The offensive line is in much better shape this week with OC Royce Blackledge (ankle), OT J.D. Hamilton (ankle) and OT Craig Jenkins (knee) all back in first-unit maroon again. And a couple of skill players held out last week were back in regular gear, a good sign for the coming game. WR Tony Burks showed no problems running patterns with the nagging hamstring; and TE Eric Butler's season-long toe problem seems to have benefited from the open date as well.
Earlier in the day Coach Sylvester Croom said he planned to work out in shoulder pads Monday, which is not typical for game-week. And the practice time was moved up to a 4:00 start, an hour earlier than usual.
*ONE DOG who was not practicing Monday had to settle for an afternoon jogging around the workout fields. WR Jamayel Smith reported with a cast on his right hand, the results of surgery last week to repair a torn ligament in the ‘web' between the thumb and forefinger. Unlike the other wounded Dogs, Smith admits sheepishly that his injury didn't come from competition.
"I fell on my thumb in practice, trying to catch myself," he said. "It's very embarrassing! I mean, the players were joking about it and things like that. But I've got to get it back, I miss it."
The surgery was done last Thursday, not Friday as the coach had said earlier today. Smith is upbeat about his chances of being ready for the Arkansas game. "They said I should be able to come back. I'd like to play." In fact the team trainer confirmed that Smith should be able to participate by the weekend. The concern is how much pain can he handle on the right hand either catching or blocking. Smith is more concerned about the former.
"I told Mike (Henig), when they take the cast off my hand is going to be real tender. The way he's throwing the ball, he's going to take a little bit off!"
*MONDAY IS usually when Croom has his weekly call-in show. But with MSU playing basketball this evening, the hour-long show moves to Tuesday at 7:00 at The Veranda. It is the next-to-last show of the 2006 season.