By MATTHEW STEVENS
Derek Sherrod could soon be hearing his name called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in primetime.
With the NFL Draft broadcast starting with first round coverage in the evening, Sherrod could be the first offensive lineman to be drafted in the 2011 selection process and many mock drafts have the Columbus native right now at worst as a pick in the 13-15 overall range.
In his weekly column on ESPN.com, draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. stated that without a superstar left tackle in the draft pool, the veteran draft evaluator on ESPN pointed to Sherrod as the “one player that has certainly put himself in position to be the first one to hear his name called on draft day.”
Mississippi State offensive line coach John Hevesy has said he’s frequently fielding calls from professional scouts wanting to almost hear the red flag situation for a 305-pound offensive tackle that is garnering conference and national honors while also is one of 16 recipients of the National Football Foundation National Scholar Athlete Award.
“They all ask the same questions and their first thing is always character of the kids then it gets to productivity on the field,” Hevesy said. “It’s a real easy answer I guess. They keep wanting to know where’s the baggage, where’s the skeletons and they get kind of bored that there is none.”
The only knock on Sherrod’s resume is a lack of vocal leadership that coaches easily explain to have never been part of his character and is described more as a leader by example.
“He can be kind of funny, sometimes” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said in September. “But yeah, he’s not the outspoken one. He’s a great leader by example. He’s not a vocal leader as I’m sure you can imagine, that’s just not him. He’s not a rah-rah guy. But if you want to watch somebody work with intensity every single rep, when it gets down to it that is what you want in a player.”
CBS Sportsline.com has Sherrod as the top-ranked offensive tackle in the 2011 draft class and projects him to be the 15th overall pick by the Chicago Bears.
“Sherrod's an excellent pass protector who will benefit from the structure of an NFL strength and conditioning program,” NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Chad Reuter said.
Sherrod won the Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week award for the second time in 2010 when he paved the way for the Mississippi State offense two weeks ago to rush for 214 yards in the Bulldogs' 24-17 win over Kentucky. Sherrod finished with a 91 percent blocking grade, the seventh time he's eclipsed the 90 percent mark this season, and five knockdown blocks.
“If one part of the game is going well, then another part of the game can feed off it – it’s all about momentum,” Sherrod said Monday. “If you can control that momentum, more than likely you’ll win the game.”
His head coach, who arrived with him already in place two years ago at the left tackle position, speaks of Sherrod like he’d been recruiting him to Mississippi State for years.
“He’s one of the best tackles, one of the best offensive linemen I’ve ever had the opportunity to be on a staff with and coach,” Mullen said. “Derek is what you’re looking for. A tremendous worker, a very talented football player, very focused on doing his job. If you can prototype an offensive lineman for me, that’s Derek Sherrod.”
The last time Mississippi State players were selected in the first round was 14 years ago when Walt Harris was the 13th selection by San Francisco and Eric Moulds was picked by Buffalo with the 24th pick in the 1996 draft.
“Sherrod does offer the kind of athleticism and size to fight and win a left tackle spot with some time and development,” National Football Post director of college scouting Wes Bunting said. “He might be better suited to play as a right tackle in more of a finesse scheme, but he does have the skill set to certainly intrigue early in the draft and if he’s willing to put in the work, the guy could mature into a dependable starter on either side for an NFL team.”
MSU honoring fallen teammate with patch and jersey number
In order to honor the memory of Nick Bell, the Mississippi State players will have a patch on the jersey for the rest of the 2010 season and senior safety Charles Mitchell will be wearing Bell's jersey number – No. 36 – for the Bulldogs game against Alabama.
Bell, 20, passed away at University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital last week after undergoing emergency surgery when a form of skin cancer had metastasized through his body.
“We already got the guys that are going to wear (Bell’s jersey number) and you just got to wait till Saturday to see who’ll do it for him,” senior linebacker K.J. Wright said.
When asked specifically if they’ll use the memory of Bell as a player or a person as motivation this Saturday against Alabama (6:15 p.m., ESPN2), Mullen dismissed the two situations as relatable factors.
"I don't think we use (Bell’s passing) as a motivation," Mullen said. "I think for our guys - play with a little heavy heart - and they're going to move on with it a little bit every day in their life. In situation like that, I don't know how it becomes motivating to anybody."
Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee described after practice Tuesday as a member of his position group how it’s been difficult dealing with his loss in meetings, in the weight room and off the field dating back to when Bell had to leave the team because of his illness.
Mullen announced on Tuesday after practice that it would be Mitchell who will wear Bell's No. 36 jersey for the Alabama game.
"Charles is the one that will be wearing number 36 for the game Saturday," Mullen said Tuesday. "As a guy that was a roommate and lived together, I think it's kind of a special honor for Charles to do that for Nick."