Offensive Line Changes; Injury List Grows

After Saturday's scrimmage and unhappy with the performance by the offensive lines, Coach Sylvester Croom said that Mississippi State needed to find five guys who "want to play the game" and start getting them ready for the August 31 season opener. Monday morning the process began in earnest and in full-gear.

When the offensive team lined up for a 7:30 start to the morning session, the first-team line had changed at both right-side positions. Brian Anderson, who moved from left tackle to right guard in spring and was set as the #1 there, has stepped out to right tackle. In his place sophomore Michael Gates was promoted to first-team status at guard. Royce Blackledge and Anthony Strauder remained at center and left guard respectively, while J.D. Hamilton—who took the first snap at left tackle in the scrimmage—was in the same place Monday.

Also, soph Anthony Dunning was promoted to maroon-jersey rank and was alternating with Gates at RG. And for the first time center Johnny Carpenter came out in maroon, staying as the backup to Blackledge.

Just as telling were the color-coded demotions. RT Craig Jenkins and LT Calvin Wilson were in green shirts and working only with the second team after both ran on the first-unit all last week. Backup tackle Mike Brown also swapped maroon for green, though this might be partly due to his uncertain availability for the season as his appeal for waiver has not been granted.

The second offensive line in drills was, left to right, Wilson, Dunning, Carpenter, John McMillan, and Jenkins; the third unit was LT Mark Melichar, C Chris Spencer, and RT Brown.

Just how serious the coach is about bettering the blocking showed when, after stretching and field goal work, the drills went to 9-vs.-9s with the first offense against the first defense, for nothing but running plays. And even when the next period was focused on passing plays, the two lines continued to butt helmets in full-contact, full-tackling activity.

Halfback Brandon Thornton, held out of all but two series Saturday, made up for it with some hard running between the tackles in these drills as the #1. Derek Ambrose, who had Saturday off with a minor injury, was back at work but lost his maroon status during a drill. By contrast rookie Arnil Stallworth earned a fast promotion back to maroon with some good efforts in traffic.

There were no changes to the defensive depth chart from Saturday, other than for injuries suffered in the scrimmage. And the physical toll told this morning.

Receiver Will Prosser re-hurt his shoulder early in the action and came out today in red cross and with a sling on the left arm. He was joined on the red-cross crew by receiver Keith Mills, safety De'Mon Glanton, linebacker Jamon Hughes, and defensive lineman Rodney Prince, all hurt in the scrimmage. Other, older injuries carried over from last week were linebacker Gabe O'Neal, tackle Roland Terry, fullback Casey Rogers, and tight end Brandon Henderson.

Two players in red-crosses last week have progressed to limited-duty, corner/safety Demario Bobo and halfback Anthony Dixon. Receiver Joey Sanders wore no-hit red and participated in non-contact drills.

The morning practice was to end at 10:00. Afternoon drills begin at 3:45. This is the last of three two-a-day dates on the camp schedule.


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