Croom Plans True Spring Game for Super Saturday

Since the TV cameras will be turned on and a national audience tuned in, Coach Sylvester Croom figures why not give everyone something worth watching. So, instead of wrapping up 2005 spring practices with a scrimmage, Mississippi State will put on a genuine spring game on April 9.

The exact format won't be finalized until the end of next Thursday's practice, Croom said following Saturday's mid-day scrimmage. But the next time the Bulldogs assemble at Scott Field it will be as two separate squads taking on each other. "Right now we plan to play a Maroon-White game and divide it up," explained Croom.

The change in philosophy about the 15th and final practice day of this camp partly stems from the unexpected and unprecedented opportunity presented when ESPN2 contacted Mississippi State about televising the Bulldogs' spring game. It didn't take the University long to say yes, and since then the football staff has been working out plans to put on a good show. The results air live starting at 1:00 on April 9, and will be replayed on the cable sports network's new ESPN ‘U' channel.

"We're very fortunate and thankful that we're going to get this chance to be on ESPN2 and ESPNU," Croom said. "Any time we can get on TV we're very pleased with that. We think it's an honor that they'd give us this opportunity to be on national TV. And we sure hope to take full advantage of it."

And the best way to do so is more than just scrimmage. In fact, Croom was already inclined to play some sort of spring ‘game' anyway as part of Super Bulldog Weekend festivities, even if it means giving up some of the off-season benefits a scrimmage provides purely in football terms. "We wanted to do a game for our fans and for our kids," Croom said, "but we're very thin." As in, this spring roster is shorter than normal due to a series of dismissals, defections, and some injuries.

So there will be some un-game-like tweaking of the format. Quarters will last 12 or 10 minutes by turn, and the clock will run almost non-stop. There will also be some ‘individual' periods of work prior to the game itself. "We're limiting the time and keeping the clock running because we are very, very thin," said Croom. "The lack of depth in the offensive line is a problem." The most glaring problem, in fact, with barely enough true blockers to give each team a full five-man front. Other positions are somewhat better off but there are some starters that might ought not be risked in full-speed hitting.

"Hopefully we can get though this," said Croom. "And next year we shouldn't have this problem. I like playing spring games, I think it is better for the fans and the players."

This special ‘game' also will find Croom in a new role. The head coach will be in the press box with the ESPN2 crew, providing color commentary. "They always say I've got a great voice," Croom smiled. "And I'm going to see what it's like to sit up in the box and criticize the head coach."

Which in this case would be…? "Woody McCorvey is going to be head coach and offensive coordinator on the Maroon team, he and Ellis Johnson will be on one team," Croom said. "And Shane Beamer is going to be head coach and defensive coordinator and Freddie Kitchens call the offense on the White team. I get to be in the press box and criticize coaches now!"

What Croom really wants is to see everyone enjoying the afternoon at Scott Field, and not just the game but events around it. "We'll also have several players prior to the game out here signing autographs and those type of things. We just want to make it a fun weekend for our players, our former players, and our fans. And we hope everybody that is a Bulldog at heart will come out and be a part of it."

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