Late Tuesday Practice Update

Following the Tuesday practice, Coach Sylvester Croom expressed satisfaction with the afternoon's effort. "We got some good work in," he said. As the coach had said in the mid-day press conference the Bulldog offense and defense did run a series of 9-on-7 drills pitting each starting unit against the other.

"We were trying to give them a ‘Maine' look and get a better picture of the running game on both sides of the ball," said Croom, who has made plain his concerns about improving the way Mississippi State plays the ground game. "We worked a lot on our tackling fundamentals."

But these situation practices were complicated by health problems with the blocking. Croom had to hold his breath when starting guards Will Rogers and Johnny Wadley took turns in full-pads. And even as he wanted to limit their practice snaps, the coach had to work around the loss of backup right guard Otis Riddley to a torn knee ligament.

We worked hard and made some improvement (with the line)," Croom said. "We're sort of banged up there and we worked some younger guys and backups in. It's a concern because we don't have everybody together right now. Any injury in the offensive line compounds a tough situation. But we have to work with what we've got and see if we can get guys better. And they are getting better, but how much better we can get before Saturday is real important."

Backups getting more first-team reps Tuesday included Royce Blackledge and Avery House, who have suddenly moved closer to the active end of what Croom calls a "real short bench." Center/guard Brian Anderson was in a yellow jersey Tuesday after getting a bit banged-up against Auburn. Croom said converted defensive tackle Devrick Hampton is making progress quickly, "But he's still a long way from being ready to compete." Not that Hampton and others may have much choice if others go down.

On the defensive side Croom's press-conference comments that young linemen Michael Heard and Andrew Powell would get more work with the first group came true. Both were running #1 at end and tackle, respectively, in place of two-game starters Deljuan Robinson and Corey Clark. At linebacker Marvin Byrdsong was back up with the first team on one side of Kenny Kern with Clarence McDougal on the other. The coach said he would rather review the practice tape before commenting on how the defense will line up this weekend.

Wednesday's practice will be in partial pads, though the emphasis will still be on work with both lines of scrimmage. Croom added that there will be more third-down situation drills tomorrow as well.

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