Sunday Football Practice Notebook

Mississippi State held the final open practice of preseason Sunday, before the Bulldogs take their preseason work to the South Farm field on Monday. In fact managers were already loading up equipment for the transition before Sunday's work was done.

*As noted in the post-practice press conference a number of players were either sidelined or protected. OT Damien Robinson (meniscus) has yet to practice in August after what Coach Dan Mullen called a summer conditioning injury. He could be due to return by week-two. Robinson was almost equal with Charles Siddoway for first right tackle in spring and definitely in the three-man tackle rotation with Blaine Clausell.

DT P.J. Jones turned his left ankle during Saturday's practice but continued. Today he was in a boot and did not participate, instead doing conditioning drills like bike riding, turf-crawling on back and then stomach, and so on. He was joined by fellow #1 DT Kaleb Eulls, who Mullen said got beat-up at Saturday's practice and ought not miss much more work. WR Fred Ross (groin) was held out another day.

WR Fred Brown, challenging for one of the six top rotation jobs, was in a red jersey today, able to run routes and catch but not take any contact. He is protecting an injured hand that really does not seem that big an issue. WR Shelby Christy was also in a red jersey, reason unreported. And RB Nick Griffin did some rehab Sunday before watching the rest of the action.

*With the first two defensive tackles out, their places were taken on the first team by Curtis Virges and Quay Evans who are both being praised by their coach this weekend. This also allowed Nick James to move up to third team along with Nelson Adams.

*Chris Jones is making a fast impact as a freshman, taking second-team snaps at left defensive end today in full-team action.

*Even a record-setting quarterback is subject to the same practice policies as anyone. After throwing a poor pass, QB Tyler Russell dropped to the turf for some quick penalty push-ups. Of course some State coaches, most notably Deshea Townsend, will subject themselves to the same penalty in drills if they don't toss the ball well or whatever.

*There was only one interception Sunday, as Russell lost sight of LB Matt Wells on a flats pattern and put it right in the defender's numbers.

*Freshman QB Damian Williams will redshirt barring injuries ahead of him. He clearly has much to learn about not so much the sophistication of college offenses as what defenses can do at this level. Yet the kid has ability, most of all a powerful arm. During a drill LB Deontae Skinner read the passer and got in the way of a throw about ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Skinner jumped and got the ball but it had enough power behind it to rock even this 250-pounder in mid-air.

*Ross, who had a big opening day of his first college camp, is watching some of his classmates climbing the receiver depth charts already while he awaits return. As does Brown, a spring standout. The first receiver rotation remained Joe Morrow on the slot side with Jameon Lewis and Robert Johnson the tight end-side split end. The second such grouping was fast-rising frosh De'Runnya Wilson, slot Brandon Holloway, and Jeremy Chappelle; with a third rotation of Vance Kareems, either Michael Hodges or Taylor Hentr slot, and B.J. Hammond. Christy has taken turns when healthy at both slot and split, while Ross and Brown are split ends.

*Limited or not, Ross showed he could adjust to a poor throw by QB Sam Cowart. He reached back across made a one-handed grab. That leads to…

*…an absolute and encouraging fact about the next generation of Bulldog receivers is their obvious athleticism, as well as in many cases greater size and length. Wilson in particular stands out, no pun intended, and in getting to footballs shows why he is a solid basketball prospect too. Hammond, Christy, Chappelle, and Ross all stand taller than the graduated wideouts they are bidding to replace, and in a straight sprint are at least as fast and likely faster than any but Chad Bumphis. When they learn the college game their gifts will make them play faster yet.

*In one-on-one, Wilson used his skills for a turning, jumping catch despite having CB Tolanda Cleveland draped over his back. He later manhandled CB Gabe Myles on an underneath pattern for the catch. His best catch of all came with two defenders in contact on a 10-yard toss.

*And Chappelle simply scorched CB Jahmere Irvin-Sills on a deep post route for touchdown.

*But as noted Friday, and again Saturday, no receiver is having as good an early camp as Lewis. He and Russell are specializing in out-routes where Lewis has to reach for the throw, and somehow get a foot down in bounds. He did it twice in short order today even against a prepared defense. In fact the play only failed the third time because S Nickoe Whitley blatantly interfered with the receiver while in-air. Not that any flags were being thrown. Lewis even handled double-contact from CB Jamerson Love and LB Matt Wells both while still making the catch.

*Yet as a reminder about focus, given a very easy catch on a post route Lewis, who'd beaten everybody long, let it go off his hands. Probably he had too much time to think about the catch compared to his other good grabs.

*The first offensive line without Robinson remains RT Siddoway, RG Justin Malone, C Dillon Day, LG Gabe Jackson, LT Clausell. For now the second unit is Archie Muniz, Ben Beckwith (who can work either guard and center alike), Dylan Holley, Jamaal Clayborn, Justin Senior; and the third Cole Carter, Kent Flowers, Devon Desper, Weston Wagner, and Jake Thomas.

*The running backs order in drills was unchanged too, with old Dog LaDarius Perkins #1 as to be expected. Derrick Milton not only got the second turn during unit drills but worked with the first offense in 11-on-11 play. They were backed by Josh Robinson and very impressive frosh Ashton Shumpert, who is talented enough to make one wonder how even in such a well-stocked group if a freshman might have a chance. If nothing else, he is by-far the tallest running back in town, though that's not a high bar to beat.

*Perkins turned a hot-route flip from Russell into a go-the-distance run that recalled his Gator Bowl 2011 dash. It was even on the same side of the field.

*In a first-teams play, a linebacker forgot to cover TE Brandon Hill as he came off the right end. Russell saw it and delivered for the wide-open catch and touchdown.

*Big TE Rufus Warren came to play Sunday. He got away from LB Richie Brown in twos-on-two by a couple of strides for an easy catch at the 15-yard line and touchdown jog.

*During third-teams competition OLB Deandre Ward tried blitzing from the left (offense's right) side. It was a draw play and Shumpert hit the vacated zone immediately and was gone the distance.

*Fourth DT Corvell Harrison-Gay came up with the only offensive fumble, on a botched handoff by the third unit.

*After not coming up with a fine deep pass, albeit with defenders right in reach, WR Holloway smashed his helmet to the turf. After practice he ran a couple of back-and-forth gassers across the field, holding his helmet above head while doing so, before Coach Billy Gonzales walked him back to the door with arm-on-shoulder.

*DT James also had to do some post-practice running after letting his temper get the better of him a few times. Still the coaches like to see some emotion along with all that talent; getting a grip on both aspects can turn the sophomore into a monster.

*The Bulldogs were officially in just partial-pads for another day. It was easy to believe otherwise though as the game pants they wore Sunday have built-in fabric padding that look like the real thing. Full-contact, per NCAA rules, has to await the start of two-a-day drills.

*Practice site wasn't set until around 10:00am, and was moved indoors where Saturday's afternoon session was held. A baseball camp practice wrapped-up just in time for football to take over, though the big batting cage did occupy the northwest corner. Since only offensive linemen work in that area it wasn't in anyone's way. Fortunately.

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