Bulldogs Prepare For First Scrimmage

The intent was good. With a sizable portion of the roster sidelined or limited, a morning practice behind them, and a full-speed, full-contact scrimmage game coming up tomorrow, Coach Sylvester Croom decided to let the Bulldogs work out in shorts and helmet Friday afternoon.

After observing the results, Croom told the players to get used to wearing the armor from now on. "I've tried two practices in shorts, because we've got a lot of people beat-up," the coach said afterwards. "But we cannot practice in shorts, we don't get anyting done. We'll put the shoulder pads on from now on. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. And you're not going to fool me a third time."

Croom certainly wasn't fooling around by the end of the afternoon session, which ran from 3:45 to 6:00. After twelve segments of drills the coach blew the whistle and called for 15 minutes of gassers. By the time the three groups ended their running—at least, those still capable of locomotion—the coaching staff had made it clear that camp is running down and the Bulldogs have to pick their pace up.

"We did some conditioning just to get some work out of today," said Croom.

The afternoon plans were actually altering as the practice began, moved indoors by a shower and threat of local lightning. Forty-five minutes after the session began with indoor warm-ups and some select drills it was clear enough for the Dogs to move outside, though flickers of lightning could be seen on all quarters and the training staff stayed in close contact with area weather experts.

While waiting to get outside, the special teams coaches took the time to practice some placekick protection and blocking, without actually kicking the hiked ball indoors. "We did some good kicking game done," Croom acknowledged. Coordinator Woody McCorvey had the quarterbacks over to one side throwing on the move. Omarr Conner has a lock on the starting job, and after a midweek demotion Mike Henig is back in the second slot. But freshman Tray Rutland has moved in front of Brett Morgan to take third on the depth chart.

Walk-on receiver Jamayel Smith, who has been promoted to the top-four wideout rotation, also got his own number Friday. He traded in the shared 34 for exclusive use of 87, the jersey vacated by Rob Walker's transfer.

A couple of players put out of morning practice by pains were dressed out again in the afternoon, but only second-team cornerback Keith Fitzhugh (back) was actually working. Offensive tackle Michael Gates was wearing a boot after spraining his right ankle in individual contact work in the morning.

Wearing yellow shirts for the afternoon were tight end Jeremy Jones (back), linebacker Jimmy Miller (concussion), and H-back Dezmond Sherrod (hip). Players sidelined in red cross shirts included running back Jerious Norwood, his strained right knee in a brace; linebacker Gabe O'Neal (knee), offensive tackle Calvin Wilson (knee), offensive tackle James Redmond (back), defensive lineman Mike Evans (unknown), wideout Adron Chambers (right leg) and Tay Bowser (left hamstring). Safety Marcus Evans, wearing yellow in the morning after a bout of illness, was back in first-team white. There were no notable moves, up or down, among the first two units from the morning depth chart. With Norwood out, converted wideout Jonathan Lowe has moved to top halfback ahead of Brandon Thornton. At injury-riddled right offensive tackle Avery House is still working with the first team, but wearing second-unit green instead of Maroon. Roland Terry is alternating with House. Dio Herrera was back at left guard on the second unit for the afternoon, having done some center work in the morning.

The depth chart could very easily shuffle again Saturday, as Croom appears intent on giving every healthy player a lot of snaps in the scrimmage scheduled to start at 2:00. "It will be a long one, and it will be a very good one. And we'll find out some things." The tone of voice said the coach was referring as much to player attitudes as their abilities.

After Saturday's scrimmage the Bulldogs have a day off to rest up for the last round of two-a-days on Monday. State will have single practices Tuesday and Wednesday to finish preseason camp, with fall semester classes beginning on Thursday.

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