Bulldog Practice Full-Contact; Culberson Now At LB

The Bulldogs will have their weekend off. Until then, though, there is work to get done…and work was the order of Tuesday's practice session, as Mississippi State stayed on the fields for over two hours of drills.

Full-contact drills, too, as Coach Sylvester Croom had his team hitting in most of the 15 periods. Not all of it meant tackling to the ground, but the head coach did want to hear pads popping from initial contacts whether it was one-on-one work or full-team segments. At day's end Croom seemed satisfied.

"We're just trying to improve in every facet of the game," he said. "I thought they worked pretty good today, and we got something out of our scrimmage."

Croom was talking of the final two periods when the backups and redshirts went full-speed, full-contact and usually full-field. This normally would be part of Monday's practice, but weather forced the Dogs indoors yesterday. So Tuesday's session ended with a brisk scrimmage, and while the hitting was good there was also some sharp playmaking. Current #2 quarterback Mike Henig connected on a series of passes, hitting targets such as tight end Linzey Patterson and wideout Jason Husband, in moving the ball downfield repeatedly.

Croom liked what he saw from the scrimmage so much he said there will be further such work Wednesday. "We hadn't planned to but now I think we'll do more tomorrow."

But most of the day was invested in more typical drills. Croom was particularly focused on a weak point, the missed tackles that have plagued State all season. "We worked on some tackling things," Croom said. "We made some improvement, I thought the defense got better today."

Croom also made a move to hopefully strengthen the defense further, switching defensive back Quinton Culberson to outside linebacker. The sophomore played cornerback last season before a serious ankle injury at Kentucky, and in August moved to strong safety where he has alternated with Jeramie Johnson for six games. Now he is moving again.

"We had thought about it," Croom said. "But after the UAB game when we weren't able to stop the run I said enough is enough. I knew the scheme was good, so the only other thing we could do was get our best people out there. And he was the best tackler in the game the other day. So we're going to get him closer to the ball where he can tackle some people." Culberson practiced with the second unit, behind starter Marvin Byrdsong.

Several varsity Dogs were in red-cross jerseys or taking limited snaps Tuesday. Tight end Eric Butler was out, wearing a boot on his left foot for an ankle injury. Defensive end Willie Evans rode the exercise bike with his right shoulder in a sling. Middle linebacker Kenny Kern was on crutches with a hurting right foot. Tailback Jerious Norwood practiced part of the time, and in other periods put ice on a sore right knee. Offensive guard Brian Anderson was limited to protect a still-sprained ankle.

There was some good news on the injury list, though. Omarr Conner returned to work Tuesday, and was even given some periods running the first offense again. The soph is expected to be back at starting quarterback for the Florida game.

There are two more work days for the Dogs before they take off after a Friday morning run. "We'll do pretty much the same thing tomorrow, except we'll work on third downs and a little bit of red zone," Croom said of Wednesday's plan.

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