State Runs Through Final Contact Practice

A two-hour practice session wrapped up contact work for Mississippi State as the Bulldogs continue preparations for Saturday's season-opening game with Tulane. And it was an afternoon Coach Sylvester Croom found worth smiling about.

Laughing, even.

"Yeah, they made me laugh," Croom admitted. "I guess it was a good day, then." A very good day, in fact, and that was no joke. While the Bulldogs did have a little fun in the session, they were able to do it with a combined exuberance and efficiency their coach had not seen since fall camp began. "It was probably the best practice since I've been here," Croom said. "I liked our crispness."

"It was the first time in a long time I've heard anybody laugh out here," he added. "Laugh and work at the same time. We really made some improvement today." The head coach helped set a lighter tone by warming up with the offensive line, from stretches to jumping-jacks.

Much of the Wednesday work was with special teams as the staff went over almost every kicking situation foreseeable, and a few less-likely scenarios. Croom likes how these units, under overall direction of Amos Jones, are shaping up. And he has confidence in the two specialists.

"Keith and Jared have kicked pretty well. I think our snappers and holders look good. Now how we'll do under real pressure I don't know, but it looks like we protect the punter well. I think we've got everything covered." Croom also said senior running back Fred Reid will definitely be the kickoff returner, while he is still competing for starting punt returner.

Croom is increasingly hopeful of having most of the front-liners available, especially on the front line itself. Right guard Will Rogers and left guard Johnny Wadley both warmed up with the first unit and participated in restricted drills. The pair are being protected right up to gametime, held out of full-contact work. For hitting drills Brian Anderson took the place of Rogers and Devrick Hampton replaced Wadley. #2 right guard Otis Riddley was back at practice after missing Tuesday's session.

Defensive end Deljuan Robinson was also in full-gear, and expected to start with no problems Saturday.

Wednesday's practice was observed by a ESPN crew taping material for this Saturday's ‘College Gameday' morning show. Another ESPN crew will be on campus this week to get other broadcast material for the weekend, and a third crew will arrive Friday to begin preparations for the 5:00 broadcast of the MSU-Tulane game.

On Thursday, Croom will finalize the dress-out roster for the opening game. His plan is also to announce the starting lineups to the team Saturday. Game captains were announced Tuesday with fullback Darnell Jones, nose guard Ron Fields, and linebacker Cody Upton getting opening-day honors.

The Bulldogs won't hit any more until gameday, with Thursday's practice in shells.

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