After a year of learning and watching, Mississippi State's Curtis Virges is getting his first real opportunity to earn reps this spring. Thus far, the redshirt freshman defensive tackle has not experienced anything he didn't expect coming into his initial college spring session.
The 6-foot-3 and 297-pound Virges is attempting to shore up a spot in the defensive tackle rotation. But with the likes of veterans Fletcher Cox, Josh Boyd and Jeff Howie, no doubt the competition is there on a daily basis.
"It is a pretty deep spot," said Virges. "But that competition makes everyone better and anything is possible if you work hard. I just want to earn my spot in that rotation and help this defensive line and help our team win. That's what it is all about."
While fighting for his share of reps, Virges is also working his way back to 100 percent. Late last fall, Virges suffered a shoulder injury and underwent surgery in the offseason.
"Basically I am just getting my full strength in my arm back," said Virges. "I had (labrum) surgery in the offseason so I am trying to get that all back. It is straight, though, and I am not letting it hold me back. It just gets sore, which is normal, after these hard practices."
While Virges is using the daily competition to his advantage, the same can be said for the veteran leadership on the defensive line. Cox and Boyd were regular starters last year and both also started numerous times in 2009.
"I just watch what they do," said Virges. "Josh and Fletcher are in their third year now and they are a big part of our success on defense. So I just watch them, learn from them and try to mimick what they do."
Virges also pointed to the competition and experience facing him on the other side of the line. The Bulldogs return four starters on the offensive line with the move of Quentin Saulsberry from guard to center. As one would imagine, Saulsberry provides many challenges for the new faces on State's defensive line.
"Right now on the second unit, I am going mainly against (center) Dillon Day and (left guard) Ben Beckwith," said Virges. "Both are pretty good but the one that gives us the toughest time is Quentin Saulsberry and that is when I rotate in with the 1's. He has that first good step and uses his hands real good."
Now that spring practice has reached the mid-way point, Virges said he is maintaining his same routine on the field. After he concludes a day's work on the practice fields, he then spends more time studying film to see what he did right and what he did wrong.
And hopefully, said Virges, that daily routine will help him reach his goals once the 2011 campaign arrives.
"I just got to keep going hard and keep getting better everyday," said Virges, a former West Point (Miss.) standout. "I have to take those coaching pointers and put them to use. Hopefully all of it gets me a spot high in the rotation and that is what I am aiming for."