Croom 'Reports' Wednesday In Practice Uniform

Wednesday's morning practice began much the same as the day before, as the Bulldogs assembled for warm-ups without their head coach present for a second-straight day. Ten minutes later, with the players in their various groups, only a few noticed the arrival of a ‘walk-on' in a red cross jersey, helmet, and shoulder pads.

It was Coach Sylvester Croom, of course, carted out to practice like any other injured player brought from the training room to watch. Croom trotted over to join some defensive linemen observing field goal drills, and when tackle Deljuan Robinson noticed this new teammate he abruptly broke into a cackle. Soon the entire team caught on to the joke along with sideline observers, including MSU president Dr. Robert Foglesong and a number of visiting Fulbright Scholars brought to watch an American college football practice.

Croom took a turn with the offensive line, his own old playing job, and ran a snap ‘blocking' Royce Blackledge. The starting center did not take advantage of the situation. Croom also hiked the ball to quarterback Mike Henig in passing drills before finally shedding the gear and letting everyone get back to work. He had come up with the idea of ‘reporting' in uniform yesterday, though the helmet and pads were a later addition to the plan.

That the head coach, who had been absent for both Tuesday practices on personal business, would break the routine this way reflects his general satisfaction with the first week of preseason practices. While there have been some mediocre days and at least one where Croom was clearly upset with the results, on the whole he is pleased with the efforts and performances in this week of camp. So far, that is.

But the fact that Croom could slip into practice almost unnoticed was also a reflection of one worrisome aspect of preseason. He was just one of many Bulldogs showing up in red-cross injury jerseys today. The latest addition is offensive tackle Calvin Wilson with a groin pull suffered yesterday. Wilson actually showed up in first-team maroon but during stretching the trainers changed his shirt to a red cross and sent him to the exercise bike.

The rest of the sidelined players were the same as Tuesday afternoon. Adding Wilson to the list leaves the tackle positions depleted at midweek. J.D. Hamilton (ankle) and Royce Blackledge (back) were both out also this morning, which meant that only Craig Jenkins is active among the regular rotation. Bodies were so few here that redshirting transfer Mike Brown was running first-left tackle with Jenkins at RT, and center Chris Spencer moved to #2 right tackle with Mark Melichar at the LT spot.

The entire second line is now, right to left, Spencer, Michael Gates, Johnny Carpenter, Anthony Dunning, and Melichar. In fact there is only one ‘third team' lineman left at the moment, walk-on John McMillian at right guard.

Hamilton is expected to be ready to work by Saturday's first scrimmage of August. So is running back Anthony Dixon (ankle) who has fallen down the depth chart while sidelined. Other Wednesday injured players are cornerback Demario Bobo (hamstring), linebacker Gabe O'Neal (shoulder), and tight end Brandon Jones-Henderson (hamstring). Their Saturday status is much more questionable.

#1 defensive end Titus Brown was excused from practice a second day for a family crisis.

Other than for injuries there were few noticeable changes to any depth charts after Tuesday's two-a-day drills. The only real change was at #2 strong safety, with true freshman Anthony Summers moving past Marcus Evans today. They both back up starter Keith Fitzhugh.

One area where freshmen are starting to show up is the interior defensive line, where depth is being developed. Robinson, Andrew Powell, and Antonio Johnson remain the three-man ‘starting' rotation in various combos, with converted end Quinton Wesley now set in that mix. Now rookie Kyle Love is muscling into the mix as well, getting more snaps with the second unit. Fellow frosh Brandon Cooper is also getting some good work here. And new faces are lining up at ends with Rodney Prince taking his turns in relief of veterans Michael Heard and Avery Hannibal.

With more full-team drills taking place other frosh are working as ‘scouts' already, though not in imitation of any opponent just yet. When the first offensive line was practicing 7-on-7 they were going against a group of linemen Reggie Odom, Brandon Cooper and Anthony Smith, ends Cortez McCraney (a redshirting transfer) and Aaron Feld, and linebackers Mark Brown and Marshall Brown. Croom has said there will be no absolute determinations on redshirting freshmen until well into the season. So, being on the scout unit at this point is not a serious indicator of this season's plans.

There was no morning update on the status of un-cleared freshmen Courtney Jones and Alex Carpenter. That question and others will be addressed at the media conference this afternoon. With that on the day's schedule, there was no post-practice interview with staff.

Gene's Page Top Stories