Not reporting to the Palmeiro Center were WR Anthony Burks (hamstring), LB Jamar Chaney (ankle), CB Derek Pegues (shoulder), OT J.D. Hamilton (knee), OG Michael Gates (ankle). HB Brandon Thornton (knee) was with the team through the first few periods in a red-cross shirt, before joining the other wounded Dogs in the training room. A couple of players who have been limited in early game-week work the last month were in regular gear this week, with TE Eric Butler (toe, knee) and Charles Burns (shoulder) going full-speed for a change on Tuesday. WR Will Prosser seems to be over his back issues of last week, and QB Omarr Conner has benefited from treatment. He was moving much more easily today though still limited in what the groin strain allows him to attempt. At this point only FB Bryson Davis, HB Arnil Stallworth, and QB Tray Rutland are definitely out of the Arkansas game.
*IT'S BEEN a rewarding week for LB Quinton Culberson…or rather, an awarding week. The senior received his third Defensive Player of the Week recognition of the week today, this one from the Bronco Nagurski Award committee, after Culberson's performance at Alabama. He had already received DPOTW honors from the Southeastern Conference and the Walter Camp Foundation.
Though, he said today, "I only knew about one of them, one of the national honors. It feels real good, that's the first time I've gotten a player of the week since I've been at Mississippi State. It's been a long time, a lot of working hard and playing hard."
Culberson was credited with 10 tackles in State's 24-16 win at Alabama, and had a 51-yard interception return for touchdown that staked the Dogs to a 24-10 halftime lead. "I knew I had a chance to make a lot of tackles," he said of his last shot at the Crimson Tide. But, "Getting that interception made me happy!" It was his second such score as a Bulldog, along with a fumble return for touchdown against Kentucky in 2004.
Maybe just as crucial to the outcome at Alabama was Culberson's part in stopping quarterback John Wilson from crossing the goal on the last play of the first half. With two seconds on the clock and the Tide on State's one-yard line, Culberson had a hunch the quarterback would end up running. But first he had to take care of end-zone coverage duties since State figured it would be a pass play. It was, with Wilson taking three steps back before darting straight ahead. He ran into a group of Dogs just in front of the invisible ‘plane.'
"That was a great play," Culberson said. "I got there first, Jamar (Chaney) got there second, and Gabe (O'Neal) came in last to finish it off." And MLB Culberson said it was no accident the stop was made the three linebackers. "It shows when we're focused and have our minds right and read our keys we can make big plays."
Croom has always thought Culberson capable of making big plays. It is this senior season that has seen the athlete become a true player. "He has just improved every week this season," Croom said. "The most pleasing thing to me is just the whole transition, watching him change and develop as a person. The transition form corner to safety, to outside linebacker, to middle linebacker… he and Omarr (Conner) are probably the two poster boys for sacrificing for the good of the team. They've probably been through more adjustments than anybody on the team and have done it in a positive manner."
Culberson now has five double-digit tackle games this season, more than all three of his previous years in a MSU uniform. He says he's done a better job staying low and reading things correctly and the improved technique shows. Yes, linebackers are expected to make tackles. But Croom says Culberson hasn't been satisfied just to get stats.
"The last three weeks at practice he's come up and asks what he has to do to get better, he's very serious about what does he need to get better. I'm very happy for him and for people to recognize it, and I believe he has a chance to be a good player at the next level. I think the last two weeks of the season are going to solidify that if he keeps playing like he's playing."