Watching Tuesday's practice in a red-cross was OT J.D. Hamilton as he gets over a knee strain. He should be able to practice later this week and possibly play.
*LIMITED PLAYERS for Tuesday were TE Eric Butler (turf toe) and DE Charles Burns (shoulder). Both are just being protected from any contact, and both should be able to play. Butler has worn limited-yellow for weeks now and managed to miss just one game. He had his first touchdown catch of the junior season Saturday, giving him eight for his career.
DT Deljuan Robinson, who missed one game and was limited in another, is back working with the first team.
*THIS WEEKEND will be an interesting experience for one MSU Bulldog…who had things worked out otherwise would be part of the other Bulldog roster. LB Jamar Chaney is ‘returning' to the field he never actually got to play on.
"I'm looking forward to playing between the hedges," said Chaney, who has been there before but only as a visiting prospect. The Fort Pierce, Fla., native signed with Georgia out of West Centennial High School. Then over the summer he found out that the university was not going to accept his academic qualifications. Georgia has enforced higher standards than the SEC or NCAA requires for some years now.
Chaney, who had gotten offers from Tennessee, South Carolina, N.C. State, West Virginia, and others, was suddenly at loose ends. But UG Coach Mark Richt lent a helping hand to both his signee and a SEC counterpart by contacting Coach Sylvester Croom. By mid-July Chaney was again a Bulldog, a maroon-and-white one this time.
He hasn't obsessed about this game, Chaney said. If anything he's trying to downplay the weekend. "You know the game is on the calendar, so as you go week-by-week you know the game is getting closer. I'm ready to go play and have fun, I know most of the people on the team so I'm just ready to show what I can do."
Not just participants, either. Family and friends will be in Sanford Stadium and Chaney has been busy begging tickets from teammates for his guests. "I don't know yet how many I'll have there but it's a lot, it should be over twenty."
Chaney has 36 tackles so far in his seven 2006 starts, compared to the 31 he totaled in all 11 games (three starts) as a true freshman. Yet his stats might tail off a bit in the second half of the season, not because of his own play but because new linebackers such as Jamon Hughes are working into the rotation. Chaney doesn't mind taking breaks.
"We have more depth so you don't get as tired out there, you get a couple of series and know another is coming in. That way it keeps all of us fresh. When the new guys come in it's not really a drop-off. They know what they're doing."
*IT WAS a welcome return to action Saturday for WR Aubrey Bell, who spent the first half of the schedule watching others dress and play. After sitting out six games he celebrated his re-activation by catching three balls for 62 yards. Bell figured he would get to play because once reinstated he was handed a varsity-maroon jersey for game week practices.
"The week of the game I was getting a lot of reps and they were telling me I was going to have to come in and give a little more depth to the receiving corps and possibly come in and make a few plays for the offense. All that week I had my mind set on doing what they wanted me to do."
Statistically it was a slow start as the only ball thrown his way the first half netted just one yard. But in the third quarter Bell snared a slant-throw and finished with 25 yards of profit, and on the last play of the period he caught a 36-yard strike from Mike Henig to the JSU 10-yard line. Likely forgotten by now was when Bell drew an interference call on 3rd-and-9 that gave State first down on the Gamecock three-yard line.
Bell played in all eleven games as a true freshman with a start against Alabama, when he made both his catches for the season for 25 combined yards. He also played regularly on kicking teams. A much bigger role was forecast for the second season, only he had to give up half of it before getting the go-ahead to resume.
"I just had to wait on my time and once it came take advantage of it," Bell said. "Come in and play a lot, give more depth." And, he could add, height. Croom has long wanted to put several taller, stronger receivers on the field at the same time. With Bell back in good graces he joins Tony Burks and Jamayel Smith on that select downfield-threat rotation.
"Like going across the middle," he agreed. "With the big linemen Mike can see us there instead of maybe somebody 5-9 or 5-10 going across there." Now Bell hopes to be seen more and more often going across the middle, or down-and-out, or straight for the goal line. He has lost time to make up for.
"I did pretty good being my first game. I'm just going to have to play even better this weekend at Georgia."
*ONE PLAY made by Bell that might have been missed in the excitement was his downfield blocking on Derek Pegues' punt-return touchdown. For the final 15 yards Bell shielded away the last Gamecock with a chance to spoil the six-point play. His peers certainly noticed.
"Oh yeah, Derek told me good block. And I said good run! I hope to see him in there a lot more. The coaches and all the players were telling me good blocks, I was like hey, that's why I'm out there!"
*ANOTHER DOG making a delayed-debut Saturday was OT Mike Brown, who had played a different version of the waiting game until granted permission by the SEC to participate in the second half of the 2006 season. Brown has no regrets over serving an unofficial penalty for transferring after two years at Florida, he was just happy to get back on the ball field for real.
"I hadn't played in two years," he said. "I was a little bit nervous going out but once I started getting into the flow as the game progressed I went back to my regular abilities. It was just amazing, and I'm really looking forward to playing Georgia."
Croom is looking forward to Brown's further development, now that he is a full-time blocker after beginning college as a defensive tackle. This is where Brown should have been all along, the MSU coach says. "He's a natural pass protector. The running game is what he has to work on, he's used to backing up." Sounds strange, as a defensive guy should be used to charging straight ahead, but that's beside any point now. And Brown graded out well for his debut, on the whole.
He also got a lot more snaps than expected in his first time out, taking over for practically three combined quarters when starting LT J.D. Hamilton strained a knee. "Like Coach Croom says, you never know when you'll get the chance," Brown grinned.
Croom noted that during camp and the first month of the season the starters and top backups had to get most of the practice snaps. "We had to work the guys we knew were going to play." As the mid-season mark approached and word came through that Brown would be activated for game-seven, he moved into a more demanding regimen. The timing proved excellent as top backup Calvin Wilson left the team at the end of September, leaving almost no depth at either tackle. There still isn't a lot of room for further injury. "We hope to get J.D. some work late this week and hopefully he can play Saturday," Croom said.
Brown hopes he can put in a strong second-half of the season as preparation for his two remaining years in a MSU uniform. "When you get your chance you've got to make the best of it and I feel I'm trying to make the best of my chance. I've got a lot to work on but I'm still working hard to improve what I need to and keep what I do have tuned-up."
*THERE WAS some SEC-irony Saturday when Brown squared off with Jacksonville State DE Lemarcus Rowell. Both had begun their college careers elsewhere, Brown at Florida and Rowell at Auburn. "He was real good, he was very competitive," Brown said. "I'm a competitive guy and that helped me."
*COMING WEDNESDAY: updates on injuries and adjustments to the lineup; talking with Derek Pegues about progress in returns, on defense, and the possibility of playing some offense; and the Bulldog backfield is back up to speed.