And not really a lot to all appearances. Mullen reminded that all evaluations must await his own review of the complete session. Still there did not seem to be many issues with how Mississippi State went through the Thursday regimen. If there was any impact it was on some passing drills immediately after the showers, because all these drills or matchups were held on a grass field.
Damp or dry surface, QB Tyler Russell was still able to deliver a good throw in most cases; it was the catchers keeping footing that caused problems, acerbated by some pretty strong pressure from the defender including hard chucks and outright holds. Whether it was his smallish size or whatever, WR Jameon Lewis seemed to have the least problems with making cuts and hauling in nice catches.
Redshirt WR Devin Fosselman just fell down on a hard cut once, but then so did senior WR Chris Smith on the same sort of move. WR Arceto Clark did make a slick stop-and-comeback for a Russell throw, only to have CB Darius Slay separate him from the ball. WR Sam Williams had better luck on a quick move, losing CB Taveze Calhoun for a catch.
With the basic rushing game in place, State was able to put some time into a few frills. Such as, the end-around that Mullen utilizes early and often in games. Most of the wide receivers got to take at least one turn with the ball, though the larger share went to slot men like Chad Bumphis, Brandon Heavens, and Lewis. This drill was also a good gauge of how well the running backs have progressed as blockers since they lead the way for the wideouts.
This was even more the case with a period of individual one-on-one work where linebackers and safeties rushed, and backs had to protect the dummy. Not surprisingly fullbacks had a better chance of holding off the defender for the requisite seconds, though walk-on Jimmy Perry found a simple solution: he grabbed CB Johnthan Banks with both hands and dragged him to the ground.
The linebackers had a heavy emphasis Thursday on coverage technique, whether to follow or let the receiver go. They got some expert advice in the art, too, as starting cornerbacks John Banks and Corey Broomfield participated in these drills to show some practical coverage clues.
After working his team in full gear Tuesday, Mullen changed the pace a bit with a shells practice (helmet and shoulder pads) session. Normally once the pads go on they stay on for several-straight practices. In this case though Mullen has planned a pretty physical Saturday so he relaxed things a little in that regard. Not that it kept the players from getting after each other anyway, especially in twenty good minutes of team-on-team situations for the last part of practicing.
OLB Cameron Lawrence separated WR Ricco Sanders from the ball on an underneath pattern, while on a sweep-left TB Nick Griffin decided to lower a shoulder and stick a walk-on linebacker hard at the sideline. TB Josh Robinson tried the same thing on a bounce around right end, but DB Kendrick Market got squared up in time for a clean stop.
The defense must have been sneaking a peak at the end-around drills. Because when Heavens tried it in full-team work the first defense swarmed him for a loss. #2 QB Dak Prescott didn't read coverage rightly as he was intercepted by LB Matt Wells.
The first and second offenses remain unchanged at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield after four days, as well as the first receiver rotation. The only noticeable difference Thursday was TE Brandon Hill getting more first-team snaps, as #1 TE Malcolm Johnson was excused early. Redshirt Rufus Warren moved up to the second unit in-turn.
The defense, or defenses, have done a lot more mixing-up of lineups to get an idea how parts can fit together before serious scrimmaging starts. Such as at linebacker, where Lawrence and Deonte Skinner are the first outside men while Benardrick McKinney has moved in front of Ferlando Bohanna. Wells and Chris Hughes were the second outside ‘backers, with Christian Holmes shuttling in for turns. Up front the depth chart is a little more defined with Josh Boyd and Curtis Virges the first tackles, P.J. Jones and Dwayne Cherrington their backups, and freshman Quay Evans working his way up.
Kaleb Eulls is set at one end while Shane McCardell did regain the first-team status today after a Tuesday demotion for juco Denico Autry. It's still a good competition there, with Preston Smith and John Harris trying to make their own moves. In the secondary Louis Watson and Jay Hughes are first safeties, backed by Market and Dee Arrington with Zach Jackson third. Jackson had been considered for moving to a light linebacker spot in spring but for now stays at safety.
Both kick coverage teams are taking shape early on for punting and kickoffs. Fielding those kicks were Bumphis and Lewis on both, with tailbacks LaDarius Perkins and Robinson on kickoff return among others. With Gordon out, Winston Chapman took care of punt snapping.
Nobody was missing Thursday due to illness, after flu sidelined some players Tuesday. The re-hab crew were still OG Tobias Smith, S Nickoe Whitley, and DS Reed Gordon.
Full gear goes on again for Saturday with a hitting session set for around 11:00 on the practice fields. It won't be entirely contact, Mullen said, as there must still be unit drills this early in a spring.
"It's one of those that we'll scrimmage, kind of near the end. But it will be more of a regular practice with a little scrimmaging at the end."