Bowl Veterans Planning Strong Senior Finish

One might expect that after four long years of the stuff, practicing fundamental football wouldn't be high on Derek Sherrod's wish-list. But of course this is no ordinary practicing. The Bulldogs are going bowling and even an old hand can get excited about post-season play. Post-season practice, too.

"Yeah, it was awesome for everybody just to be out on the field in December and not March or whenever spring starts," said Sherrod. "Just going out and having fun where we can practice again, we're done with finals so all our minds are on football now."

Wrapping up fall semester exams would certainly improve everyone's attitude. But this is a bigger thrill for a bunch of Bulldogs who set going to a bowl game among their 2010 priorities. Especially so for fourth- and fifth-year seniors like Sherrod. It isn't just that they naturally want to conclude careers in a holiday classic, just one more football game, either.

In the case of twenty current Dogs, they got to experience bowling as pups. They were either true rookies or redshirt frosh on the 2007 Liberty Bowl team. In fact Sherrod is one of the seven Mississippi State seniors who actually participated in that 10-3 win over Central Florida.

So is senior linebacker K.J. Wright, to whom that freshman trip seems like so, so long ago now. Especially considering how long he and classmates have waited for another such experience.

"The past few seasons I've been at the house on New Years and on Christmas," Wright said. "For us to come out and play on New Years Day is real fun for us, so we go out and do what we do."

Besides Sherrod and Wright, other veterans of the '07 game in Memphis are S Zach Smith, DS Aaron Feld, OC J.C. Brignone, OL Mark Melichar, and DL Rodney Prince. Of these only Feld, a true freshman, had a starting job. Everyone else played as a backup or on kicking teams…but that still makes them an elite group on the 2010 roster.

"Oh, that was a long time ago!" grins Wright, who adds his first memory of the bowl game was the temperature. "It was freezing! I remember we had fun in Memphis, too. Bowl games are always fun, it's just time to all be together and just play another football game."

There are 13 other current players who were on the 2007 roster and did not play in the bowl game, or in all but one case during the season at all. Those are TB Robert Elliott, QB Chris Relf, S Wade Bonner, CB Damein Anderson, LB Jamie Jones, TE Marcus Green, S Emmanuel Gatling, OL Quentin Saulsberry, OT Addison Lawrence, OC D.J. Looney, OL John McMillan, TE Brandon Henderson, DL Reggie Odom. Yet they fulfilled a part with State's win as well, particularly those who mimicked the Central Florida squad.

This is what most current Bulldog freshmen and young reserves have to look forward too in a few more days. But for now Coach Dan Mullen is giving the first- and second-season players a lot more to do than play Michigan roles, they are practicing these first seven camp-days to get ready for 2011 spring drills. Which means old Dogs like Sherrod and Wright have had things easy so far, scarcely ‘practicing' at all.

"It's a little different," Sherrod said, "just going through the fundamentals." Not that he minds, though. Come Friday the emphasis shifts to true preparations for the Gator Bowl, and Sherrod figures it won't take long for him to get back into game-week mode after a couple of easy weeks.

"It took a little while to remember, but coaches are doing great things with us getting us back on fundamentals so we can pick it up when we start gameplanning."

And naturally there is the major difference for Sherrod and Wright between their first Bulldog bowling trip and this, their last one. Back in 2007 they were just getting something started; on New Years Day they intend to finish in senior style. "My freshman year I didn't play that much," Wright said. "This year is my senior year and I just have to go lead the defense, me and Chris (White) like we always do, to another win.

"I believe that this is a real good football team, we've put in a lot of hard work. We're 8-4 and just trying to get this ninth win on the season and build this program."

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