Bulldogs Go Through Friday Morning Motions

School is currently between sessions, but Friday morning Coach Sylvester Croom decided to give an exam of his own. He decided that, after a tough week of work and with a Saturday scrimmage game coming up, to let the Bulldogs practice in partial gear. "I wanted to see if we could pull the pads off and get better without beating up on each other," he explained.

Unfortunately, it was obvious from the coach's post-practice expression what sort of grade the team had earned. "We didn't get a lot done today," Croom reported.

It was not so much the technical aspects of the morning workout, running from 7:30 to just after 10:00, that displeased Croom. He even saw some progress there in places. It was the overall attitude the team demonstrated that made the morning a failure.

"There wasn't a lot of enthusiasm. It was our worst day to be honest with you. We did some good things but as a whole team I didn't think we got better. Just as soon as we walked into the gate I knew it wasn't going to be a good practice."

There were no good reasons for this to happen, either. After some good hitting Thursday morning the staff had let the Dogs work the afternoon in shells, and it was not a long session either. Friday's conditions were beneficial with an early cloud cover and short shower towards the end keeping everyone cooled down. And with a scrimmage tomorrow, Croom went against his grain and set a non-contact practice for this morning.

No wonder the coach called the results a "violation of trust" by the team. And he knew it was going to be that sort of session immediately. "Usually I stop it and do something about it, but I was going to see if they'd do something about it. And nobody did.

"I was disappointed with our senior leadership, nobody tried to pick the whole group up. It's time for them, instead of relying on me, to pick themselves and each other up."

As to the performances, there were a smattering of good things to look at. The injury roster lost one and gained one Friday. Offensive guard Michael Gates shed the limited-yellow shirt for first-team maroon, having gotten over the bell-ringing blow to the head in midweek work. He lined up on the first team, too, because starting LG Anthony Strauder was sidelined by a shoulder injury suffered Thursday.

J.D. Hamilton came out a second day in yellow also, but did participate in most drills as the #1 left tackle. That made Friday's starting line, left to right, Hamilton, Gates, Royce Blackledge, Brian Anderson, and Craig Jenkins. The backup squad is getting thin though with tackles Calvin Wilson (groin) and Roland Terry (back) still out. So the second line was Mike Brown, Anthony Dunning, Johnny Carpenter, John McMillan, and Chris Spencer. The only reserve for today was tackle Mark Melichar.

Still wearing red crosses and not practicing were WR Ryan Mason (quadricep), halfback Anthony Dixon (ankle), linebacker Gabe O'Neal (shoulder), cornerback/safety Demario Bobo (hamstring), and tight end Brandon Jones-Henderson (hamstring). Backup fullback Casey Rogers (shoulder) came out in yellow a second day.

The first defense remained the same as both Thursday practices, with Charles Burns continuing to run first at left end ahead of Titus Brown who had to take days off this week for family matters. And Anthony Littlejohn stayed first-team at linebacker in place of the injured O'Neal.

Otherwise the first and second units looked unchanged. State hopes to get Bobo back soon so he can compete for time as the ‘nickel' safety in passing defensive sets. At the moment starting corner David Heard is the usual nickel DB, much as his 2005 counterpart Kevin Dockery was, with Adron Chambers taking Heard's corner.

With the first scrimmage coming up kicking teams are taking shape, and field goal practice was encouraging Friday as Adam Carlson and Keith Andrews took turns and hit every attempt from varying ranges. Both were good from 47 yards with plenty distance to spare.

Still it was the mentality which the coach was concerned with afterwards. And yes, Croom told reporters, he told the team exactly what he thought. "When have I not expressed my feelings about anything? They know what I'm thinking; will they do anything about it?

"I think we've gotten better every practice in some degree in some area; today we were going through the motions. The only good thing about training camp is finding out who is mentally tough, and we didn't display any of that today."

So when the Bulldogs line up at Scott Field tomorrow, they know what the boss will be evaluating most closely. Individual and unit execution matters, of course, but along with aptitude there had better be plenty of attitude. "I want to see how mentally tough we are."

Saturday's scrimmage is closed to the public.

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