STARKVILLE – One day after the Southeastern Conference announced a one-game suspension for Mississippi State center Dillon Day, several Bulldogs’ players rallied around Day Wednesday afternoon.
“Dillon has great character,” said MSU sophomore linebacker Richie Brown. “I think he feels bad for the way his play is being perceived and he’s working on fixing that. I know the guys are behind hum over on the offensive line…Guys like Archie (Muniz), Ben (Beckwith), they are rallying around him.”
Day, a fifth-year senior, has started 38 games as MSU’s center, making the Monroe, Louisiana native MSU’s most experienced offensive lineman. His loss creates a void in the middle of the Bulldogs’ offensive front for MSU’s Oct. 4 showdown against No. 6 Texas A&M.
Day’s suspension, handed down by the SEC office on Tuesday, stemmed from a pair of incidents during MSU’s 34-29 win over then-No. 8 LSU last Saturday night. The first saw Day land awkwardly with his right foot on the stomach of LSU defensive tackle Davin Godchaux and the second was a similar landing that left LSU cornerback Rashard Robinson in need of medical attention.
Both incidents happened within the framework of a play, and Day was following the action each time. In his Tuesday press conference, MSU head coach Dan Mullen said of Day’s actions, “I didn’t see anything wrong with it.
Of SEC commissioner Mike Slive’s decision to suspend Day, Mullen added, “It’s something that we completely disagree with, but we will go with the commissioner’s decision.”
Day, who helped MSU’s offensive line pave the way for 302 rushing yards against LSU, was suspended for the first half of MSU’s 2013 game against Troy for an incident against Auburn.
Against Texas A&M, the Bulldogs will have to figure out a way to move the ball without Day. For other members of the MSU offensive line, the challenge will be accepted.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect time for something like this to happen,” said MSU guard Ben Beckwith, “but if there can be perfect timing, this is it. Having the bye week gives us a chance to work on our fundamentals, to come together as a team.”
Beckwith, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound senior from Benton, hinted that he was receiving reps at center in practice as the Bulldogs begin preparation for the No. 6 Aggies. A former walk-on, Beckwith has started 16 straight games at guard for the Bulldogs, and on Tuesday, the former Benton Academy standout began to describe getting ready to line up at center.
“I’m comfortable there,” said Beckwith. “People say I talk way too much up there on the line anyway, so moving to center will be a natural for me.”
To make up for the loss of Beckwith at guard, MSU could insert sophomore Jamal Clayborn (seven career starts) or sophomore Devon Desper at guard.
MSU quarterback Dak Prescott believes the Bulldogs will be ready to roll no matter who ends up being the eventual starter at center.
“We are comfortable with any of those guys,” said Prescott. “Not having Dillon, it’s a big deal but at the same time, we can deal with it because I know how hard those guys have worked. It just falls on the next man up to be ready and do the job.”
MSU wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson, who leads the Bulldogs with three touchdown catches so far this season, had one of the best views of Day’s second incident, which occurred at the tail end of a nine-yard reception by Wilson that gave the Bulldogs a first down in the third quarter.
Asked if he thought Day stepping on Robinson was intentional, Wilson said, “Not necessarily. He was hustling, trying to make a play.
“Dillon is a great teammate, on and off the field. He was trying to get down there, make a play. I know he’s receiving a lot of criticism for what people think he did, but he will accept it and deal with it. He’ll be back.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brandon Walker on Twitter @BWonStateBeat