September 14, 2017 10:09:12 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State's starting offensive line did nothing in its season opener against Charleston Southern to suggest that changes would come. So, when the second game against Louisiana Tech did come, nothing changed and the same starting five was used.
That didn't make it out of the first half.
Left guard Daryl Williams left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury, giving the unit its first unexpected shuffling of throwing Michael Story in midgame. The offense never slowed down, rushing for 327 yards on over 8 yards per carry. Being a guard in MSU head coach Dan Mullen's offense gave Story no small role in the production and by all accounts, he played well in it.
Story's performance gives coaches confidence in the offensive line depth if they need it Saturday night at 6 p.m. against No. 12 LSU at Davis Wade Stadium.
"He graded well," MSU offensive lineman / co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy said. "I don't think he graded champion for us, there's still little things he had to overcome as he was playing. To be a (starter), to beat Daryl, I think he has to get better at the little things."
So well, in fact, that he wasn't in the position simply by default. Mullen said Williams was cleared by trainers to return to the game but Mullen saw the offense playing well and decided to keep Story in.
"There wasn't hesitation, there was no, 'Hey I need Daryl back immediately,'" Hevesy said. "We let him play, keep letting him get experience."
Story said it was when the offense came off the field after a possession he knew he was going to enter the game in Williams' place. He didn't get too excited about it.
"It was just like another day at the office," Story said. "Before going in, I felt like I was going to pick up where the offense left off and keep it going."
The performance only solidified Story's status as a useful offensive lineman. Hevesy said in the preseason he wants to go into each game with at least eight capable offensive linemen and Story proved he belonged.
All that's ahead of the redshirt sophomore is to move up to the starting spot on a full-time basis. Hevesy knows what that entails.
"I think it's everything, it's every little thing," Hevesy said. "There are things in the sets, things in the communication, little things with hand placement."
Story added he wants to, "clean up," his technique, particularly being more efficient in his steps for run blocking.
Story was an exaggerated example given the extensive first-team reps, but reserve offensive linemen overall saw significant time in MSU's first two weeks. Hevesy estimated that second-team linemen played about 60 snaps total in the first two weeks, experience he thinks will prove to be invaluable.
"It's great for those young kids to see how great they are when they utilize little things like hand placement," Hevesy said. "It's always great to see themselves do it live in a game and turn it over in a game situation, how hard it is."
n Notes: Mullen said on the Southeastern Conference teleconference that wide receiver Malik Dear, who will try to make his season debut Saturday after a knee injury in the spring, is doing individual drills but is questionable for the game. ... Mullen said linebacker Leo Lewis has prepared well for the game and, "we're not going to comment on the major infractions other institutions have." Lewis is involved in the NCAA's investigation into Ole Miss' infractions. The NCAA hearing ended earlier this week.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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