"We treated it like a normal Tuesday practice," Croom said. "This was probably our longest and hardest workday, with basically normal first-down stuff and a lot of kicking game."
With gameday drawing nearer kicking plays of all sorts did get attention, from both sides of the line. Croom's statement last week that Adam Carlson would be the game-one placekicker is holding true as Carlson, kicking against the varsity rush team, hit all five of his attempts from increasing distances. He kicked out of backup punter Brooks Crabtree's hold.
Keith Andrews will kick off and Blake McAdams has not been pushed as the top punter. Receivers Omarr Conner and Lance Long and cornerback Derek Pegues are the punt-return rotation. Kickoffs were practiced on Saturday.
The injury total was encouragingly short with just three wearing red crosses Sunday. Unfortunately two of them, CB/S Demario Bobo (hamstring) and LB Jamon Hughes (hamstring), would be expected to play if healthy. Particularly freshman Hughes, who was a #2 outside linebacker; while veteran Bobo has yet to practice this month with the pull. At this point both are doubtful to dress out for the first game.
Also sidelined today was DT Reggie Odom, with a thigh bruise suffered Saturday. He was running on the third team at DT and still could be on the game roster Thursday. And WR Ryan Mason reported to practice in limited-yellow for the first time after almost two weeks in a red cross with a leg injury. Starting DE Titus Brown was excused to miss Sunday's practice.
There was one other item of injury news Sunday, as a certain Dog—the highest-ranking one on campus in fact—limped out of practice a bit early. Dr. Robert Foglesong is wearing a knee-high soft cast and protective heel plate on his left leg after a recent operation. Croom grinned when asked why the University president wasn't wearing a red-cross jersey at practice as is State's SOP.
As to any lineup adjustments for the opening game, "Nothing has changed since yesterday," Croom said. The respective first teams were listed in Saturday's report.
The offensive line still shows nine blockers dressed in maroon, five starters and four backups. Redshirt freshman Chris Spencer, at right guard, is the lone green-teammer working with the second group and should dress out Thursday, joining starters (left to right) Craig Jenkins, Michael Gates, Royce Blackledge, Anthony Strauder, and Brian Anderson; and the second team of J.D. Hamilton, Johnny Carpenter, Anthony Dunning, and Calvin Wilson.
With Mason still out, the varsity wide receivers are currently Conner, Long, Will Prosser, Tony Burks, Keon Humphries, Joey Sanders, and Jamayel Smith. The running back depth chart still shows Brandon Thornton on top and, for what it may be worth, the order of snap-taking in drills after the starter was Anthony Dixon, Derek Ambrose, Justin Williams, and Arnil Stallworth. All wear maroon, but the lattermost did work with the scout offense in ground-defense situations.
The return of Gabe O'Neal to active status hasn't impacted the first defensive eleven just yet, as Anthony Littlejohn is still #1 at strong-side linebacker. With Brown out of town Sunday his backup, Charles Burns, returned to the first team stature he held often during camp; and freshman Rodney Prince worked with the second defensive line. Otherwise the second unit looked the same as Saturday, though Jonathan Hill was getting more snaps as both a safety and linebacker in various packages.
With the longest working day out of the way the Bulldogs will spend Monday and Tuesday brushing up on the gameplan. "From here on in it will be a lot shorter, a lot more mental," Croom said. Monday's workout will be at 5:00 and Tuesday's at 4:00, then on Wednesday the Dogs will have a brief walk-through. The head coach only hopes that nothing happens between now and kickoff to impact the team's upbeat mentality.
"It's as good as it's been since we've been here. In fact, it's the best it's been since we've been here. I think the kids are very positive and feel confident about themselves and the work they've put into it. That's the biggest thing, they've worked all spring and summer and are looking forward to this football game."