Double-up days are even less enjoyable when the head coach is unhappy…and Croom was clearly that following the afternoon's work, which lasted exactly two hours. The unfortunate target of his ire? The offense, again.
"We took the pads off to try to give them a little break, so they wouldn't be as tired," Croom said. "The defense responded in a proper manner. The offense wasn't any better."
The Bulldogs worked in helmet and shorts, and after a physical morning there was a lot more instruction—not to mention correction—than contact. Judging by the coach's comments there is still so much more for the offense to learn, and the afternoon showing offset any encouraging remarks Croom offered earlier in the day about progress on this side of the ball.
"We've got no leadership over there. We tried to get some tempo, get quicker and concentrate on their assignments. And the offense still struggles. I don't think we want to play football on offense right now. I guess we're just going to have to punt on first down and play defense and kicking game and try to win, because right now our offense has no desire to play football." At which Croom added "End of conference, gentlemen," and drove off before saying too much. Though, minutes later, he made himself available for an update on the real ‘sore' point of the day, the right knee of Jerious Norwood.
The entire team got a scare when their all-star tailback strained his knee in the morning. The senior, working in an interior-type drill, was not hurt on the actual tackle but when a defensive lineman fell and landed on the back of his leg. It was quickly diagnosed as a strain which will heal reasonably quickly with rest. "It's football," Croom said, "his knee got caught up in the pile. No big deal."
Not unless being handed a free pass for the rest of August, at least in terms of full-contact work, is a big deal to Norwood. "He's not going to get any full-speed work in camp," Croom said. "He probably won't even be in any of our scrimmages, the first time he'll get any full-speed will be against Murray State. We're not playing Mississippi State, no use getting him killed out here.
"So he'll get some time off, and we'll get a chance to look at some of these other guys out here. Hey, if something happens somebody has to step up."
Norwood wore a full-leg wrap on the right limb and a red-cross jersey to the afternoon practice. Also in red crosses were wideout Keon Humphries, wideout Will Prosser, H-back Dezmond Sherrod, and another new member of the injury corps linebacker Jimmy Miller who banged his head a bit too hard in morning work. Humphries had worn yellow in the morning session, signifying he could do all but full-contact work. Also in yellow for the afternoon were offensive tackles Calvin Wilson and Avery House, linebacker Gabe O'Neal, and offensive lineman Anthony Dunning.
O'Neal, still slowed after July knee surgery to fix some cartilage issues, was able to take to the field for the first time in 11-on-11 sets. He's still listed as a reserve at his side, behind Anthony Littlejohn and Jamar Chaney, but if O'Neal regains full-strength he will vault up the depth chart quickly.
With Wilson and House hurting the tackle positions were filled by backups, and at the end of the day in full-team drills the right end was held down by reserve Roland Terry. At left tackle, where Brian Anderson is set at #1, Michael Gates got a chance to work several snaps with the first unit.
The Bulldogs will have a full-length practice in full gear Thursday morning, starting again at 7:30. At noon Croom and selected players will appear at Mississippi State's preseason media conference for interviews. The media will also take a tour of the under-construction Palmeiro Center, which is now scheduled for completion around the end of September.
Friday will be the second two-a-day working date, then Saturday brings the first of two planned game-type scrimmages at Scott Field.