Wednesday Bowl-Dog Practice Report

The boss was away, but it wasn't time the Bulldogs to play. With Coach Dan Mullen out of town with recruiting duty, the Mississippi State staff made sure Wednesday was for work as Gator Bowl practices pick up pace.

Even moving the afternoon session indoors for chilly conditions didn't take any edge off the activity. The Bulldogs went about business as seriously as ever, attending to a lengthy to-do list that began with punting coverage and ended with a vigorous round of team-on-team competition. Including, sometimes, a little tackling as the assistant staff—headed this day by line coach John Hevesy taking his turn—gave a lot of leash in such things.

For that matter Mullen's statements at the start of camp, that the first week would focus largely on non-varsity players and units…was largely not true Wednesday. Or at least not until the 11-on-11 periods began. Up to then this looked a lot like practicing in mid-August, preparing for a season as the first teams and alternates ran through all the regular drills. In full-padding, too. However if the elder Dogs seemed to know better when they could check-up on a play, well, that made sense. No starter was taking unnecessary injury chances at this point in the calendar.

That was for the youngsters eager to make a pre-spring impression on their coaches. Or, in a lot of cases, a reaction to finally getting to operate the real offense or defense after a long three months of scout teaming.

The varsity did operate short-handed in some settings though. QB Tyler Russell is practicing in a heavy imobiliser-type brace wrapped around the right leg from the ankle injured late in the Egg Bowl to above the knee. The starting quarterback watched warmups from the sideline bicycle, though holding a football in the left hand while wheeling away. Russell did take part later on in some passing drills, one-on-one usually; having a braced leg didn't impact his strong arm of course but not being able to shift and plant took something off Russell's accuracy throwing to the left side. To the right he was pretty much right-on target such as finding WR Brandon Heavens in front of CB Taveze Calhoun.

This left Dak Prescott with the heaviest quarterback workload and the second-year freshman benefitted from the extra snaps in both running and passing situations. He even took advantage of the no-touch green jersey to scramble for forty yards on one busted play. Prescott threw some sharp balls to the right side as well, such as when WR Chris Smith got behind CB John Banks with S Nickoe Whitley not coming over in support. Though on one shot at WR Ricco Sanders was broken up by Calhoun ripping the ball out of the target's hands.

WR Arceto Clark made his passer look good by going up over CB Corey Broomfield from behind and wrestling the ball away for a catch. Later it was WR Jameon Lewis making two nice jumping grabs, once under pressure from redshirt safety Quadry Antoine. Quarterbacks Jamil Golden and Steven Swindle, and a couple other walk-ons, handled second- and third-team work…and found out the hard way the green shirt is no security to a walk-on. Such as when Golden pulled the ball down to scramble, got downfield nicely, and was run up into the Palmeiro Center wall for his pains.

Also missing the day were RB Nick Griffin, who hurt his right knee in practice this week and was also wearing a wrap-brace today while watching. He still wears a sleeve on the left knee that he hurt in spring 2011. His exact status remains unspecified pending Mullen's official comment. Instead of giving starter LaDarius Perkins more snaps, the carries went to backups Josh Robinson—who broke a clean 50-yarder through left guard in 11-on-11 work—or Derrick Milton, or workhorse walk-on Kasey Akins.

Freshman CB Xavier Grindle remains sidelined by his preseason knee injury. The only practice casualty Wednesday was #2 left guard Ben Beckwith, who went down during full-team play with a hurting right knee. WR Joe Morrow, with a sleeve on his knee for nagging tendinitis, limped back to huddles after plays but was running well during them.

LB Christian Holmes got to play his new, for now, position of tight end. He even caught a ball later on in team-vs-team drills. Holmes along with redshirt Gus Walley rounds out the tight end pack with starters Marcus Green and Malcolm Johnson, and backups Brandon Hill and Rufus Warren.

The real fun came in 11-on-11 by the second and third, and even reserve teams, because whistles were slow and contact aggressive. There wasn't a lot of true tackling beyond straight running plays into the interior; though had the defense been turned loose some backs would have paid for well-read option plays that generally had tacklers arriving along with the pitch. A few time young defensive tackles Nick James and Quay Evans barely checked-up before dropping Prescott or Golden on well-read bootlegs. They settled for grabbing the quarterback and spinning him by his shirt.

With the varsity watching from sideline safety, the first defensive front playing had tackles Evans and P.J. Jones with ends Ryan Brown and Preston Smith. The next line was tackles James and Curtis Virges, ends A.J. Jefferson and Torrey Dale; with a third grouping of tackles Nelson Adams and Jordan Washington, ends Shane McCardell and Corvell Harrison-Gay.

At linebacker, redshirt Richie Brown stepped in as middle with Beniquez Brown and either Ivan Muniz or Zack Jackson outside. For depth, veteran Matt Wells worked with the young units quite a bit. There is no official camp roster yet so some jersey numbers didn't match the helmet numbers in the secondary, leading to a few outright guesses here. What mattered to observers were where redshirted frosh were fitting in for now.

After backup safeties Dee Arrington, Louis Watson, and Kendrick Market, rookies rotated regularly. First on the field, usually, were Antoine and Deontay Evans with Deandre Ward getting turns too. Behind the second-cornerbacks combo of Jamerson Love and Calhoun were, respectively, Cedric Giles and Will Redmond.

There were no changes to the first or second offensive lines noticed. Redshirts Cole Carter and Devon Desper worked with the third unit at right tackle and center respectively, with Daniel Knox the third right guard and Justin Senior third left tackle.

Kickoff work saw the first and second teams going full-blast, repeatedly; perhaps the most tiring work of the day for the varsity. During punt receiving drills rookie Brandon Holloway was called over late in the period to field a kick, but the horn blew before he got the chance today. There will be other opportunities this month in that area and Holloway got lots of snaps at #3 slot receiver while fellow redshirt Fred Brown ran at split end.

Thursday's practice is scheduled for outside with slightly warmer and sunnier conditions forecast. It is also open to the public, one of just four such sessions this bowl camp.

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