Henig Showing Few Ill-Effects Of Injury

It could well be some sort of record. Preseason practices are now into the sixth day, and the first two-a-day set, yet not until Tuesday morning did any questions come up about the quarterback situation for Mississippi State. And that is a good thing.

Because, the low-key interest in what the Bulldog triggermen are doing reflects the confidence staff and team alike have developed in Mike Henig. The third-year sophomore has been steady and even outstanding at times through the first week of work, drawing praise from both head Coach Sylvester Croom and quarterback mentor/offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey.

The latter says nobody has moved around atop this depth chart, nor does it appear anyone will will. "Mike is way ahead of the other two right now," McCorvey said Tuesday morning. "He clearly established himself as the leading quarterback and that has not changed since we began practice."

Of course the only reason to inquire about Henig is not his ability or grasp of the offense. It is the late-June incident where Henig shattered the second toe of his left foot, requiring repair surgery and rehabilitation. Henig promised to be ready for camp and he was as good as his word...and better than expected. McCorvey does say Henig is not 100%, just yet.

"Not really, he's having some problems any time we go to what we call our 'movement' package. When he's going to his left he has some problems then. But in our running game, drop-back game, and when we go to the right he's having no problems with that. I think in about another week he should be going full-speed."

With that concern taken care of, McCorvey can turn a bigger share of practice attention and post-drills evaluation to the other item of August interest. Who will go into the opening game as the #2 quarterback? More specifically, which redshirt freshman will be the backup, Tray Rutland or Ty Evans?

"It's still an on-going battle," McCorvey said. "Right now Tray is a little bit ahead of Ty. If we had to play--which we don't!--we really have to look and see what each one of those guys can do and if they went into the game build a package around their strengths."

That comment doesn't just reflect the lack of game-experience by these two second-year frosh. "They're different from Mike," McCorvey said. And, different from each other. Rutland is a southpaw, for instance, and Evans a righty. Both move and deliver differently as well, so State could not at the moment run identical packages with either, much less do everything Henig can.

Based purely on practice observation, Rutland's lead over Evans might be a bit more than the coach lets on. Tuesday morning, in unit passing drills, Henig and Rutland were on one field throwing to the lone receiver; Evans was handing off in ground drills. Meanwhile walk-on Robert Ambers was running the scout offense against the first defensive squad.

Rutland is at least Henig's equal in one aspect, able to burn the ball with velocity and range alike. But, the coach points out, the kid has some lapses still. "His problems come to his fundamentals and techniques. In particular when he throws the football we always tell him he has to keep the ball up and out, because this offense relies so much on timing. Every now and then he goes back to his old ways and drops the football, that gives the defense the advantage.

"But he has a strong arm, a good knowledge of the offense, and if we have to move the pocket he's probably better-suited than any of the quarterbacks we have. But we want to go into the season confident he understands our three- and five-step drop game."

The next round of backup QB competition begins this afternoon with a 3:45 practice. Saturday will really show the progress of both candidates during the first preseason scrimmage game.

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