Wednesday Football Practice Notebook

Mississippi State ran through their last afternoon session of the open-date week Wednesday, spending less than two hours on the practice fields in shells. The Bulldogs will have a 6:00am practice before Thursday classes, then a Friday morning running session before they are turned loose for the weekend break.

*NONE OF the players who skipped Tuesday's practice with injuries was working with the team today, though FB Casey Rogers (knee) was on the sidelines jogging as he tries to get back for one last senior-season game. There were two starters in limited-jerseys Wednesday; MLB Quinton Culberson practiced in purple with a wrap on his right elbow, and OG Anthony Strauder was in yellow with an injured toe.

Staying in the training room today were WR Anthony Burks (hamstring), LB Jamar Chaney (ankle), CB Derek Pegues (shoulder), OC Royce Blackledge (ankle), OT J.D. Hamilton (knee), OG Michael Gates (ankle), and HB Brandon Thornton (knee).

At this point only FB Bryson Davis (knee), HB Arnil Stallworth (ankle), and QB Tray Rutland (knee) are definitely out of the Arkansas game.

*THE INJURIES caused some Wednesday lineup shuffles, especially on an offensive line that couldn't put two varsity groups together. The unit was also missing backup OC Johnny Carpenter who was in a class. So the #1 line, left-to-right, was Mike Brown, Strauder, Chris Spencer, Brian Anderson, and Craig Jenkins. Anthony Dunning was #2 at both guard positions, Roland Terry backing up Brown, and walk-ons filled in other second-team slots. Still there were 7-on-7 drills by the offense and defense in running-game practicing for Arkansas.

*HE'S NOT hurting, but probably HB Anthony Dixon could use a rest himself. The freshman certainly put in a hard day's work at Alabama, pounding out 121 of State's 131 rushing yards in the victory. That was more yards than Dixon had netted in the previous five games, though he didn't add to his seven-touchdown total on the season. What he did was just as important though, moving the chains and changing field position and eating up both ground and clock. "Had we not been able to run the time of possession would have been totally out of kilter," Croom said. "As it was our defense was still out there far too long in the second half."

For their part Alabama's defense saw far too much of Dixon. "That's the kind of running Coach expects from me," Dixon said. "I just had a real good game, I was super-focused. And I was real calm, I wasn't looking to the sideline for the rotation."

That's because Dixon was, and still is, the lone healthy halfback in State's regular rotation, with Thornton and Stallworth sidelined. Croom credits improvements in Bulldog blocking, both from the interior line and tight ends like Desmond Sherrod, for making the ground game work last week. At the same time, Dixon kept doing damage once past of the line of scrimmage. It was his kind of game, he said: lots of snaps and lots of chances.

"When he lets me stay out there and get in my groove I feel I can just stick with this, instead of trying to make a big play because I've only got a couple of carries." Expect Dixon to get even more carries in the next two games. "The thing was Anthony knowing he was ‘the guy' going into the game," Croom said. "So hey, it's his job now, he is ‘the guy'.

"I think Brandon will play in a backup role for us if he's back, because there are certain things he can do better than the others. But the focal point of the running game will be Anthony now and the things he can do."

But, the coach adds, the big kid needs to stick to what he does best. "Sometimes he thinks he's Barry Sanders," Croom quipped. And Dixon agrees that still has a tendency to be somebody he's not. "In high school I thought I was Reggie Bush out there, I was doing everything! Sometimes I tend to put one or two moves on.

"Coach has told me. But it's a habit, what I'm used to doing! Sometimes it just comes out. I'm going to get it corrected, I don't know when but it's going to come." Oh, and as for the danger of over-working the rookie runner? Dixon says Thornton and Stallworth needn't hurry back, he'll be glad to carry their load, too.

*IT WASN'T officially a tackle, and it won't show up on any stat sheet. But there is no question what was Mississippi State's biggest hit of the game…for that matter, the season. It was the lick SS De'Mon Glanton laid on Alabama's Jimmie Johns during a kickoff return. The shot, caught on video five yards ahead of the supposed action—i.e., the ball—already is making the e-rounds and becoming a local legend.

Except the perpetrator himself has yet to see the video. "Some friends sent me emails saying it's on YouTube," Glanton said. "I've got to go check it out."

It's quality viewing, at least for Bulldogs. Brookhaven native Johns, already a villain in MSU minds after backing off his verbal commitment to MSU in 2005 and signing with Alabama, further stirred up interstate animosity days before the game with careless comments. But Glanton explains the big hit was just part of standard kickoff return play. "He was my responsibility, because last year he made Derek (Pegues) fumble and they scored a touchdown. So my responsibility was to kick him out. I didn't think it was going to be that big a hit, though."

Glanton didn't kick Johns out, he laid him out, streaking across to catch the Tide high and hard from the right side. Both went down and needed help getting back to their respective sidelines. "I was woozy for a while," Glanton said, "but I recovered fast." He did, playing on in the game. Johns didn't.

Glanton understandably feels good about the play and what it says about State's special-teams attitudes. Of course it only means he, as a blocker for Pegues, becomes a marked man himself. "I'm sure everybody will be watching after that hit!"

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