Spring Practices Resume For Second Week

Mississippi State resumed spring practicing Tuesday with the fifth session of this camp. Conditions weren't ideal for late March, as a wicked north wind not only kept everyone chilled but impacted some passing and kicking work. Things are expected to be much more comfortable when work resumes Thursday afternoon.

No new injuries were noticed for the start of week-two. The first-team defensive tackles Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones remained restricted as they have been all camp so far. Though they aren't made to wheel the bicycle or work the rehab slope the entire practice. When finished with the regimen they join the defensive line as observers and part-time coaches. Cheerleaders, even.

Better news was the return to drills of some gimpy Dogs. TE Brandon Hill was back to taking some snaps with the first offense in alternation with starter TE Malcolm Johnson. TE Gus Walley also was again running routes in drills, though not in full-team play very often. WR Fred Ross was slowed last week by a toe; Tuesday he was back in the wideout rotation, along with redshirt Shelby Christy.

*OLB Ferlando Bohanna was dressed for practice, complete with the special padding on his helmet. He participated in warmups but that was about the extent of the senior's work as he is carefully monitored after those 2013 concussions.

*The news regarding the first-team offense and defense was…there was no real news. Both #1 teams were unchanged from the squads seen Saturday, at least when operating out of base sets.

But, as also had been noticed during week-one, there are a few positions where second-team players have been taking snaps with starters. Most notably at cornerback, which is an unusually deep part of the roster now. Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun are, so far, secure in first-team status after coming up so strong at the end of 2013.

With those two known quantities the coaches are testing their immediate backups now against the #1 offense, and both Will Redmond and Cedric Jiles have performed well. The question now is not so much who backs up or more likely alternates with who; but which will emerge as the ‘nickel' corner in that sort of set. Which it needs noting has not been practiced in 11-on-11 through the first five days. With increased contact work ahead it's likely some nickel sets will be seen with either cornerbacks or safeties. Add in more backups, soph Tolando Cleveland and redshirt Jahmere Irvin-Sills, and the competition on the corners is excellent this spring.

*One backup move for spring was putting S Quadry Antoine at linebacker, the ‘smaller' outside slot behind starter Matthew Wells and alternate Zach Jackson. Interestingly, for interior running drills Tuesday he was taking some turns with first-team ‘backers MLB Benardrick McKinney and OLB Beniquez Brown.

*Nothing has changed with the first offensive squad through five practice days. It is the second squad where some mix-and-match tests are taking place, foremost at both offensive tackles. Last week in full-team periods the usual—but not always—order was Jake Thomas as #2 right tackle and ColeCarter at left. Tuesday the order was reversed with converted TE Rufus Warren taking the first turn at second RT, and veteran Justin Senior at LT.

*At running back it is still too early to claim the order has settled after #1 Josh Robinson, who was moving around fine Tuesday after tweaking the right ham a little Saturday. For what it was worth, Ashton Shumpert took more snaps with the #1 line and Nick Griffin with the second squad, though both swapped order repeatedly. In the interior running drills, which is the ground game's version of pass/skel with 7-on-7 matchups, Shumpert did the tough work with the first offense.

Brandon Holloway continues to work exclusively at running back, at least when not involved with punt return work. He and WR Jameon Lewis fielded all the Tuesday punts.

*And it was quite a task, too. P Devon Bell has been killing his kicks in camp regardless of conditions, but Tuesday he had a wind at his back and used it well. Save, for one hurried attempt that was shanked—relatively speaking because it still went 25 or so yards. But when Bell got his full foot into the ball, which was snapped from the 15, it ended up once on the other 25 yard line and the next time at the 20.

*QB Dak Prescott is the primary placekick holder based on experience and reliability. Tuesday, his backup QB Damian Williams took some turns too.

*As to quarterback work, it was interesting Tuesday that for interior ground-game work Prescott and QB Nick Fitzgerald were the triggermen; while Williams was on the other end of the field for the passing drills.

*Whoever threw the ball, usually Prescott, it was Lewis doing just what he did so well last season. He has been almost automatic catching the over-middle routes and his quarterbacks aren't shy about leaving their throws a little high. That's how sticky Lewis' hands have been in snagging hard, flat passes in-stride.

*The defensive secondary may be a little weary of Lewis' prowess, though. On the first catch of pass/skel S Kendrick Market put the receiver down after a fine catch, just to keep him honest. Market paid a price later though as WR De'Runnya Wilson worked him over for a sideline catch from Prescott.

Wilson had the most unusual catch of the day, too. One Prescott throw on an out-route was behind his target and S Justin Cox deflected it…right to Wilson who was just making his late turn and found the ball in his hands before he even knew he had it. Wilson reacted well though and spun for a good gain after his unexpected grab.

*After being shuffled aside by the outstanding Friday and Saturday work from WR Joe Morrow, WR Fred Brown came back strong Tuesday. He adjusted on a long throw, into the wind, by Fitzgerald, and under contact from DB Brandon Davis made an excellent falling-back catch for at least 40 yards.

*Thursday's practice is set for 4:00, and on Friday the Bulldogs go at 2:50 or so. If Coach Dan Mullen's first five springs are an indication, Thursday will have plenty of full-contact periods before a somewhat softer Friday. That is to build up for the 11:15 am Saturday scrimmage at Scott Field.


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