But for the larger part of bowl camp not everyone was on the same sideline, and at times the action was a little too close to game competition for comfort. Such as the afternoon 11-on-11 drill where tailback Perkins took a sweep-left only to be flattened, resoundingly, by cornerback Broomfield.
"Yeah, I just got a chance to make a play, and I made it!" Broomfield said, with a facemask-width grin. "When Coach puts us out here in pads I'm out here to hit! So if he doesn't anybody hitting he's not going to put us out here in pads." Besides, the third-fall sophomore added, "He's alright, he's walking!"
Second-year freshman Perkins needed a little help walking away initially, but was soon back to work. Hard feelings? "Nah," he shrugs, just part of how Mullen likes his guys to practice…thus Perkins' choice not to return the favor the following day in more contact drills. Besides, the real fault lay with lack of downfield blocking by rookie wideout Michael Carr.
Besides, Perkins recognized just how productive both phases of December camp has been in getting everyone really ready to take on the Wolverines on New Years Day. Such as the no-hits-barred scrimmage that marked practice's transition.
"That was good experience for the young guys, including me too," Perkins said. "Now we're getting in game week, in game prep, and putting in a good gameplan that we can execute and go make plays and try to win the game."
Plays on both sides of the ball, adds Broomfield. That one standout hit was really just part of his own objective of addressing some technical issues in his game. "The last few weeks of the season my tackling was really poor, so I was trying to work on that throughout the whole camp and get better at it." Busted stops were indeed a November problem in losses to Alabama and Arkansas, and frustrating particularly for Broomfield despite finishing fifth in regular season tackles and intercepting three passes.
Apply that to all Bulldog cornerbacks, in fact. Mullen seems to have liked improvements made. Now, "Coach has said he's got six that he believes can play, now everybody is getting the chance to do it," Broomfield said. "I love it! As of right now I'd say me and Maurice Langston are probably number-ones; then Marvin Bure and John Banks and Damein Anderson. But really throughout the whole camp Bure has made the most plays."
Perkins certainly made his share of camp plays, and got more than the usual turns with starter Vick Ballard held out much of the time to recuperate from a bruising season. It was more opportunity to show the same stuff that made him a potent rotation playmaker in the season. Perkins finished with 526 yards and three rushing touchdowns as a freshman, and his 5.7 average run was even better than Ballard (5.4) or quarterback Chris Relf (3.8).
More impressive at the end of his first varsity season was what Perkins did in a few chances to catch passes. He turned three grabs at Ole Miss into 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns; and for the year averaged 24 yards each catch. Oh, and there are his growing duties as the return man on kickoffs, what with Chad Bumphis out of the bowl game.
So Perkins can figure on the ball coming his way early and often on January 1.
"Whatever I can do, if it's helping in the passing game I'll do it; if it's in the running game or the return game I'm there. I'll do anything to help our team win." That includes staying on the sideline so Ballard, or Robert Elliott, can haul the ball. While no running back worth his jersey ever complains about over-work Perkins understands that coordinator Les Koenning's rotation lets everyone do his part.
"It helps to keep the defense off balance or whatever," Perkins said. "And it helps us get some reps and some breaks. It's a lot of variety at running back. All of us can make plays, all of us can catch the ball out of the backfield and all of us run the ball downhill or outside. It's a good variety of backs. We are pretty stacked."
Ahhh, but the stacking is barely starting. Bowl camp has given another Bulldog back his chances to shine and redshirting frosh Nick Griffin has certainly lit some folk up on defense. "Nick, he's a beast!" Perkins said. "He runs with power and he's got speed, too. People need to look out for Nick coming up next year. He can run through people but he can run around people because he's got speed."
Griffin has to wait for spring ball to resume running around—or over—people. Broomfield anticipates equal competition at cornerback(s) come March as well, never mind that only Langston graduates. Redshirts like Jay Hughes and Jamerson Love are waiting their chance to really compete for jobs, and then there's the matter of where junior-to-be Banks ends up.
"Nothing is set for spring," Broomfield said. "Banks is a real versatile guy so he might be on the other side or he might be behind you. Either way, you trust him when you're out there on the field with him."
Trust among the Dog defenders is at an absolute premium in gameplanning for Michigan's offense, most obviously quicksilver quarterback Denard Robinson. MSU veterans like Broomfield draw comparisons to former Rebel ‘wild' man Dexter McCluster, or with Kentucky's do-it-all Randall Cobb. "But he gets the ball every single play, it's a wildcat every play with him back there," Broomfield said, adding that in some ways Robinson resembles Florida's Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey.
"On film he looks real quick, but he gets those big open gaps being the quarterback. So it's a different angle tackling him than the running back. With great players like that, you ain't going to shut him down. You try to contain him. So we've got another great opponent and it's going to be an exciting matchup."
For his part Perkins has scouted the sort of matchup issues Michigan presents defensively. Sure, there is the 3-3-5 scheme unlike anything the Bulldog offense faced in 2010. But scheme is just that, a plan; Perkins admires the personnel filling those eleven aligned slots.
"I feel like they've got a good defense. I mean, they've got some good players. Big linebackers, a big d-line, and they're physical. It's going to be a tough, hard game, we just have to do what we do and execute at a high level. We're pretty physical, too, and I feel we can make plays on them just like in the SEC."
Confident comments, but well earned after a 8-4 season and breaking even in the land's best football league. And, after all, it is the Bulldogs who arrive in Jacksonville with a number in front of the name. They have the chance to be the first MSU squad to complete a season, regular and bowl, with a ranking since 2000.
So Broomfield believes the team's confidence is justified.
"We went through a whole year, we played, we kept everything in front of us. But now it's time to turn it up and make the big plays. It's good to be in this position but now we have to make the big plays and take it to the next level."
And then, come spring, perhaps make up for some plays made in bowl camp?
Monday's afternoon practice was due to end at 4:30, with Coach Dan Mullen speaking to media afterwards.