Hughes in Jackson for JSU Talk; Staley Returns to Practice; Bulldogs Scrimmage for Half-Hour

Mississippi State is already down a couple of Bulldogs for Belk Bowl practices. Sunday, the coaching staff was short one member. Safeties Coach Tony Hughes was not present, and while no official statement was issued it is reported Hughes was meeting Jackson State’s administration.

Barring a late change of plan, Jackson State is expected to announce Monday that Hughes will become Tigers head coach. Hughes, 56, has been on Coach Dan Mullen’s staff from the beginning in 2009 coaching safeties and coordinating recruiting. A native of Forest, Miss., and Southern Miss graduate, he has coached 31 seasons in high schools and junior college as well as at all three major Mississippi universities.

This though would be his first head coaching job at any level. Asked about reports linking him to the Jackson State opening, Saturday Hughes said he had not spoken with anybody in their athletic department. But, “One day I would love to be a head football coach.”

Though no official comment is forthcoming from Mississippi State, it is expected Hughes will coach in the Belk Bowl. At today’s practice his position players were overseen by a graduate assistant.


HERE OR THERE: Also not present Sunday was starting safety Brandon Bryant. He was excused from Saturday’s practice to go home, following the death last week of his father in an accident. The funeral was to be early this week.

But back in town and with the team was QB Elijah Staley, having returned last night with Bulldog basketball. Staley was allowed to join the basketball team after the regular season ended to provide more practice depth and potentially play some game minutes for Coach Ben Howland’s short-handed squad. Staley did not play Saturday in the loss at Missouri-Kansas City.

Today Staley was running mostly with the #3 offense. Both head coaches confirm Staley will accompany his scholarship sport to the Belk Bowl, though basketball does have a game in that same week.

SIDELINED: Three days have not produced any noticed injuries, though there hasn’t been any true tackling yet either. The rehab pit still has just a couple of residents, both starters in RG Devon Desper and DT Nick James. DB Chris Stamps watches practices with a red jersey on. As previously reported also, senior starting DE Ryan Brown (foot surgery for stress fracture) and TE Gus Walley (concussions) are out for the bowl, and in Walley’s case probably his remaining career. Repeated concussions will likely have him moving onto a medical scholarship.

TAKE IT EASY: As early bowl camp days are about development for the future, lots of starters had short Sundays. Once practice transitioned to over a half-hour of team on team competition most seniors and some juniors stayed on the sideline. Such as, QB Dak Prescott, WRs De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross, DT Chris Jones, DE A.J. Jefferson, LBs Beniquez and Richie Brown.

This easy day didn’t extend to some starters. To have a competitive period required all healthy offensive linemen to stay busy, as well as the defensive secondary.

One of the few seniors seeing any serious snaps was sixth-year offensive lineman Damien Robinson. Having played almost exclusively on placekick teams this final season, Robinson is getting to work a good bit as a blocker to fill-out second or third lines. Except now he is doing so not as a tackle, but as a right guard…the position he was assigned way back in 2011 as a second-year freshman.

Also moving around a lot this camp is second-year OL Jocquell Johnson. Signed out of junior college as a tackle, he saw limited spring ’14 practice at guard before missing the season to fully heal from an old juco condition. This past year he practiced as the backup center. Now in bowl camp as a junior, Johnson has practiced again as a left guard…then today was going at both #3 center and #3 right tackle.

TRENCH MEN: With some starters excused, Sunday’s scrimmaging depth chart on the lines of scrimmage.

LEFT TACKLE: Rufus Warren, Martinas Rankin, Cole Carter, Devin Hadley

LEFT GUARD: Justin Malone, Ronald Cochran, Michael Story, Damien Robinson

CENTER: Jamaal Clayborn, Harrison Moon, Jocquell Johnson, Nick Proby

RIGHT GUARD: Deion Calhoun, Darryl Williams, Damien Robinson

RIGHT TACKLE: Justin Senior, Elgton Jenkins, Jocquell Johnson, Evan Wilkerson

LEFT DEFENSIVE END: Jonathan Calvin, Kendell Jones, walk-on

LEFT TACKLE: Cory Thomas, Fletcher Adams, Grant Harris

RIGHT TACKLE: Nelson Adams, Torrey Dale, Braxton Hoyette

LEFT DEFENSIVE END: Will Coleman, Anfernee Mullins

TEAM TIME: Mullen used the better-than-forecast Sunday weather to stay outside for practice, and get in a lot more 11-on-11 work than usual. There was one full period of 20 minutes team vs team, and when that ended Mullen had the clock reset to 15 more minutes of the same.

There wasn’t supposed to be real tackling just yet, but S Jamal Peters didn’t care. He put true freshman RB Nick Gibson to the turf with authority early in the period. After that one everyone played nice the rest of the full-team session… DT Braxton Hoyette bull-rushed OG Ronald Cochran far enough into the backfield to get his hands up and bat up a Fitzgerald pass. Hoyette very nearly caught the carom, too, with a diving attempt…

With Nick Fitzgerald still at QB the defense sent OLB Traver Jung blitzing from the right (offensive) side. Johnson picked that one up fine, but it left a huge hole for MLB Leo Lewis to blast through untouched and force Fitzgerald to throw it away… Fitzgerald did show some smarts on one messed-up play. New OC Harrison Moon apparently snapped both too soon and too low, which left Fitzgerald scooping the roller while everyone else remained in their stance. Even the defense froze in place. But not WR Gabe Myles, who went with the snap and rolled out left, where Fitzgerald smartly saw and delivered for a gain…

Fitzgerald was fortunate not to throw an interception later though. He put the ball behind WR Jesse Jackson on a quick outside hitter. CB Jamoral Graham read it, jumped the route and almost dug the low throw up off the turf for what would have been an easy six. Graham was so frustrated with himself he immediately flopped to the ground for push-ups… The only interception was of a Williams throw aimed low for WR Malik Dear. Too low for the target, but not for OLB J.T. Gray who made a fine diving scoop for the pick.

Mississippi State has two more days of open practices, before Wednesday closing camp to observers. The campus sessions end Saturday around noon, and the Bulldogs go on their Christmas break before the team travels to Charlotte on the 26th.

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