MSU Frosh Lineman Richard Burch

<img src=http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/football/2003/burchr-2.jpg align=left width=118 height=160> Freshman offensive lineman Richard Burch wanted to play early at Mississippi State, and the earlier the better, but he hadn't anticipated extensive playing time, not this soon.

"I felt like I would get my opportunity but I didn't know it would come as quickly as it has," said the 6-5, 302-pound true freshman, while looking back on his extended playing time against LSU last Saturday at Tiger Stadium.

"I thought I would play against LSU but I wasn't sure how soon," said the Brandon, Miss., product, selected to the PrepStar magazine/CBS Sportsline.com Dream Team as a senior in high school.

Picked as the No. 15 best offensive lineman in the country following his senior campaign at Brandon, Burch said he's ready to play more and believes he can become an asset.

As far as the overall picture of the offensive line is concerned there's been some new plans set into motion with major injuries cropping up. The 'Dogs lost one of their most experienced offensive linemen Derrick Thompson before the season started.

Promising redshirt freshman Chris McNeil went down with a season-ending foot injury in Saturday's 31-13 SEC loss at Baton Rouge. Sophomore left guard Brad Weathers missed one game with an injury but is now being called on to play more and more.

Mississippi State head coach Jackie Sherrill said the streamlining calls for Burch to play and play a lot.

"That was our plans to bring Burch along and eventually start him anyway. Now we're going to have to do that quicker," said Sherrill.

He said sophomore right tackle David Stewart can play the whole game, that junior center Blake Jones played well at LSU, but needs some rest and that redshirt freshman Johnny Wadley has come along.

Burch said he thought he played all right against LSU but that he could play better.

"In the SEC you have to be ready for everything," said Burch, still working on his technique and learning the blocking schemes under assistant offensive line coaches Terry Lewis (OT-TE) and Carroll McCray (C-OG).

"I've got to work on my strength," said Burch, who added he's trying to use the talent the Lord has blessed him with in the best way possible. He said there's a challenge ahead for the offensive line.

"We have to stay together and work as a team," added Burch, who has long been penciled in for additional playing time. "We have to get the unity going, find the team chemistry.

"I've set my goals pretty high and I have high standards. But I'm nowhere near where I need to be. I want to be the best, and if not the best, among the best. That's a long way from where I am right now. I just have to keep working hard ... getting after it!

"This is a very young offensive line right now and we have time to learn together and I believe we will," said Burch.

"Right now, we just want to win," he said. "We want to do whatever we can to help. Our main objective right now is to get a winning streak going."

Mississippi State (1-2, 0-2 SEC) would love nothing better than to chalk up its first SEC win and get back in the league race.

Meanwhile, Burch and the Bulldogs say they'll be ready for Saturday's kickoff set for 12 noon at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.


Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer, is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News. He will be writing regular feature articles for Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi High School sports on the internet.

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