Bulldogs Report for Fall Camp

Maybe Ma Nature is trying to play a trick. It couldn't be just a coincidence that the same day Mississippi State football players reported for the start of August camp the weather turned strangely Septemberish.<P> But the Bulldogs oughtn't be fooled by the uncommonly comfortable conditions. Everyone involved understands that this preseason will be a hot time all around as Coach Sylvester Croom tries to get the MSU program back up to steam, starting Saturday morning.

On Thursday, Croom and staff welcomed players to campus as varsity and rookies alike reported to the Shira Complex. This included the handful of Bulldogs who had not already spent part or all their summer on campus in school. By the 5:00 team meeting almost the entire roster had checked in.

A number of players did not show, however, including five of State's 2004 signees. That number should shrink soon, though, as a couple of true freshmen are expected to arrive by next week.

As reported previously, all-state linebacker Rory Johnson of Vicksburg, Miss., did not report. The Vicksburg High standout did not meet freshman eligibility standards and will instead enroll at Hinds Community College.

Also taking a detour is Kenny McClellan of Tulsa, Okla. The all-around athlete was signed as a wide receiver but did not qualify and will likely go the junior college route also.

However, one of State's two JC signees also did not qualify. Linebacker/safety Damien Huren of Amite, La., did not meet SEC transfer requirements. He reportedly will now enroll at Southeastern Louisiana after playing two seasons at Southwest Mississippi Comm. College.

Two other rookies are being delayed by some final paperwork. Running back Brandon Thornton of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and defensive back Fred Akines of Clarksdale, Miss., are both supposed to report during the first week of camp after NCAA clearances are received.

Another freshman, linebacker Titus Brown of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was cleared just prior to reporting date and checked in on schedule.

In all, Croom should have 17 high school and one junior college signee for this first fall camp out of the 21 February signees. There is also one late addition in the form of transfer Brian Staley, a defensive back from Georgia Military College. Staley was a prep star in Aiken, South Carolina. He attended Georgia Military College out of high school, playing two seasons. After his freshman juco year he signed with Clemson but did not qualify and stayed at GMC. A two-time all-America cornerback, he has two seasons of college elilgibility.

All of the newcomers reported in practice condition, with the exception of defensive back Corey Spells. The Atlanta, Ga., standout has cracked a bone in his left foot this summer. His condition for this freshman season is doubtful for now.

Meanwhile the varsity reported on the same day as the newcomers, under NCAA regulations that went into effect in 2003. There are no more freshman practices.

There were some names missing from the spring varsity roster. Wide receiver Antonio Hargro, suspended after a summer incident at his Gautier, Miss., home, has now been dismissed from the squad. A senior, Hargro played in 29 games over the last four seasons with two starts at flanker in 2002. He had nine catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. His scores came in '02 against Arkansas and last fall at Tennessee. His summer suspension became a dismissal this month.

Also not reporting for camp were offensive tackle James Redmond and defensive end Roosevelt Tate. Both were declared academically ineligible for the fall semester back in June, but are expected to attempt to rejoin the roster for spring.

The Bulldogs will spend Friday getting pre-semester business taken care of, particularly the freshmen. The first practice is 8:00 a.m. Saturday, in shorts. The NCAA's revised camp schedule mandate the first five days have single practices only; the first two in shorts-and-headgear, then shoulder pads added for two more days, and full-gear on the fifth. The first true ‘two-a-day' day is a week from now, Thursday the 12th, and there are no consecutive two-a-day sessions. So State will alternate in a 2-1-2-1-2-1 schedule through the 17th.

The fall school semester begins on the 18th, and from then on all practices are one-a-day. Also, once school is in session Croom will have to give the team a day off each week. MSU practices are closed, including the lone scheduled August scrimmage.

David Murray is the Editor of Dawgs' Bite magazine and the featured writer for the Dawgs Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. You can contact him by email at dawgbite@ebicom.net.

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