Bulldogs Continue Non-Contact Camp Work

It's only two days into spring practices for Mississippi State, yet after each session Coach Sylvester Croom has come off the field with good things to say. And that is about as encouraging a sign of progress as the Bulldogs could want at this stage of 2007. At least, until the pads go on and the hitting begins.

"I thought our effort was pretty good for the most part," Croom said after Tuesday's session which lasted from 4:00 to 6:30. "We're still in that stage of learning assignments, that's about all you can do from a shorts standpoint. It allows us to get a lot of teaching done without contact and minimize injuries. We haven't had anybody hurt yet but we haven't hit anybody so we shouldn't.

"But we're getting a lot of teaching done and getting indoctrinated as far as what we want to do, in paying attention to details and doing all the little things right."

Both days the head coach has spent the great majority of time with the offensive team in general and the quarterbacks in particular. After day-one Croom was praising the poise of starter Mike Henig. Tuesday brought more of the same.

"Mike is throwing the ball probably as well as he has since he's been here. I think he's gotten a lot better on his drops, he has a real good grasp of what he has to do with the football." Then again, some of that improvement should also be credited to work by Henig's targets. This camp is seeing a focus on man-to-man work by both catcher and defenders as the staff wants the guys on each unit to be confident they can make individual plays.

Monday the defensive backs had the better of things. Tuesday was more even, Croom said. "Our receivers got a little bit better today." With everybody in shorts it's obviously easier to evaluate those speed positions. Still there are some things the bigger bodies have been able to show off without making full-contact.

"I can't tell a lot about the line, both sides, so far other than from an assignment standpoint," Croom said. "We'll learn more when we get the shoulder pads on but I am pleased with the way we're moving, we're not having a lot of dumb penalties."

Related to quarterbacking, Croom confirmed that sophomoreTray Rutland is leaving the squad. Rutland had not practiced Monday. "I gave him yesterday to think about it, he had some things on the field and in his personal life he has to deal with. So he's decided to transfer elsewhere. We wish him the best."

Rutland was already behind this spring. He suffered a serious knee injury in the one snap he took in the West Virginia game last fall, tearing two ligaments. He also developed an infection over the winter that further slowed his return. His health situation contributed to State's decision to sign junior college quarterback Josh Riddell, who is already #2 on the depth chart. Walk-on Kyle Auffray and sophomore Ty Evans are co-third teammers for now.

Day-two of camp also marked the first round of ‘promotions' for players judged to have earned the privilege of wearing numbers on their jerseys. Each side of the ball had a pair with digits; on offense quarterback Mike Henig and center Royce Blackledge, and on defense ends Titus Brown and Avery Hannibal. Those four not only wore numbers but the typical varsity practice colors.

Otherwise all offensive personnel regardless of team-status were in green and defenders in blue. With, that is, the exceptions of injured players. Tight end Eric Butler (toe) is in red cross and restricted to rehabilitation after off-season surgery, and guard Anthony Dunning (kidney) in yellow but working out in most drills.

Receiver Ryan Mason had a hurting foot after Monday's practice but midway through Tuesday was running routes and catching balls. Defensive safety De'Mon Glanton tweaked a groin early in the afternoon.

There did not appear to be any notable changes of player positions or moves up and down depth charts for Tuesday.

With two days done the Bulldogs won't have to practice Wednesday. "I think we've accomplished a lot these two days," Croom said. "They'll have tomorrow off while we study the film, then get back on Thursday and Friday and give them the weekend off."

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