Bulldogs Take Advantage of Cool Conditions

Coach Sylvester Croom might have thought he was in a time-warp when he came to work Thursday morning. With a heavy overcast and temperatures in the 70s, conditions seemed more suited to training camp in Wisconsin than preseason in Mississippi.

"I had the full UnderArmor on today," admitted the coach, who welcomed the uncharacteristic cold front blowing through the South. "One of the players was chastising me for being soft! But it was a little cool this morning, it felt exactly like Green Bay."

Even when the sun came back out and afternoon conditions warmed up, the head coach still felt good about the first day of two-a-day drills for the Bulldogs. "I thought we worked better," Croom said. "We've had two good days of work, we're working hard. We're still learning about ourselves as individuals and as a football team. Some people are still improving."

Thursday also marked the start of full-contact drills. But all the serious hitting took place in the earlier segments as the Bulldogs worked in full-pads in the morning, then in shorts and shoulder pads in the afternoon.

"We're trying to do our pad practice in the morning, just in case we have afternoon showers and that kind of thing," Croom explained. "If it did rain we could go inside the Shira Center or to the Sanderson Center and have walk-throughs."

There was one position change Thursday. Junior transfer tight end Rob Walker worked there in the morning, then in the afternoon switched to the other side of the ball at defensive end. The coaching staff had asked Walker to consider a change to shore up overall depth. "Rob's a very powerful man and has a lot of talent, he can play a lot of positions," Croom said. "But we have an immediate need in the defensive line and feel he can help us there."

Also, Croom has been gaining confidence in how the tight end position is lining up with progress from Eric Butler, Dezmond Sherrod, and Blake Pettit now that the latter is back to full strength after an early-camp illness. During the week Croom also praised the pass-catching talents of Ty Freeman and said he would be used in throwing situations this season.

New to the injury list was #3 fullback Bryson Davis with a hamstring. #2 fullback Nick Signaigo was late to the afternoon session with a muscle pull. #1 right offensive guard Will Rogers, who Croom said the day before had been the most consistent blocker in camp thus far, hurt his left ankle in the morning and watched afternoon drills wearing a protective boot. Redshirt Royce Blackledge moved up to the first unit in the interim.

Left offensive guard Johnny Wadley was allowed to skip the morning practice and reported for limited duty in the afternoon as the coaches take every caution with his recovering left ankle and sore knees. He only watched the late workout with Brian Anderson taking his place and David Price working some second-team. The line got a brief scare when #2 center Avery House went down in the afternoon holding his left ankle. Minutes later he was back in action.

Linebacker and Jacksonville, Fla., native Anthony Littlejohn went down late in the afternoon from, oddly enough, overheating. He was carried back to the locker room and will be fine.

Also not practicing were wide receiver McKinley Scott, punter Jared Cook, and rookie running back Demarcus Johnson, all with nagging hamstrings. Cook expects to be kicking the ball on Friday.

Wide receiver Ray Ray Bivines continues to miss workout days with after-effects from last season's severe leg injury. And defensive end Stephen Arant remains out of uniform with a left shoulder injury. Linebacker Clarence McDougal was back for the morning practice with a heavily taped right hand after dislocating a finger in Thursday's session.

Rookie defensive back Fred Akines was dressed in shorts for the morning drills while the rest of the team was in pads. Akines, just admitted yesterday as a rare partial-qualifier, will not play this season. And he cannot participate in regular practices until after his own five-day acclimation period that the rest of the team has already gone through per NCAA regulations. So Akines was in street clothes for the afternoon.

Also, late Thursday came unofficial word that running back Brandon Thornton has been cleared for admission. He was expected to join the team Friday, though, like Akines, the freshman will still have to put in the five preliminary days.

State will have a single morning practice Friday, running from 8:00 to 10:30, then hold the second two-a-day sessions Saturday. Croom has planned to give the Bulldogs their first day-off on Sunday, prior to Monday and the last of three two-a-day dates.

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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