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August 4, 2011If you've kept up with Quentin Saulsberry, you heard this oft-repeated stat: he's entering his fourth year and is starting at his fourth different position on the offensive line.
The steady, versatile senior moonlighted as a center last year in a couple games, but with the graduation of J.C. Brignone, Saulsberry is moving to the middle of the line permanently.
The philosophy under offensive line coach John Hevesy is that, "If you can play at one spot on the line, you can play at all of them." Saulsberry has discovered that to be quite literally true, and Hevesy respects him for it.
"No matter what sport, what team or what event you do, when you have a kid that has not only played but everyone on the team looks up to as a leader physically, mentally, everything he does as a character kid," Hevesy said. "You can't ... it's no different than with Derek (Sherrod) last year. That's a kid everyone looks up to and respects. Not for what he does and how he plays, but for who he is and how he does it."
At 6-foot-2, 300-pounds, Saulsberry has the size for versatility and he played at three different positions in 2010. He started 10 games at right guard, but got two starts at center, against Houston and Florida, in Brignone's injury-caused absence.
Brignone was a multi-year starter for the Bulldogs and a stalwart since Hevesy arrived at MSU, so seeing Saulsberry fill in admirably for Brignone, particularly in a run-heavy game against the Gators, gives Hevesy confidence that his new center will be just fine.
"He went down to Florida and started a game at Florida, which is no easy task to go to Florida and have to play that first game at a new position - no matter center - on the road in an environment like that," Hevesy said. "Again, I think you have all the confidence in Quentin. It doesn't matter what you ask him to do, he's gonna do it as hard as he can."
Asked if he can remember coaching a player who started in so many spots, Hevesy said the closest he's seen to such versatility as Saulsberry was Markice Pouncey when he was at Florida with Dan Mullen.
Pouncey is, of course, in the NFL now, somewhere Saulsberry hopes to be one day, too. The question for Saulsberry is what position he will play. Is his future in football as a center?
"As a football player, you do think about that," Saulsberry said. "What's best for you and what's best for when you go the next level. Right now, it's about what's best for my team. If my team needs me at guard, I'll play guard. If my team needs me at tight end, I'll play tight end. You have to be that team player. Even at the next level, you shouldn't have to worry about what position I need to play. You give up that I and see what do we need to do to be successful."
Saulsberry will be the leader of a mostly-experienced offensive line, playing alongside senior Addison Lawrence at right tackle, sophomore guard Gabe Jackson and junior guard Tobias Smith.
In the eyes of outsiders, the biggest question mark on the line is left tackle, where Hevesy must replace a first-round NFL draft pick in Sherrod. However, few seem to be worried about Saulsberry taking over at center for Brignone, now with the Chicago Bears. In Hevesy's eyes, that confidence speaks to his center's reliability.
Saulsberry, though, said he is not worried about either position.
He feels he learned a lot in his two-game stint at center in 2010, and he is confident in both himself and the line as a whole.
"It was a good experience for me," Saulsberry said. "Coach Hevesy always explained to me, if you can play one position you can play all of them. As an offensive line, we've got to be a unit. We gotta have unity and know what each other is doing. If we know what each other is doing, it makes our job even better."