Croom Pleased With First Week Results

Mississippi State wrapped up the first week of 2007 spring football training to favorable reviews from the only critic who counts. "It was a good week," said Coach Sylvester Croom after the Bulldogs finished their two-and-a-half-hour Friday session and fourth working day of camp.

"I'm pleased with the way practices went for the first week, particularly today when they had the shoulder pads on," Croom said. It was State's first day in contact gear, and if they were only partially padded many Bulldogs didn't shy away from running into each other when the opportunities were there. Maybe it was the addition of some armor that got the squad back on a more efficient track than they had shown Thursday, when forced by weather to work indoors. Whatever the reason the top Dog was pleased this afternoon.

"I thought we got things done, we did better today than yesterday."

That was on both sides of the ball, too, and despite a handful of key figures on offense and defense alike being either limited or out. After three excellent days to open his third spring with State, QB Mike Henig was told to take things easier Friday. "Mike was sore from some lifting he did," Croom explained. This wasn't a bad break though because it allowed Henig's backups to take more turns with the first unit.

It wasn't hard to see who is establishing himself as a strong #2 triggerman. "I thought Josh Riddell in particular picked up some things," Croom said. "I like the progress he's making as the backup. He got a lot of work today." The third man here isn't so clear with Zack Harrington, Kyle Auffrey, and Ty Evans alternating and none having much chance to stand out so far.

The entire week has seen the practice-play tilted strongly to the passing game, not least because this has been non-contact work. State came into spring with a number of wide receivers having shown their stuff last fall, such as Tony Burks, Jamayel Smith, and Aubrey Bell. Now a couple of redshirts are getting their chance to really compete. Ryan Mason has taken good snaps with the first group of wideouts. And, "Brandon McRae stepped up today and did some nice things," Croom said.

Two more veterans reported for practice wearing varsity uniforms, TE Dezmond Sherrod and SS Keith Fitzhugh. They joined the other Dogs already awarded their jersey numbers for practice performance so far: OC Royce Blackledge, OG Anthony Strauder, DE Titus Brown, DE Avery Hannibal, QB Henig, SLB Gabe O'Neal, and MLB Jamar Chaney. But Chaney had to swap his numbers for a red-cross Friday after straining a hamstring the day before. He was only able to watch, when not on the exercise bike, joining TE Eric Butler (toe), WR Joey Sanders (knee), and TE Jeremy Jones (left eye). OG Anthony Dunning continues to be treated for a kidney condition and has not practiced since Tuesday.

The offensive front began adjusting to Dunning's absence Thursday, and today reinforced some of the changes. Most notably, senior J.D. Hamilton has moved from the top backup at both tackle spots to #2 at right guard. Meanwhile redshirted guard Mark Melichar is now running second-team at left tackle. The backup line is now, right-to-left, T Roland Terry, Hamilton, C Johnny Carpenter, G J. C. Brignone, and Melichar.

The first line remains RT Craig Jenkins, RG Michael Gates, OC Blackledge, LG Strauder, and LT Mike Brown.

The defensive interior line also saw a change, due to promotion as Quinton Wesley moved up to the first team at nose tackle while Kyle Love was demoted to backup. Friday's #1 front was, left-to-right, DE Titus Brown, DT Jessie Bowman, NT Wesley, DE Avery Hannibal. The second line was Charles Burns, Chris Herrera, Love, and Cortez McCraney. Rodney Prince and Brandon Cooper were the #3 ends, and Reggie Odom the third nose tackle.

"Titus is having a good practice, we've got some young guys to work on the defensive line that we're watching," said Croom. "And the (position) changes we made, Keon Humphries and Tay Bowser look like they're going to make a competitive situation at corner. Derek Pegues definitely looks like he's at the right spot at free safety." Anthony Johnson and Marcus Washington remain first-team at their respective corners but by converting wideouts Humphries and Bowser neither can take their jobs for granted.

Though only in partial pads there was some nice contact in 7-on-7 drills running the ball. While SS Fitzhugh and FS Pegues remain the first pair of safeties, pass or run, Demario Bobo is now getting more snaps with the second unit alongside regular De'Mon Glanton. Bobo is taking some of the turns Anthony Summers had been getting, while Jarvis Kyles is on the third unit.

Chaney's place as first MLB was assumed by Timmy Bailey with Carvel Jones now the backup. "We're definitely not going to put Chaney back out there until we know that hamstring is 100%, Croom said. "I know he's going to be a player so we're not going to take any chances." O'Neal and Anthony Littlejohn remain the strong and weak linebackers ahead of Dominc Douglass and Jamon Hughes.

For the first few camp days most of the special teams emphasis was on punting. Friday saw more attention on placekicking and despite the crossing breeze Adam Carlson was hitting the ball well and straight. Punter Blake McAdams is doing the holding and redshirt Aaron Feld is snapping.

The Bulldogs return to work Monday, and when they report to the field at 4:00 it will be in full pads at last. "We'll get a better idea about where everything is then," Croom said. There are four practices scheduled for week-two before Mississippi State takes the spring break.

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