Wednesday Practice Notebook

Mississippi State returned to the practice field Wednesday afternoon for the next round of drills in preparation for this weekend's matchup with Louisiana State. The Bulldogs worked out in shorts and shells, but this didn't prevent a couple of periods from featuring contact work.

Even full tackling. Because in running game practices, usually 9-on-9, the first offense and first defense went at each other and bodies were knocked to the ground as if everyone had full gear on. Nobody was hurt, other than maybe a few feelings; and while the defense had the advantage of knowing what was coming the offense did make things happen often enough.

The backfield was still short-handed Wednesday with two regulars sidelined by injuries. Freshman HB Arnil Stallworth did not report until late, after a lengthy period in the training room re-habbing the left ankle hurt at Alabama-Birmingham. Stallworth has not practiced since the injury, which occurred on a late sideline hit. But the coaches believe the rookie, who has started the last two games, will be ready in time to make Friday's flight to Baton Rouge.

Sophomore Brandon Thornton is more doubtful. The ankle sprained in the Auburn game has not improved fast enough and there might be a minor bone injury as well. He has not practiced since the injury and appears unlikely to make the road roster. Senior Derek Ambrose is also limited by a minor injury and has not practiced for two weeks.

This means freshman Anthony Dixon will probably make his first State start this weekend. Dixon has played all four games and is the leading rusher with 227 yards and two touchdowns. As of today his backup is walk-on Justin Williams (three carries, net minus-two yards). Christian Ducre is down the depth chart in a green jersey, and backup fullback Brandon Hart is working at halfback this week.

There have been no changes in the first offensive line since Michael Gates moved up to starting left guard. Anthony Strauder, who lost the #1 job, has regained his maroon-jersey status and is competing for snaps again. He will make the 70-man dress list along with backup blockers OC Johnny Carpenter and OT/G Chris Spencer, also in maroon. OG Anthony Dunning is also expected to stay in his second-slot, but with transfer OT Michael Brown still uncleared to play depth there is a question now. Brown also missed Wednesday's workout.

In his place on the second unit at left tackle was converted DT J. C. Brignone, who has practiced more at guard since moving from the other side of the line in late August.

While his broken left collarbone still heals, QB Mike Henig is practicing full-speed in passing drills and could make this weekend's trip…though playing him remains a long shot as any contact on that shoulder would be a risk. Omarr Conner will start, and backup Tray Rutland has had two good practice days in a row throwing the ball. The receiver rotation, with Conner moved back to his old job, has Tony Burks, Will Prosser, Keon Humphries, Lance Long, Joey Sanders, Jamayel Smith, and Tyler Threadgill.

TE Eric Butler was held out another day to protect the injured toe on his right foot. He will play at LSU, though Jason Husband will likely get the start again.

The first defense was back to normal Wednesday as FS Jeramie Johnson returned to full-work after taking it easy a couple of days with a hurting foot. DT Deljuan Robinson missed Tuesday and was back in his starting role today. So was DE Titus Brown who was ill Tuesday.

The only missing members were second-unit regulars. DT Quinton Wesley continues to miss practices with a severely sprained ankle. And Wednesday MLB Tim Bailey was wearing limited-work purple, his left knee in a wrap and brace.

Freshmen LB Jamon Hughes and DT Kyle Love, the most recent rookies activated, appear booked for significant action this week. Hughes was getting plenty of snaps as the backup ‘backer both outside and inside, and with Wesley out Love has given up the redshirt year and is already running a strong #2 alongside Antonio Johnson.

Though still wearing backup blue safety Anthony Summers was running second in some drills at strong safety, behind starter Keith Fitzhugh but at least even now with veteran Demario Bobo. The latter is working extensively in nickel sets, though, along with CB De'Mon Glanton.

As usually for Wednesday kickoffs got early attention, particularly coverage. Ten of the tacklers on this unit come from the defensive roster, the lone exception being Humphries.

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