great job with the offensive linemen.
“We”ve been having a lot of success running the ball. That goes back to everyone working hard and he”s making sure we are the best offensive linemen we can be.”
MSU ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference and 13th in the nation with 219 yards per game on the ground.
Sherrod and junior center J.C. Brignone said Hevesy brought a different attitude and it has helped.
“It”s more meaner,” Brignone said.
“You”ve got to work hard or he”s going to come down on you,” Sherrod said.
Hevesy likes how far MSU has come on the offensive line, but knows there”s still progress to be made.
“Every one of them has improved here or there and each week have gotten better and better,” Hevesy said. “There are still some corrections we”ve got to make and doing the little things.”