Making room was veteran LT Blaine Clausell, a 2011 veteran at that position who has run first-team up to now. Clausell stepped down to the second unit, and over to the right tackle for a few snaps before returning. Backup LT Joey Trapp spent the rest of the 11-on-11 hour at right tackle.
And it was a full hour, though just part of the longest single practice date of spring so far lasting three-and-a-quarter hours. Mullen called it a review sort of day, as the Bulldogs re-ran through much of the material seen last Friday during the full scrimmage. Mississippi State practiced in full pads today but without tackling, though everyone has had a quick Easter holiday break to recover. The team-on-team work began right at 6:00 and ended with the campus clock sounding 7:00, a long day considering everyone had assembled at 4:15.
Up to day-nine there had only been one change on the offensive line, last Thursday when former walk-on Ben Beckwith was promoted to #1 right guard in place of true freshman Justin Malone. That of course is the position Tobias Smith intends to play come fall and after recovery from September 2011 knee surgery. Smith still begins each practice in the rehab Pit but spends most of the session with line-mates. Dillon Day and spring transfer Dylan Holley are the first and second centers, with Gabe Jackson and Templeton Hardy the left guards.
The third line is RT Eric Lawson, RG Nick Redmond, C Corbin Stewart, LG Hunter Cunningham, and LT Justin Senior.
The full-team session was scripted plays only, without any drives. The competition seemed to come out with neither offense nor defense having any real advantage, though Mullen could not have been satisfied with a few turnovers by QB Tyler Russell. Each was by the first defense, to be exact by CB Corey Broomfield as twice he got in front of a Russell pass and got the pick. Still the coach didn't get openly annoyed; in fact Mullen appeared to enjoy most of what he was watching by the first and second units on both sides of the ball.
The play calling leaned towards passing, and there was a good bit of catching too. First-team WRs Arceto Clark and Chris Smith made their daily quota of solid grabs, and senior WR Chad Bumphis had a couple of impressive plays in traffic. Ditto for TE Malcolm Johnson who has to be considered a spring MVP for the offense. Both Russell and #2 QB Dak Prescott also continued making good use of their running backs in shorter routes.
Russell threw once for WR Jameon Lewis in a crowd and the intended receiver paid for it as LB Deonte Skinner and S Jay Hughes arrived on either side at the same time. Hughes got too ambitious covering Bumphis on the other sideline though, missing Russell's throw for an easy catch and 80-yard run. Russell caught the defense flowing one way by bootlegging the other, though DE Preston Smith and CB Darius Slay were clearly itching to take a shot at the quarterback.
The first turnover came on a Prescott throw into the middle with CB Taveze Calhoun coming over for a pick and return.
Special teams got the first few periods of attention, beginning with punting, protection, and fielding. The usual suspects—Bumphis, Heavens, Banks, and Slay—got to catch the kicks and semi-return against a scout squad. Then it was time for kicking off and covering, again with scout teamers mostly.
State will practice again Thursday at 4:15, then hold a game-type scrimmage Friday evening with a very MSU-like game time of 6:00.
After practice Mullen met with media to go over the day's impressions. "At this point we have everything kind of installed. So it's not new stuff we're teaching that they have to do, everything is kind of review. So it is really a time to see who can grasp and do what. I've talked to John (Hevesy) about it, I don't know what the exact rotation was going to be. He and I have been together so long I trust what he's doing. He's just trying to mix and match some guys."
"And you have to have guys dual-ready if we're going to play our best. So try to get our best five on the field at all times. Some guys are going to be a starter at one position and potentially a bacup at another one."
Q: Is offensive line as open as any area right now? "Yeah. And it's open in the two-deep sense right now. Not only is it open for the starters, but who is the next guy on to the field; who is our third tackle, who is our third guard, who is our second center? You have to minimally have that. And that is what we're really trying to find out."
Q: With the versatility of the linebackers are you more comfortable doing some things? "Yeah, because there is a little bit more experience there. And there is actually for the first time since I've been here some depth I think at that position. I don't want to say there's six or seven feel we comfortable on the field yet because they might not be that deep experienced on game day. But when you watch the practice tape the separation from the top ‘backer to the seventh is pretty minimal. And that is where you want to be as a team, we don't want a big separation.
"And it allows you some flexibility, to potentially move some guys in different places."
Q: Does having Cam Lawrence back there help with the confidence? "Well, it helps when you look at a guy like Cam who has got experience, who has played a bunch of football. Deonte Skinner has now played a bunch of football, some other guys have gotten reps. I think when you do that they can feed off each other, the confidence feeds off each other. And the competition is pretty stiff, that if you don't play at a high level you're going to be out of that rotation pretty quickly. And you might be out of the two-deep rotation quickly."
Q: How do you think the offense responded after Friday's scrimmage? "Good and bad. There was a lot of teaching things, and a lot of things we were trying to get cleaned-up. Tyler had a good day at times, he missed a couple of reads. But I guess one of the hard things, as a casual observer you say that was a heck of a throw, he completed a pass…but he actually missed the read off the play. So those are things for consistency purposes you have to get cleaned up."
Q: Was there much review today of those things from Friday? "Yeah, I think there was a lot. Installation ended, we had a scrimmage, so it is really getting back to a lot of basics. A lot of almost our first and second day stuff that you've gotten a little work at, not a lot. I think we got back to some of those things today and it was good to see. We've got a lot of stuff to clean up."
Q: Will you be in partial pads Thursday and full-contact Friday evening? "Yeah. As you go on in spring you have your big events, we have the coaches clinic coming up on Thursday so we'll have a lot of coaches out here. We'll run that practice like we always have, kind of a fundamentals, teaching practice for the coaches as well as for our players. We'll go the whole/part/whole, teach every little part of the individual drill again."
"And with the spring game coming up (April 21) and just the excitement that entails, that really takes up a Friday and a Saturday. I look at it right now for us as really just three big practices left. The two that are around the spring game and getting to guys to play, it will be a lot of peoples' first opportunity to see Dak Prescott out there playing, and Joe Morrow, and Josh Robinson run the ball on offense, and a lot of defensive guys out there making plays they haven't seen before."
"We've got to get those guys ready to play in that game and take a day to do that. So it's really the three big days, which will be Friday-Tuesday-Thursday."
Q: Do you have any thoughts on Bobby Petrino being out at Arkansas? "That's a shame. Bobby is a heck of a football coach, a really good football coach. I have tremendous respect, one of the great offensive minds in college football. It's a shame, I guess it's part of the life we live as coaches the spotlight we live in. You're held at an extremely high standard, and it's just a shame for him. Not only is it something that can devastate a family, which obviously to me is a much bigger concern; but also a career and a dream that you have, that obviously he was living being a football coach in the SEC."