STARKVILLE — The Mississippi State football coaches are focused on finding the right combination on the offensive line.
MSU coach Dan Mullen suggested Monday in his weekly media conference that the starters at offensive line this week could be changed after MSU had a less than effective evening attacking Louisiana Tech up the middle.
“We’re going to try and find the best combination out of five,” Mullen said. “A couple of guys are going to have to learn some dual positions until we find our best combination.”
MSU had only two offensive plays more than 15 yards Saturday in a 26-20 overtime victory against Louisiana Tech.
Some of those potential changes include moving senior James Carmon to offensive guard now that the 320-pounder is close to 100 percent after he suffered a knee injury in a game against Auburn University on Sept. 10 that kept him out of the past two games.
Carmon was moved from defensive tackle this past spring to replace 2011 NFL Draft first-round selection Derek Sherrod. Carmon wasn’t seen publically practicing at any other position but left tackle throughout spring or preseason fall workouts.
“It’s harder because he’s a first year player,” Mullen said. “If he had been playing o-line a while as a senior (it would have been) not as difficult. A combination block is a combination block. It’s either center and guard or guard and tackle.”
Due to the injuries to Carmon and junior right guard Tobias Smith, MSU has started a different offensive line combination in each of the past two games. Blaine Clausell (left tackle) and Dillon Day (center) have made heir college debuts in that time.
“It’s a challenge,” MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “We’re getting a great opportunity to play some young kids. Do we want them to have that experience? No.”
Mullen said the decision about the offensive line, which will face a University of Georgia three-man defensive front that includes 340-pound junior nose tackle Johnathan Jenkins, will come down to two or three groups of players before the coaches choose a final lineup for the 11 a.m. game Saturday (FSN South).
“A couple of guys are going to have to be prepared for a backup situation that may come about to keep the best five on the field and not handcuff ourselves as things happen down the road,” Mullen said.
Mullen not pleased with red zone scoring
MSU is seventh in the Southeastern Conference in scoring in the opponents’ 20-yard-line and the end zone, and Mullen is frustrated with that level of execution.
MSU has scored touchdowns in 6 of 12 opportunities in the red
zone this season. Mullen said that is too many missed chances.
“We’ve left 42 points out there on the field if you look at not scoring and field goals over touchdowns,” Mullen said. “If there is one part we have to really clean up is the red zone offense and that we are getting touchdowns not field goals.”
Koenning said problems blocking up front have caused MSU to look conservative in its play-calling deep in Louisiana Tech territory.
“Schematically we were OK, but execution wise we were not,” Koenning said. “It just depends what they were giving you.”
Maye expected to play Saturday; Russell “fine to play” last week
Mullen said Monday senior linebacker Brandon Maye is expected to play Saturday against Georgia after he was held out of the game against Louisiana Tech due to a concussion he suffered Sept. 15 in a 19-6 loss to LSU.
Senior Brandon Wilson replaced Maye at middle linebacker. Wilson had a career-high 18 tackles in the overtime victory against Louisiana Tech. Wilson had started the first two games before Maye earned the first start in his MSU career against LSU.
Contradictory to an ESPN.com report that ran Saturday morning, Mullen said sophomore quarterback Tyler Russell was “fine to play” against Louisiana Tech. The former Parade All-American was on the active dress list but also was wearing a brace on his left knee in pregame warmups.
Starting quarterback Chris Relf played the entire game going 14 of 29 for 164 yards with an interception and the game-winning touchdown against Louisiana Tech.
“There were a lot of guys I would have loved to get in that game,” Mullen said. “You’d like to get them in, but you’re also very cautious you’re putting yourself in the best position to win. Sometimes there’s timing with that. We felt the whole time Relf was going to give us the best chance to win.”