Bulldogs Open Single Workouts in the Afternoon

Two-a-days are over. The preseason most definitely is not, says Coach Sylvester Croom.

"As far as I'm concerned camp goes through next week," the Mississippi State head coach said at the conclusion of Tuesday's practice. "Saturday will be our first scrimmage, and the way I planned it the end of camp will be the end of next week. That will be the end of our installation, all scrimmaging will be done, and we'll start getting ready for Tulane."

Until then, the Bulldogs might as well act—and practice—as if camp has not broken. Even with the end of two-a-days and the start of the fall semester Croom and staff are pushing the players to get up to a more game-like pace.

This wasn't always easy on Tuesday as various units are starting to show some strain from August injuries. None are serious and most of the hurting will be available. But their absence isn't helping as the State staff continues preseason instruction and experimenting, all the while watching the clock tick down towards kickoff 2004.

"We're not going to stop working," Croom said. "We're going to continue to work hard through the scrimmage and find out who can play. Then the guys that we need to get ready for the game we'll start backing off of them, but we've got an awful lot to do and the only way to do it is work hard."

The unit most affected by injuries is the offensive line, which was already an area of great concern. Three first-team blockers were either out or limited Tuesday. "Our first unit is now our second unit, and that's a problem," Croom said. "Any time you can't keep the five offensive linemen together it's a problem. But there's nothing we can do about it, somebody else has to step up."

Left guard Johnny Wadley has been limited all camp as he gets back to full strength on a repaired ankle. Right guard Will Rogers also wore the yellow ‘limited snaps' jersey another day after hurting his ankle last week. This day left tackle Richard Burch was sidelined totally in a red-cross jersey with his left ankle in a boot.

James Cochran moved up into Burch's place, while Rogers was spelled for full-speed work by Otis Riddley. More interesting was that former defensive lineman Devrick Hampton was already running #2 left guard only one day after he was moved. The second line this day was, left-to-right, tackle David Price, Hampton, center Brian Anderson (now snapping after a week at left guard), Riddley, and Donovan Davis. The third group of linemen included guards Royce Blackledge and Roland Terry, tackle Jeffery Farr, and center Avery House. Dio Herrera is working at reserve guard and John Davis is the reserve center.

It's all well and good that some backups are taking more snaps for the moment, but Croom wants the first team back working together ASAP. "It's just a lot of nicks and stuff," Croom said. "Nothing that's keeping them out for long, just nagging things."

Quarterback Omarr Conner (groin) was allowed to practice after missing the afternoon session Saturday, but was limited. "He's got a little strain, he' ll be back to practicing soon," Croom said. Kyle York and Aries Nelson took turns as co-#1s but precocious rookie Mike Henig continued to impress in passing drills against the defensive secondary.

Other limited players were defensive end Stephen Arant, deep snapper Russell Cook, and fullback Bryson Davis. Non-practicing players were wide receiver Ray Ray Bivines, running back DeMarcus Johnson, and Burch.

The list of non-participants might have impacted on the overall tone of practice. "Nothing new today," Croom said, "nothing spectacular, that's for sure!"

Freshman tight end Jeremy Jones was out in shorts and headgear as he awaits full activation. He should be able to join drills by the end of the week after serving his five-day acclimation period.

Preseason Notes

ESPN has notified Mississippi State who will serve as the broadcast crew for the season-opening game with Tulane. Eric Collins will provide play-by-play, Andre Ware the color commentary, and Jimmy Dykes will work the sidelines. Gametime is 5:00 for the kickoff of the Sylvester Croom Era at Mississippi State.


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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