Bulldogs Get Back To Spring Camp Work

Mississippi State returned to work after a short Easter Weekend break, holding a two-and-a-half hour session Tuesday. The full-pads practice was the fifth date of spring, and according to Coach Dan Mullen's original plan was another installation-type day.

Tuesday also produced the first noteworthy change to the Bulldog offense of early camp. In the two-minute period to begin practice junior Damien Robinson was promoted to first-team at right tackle and senior Charles Siddoway moved down to the second unit. Robinson was still with the number-ones when the day ended in 11-on-11 competition.

The rest of the first team was unchanged with RG Justin Malone, C Dillon Day, LG Gabe Jackson, and LT Blaine Clausell. On the second squad it was Devon Desper, Dylan Holley, Ben Beckwith, and Justin Senior.

Mississippi State continues to focus on a four-receiver scheme in spring. The first grouping has Jameon Lewis in the slot with Robert Johnson the wideout on his side and Joe Morrow split on the opposite end with TE Malcolm Johnson. The second rotation today was Brandon Holloway in the slot beside WR Jeremey Chappelle, with TE Brandon Hill and WR Fred Brown on the other side.

The defensive front has been filled by all sorts of combinations already this spring whether in drills or live snaps. So calling any different faces in places a ‘change' might presume too freely. But when the first defense lined up Tuesday it was with Preston Smith at left defensive end instead of Ryan Brown. Denico Autry remains the other first end with Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones at tackles.

The real guessing-game is who takes second and third turns at tackles as coordinator Geoff Collins and Coach David Turner group guys for evaluations at-will or by-whim. The tackle who has been on an uptick since last week though is Quay Evans with a lot more second-team snaps and even a few first-team turns. Redshirt Nelson Adams was on the #2 group today more often than Curtis Virges, who gets paired a lot now with soph Nick James in a really big pair of tackles.

Joining Brown on the second-end pair was A.J. Jefferson; they were alternating with Torrey Dale and Jordan Washington, while John Harris and Corvell Harrison-Gay were the next tandem.

Having moved up to first-team last week, LB Chris Hughes was still there when Tuesday began. It ended with Matthew Wells rotating in at that outside position, as the competition stays tight. Ivan Muniz is their third man on that side. The other OLB job lines up with Deontae Skinner, Zach Jackson, and Beniquez Brown; while in the middle it remains Benardrick McKinney, Ferlando Bohanna, and Richie Brown.

In opening full-team defensive drills the first corners were Jamerson Love and Will Redmond; though the day ended with Cedric Jiles returning to #1 team with Love and Redmond paired with either Justin Cox or Kivon Coman. Nothing changed from Saturday at safety as Nickoe Whitley and Jay Hughes are first team, Dee Arrington and Kendrick Market the twos, and redshirts Deonte Evans and Quadry Antoine third-pair.

All the defensive backs were kept busy in another day with lots, and lots, and lots more passes being thrown. It was a big drill-day for wide receiver F.Brown. In one-on-one period he whipped Cox on a slant pattern, then came back on a sideline route to beat Love. During seven-man drills he came down with a catch and spun-off CB Rishun McCaleb and into the clear. In the one-on-one Chappelle made a quick spin move to leave Coman helpless for a breakaway, and Morrow used his hands to get separation on Jiles for a catch and run.

The second play of seven-on-seven had Chappelle get between the free safety and cornerback for a home run haul. Holloway got to show his speed as he just ran away from Muniz after a catch. And Russell was rewarded by waiting for R.Johnson to make his break down the numbers ahead of Cox for a 80-yard touchdown.

It wasn't all offense though. A short flip over the middle by QB Sam Cowart ended up in Cox's hands for a touchdown return. Russell had a bad break when TE Gus Walley let the throw go off his hands; safety J.Hughes was right time-and-place to catch the carom and go the other way.

During this period the offensive and defensive front-sevens worked on the ground game, most of the rushing plays sweeps to one or the other side. RBs LaDarius Perkins, Josh Robinson, and Derrick Milton were able to get to a corner about one-third of these snaps as pursuit reacted well on the whole.

The full-team competition changed direction this day. After spending Saturday on red zone/goal line work going in, the offense was trying to come out from the 10 or 20 yard lines. So there were no drives, just situational plays and calls divided more evenly than usual among the first, second, and third teams. The standout in this period was slot receiver Lewis, with three catches in one sequence. Russell might have become too fond of working for Lewis as the defense made the receiver pay on an over-the-middle route.

Kickoff teams received some initial looks in day-five, with Lewis, Holloway, Love, Whitley, and others taking turn receiving. So far all punts have been caught by either Lewis or Whitley, though returns have not been seriously practiced. Mullen has focused more on finding who wants to cover punts and there's no lack of candidates. Especially at the ‘missile' jobs where Cox and Love have been the first pair consistently. Jiles and Redmond are the second twosome, then Coman and Holloway the thirds.

Mullen was not interviewed following Tuesday's practice. He will meet with media Thursday, the next working day with a 4:00 session scheduled. And Saturday brings the first full-scrimmage of spring, a noon event at Scott Field and open to the public.

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