Monday Spring Practice Report

Mississippi State opened the second week of spring football drills Monday, and the Bulldogs took to the practice field with a different look this afternoon. For the fifth round of drills they finally donned full-gear and began to hit each other in earnest.

Not that the first-pads-day produced any dramatic results overall, Coach Sylvester Croom said. "All in all an OK day, nothing to get excited about," he reported afterwards. "But I like our work."

As in, the energy with which the players approached the day's drills. That was not an issue in any aspect, from the periods devoted to special teams to the concluding conditioning running. Croom saw nothing to be worried about, either. And when the squads went 11-on-11 with the goal of to hit and be hit, some contact caught both eye and ear.

In particular the aggressiveness of linebacker Jamon Hughes, currently running on the second team but providing first-class licks. "Jamon will hit you," said Croom, noting one play where a running back thought he was in the clear until the sophomore ‘backer dropped him. Also, the coach praised converted cornerback Derek Pegues' work at free safety. "We haven't had hitting like that from that position since we've been here," Croom said.

After spending most of week-one working at his alternate position of fullback, soph Anthony Dixon was back to regular role as halfback for this day. Arnil Stallworth and Justin Williams split snaps behind him most periods. Needless to note the defense preferred seeing the latter coming at them than Dixon.

Croom had good things to say all last week about quarterback Mike Henig, and this Monday was more of the same. "Mike is really throwing the ball well." And the receiver catching the coach's eye most often today was Brandon McRae. The Morehead State transfer has made a big impression this camp now that he can compete for playing time. So much so, Croom said, "We're going to move him from ‘Z' receiver to ‘X.' That meant today he was behind, trying to learn a new position, but he is gong to play for us."

For that matter the passing game as a whole has pleased the coaching staff so far, throwing and catching alike. Of course until now it has been with the defense not allowed to lay into the receivers for-real. With pads on and restrictions off things could be different. And while Henig and the quarterbacks can't be hit they can be rushed.

"We'll have to see how that works when we starting putting more pressure on," Croom said.

Monday saw the latest round of practice-promotions as far as who gets to wear a varsity jersey. Seven more players reported wearing numbered jerseys than on Friday, most on the offensive squad. Dixon in fact is the first running back awarded a number; he was joined by TE Jason Husband and wide receivers McRae, Lance Long, and Aubrey Bell. OT Mike Brown has also earned his numbers. On defense, tackle Jessie Bowman and safety DeMon Glanton were promoted.

Players who won their numbers during the first week were QB Henig, OC Royce Blackledge, OG Anthony Strauder, TE Dezmond Sherrod, DE Titus Brown, DE Avery Hannibal, MLB Jamar Chaney, SLF Gabe O'Neal, and SS Keith Fitzhugh. Players who meet expectations in both practices and the weightroom are allowed to wear their numbers to drills.

A weekend-off did little to improve the injury list, other than getting TE Jeremy Jones (eye) back. TE Eric Butler (toe), MLB Jamar Chaney, WR Joey Sanders (knee), and OG Anthony Dunning (kidney condition) are still sidelined, and today they were joined by WR Alex Carpenter (hamstring). Butler is the only player definitely out for spring.

A couple of starters on the offensive line, both on the left side, reported mid-session as they have Monday late classes. This shuffled the rotation for several periods until LT Mike Brown and LG Strauder arrived. Until then redshirts Mark Melichar and J. C. Brignone were the first-team left siders, joining C Blackledge, RG Michael Gates, and RT Craig Jenkins. 2006 tackle J.D. Hamilton continues to work as the #2 right guard, and Chris Spencer got some turns today as the #2 left tackle.

Nothing was changed Monday on the defensive front, where DT Quinton Wesley has taken over Kyle Love's #1 spot, working alongside Bowman with ends Brown and Hannibal. Love now runs on the second unit with DT Chris Herrera, and ends Cortez McCraney with either Charles Burns or Rodney Prince.

State returns to practice Tuesday afternoon, again scheduled for full-gear. So the hitting should be picking up. "And we'll try to get a little bit better tomorrow," Croom said.


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