Mississippi State had been scheduled to resume spring camp Monday, but constant rains convinced Croom to delay it one more day so the fifth session—out of the 15 total—could be run full-field and full-speed. It was the right call, as wearing full-gear the Bulldogs were able to get the full quota of drills done. In fact, the session ended almost ten minutes earlier than usual, without quite as many post-practice wind sprints. That was appreciated by all involved as a chill wind made for a less-than-pleasant afternoon outdoors.
Speaking of picking right back up, the second week of camp followed the same script as the first. When respective squads lined up against each other, whether to hit or just bump, one side of the ball came out on top regularly. "Our defense just kicked the offense," Croom said. "They're dominating the line of scrimmage, which is good."
And not unexpected, given the superior experience and cohesion of the d-line. They did control the trenches, whether in 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 running drills. While this is what should happen, it's still encouraging to the coach to see the line, and for that matter the whole unit, asserting itself.
"I like the fact that defense is playing with some swagger," Croom said. "Just how really good they are, I'm assuming they're good because they played well last year. It's definitely not based on going against the offense."
Again, as might be anticipated, the offense was behind and not doing much catching-up. Rather, as Croom said, "We're not catching the ball well." At the same time there were a couple of encouraging attempts by receivers, particularly the tight ends. And Croom did see another show of improvement on the other end of the passing plays.
"The only thing good about the offense is I thought Mike Henig had his best day. He threw it well, he knew exactly where he was going with the ball. He did play with some poise and confidence." While the sophomore quarterback did draw ire early with a couple of bobbled snaps, he bounced back and regained composure soon enough. And under pressure Henig did make mostly correct reads.
"But beyond that we didn't protect well," Croom pointed out. "We didn't run the ball well. Except for Mike we didn't do anything well today."
Naturally the defensive front and veteran linebacking corps had a hand—a lot of them, actually—in troubles running the ball from scrimmage. So does the partial-absence of halfback Brandon Thornton, limited to non-contact drills only. His presence is missed in interior running work most particularly, and likely will be the rest of camp Croom said.
"He can do a lot in 7-on-7s in the passing game. But he cannot take any picks on that shoulder right now, and that's handicapping us some because he would give us a spark offensively, I know that. But hey, he might get hurt this fall. So somebody has to step up." The somebody getting most chances is two-way back Brandon Hart, running first-team halfback at the moment with rehabilitating senior Derek Ambrose behind him.
A number of Dogs were limited Tuesday, none for new injuries. On defense, CB David Heard, MLB Jimmy Miller, and DT Charles Burns were in purple jersies; while offensively TE Eric Butler joined Thornton in yellow. This did not keep any of them from participating in non-contact work, though, or even in some full-squad drills where contact was made by others. Miller (leg) has the only ailment suffered in actual camp; the others are being protected after off-season surgeries. This was also why FL Will Prosser and S DeMario Bobo are wearing red-cross jersies for more serious rehabilitations.
The only unit-change of note was on the offensive line, where Roland Terry was promoted to first-team at left tackle and wearing maroon. He was taking over the spot Calvin Wilson held for the first week of camp. Wilson, in second-team green with the rest of the backups, also had to leave midway of drills for a Tuesday evening class. Starting defensive tackle Andrew Powell was also excused early for a class.
The rest of the number-two line, left to right, were Dio Herrera, Johnny Carpenter, Anthony Dunning, and Craig Jenkins. Chris Spencer and Daniel Kennedy were reserves at guards.
Another offensive backup now claiming varsity status is wideout Tyler Threadgill, not only promoted to maroon but allowed to wear numbers. He joined Tony Burks and Keon Humphries as the first-team wideouts, with Lance Long and Aubrey Bell in the next rotation. Joey Sanders is now working mostly with the second unit. Omarr Conner, who hurt a groin the first day of camp, is being held out of some receiver drills just in case.
Burks had a brief scare midway of the afternoon when he came up grabbing the right hamstring and needed an icepack. But he was able to get back on the field later.
For full-contact work in the secondary, Adron Chambers was running #2 to Heard at right cornerback. Practically all the #1 defensive team has earned the right to wear number jersies to drills, with only S Keith Fitzhugh in a blank shirt for now. He was promoted to the first unit with Bobo rehabilitating.
As usual practice ended with the placekicking competition, pitting Adam Carlson against Keith Andrews Tuesday. Carlson emerged the day's winner, hitting all the routine kicks as well as a 52-yarder. Andrews got a lucky bounce off the upright on his 44-yarder, but hung his long attempt wide to the right.
The Bulldogs are off Wednesday and return to the practice fields both Thursday and Friday, before going to Scott Field for the first time this camp on Saturday for a closed scrimmage.