Tuesday Bulldog Practice Notebook

Baker Swedenburg might have just set some sort of Bulldog record. No, not on the field, though his punting was a strong point of the 2011 season. It was off the field where Swedenburg has made a mark: a roster sophomore, he has already earned his college degree.

"It feels good," the Columbus native said. Especially because he intentionally set himself on this accelerated academic track which allowed Swedenburg to ‘walk' as a December 2011 graduate. "Once I got up here and I figured out I could load-up my class schedule and take advantage of summer school and all that. I figured my scholarship covers it, why not take advantage of it?"

Talk about taking full advantage…Swedenburg has already done in two-and-a-half academic years what most of his peers will need five to finish. A 2008 signee out of Heritage Academy, he opted not to enroll as a player that year but ‘grayshirted' instead. State had a senior punter on the roster at the time so it was an easy choice. Redshirting in 2009 wasn't as simple, until juco signee Heath Hutchins won the punting job for that and 2010 both.

Waiting his turn to '11 has more than paid off though, for both Swedenburg and State. His 41.9 yard average was even better than the 41.5 by Hutchins in '10. Nor did Swedenburg get any kicks blocked, though he did have an odd lapse of attention by dropping a snap in the Alabama game. No damage was done on the turnover fortunately.

And the combination of his reliable kicking and hang-times, with increasingly effective coverage through the season, made Swedenburg a legitimate suggestion for the team's defensive most valuable player. It's also worth noting that Swedenburg gives credit to another first-year member of the kicking combo, as new snapper Reed Gordon did his job with just the sort of efficient anonymity his position prefers.

Swedenburg, and for that matter PK Derek DePasquale, are both looking forward to their post-season appearance in a NFL venue. Not least because LP Field is grass, something both specialists favor. This is senior DePasquale's last turn kicking for State as he graduates on the more typical schedule. Swedenburg, he'll be back for more in '12. And probably '13 too, as he has two whole seasons left if he chooses.

"Now I'm working on a MBA," Swedenburg said of his graduate-level objectives. Beyond that, who knows? Though he might not be done with DePasquale just yet. "We've talked about starting a business together, making millions, stuff like that!"

Swedenburg was one of eight current Bulldogs who graduated after the fall semester, including two student coaches; D.J. Looney and Kendric Cook. They were joined by S Charles Mitchell, LB Jamie Jones, QB Chris Relf, OG Quentin Saulsberry, S Wade Bonner, and LB Brandon Wilson.

NOTEBOOK: Day-four of Bulldog bowl camp was not all that different from the first three. Or at least not until a couple of regulars had to be helped off the field, as QB Tyler Russell and CB Corey Broomfield were victims of Tuesday's energetic work.

Russell was hurt during 11-on-11 drills after unloading a pass—a completed one at that—at the start of a series. He was helped to the sideline and checked, before finding a seat on a cooler with the Mississippi State training staff not overly concerned. Russell limped a little to the concluding team huddle and left on his own, too. A spokesman afterwards called it a ‘tweaked' knee.

Broomfield came away from small-group contact period holding his left arm in pain, with trainers checking his left shoulder. Broomfield did not return to drills but left with the squad showing no ill effects. His and Russell's status was to be updated later.

Freshman TB Derek Milton was excused a second day from work after spraining his left knee in Saturday's practice. And OT Archie Muniz is missing camp after knee surgery following his practice injury at the end of the regular season. He is not expected back at full-strength until summer.

Coach Dan Mullen was not available for post-practice interviews, as he will speak with media at halftime of Tuesday's basketball game along with Music City Bowl CEO Scott Ramsey. Though, he did have one comment on a health situation. Also seen limping around the sideline Tuesday was strength coach Matt Balis, favoring his right leg. A player, not identified for his own protection as he is an underclassman, said it was from one of the ‘MMA' type workouts the Bulldogs have as part of their regimen.

Mullen's comment? "Some of us have to learn we're 40 years old." The head coach seemed amused by the prospect of Balis having to report to his own notorious rehab area, the ‘Pit', during practices. As if anyone would tell him to do so…

*Tuesday's lineups were even more mixed than ever, particularly in the 11-on-11 situations. The four starting defensive linemen were intact to open the full-field work but supported entirely by second-team linebackers, corners and safeties.

The idea of course is both to develop depth of combinations, as well as work younger or less-experienced defenders in alongside old hands. Such as paring first MLB Brandon Wilson with Wells and Christian Holmes as the outside ‘backers. Or having Zach Jackson and Benardrick McKinney, both redshirting rookies, paired with still-maturing MLB Ferlando Bohanna. With not a lot of need to practice seniors Charles Mitchell and Wade Bonner, a lot more work was handed to two other pairs of safeties. Louis Watson and Jay Hughes were the second unit, alternating with Dee Arrington and Kendrick Market.

*Until he got hurt, Russell was having a very effective practice. Against that #1 line he wasn't fazed, finding TE Marcus Green open over the middle for a good gainer. He came back to find WR Jameon Lewis down the right sideline just behind S Watson. It wasn't a perfect throw but Lewis adjusted, catching while falling backwards with feet still inside the stripe.

Starting QB Chris Relf didn't have his best day throwing in 11-on-11. He ‘telegraphed' shot to the right flats that Watson intercepted; and a couple of snaps later it was CB Darius Slay getting his hands on a Relf throw for the sideline pick. These periods had each passer working a scripted number of plays, more than a true ‘drive'. Still Russell was more effective on more such series moving the ball. His first play of 11-man work saw Russell rushed hard up the middle, but he got the throw off to WR Chris Smith for not only a catch but a good move and breakaway touchdown.

To get the scripted snaps in the ball was re-spotted where Smith had made the grab. Russell connected with both Ricco Sanders and Devin Fosselman picking varsity coverage apart. #3 QB Dak Prescott followed suit nicely, as on his first turn he dumped one off to Lewis underneath. The #2 slot receiver caught it standing still but was up to speed immediately and gone for the easy touchdown.

During small-group drills Prescott was picked off LB Matt Wells, and on the last play of pass/skell drills backup LB McKinney intercepted a soft throw by Relf.

*Some of the best action came when running backs and fullbacks squared off with linebackers in pass protect/rush drills. Though the advantage generally belongs to the rusher there were some good examples of protection, such as when FB William Shumpert stonewalled redshirting LB McKinney. TB LaDarius Perkins and Wells had a furious fight to a draw, which of course was a win for protection. TB Robert Elliott, who admitted how as a freshman he had no clue this was part of the job, showed what time in the system does by holding off #1 MLB Brandon Wilson.

Some young backs are better at it than others, too. Redshirt Josh Robinson used his stocky stance to shut down #1 OLB Cameron Lawrence yards short of the target. TB Nick Griffin didn't do so well his first turn, getting beat by Wells. But next time-up, he won the war with LB Christian Holmes.

And Lawrence got his own back later, too, essentially ‘carrying' Shumpert into the ‘passer' dummy target.

*The ‘bull-in-ring' period was about twice as long Tuesday as before. Not only that, but was twice as active with two offensive players matching on two defenders, albeit in separate contests. Doubling up the fun, one could say.

*With WR Brandon Heavens not practicing Tuesday, for unreported reasons, the H-slot receiver depth chart has opened up for youngsters to take more turns in backup of starter Chad Bumphis. Lewis was running #2 most often but redshirt Fosselman was utilized increasingly as well. Both produced in 11-on-11, too, with good routes run and catches made.

The wide receiver lined up on the same side as H was, in order, starter Smith, Ricco Sanders, and redshirt Joe Morrow. The solo split end rotation on the opposite side was starter Arceto Clark, Sam Williams, Robert Johnson, and Randy Moulds.

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