Wednesday Football Notebook

Afternoon weather forced Mississippi State to move Wednesday's practice indoors, with a two-hour session in the Palmeiro Center. The change did set up something of a conflict, as the first half-hour of football drills took place while Diamond Dogs were working out on the north end of the field.

In fact at one point the twain came close to meeting, when one special teams drill headed toward that end while baseball players were throwing the width of the field. "That will be interesting," Coach Sylvester Croom said. "I'd like to see how many of our guys will run that gauntlet." None had to as it turned out.

And not that State needed risking any further injuries. A goodly number of Bulldogs were still limited Wednesday, though in the case of FB Casey Rogers (knee) a red cross was an upgrade. DE Charles Burns (shoulder, knee) was also limited, as was WR Tony Burks (hamstring). WR Will Prosser (back), OT J.D. Hamilton (knee), and OG Michael Gates (ankle) were all in yellow jersies and all have a good chance of playing at Alabama. S Demario Bobo (leg) was in purple and is uncertain at this point. Also held out another day was LB Jamar Chaney (ankle).

Also, QB Mike Henig and TE Eric Butler were back in first-unit maroon after being held back Monday and Tuesday. But QB Omarr Conner (groin) did not come to practice this day, staying in the training room after the injury stiffened up following Tuesday's practice.

HBs Brandon Thornton and Arnil Stallworth are both out for this week, though Thornton is closer to returning to action. Needless to say, the Bulldogs—and the training room staff—are eager for next week's open date.

*THOUGH INJURED, both LG Gates and RT Hamilton are still running second-team on the offensive line. Anthony Strauder has moved up to first-team at guard, his old starting job; and Craig Jenkins remains first RT with Mike Brown at LT. Redshirt frosh Chris Spencer, who has practiced literally every position on the #2 line and played briefly this year at guard, was working behind Brown.

The defense is reasonably healthy, by November standards, but there are still some gimpy starters. Chaney's ankle puts him farther behind than most and for a second day Jamon Hughes was running with the first team at OLB. Also, CB Derek Pegues was limping today but Croom did not think the starter was in any real difficulties.

*RB Coach Shane Beamer has had an interesting few weeks, with new or re-newed injuries almost every game. "I've never seen anything like this," the coach said as he prepared for another day's drills with a limited roster. Anthony Dixon is the lone healthy regular halfback left and will be starting at Alabama in place of Thornton.

Obviously depth is a big issue this week. After three days of drills, the roster is either Christian Ducre or Justin Williams as #2. "Or maybe you can say 2 and 2a," Beamer said, giving Ducre the slight lead based on practice results so far. "Christian is a little faster while Justin is more of a straight-ahead runner." Derek Ambrose is the reserve halfback for now.

*AND THE injury bug hasn't been limited to halfbacks. The fullback depth chart has been cut in half with senior Bryson Davis out the rest of the season and Rogers iffy. That leaves soph Brandon Hart as the only regular fullback available. "I've just got to take up the slack and help the team out," he said. And yes, he knows that this means blocking for others with only the rarest opportunity to touch the ball himself. Hart is even less likely to receive a pass than either of the injured-others for that matter.

He accepts the duty, but… "I like to run the ball, too. So I've just got to take on my tasks and do the best I can of whatever I've got to do." And his primary task is either clearing a path for Dixon or keeping blitzers off of Henig. Hart is also aware that he is the exception to the 2006 rule, as the only regular participant in the backfield who hasn't been injured at some point this season. Even Dixon (thumb) has missed some time. But, the Bulldogs can't dwell on this.

"I know sometimes it feels like a jinx or curse or something, but we have to go play football the best we can and whatever happens is supposed to happen. Just go play the game."

*THIS WILL be a short and familiar road trip for LB Titus Brown, a Tuscaloosa native and Hillcrest High graduate. The junior has been busy all week with the primary role of a player returning to his hometown—finding tickets for family and friends.

"It's all going to be down to how many tickets are they going to give me!" Brown grinned, as he scrounges from teammates with free guest ducats. "A lot of guys from Mississippi and Florida, I'm pretty sure they will help me with tickets. I've got my grandmother, my mom, my brothers, it's going to be a good crowd there."

The natural question of how Brown ended up leaving town for college ball has to come up, and he has the ready answer. "My coaches wanted me to go there but in the end I decided Mississippi State was the best move for me. I'm glad I came here and wouldn't trade it for the world." The Bulldog defense wouldn't swap Brown for much anyone either, as the defensive end is near the top of the team in tackles for losses and sacks alike. In fact, this has led to an interesting race by Dog defenders.

"Me and Deljuan (Robinson) are competing for the tackles-for-loss section, and me and Michael Heard are competing for the sacks. Right now I'm above Deljuan, and me and Mike are tied for sacks. So as long as we keep it competitive everybody does a good job." And Brown is the only Dog who can win both titles. So will whoever does the best job win anything of interest at season's end?

"Just bragging rights really," Brown grins. "Maybe a steak dinner or something! But other than that, just bragging rights."

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