Davis Quits Team; Croom Likes Defense's Look

An offensive line that already had enough questions marks added another one Tuesday, as a veteran blocker subtracted himself from the Mississippi State roster.

Guard Donovan Davis has quit the Bulldog team here in the second week of spring camp, Coach Sylvester Croom confirmed at the end of the afternoon practice session. "Donovan has decided he doesn't want to be with us any more, so he quit the team."

Davis, a junior guard and two-year letterman, did not participate in practice Monday as camp resumed following a week off for spring break. He had been competing with redshirt freshman Anthony Strauder at the open right guard position, but did not want to take part in Monday's session with a sore wrist.

"He thought he was going to make the call on whether he was going to practice or not," Croom said. "Our doctors and trainers thought he should practice. They are the medical experts around here, I don't make those decisions." But Croom definitely decided that Davis' actions and attitude were not in keeping with stated program policy.

"And as I said when we started spring practice this is part of the process. The way we do things here is not for everybody, and those who don't want to be here it's best that they relocate themselves. Because the way we do things is not going to change. But as I've said before, those who stay will win." Croom did not know where Davis, a Jackson, Miss. native, Callaway High School product and true junior, might move to. "We wish him well."

The head coach could wish for some better breaks on the offensive front these days. During the first week of spring camp, prior to last week's school break, the line took another hit as guard-turned-tackle Brad Weathers also quit. But Weathers, who had missed two years with a shoulder-nerve condition, did so as the injury re-appeared on the second day of drills. He is now serving as a student assistant with the line.

Regardless of reasons, a unit that could ill-afford more losses is even further depleted. "We're average at best in the offensive line," said Croom. "(Center) Chris McNeil is having a good spring, but other than that…" The coach didn't have to finish the obvious opinion.

During Tuesday's full-pads and often full-contact session, the first line was RT James Redmond (out of his yellow jersey for the first time this spring), RG Strauder, OC McNeil, LG Brian Anderson, and LT Johnny Wadley. The second line, again right to left, was Erik Watkins, James Cochran, Dio Herrera, Royce Blackledge, and Roland Terry.

Thus the coach's clear concern, especially at right tackle. "That hole that David Stewart left, we haven't got anybody close to filling that yet." Now with Davis, who played and practiced at both backup tackle and guard in his first two seasons, gone the depth chart is even more uncertain. But, as Croom notes, all that can be done this camp is work with the available bodies.

"Basically we'll keep trying to get the guys we've got better, see if they can improve until those freshmen offensive linemen get in here. They'd better get themselves in tip-top shape because they're going to get thrown into the fire real fast."

Speaking of heat, Tuesday saw plenty of work on the passing game with Omarr Conner reading and throwing in shorter schemes. The #1 defense made things tough and if the quarterback was hands-off that did not keep the rush from getting hands up to knock down a lot of balls. By the time the session ended though Conner and veteran receivers Will Prosser and Tee Milons were making a few things happen.

"We've gotten more into a lot of things like the four-wides and other things we didn't do last year," Croom said. "We've really worked on our protections, our blitz pickups, our hots, We really want to get all that stuff squared away. And it's getting better. It's still not where it needs to be but it's getting better." The ground game was not ignored and young runners Brandon Thornton and Demarcus Johnson got the biggest share of first-team rushes.

Not that the offense got a lot done in any event because the other side of the ball is clearly ahead this camp. "I liked our defense running to the football," Croom said. "Our defense is getting better." His particular praise fell to the interior line where first tackle Deljuan Robinson and backup Avery Hannibal caught the coach's eye.

"Avery Hannibal had an up day, he's starting to use his hands. He's an extremely strong guy and a hard-working guy. Every time he does something good it just makes my day because if anybody deserves some good stuff to happen to him Avery does. I like all of them but he's definitely one of my favorites."

Moving back of the line, "(MLB) Quinton Culberson continues to improve, putting him in the middle he's making a lot of plays and taking a leadership role on our defense. (#2CB) Keith Fitzhugh had a couple of nice tackles today and (#1CB) Kevin Dockery had a couple over there."

Fitzhugh has already worked his way up close behind David Heard at right cornerback, redshirt De'Mon Glanton was running first free safety in some sets and classmate Corey Spells was on second team. And whoever lined up on defense, either full-team or section drills, pleased the coach on the whole. "Overall I thought our defense is getting a little more onery. They are running to the ball well, and no question we're going to have more speed than we had last year. And that covers up for other deficiencies. But the kids are playing hard on that side of the ball."

The Bulldogs have one more practice this week, working out Thursday afternoon before going on the weekend Easter Break. That will leave eight sessions in the upcoming two weeks, including the concluding April 9 public scrimmage. Between now and then? "We've just got to get better," said Croom.

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