Thursday Scrimmage Report From Scott Field

Mississippi State marked the mid-point of spring football practices by holding the first scrimmage of the off-season Thursday. Following a half-hour of warm-ups, Coach Sylvester Croom lined up the squads, blew the whistle, and let the Bulldogs have at each other for a full hour of game-type drills.

Afterwards, the coach found things on both sides of the ball he liked, things he did not care for, and a whole lot of stuff that State must get done in the remaining two weeks of spring camp. So far, though, "I like where we are," Croom said. "I think we're on schedule, we're getting better."

As far as that schedule, Croom scrimmaged his team Thursday prior to giving everyone an Easter vacation. The squad returns next week with just seven working days left, including one more closed scrimmage next Saturday and the camp-concluding spring game on April 9.

As stated after Wednesday's practice, Croom indeed ran the first-teams against each other exclusively and for most of the afternoon. Not surprisingly the defense came out statistically better, allowing just one touchdown (on the opening drive of the day). The second teams got a fair amount of action against each other also, and in some series a #2 defender was given snaps with the first unit.

Omarr Conner put in a solid enough afternoon, completing 11 of 18 passes for 119 yards without a turnover. He did not throw for a score but twice on the initial drive hit redshirt wideout Keon Humphries for gains of 31 and 19 yards, that latter catch putting the ball on the two-yard line. Redshirt running back Brandon Thornton banged it across the goal at right guard.

Thornton (13 carries, 28 yards) and fellow redshirt Demarcus Johnson (6 rushes for 7 yards) did most of the ball-hauling Thursday as #1 running back Jerious Norwood sat out the session after suffering a mild concussion in Wednesday's ‘non-contact' workout. Derek Ambrose (7 for 24) and Kentrell Brooks were given a few turns on the second team.

Humphries finished with 65 yards on four catches, and senior Tee Milons caught three balls for 24 yards. #2 quarterback Mike Henig was 8-of-12 throwing the ball for 54 yards and an interception.

The only other scoring came off the toe of Andrew Gambrell on a 44-yard effort with the second offense. Both placekickers got ‘situation' attempts in with nothing much to cheer.

Afterwards, Croom spoke with reporters about the day's results.

Overview Comments: The best thing about the scrimmage is no question we're ahead of where we were at the end of the season in our passing game. Just the difference in formations and the different patterns we're able to do, in different personnel groups. We're ahead in all that.

I thought Omarr Conner threw the ball well today, even though our receivers did not catch. We had four critical drops with our first unit that really stopped some drives.

I was pleased with our tempo as far as us getting in and out of the huddle, getting the play called from the sideline. For the first scrimmage I thought that was pretty good. For the most part we didn't have too many pre-snap penalties. But one is too many and we had a couple of those.

The thing I was concerned about was I didn't hear a whole lot of hitting from our defense. I thought we'd have more of that and more reckless abandon on our defense. Quinton Culberson was, he always is though. Brad Horton always is, too, even to the point he got over-zealous on one of our quarterbacks (Brett Morgan). But it was such a nice hit I couldn't blame him. I'd rather tone guys down than have to jack them up.

The backup running backs: We did some nice things but not enough to tell. We're making some improvement but we've got a long way to go there. I'm a little disappointed in Demarcus Johnson, I thought he'd show a lot more toughness than he showed today. Brandon Thornton did make some nice runs there.

Style differences from Norwood: All I want to do is move the ball up the field, I don't care which style it is. Runners are runners. I personally like big, powerful running backs. But as long as that ball moves down the field toward the goal line and into the end zone I don't care how it gets there.

The fullback position: We're alright. Dezmond Sherrod is improving and we're going to work him at tight end and fullback. Casey Rodgers is making improvement, and when Bryson Davis is totally focused and got his head in the game can be a good fullback. But we wanted to create depth, that's one position we never want to be short at because it's hard to find guys there. But we'll have some guys that will be alright. Dezmond is our wild-card guy, he can do anything we ask him and we'll play him at both spots. Next week we'll probably put him back at tight end because he's an excellent blocker. We've got Brandon Hart coming in this fall and he'll play that spot as well.

Offensive Line evaluation: Our protection from our tackles is not good at all. Neither one of them. We know we've got some work to do there and we're working hard, but James Redmond and Johnny Wadley have a lot to do at those spots to pick it up. Chris McNeil continues to play well, Brian Anderson is doing some good things. But right now we're hurting bad on the flanks. Those young offensive linemen that we signed, I hope they're taking pass-sets at home right now because they're going to be thrown into the fire real fast, I can tell you that for sure.

Wide receiver Keon Humphries: He had one or two but his hand placement is awful, he had a drop on an easy out-cut that stopped a drive. He looks like he's catching with a butterfly net over there. He's got to be better than that. He's got great speed and he can really help us.

Defensive End rotation: We keep putting those guys out there. I'm really pleased with Titus Brown's progress over there, Mike Heard has done some things, and Willie Evans is starting to make a move. I think we'll be alright there.

Defensive Tackles: Antonio Johnson has to come in and help us at tackle, Deljuan Robinson and Andrew Powell are doing well but our backups haven't exactly stepped it up even though Avery Hannibal is starting to use his hands better. We've got to have some help inside.

Disappointment with safeties: We ain't got any. Right now we don't have any. We're working Mario Bobo in there and he's got a chance, he made a nice interception. Beyond that, Jeramie Johnson every now and then will make a nice hit. But that is a big question mark.

Opinion of Spring at mid-point: I like where we are. I think we're on schedule, we're getting better. I wish we could say we're a real good football team now but hey, they' ain't keeping score now. Hopefully we can come out on top the first time out against Murray State, I guess that's all that really counts.

Next week's practice plans: We'll have our regular practice. We're still putting in third-down packages, we'll work a lot on red-zone next week and try to get all our stuff in before the next big scrimmage. We'll scrimmage again next Saturday.

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