Bulldogs Enjoy Cooler Friday Practice Conditions

Sylvester Croom was in a rush to leave practice. "Gotta hurry, guys," he told media intercepting him near the practice field gate. "It's our anniversary." Number 33 to be exact, which had the head Dog headed home to treat the missus.

After, that is, Croom had taken care of business with the Bulldogs in Friday's practice session. And Mrs. Croom had to wait later than usual to see Coach come home after an August drill, since the day's work did not begin until 6:30 due to a number of players having afternoon exams to wrap up the summer semester. As it turned out the late start was actually a benefit to all. A serious thunderstorm blew through Starkville at about the time Mississippi State would have been hitting the field on their normal schedule.

So with the delayed start there was time for the fields to drain, and the players—and staff—to take advantage of unusually cool preseason conditions. The result was a much more laudable effort than Croom saw in Thursday's opening session. "It was better today," he said. "We were able to get some things done, they were able to work hard. And I thought we had a little enthusiasm tonight."

The Dog defense in particular was feisty on Friday, dominating the evening segments devoted to full-squad snaps. No contact was allowed as players were still only in helmet and shorts. But that didn't slow the intensity a bit for the defenders, who had their way more often than not.

"I thought our defense made some plays," Croom said. "We had two real nice plays for turnovers for touchdowns, falling on fumbles. And that's something we've been harping on. At the same time, they made the plays and the offense didn't. But I think our defense is pretty cocky right now. You have to be to play defense. I hope we can back it up."

Much as in spring the offense is trailing the defense in efficiency, but Croom did note some progress in a few areas of the passing game. A couple of young wideouts are showing they can add aspects to State's air attack, maybe. "It's too early to tell but Tay Bowser is doing well, Keon Humphries had a very good day and made some plays we didn't make last year."

The Bulldogs will be back on the practice field Saturday at a more typical time with a 4:30 practice. They also will don shoulder pads for the first time, though there can't be real contact until the sixth practice per NCAA rules. Still it will be another step closer to serious August work.

"We've got plenty of time with the heat, our conditioning will be tested," said Croom. "But I'm not worried about us being in shape, as long as we keep everybody out here."

Along that line, one roster name won't be out on the field any more. Defensive end Rob Walker has decided to transfer out and reportedly will enroll at Southeastern Louisiana. Walker saw limited time as a junior transfer last season and was third on the DE depth chart this month.

For the second day of camp a few Bulldogs have earned promotions, or at least a change of jersey color. First-team cornerback David Heard, who wore blue for the first day, was in a starter's white Friday and still holding the right corner. Defensive tackle Antonio Johnson was also promoted to a white shirt, though he still worked with the second unit. And safety Marcus Evans, a former walk-on, also was given a white jersey to signify first-unit status. There was also a demotion, on the offensive side, as tight end Eric Butler lost his maroon jersey and was wearing a backup's green shirt.

There was a change of numbers, as senior left cornerback Kevin Dockery exchanged the 30 he wore for three full seasons for 4. Nobody was wearing 4 on Thursday; Humphries had that number last fall but in spring went to 9, leaving it open for Dockery to claim. Now 30 is vacant.

As for Friday injuries, H-back Dezmond Sherrod was in a red-cross jersey with a hurt hip flexor. He joined three teammates in the red-cross from Thursday: flanker Will Prosser (foot stress fracture, wearing a boot today), and linebacker Gabe O'Neal (July knee surgery). Still in yellow shirts, allowed to practice full-speed in non-contact days, were OT Calvin Wilson (knee), running back Derek Ambrose (illness), and wideout Humphries (summer knee surgery).

There were no changes in the first offensive line which ran, left to right, Brian Anderson, Johnny Wadley, Chris McNeil, Anthony Strauder, and Avery House. The #2 unit, in same order, was freshman Michael Gates, freshman Anthony Dunning, Royce Blackledge, freshman Johnny Carpenter, and freshman Calvin Wilson. The third line had Erik Watkins, freshman Chris Spencer, Dio Herrera, freshman Craig Jenkins, and Roland Terry.

Tackle James Redmond, running some with the second team on Thursday, did not practice Friday with a hurting lower back.

Jason Husband was the only tight end wearing a maroon jersey Friday, while Tee Milons is the lone split end in a first-team shirt. He is backed by Adron Chambers, Joey Sanders, and Lance Long, as well as walk-on Rashad Smith. With Prosser hurting there is no first-team flanker as of now; instead Tyler Threadgill, Tay Bowser, and Jamayel Smith along with the yellow-shirted Humphries are all working for top spot on this depth chart.

The first defensive line remained (L to R) Willie Evans, Deljuan Robinson, Andrew Powell, and Michael Heard. The second unit shuffled some during drills; at one point it was Stephen Arant, Corey Clark, Antonio Johnson, and freshman Charles Burns. Later Avery Hannibal was back at second tackle and Titus Brown as a co-#1 end with Evans. Walk-on Anwar Phillips was a reserve at tackle.

With O'Neal out the first linebackers were still OLBs Clarence McDougal and Anthony Littlejohn flanking MLB Quinton Culberson. The second unit had freshman Jamar Chaney and soph Carlton Rice on each side of Brad Horton.

Jeramie Johnson and Mario Bobo remained the first-team safeties, but Hunter joined them in #1 white. Jarvis Kyles, De'Mon Glanton, Aubrey Bell, Blake McAdams, and Jonathan Hill are all working as safeties. At cornerback, Derek Pegues and Keith Fitzhugh are the second teammers.

The first few Friday segements were devoted to special teams work, specifically protection in both punts and placekicks. A number of first-teammers such as Culberson, McDougal, and Horton are working with the #1 punt protect/cover group. Rookies Quinton Wesley and Jimmy Miller were used in this group also.


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