Bulldogs Begin New Work-Week Regimen

Mississippi State began the third week of preseason camp working on dual-track, and with different teams sharing the same field.

With less than two weeks left before the 2004 season kicks off, Coach Sylvester Croom has altered practice procedures to speed up preparations while protecting the likely starting group as much as practical. Starting Monday, the coach divided up the Bulldogs into a basic first unit, with a handful of alternates, on both sides of the ball; and the rest of the roster. The number ones took to the practice field in shorts, while all others were in full gear.

"This will be our format every Monday," Croom said after an abbreviated workout lasting only 90 minutes. "Obviously we didn't do a lot with our first group today, much more than try to get some reps and correct some of our mistakes from Saturday. We worked some number ones vs. number two to get some looks at Tulane stuff, but not a lot."

Practices the rest of this week will be longer, beginning with Tuesday's scheduled 2-1/2 hour session. But while each day's focus will change the procedure won't. The projected starters will go through their paces, then condition at the end while most second-teammers and all backups go full-speed and full-contact.

"We want to get those guys a lot of reps and give them some opportunities," Croom said. "We're very young and we've got to put these young guys in some scrimmage situations as much as we can."

The lineups wearing shorts Monday had few surprises, save where injuries are forcing temporary changes such as the absence of #1 right guard Will Rogers. The first offensive line beginning this week in shorts was, left to right, Richard Burch, Johnny Wadley, Chris McNeil, Brian Anderson, and David Stewart. Though in full gear, Otis Riddley did take some snaps with the first offense later. Omarr Conner and Kyle York were the protected quarterbacks, with Darnell Jones and Bryson Davis as fullbacks and Jerious Norwood and Fred Reid running backs. Dezmond Sherrod and Eric Butler are the top tight ends; and McKinley Scott (still gimpy with a hamstring) and Will Prosser wide receivers.

Defensive players held out of hitting were Willie Evans, Ronald Fields, and Corey Clark on the line (end Deljuan Robinson took the day off to rest an ankle hurt in the scrimmage); linebackers Marvin Byrdsong, Clarence McDougal, and Rico Bennett as Monday first-teammers backed by Brad Horton and Chris Swain; strong safeties Jeramie Johnson and Quinton Culberson; free safeties Darren Williams and Slovakia Griffith; and cornerbacks Kevin Dockery and David Heard.

Some players expected to fill roles this year—wide receiver Tee Milons and freshman cornerback Mario Bobo—were in full-gear Monday. All lineups are naturally subject to change every practice day.

Also, there was a missing number at Monday's practice as #3 quarterback Aries Nelson did not report. "I'll talk to him tonight," Croom said. "He's talked to Coach (Woody) McCorvey. We'll discuss what his situation is and make an announcement tomorrow." Nelson saw very limited action in Saturday's scrimmage, playing only a couple of series and not taking the field until after rookie Mike Henig. The freshman was running third-team Monday.

Croom said after review of the scrimmage tapes some things looked better than on the field Saturday. "I thought we had improved some, even though I was desperately disappointed in the pre-snap penalties. The first play Ron Fields jumped offsides, he assured me that won't happen again. Four of the other pre-snap penalties on offense came from freshmen. But that's what we' ve got, they've got to get ready to play and we can't have those things happen.

"I thought Omarr made some big improvement and did some things well, he started off slow but improved. Willie Evans had a very good performance, I'm proud of how he showed up. He was cramping and wouldn't come out." The head coach would like to see the same toughness and commitment from the rest of the squad, whatever gear they are wearing at practices.

For the rest of this week Croom has scheduled a practice routine comparable to what State will do in a real game week. Actual preparations for Tulane won't begin until next week, though. "It's too early to start that."

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