Tuesday Spring Practice Report

For most Bulldogs it was the longest day yet of 2005 spring camp. But not for all. Not for the first-team defense, which was turned loose to leave the practice field a good 15 minutes before the Tuesday session wrapped up. Coach Sylvester Croom was giving the D a reward…and the O some relief.

"I had to let the defense go in because they were whipping the offense," said Croom after the 13th day of drills for Mississippi State this spring. "I was trying to give the offense a little confidence, I got the defense off because I was afraid they might totally destroy the offense's confidence."

That was indeed how Tuesday played out in over two hours' work. The session was the first of this last week of camp, and the first chance for the State staff to apply some items learned after this past Saturday's scrimmage. The Bulldogs were in full pads this time, and while many periods technically were not ‘tackle-to-ground' drills bodies still managed to hit the turf frequently.

Then there were the concluding four periods lining up ones-vs.-ones and twos-vs.-twos inside the five-yard line. Those featured full contact and tough tackling, with one squad thoroughly dominating. "Our defense did a good job in goal-line scrimmaging," Croom said. "They played physical and stopped our offense."

So well, that after a period the #1 defense was freed to jog to the locker room, their spirits as high as the overmatched offense's were low. The first-offense did crack the goal line once on a play-fake and throw from Omarr Conner to his (un-numbered and non-ID'd) tight end. That only annoyed the defense into cracking down the rest of the way. "We tricked them on the first play," Croom said, "beyond that we couldn't move the football."

For that matter the second defense guarded the goal line effectively against the top offense no matter who rotated in. This continued the overall trend of spring on the stop-side of the line.

"They did a good job," Croom said. "Our defense is starting to show a little pride over there. They're going to be a nasty outfit." It was something the coach wishes he could say about the offense, but cannot.

"We're not tough," a frustrated Croom told reporters, moments after expressing himself in far fiercer tones to the players remaining by the end of practice. Though, the coach did let a number of offensive players depart early by ones and twos towards the end, including Conner, receivers Will Prosser and Tee Milons, and linemen Chris McNeil, Brian Anderson, and Johnny Wadley. These managed to meet expectations.

Otherwise, Croom saw little to satisfy him here in the fourth week of camp. Especially from the front five. "We're getting better, but we don't have enough nasty people in the offensive line. That's the main thing right now." State did have a slightly more healthy line Tuesday as Wadley, who separated a shoulder a week ago, was back with the #1 unit (now at right tackle) in non-contact sets.

When it was time to hit Avery House took over right tackle with James Redmond at left tackle, backed by Roland Terry. House briefly had to work at left guard when midway of the day Anderson got up slowly and had to have his right ankle re-taped. Fortunately no damage was done. Late in the day RG Anthony Strauder had to step out and backup center Dio Herrera took some turns there.

Croom said the issue is not the physical shape of this group. "We're getting tougher as far as conditioning and discipline, but I'm looking for somebody to be nasty, more competitive, just winning. I don't care if it's pitching pennies I want guys that want to win at everything they do, and we didn't show that today."

Nor did some specialists show the right stuff Tuesday in placekicking drills, as redshirts Adam Carlson and Andrew Gambrell both had field goal tries blocked or missed from routine ranges. Croom promptly sent them to the sideline for a round of ‘up/downs' with Jim Nowell. Keith Andrews had no such problems, and one of his kicks was good enough to hit the time-and-period clock behind the goal posts and knock it out of order the rest of the day.

The strength coach was a busy man Tuesday, having to do the same with the #2 offensive unit after a botched snap. Not only were the participating parties punished but the entire 11, as a mistake by one means extra work for all. And Croom said if some guys don't get nasty by August it will cause some long days for everyone. "If we have to scrimmage every day all day, and when we get back to training camp that may be what we do."

As for the rest of this spring's camp, there are two working days left. The Bulldogs will be on the practice fields for the last time Thursday, then report to Scott Field on Saturday for the Maroon-White Game. The 1:00 intrasquad contest will be televised live on ESPN2 and replayed later on ESPNU. Croom has already designated coordinators Woody McCorvey and Ellis Johnson to direct the Maroon team, with Shane Beamer and Freddie Kitchens coaching the White squad. The team roster reportedly has already been split up and will be published later in the week.

NOTE: Check Gene Swindoll's practice report for an update on injured Bulldogs as well as notes on which players received jersey numbers for Tuesday.

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