Bulldogs Resume Spring Drills Thursday

It was scheduled as a standard two-and-a-half-hour practice. Only, three hours after Thursday's session began the Bulldogs still had not wrapped up the concluding conditioning sprints. Not until well after 7:00 were all Mississippi State players released from the Palmeiro Center, where the day's drills were run due to rain-soaked practice fields.

Coach Sylvester Croom's evaluation of the afternoon-into-evening session wasn't much better than the weather, either. "It wasn't very good today," he said. "We had some good effort but overall practice ended up being too long because we had to repeat too many plays.

"Too many of our last 12 series we didn't do them right, with the discipline needed to, so we had to repeat too many things. Regardless of how long it takes we're not going to leave until we get it done right. I though we did alright the first two days, but today we took a step backwards."

Individually, three Bulldog veterans did take a forward step Thursday as they were allowed to don varsity jerseys with numbers, joining the four who had been raised to that status Tuesday. Wearing digits this day were OG Anthony Strauder, SLB Gabe O'Neal, and MLB Jamar Chaney. Already in number-uniforms were QB Mike Henig, OC Royce Blackledge, and DEs Titus Brown and Avery Hannibal. Camp began with everyone in blank jerseys and as players perform up to expectations they get to wear their numbers…which can also be taken away.

The injury list grew to three Thursday. TE Eric Butler (toe) is restricted after off-season surgery, and after two days in limited-yellow OG Anthony Dunning (kidney) also donned a red-cross and did not work. The newest member was WR Joey Sanders with a hurting knee.

This early into camp there have been no notable position changes or shake-ups in the depth chart. This isn't from a lack of competition at many slots, but because the tentative #1 teammers have been able to hold off their challengers…so far.

Certainly Mike Henig has had no problems maintaining his status atop the quarterback roster. "Mike is throwing the ball very well, you can definitely see the experience he has is showing up," Croom said. Not to mention the junior's velocity and authority throwing the ball, which are well ahead of anyone else in a red jersey this week.

"He's our starter and that's the way I expect to come out of spring," said Croom. "But we'll see. Right now he is our quarterback, until further notice." As of now the substitute rotation still has junior transfer Josh Riddell taking the position second in drills, with an improved Ty Evans and Zack Harrington alternating as the third-teammer.

When Henig was under-center his #1 backfield partners varied depending on whether Anthony Davis was working as halfback or fullback. In most passing drills Arnil Stallworth was the top halfback ahead of Justin Williams and Christian Ducre.

With Dunning not able to participate, there was some shuffling along the front during individual drills with several working at multiple positions. Such as Mark Melichar and J.D. Hamilton who took turns at both guard and tackle. The first line was unchanged with RT Craig Jenkins, RG Michael Gates, OC Blackledge, LG Strauder, and LT Mike Brown. The second front adjusted for Dunning's absence and lined up with RT Roland Terry, RG Melichar, OC Johnny Carpenter, LG J. C. Brignone, and LT Hamilton.

Defensively, State continued working with the revised-for-spring staff that has two new members and some adjusted assignments for the holdovers. Their periods are devoted to technique work and repetitions since there will be no hitting until next week. The hardest drilling is by the defensive backs as they get a more realistic testing every day playing man-on-man in offensive passing drills with the wideouts.

Even without contact work Croom has seen some good things from the front-seven, which is a positive sign considering the number of holes to be filled from last fall. "Titus Brown and Avery Hannibal are doing well and Jamar Chaney is starting to fit into the middle. He and Gabe are doing good things, but that's expected."

More will be expected, for that matter demanded, on Friday. Because the Bulldogs certainly don't want to end the first week of camp with consecutive lackluster practices.

"We'll come back out tomorrow and see if we can get better," Croom said. "We'll go in shoulder pads and helmets tomorrow and come back in full pads Monday."

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