Bulldogs Get To Work In Full Pads

It wasn't supposed to be a real tackle; practices have not reached the full-contact stage just yet. But maybe enthusiasm got the better of Ferlando Bohanna. That, or getting to work in armor for the first time. Because after tailback Nick Griffin caught the swing pass, the linebacker couldn't resist riding him to the turf. For no gain, at that.

There wasn't much important about this otherwise insignificant moment in Mississippi State's third working day of spring camp. Other than it gave Coach Dan Mullen something to smile about. "Guys are practicing with energy and that's one thing we want."

The Bulldogs did have some energy Tuesday as camp resumed following a two-day break. It was also the first day in full pads for everyone and that gave a little edge to the afternoon. Which was not the same thing as efficiency; Mullen even called the work "sloppy" in some areas, though he added this could well have been caused by a lot of mixed lineups put on the field.

After just two introductory days, the Mississippi State staff was getting antsy to test a lot of players in all sorts of combinations. That almost assuredly led to some of the sloppiness which will show up on video review. Yet as Mullen said, this is the time of the football calendar to line youngsters up and snap the ball and see who can perform…and hopefully earn playing time in fall, or at least a spring promotion.

Another factor Tuesday were a few missing faces with existing injuries and new illness. Both redshirt freshmen tailbacks, Josh Robinson and Derek Milton, were missing with flu symptoms and some active Dogs didn't seem at 100% strength themselves. Even Mullen had a scratchy throat, though he blamed lack of off-season preparation for the yelling required for camp.

The re-hab crew were still OG Tobias Smith, S Nickoe Whitley, and DS Reed Gordon, though after missing two days TE Rufus Warren did return to regular work. Half-way through the day #1 CB Corey Broomfield trotted to the Pit, for no given reason.

Though not a contact session specifically, Mullen invested a good half-hour or more in 11-on-11 competition. There were no drives as such, the ball always coming back to the 20-yard-line for the next snap. But that gave the offense room to operate and it did, first and second units alike. QB Tyler Russell did more handing off today than the first two days and that worked pretty well. Such as when he read a blitz and called a draw for TB LaDarius Perkins that broke for the distance. Perkins would go on another 80-yard dash later in the session on a routine crack of left guard.

#2 QB Dak Prescott made a nice read and threw underneath for WR Ricco Sanders coming across, and nobody was there to support the rest of the way. Griffin got even for being tackled, too, as he turned a bounce out left into a breakaway run. Neither varsity quarterback was intercepted in team work, though Russell got greedy on a deep out for WR Arceto Clark. CB John Banks and S Louis Watson combined for the breakup.

Just in case the offense was getting cocky, the third team defense took their shot at reserve TB Jimmy Perry. Figuring a 20-yard gainer was enough the unit gang-tackled the walk-on.

Initially there were no changes to either the first or second offensive teams, save for working Warren in for some backup snaps at tight end. There was one early adjustment to the defense, as Broomfield's place was taken by CB Darius Slay with the first unit. Linebacker Deonte Skinner got to work with the first squad in team-on-team snaps. He was alternating with Matthew Wells. Later it would be Chris Hughes stepping in at first outside ‘backer as well.

There was even some testing at middle linebacker. Benardrick McKinney began there before OLBs Cameron Lawrence and Skinner took some turns lined up at mike, or at least that general area. Bohanna was working the middle with both first and second units depending on the snap count.

Towards the end of a scripted series, first DE Shane McCardell would yield to junior transfer Denico Autry. In another package both stayed on the field for the pass rushing speed, with #1 DE Kaleb Eulls moving inside. But McCardell didn't last long. When he missed an assignment, which WR Chris Smith was able to turn into a sideline catch and 80-yard touchdown run, defensive line coach Chris Wilson shouted to Autry that he'd just gotten a promotion.

Curtis Virges and Josh Boyd remain the first defensive tackles, backed officially by Dwayne Cherrington and Devin Jones. But this was a good day to work true spring freshman Quay Evans and true soph P.J. Jones in with the second unit, and they got healthy quota of snaps in the process. The third d-line even saw end Corvell Harrison-Gay working as a tackle.

Following practice Mullen met with media.

Q: What was your impression of practice? "OK. It was sloppy at times today, but we're getting so many different guys reps out there. You're going ones, twos, threes. You really have to evaluate it on film for the relevant improvement of certain players. And that's what we'll see when we watch the film."

Q: Any disappointing moments? "No, like I said you have to see it on film. Because you could have a fourth-string walk-on in there that went the wrong way on a play and it looks bad. But I don't think that is going to affect us winning and losing games next year. So that is what we have to evaluate and make sure who is improving, who is getting themselves ready to play. And you can teach off those moments."

"I think when you do have so many guys get reps. On offense or defense in a game 22 to 25 are getting reps. In a practice today fifty are getting reps on both sides of the ball. So you have to teach and learn."

Q: How did some younger guys do in their first contact work? "We'll watch it on film. I hope they liked it! I didn't see anybody who didn't like it, if you don't this isn't the sport for you! But they're going to put their face on you and run around people. Guys are practicing with energy and that's one thing we want."

Q: Are you managing the reps for the two quarterbacks as planned? "It's good. We haven't really got into it or got going yet. You look at practice right now and I don't think it's very stressful. And the fact we get a day off between really helps. And Sam Cowart is out here to hand the ball off some times and that gives them a little breather. That will help as we keep going."

Q: How did the intensity of practice change with pads on? "Well, there is a little getting-used-to. I mean you're slower getting out here in practice, you've been running out here with just your helmet. So you're adjusting your pads and getting used to it. I think that adjustment always comes in this first day. But I do like how our older guys take a lead and our younger guys are really trying to follow that lead, to keep tempo, keep the energy, keep the effort up at practice."

Q: How is Denico Autry making the adjustment? "Good. I mean, that's a guy that we've got to get ready to play. He's a real good athlete and once he figures it out, you've got to know the scheme, and gets down his fundamentals and not just play on raw athletic ability, as he does that he'll have the opportunity to make real significant improvement."

"So some of the guys that have gotten less reps in the past are going to get a lot more reps in the spring so they can get caught-up so that we're ready to go when we come around to the season."

Q: With Fletcher Cox gone how do you see Josh Boyd making that adjustment? "You know, he has to. He is the guy that they all look to on the defensive line, and really one of the guys they look to on the whole defense. And he's got to do it by himself up-front there now. So that is a new role for him. But I think he was a decent leader for us last year even though he had more help in that position. He's to being a guy inside for us."

Q: You had some guys sick or banged-up? "They'll all go. Some guys have the flu today so they're out sick. And there's some bumps and bruises but nothing much."

Q: You sound a little hoarse, too? "I've got to get my voice in shape for camp, right? I guess I've got to yell at the staff more in off-season so I can train and be ready to go."

Spring practice resumes with a Thursday afternoon session in full pads, beginning around 4:30.


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