After practice during preseason camp, the Michigan State players ate lunch, then took a break. The offensive line would head to its meeting room to watch film or just hang out.
Turns out they weren’t alone. The rest of the Spartans offense joined the linemen, creating a bond on that side of the ball. And this season, coaches will be looking for that offensive line to stick as the glue that holds together an offense that assistant coach Mark Staten said “has a chance to be pretty special.”
“Our job is to open those holes,” Staten said of his offensive line. “Our job is to make those holes so damn big that they can’t be missed. We’ve got some work to do there, but I’m excited about this group of guys. I’ve got some tough guys up there. I’ve got guys who want to be good, and you can work with that.”
The young players have mixed right in and will play a key role in the success of the offensive line. Three freshmen — guard Kevin Jarvis and tackles Jordan Reid and Mustafa Khaleefah — saw their names on the depth chart released Tuesday. Throughout camp, they were among the last players to leave the fields after practice.
“The true freshman class, I think those are the best true freshmen I’ve seen since we got here,” senior center and captain Brian Allen said. “I think other guys see that. They feel the pressure, and it just makes everyone want to get better.”
Mostly, Allen said, it’s in the film room. The freshmen have been eager to get the playbook down because they know that on this veteran-thin offensive line, they have a legitimate shot to play early.
Reid takes the backup right tackle spot behind Luke Campbell, and he might just prove to be the second-stringer on the left side as well. At 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds, Jarvis is a huge addition to the line. With the lack of depth at tackle, Khaleefah might see some time. Not bad for a player who started playing football only three years ago.
The starting five looks as solid as ever: Cole Chewins at left tackle, Tyler Higby at left guard, Allen at center, David Beedle at right guard and Campbell at right tackle. But very seldom does Michigan State stick with the same five at the same five spots. This line needs to be ready for all different combinations, and Allen said it is.
“I think we’re jelling really good, and everyone’s having fun,” he said. “Everyone wants to play with each other. Everyone wants to make each other. Everyone wants to look out for each other in that room. I just like the whole attitude of the room.”
The first test comes Saturday in the season opener against Bowling Green. Can the Michigan State offensive line create holes for the running back trio of Gerald Holmes, Madre London and LJ Scott? Can it offer quarterback Brian Lewerke enough time to find his young receivers? We’ll soon find out. As for the players, they’re just excited to get out there.
“It’s gonna be a lot of fun to push the other color around instead of hitting the green and white every time,” Higby said.