Practice Resumes After Lineup Changes, Moves

Coach Sylvester Croom had plenty opportunities during last week's semester break to consider results from the ‘first half' of spring football camp. "After a whole week on the road," he said. "And driving eight hours to Tampa, I had a lot of chance to think about all kinds of possibilities. So we played with a few things today."

Those things specifically were a series of changes to both positions and on the depth chart as Mississippi State opened the third week of work. Most notable were some moves up, down, and even across on both the offensive and defensive lines for the ninth practice of this spring. The Bulldogs spent two-and-a-half hours on the fields Monday in helmets and shoulder pads.

There would have been at least a few Monday adjustments anyway due to a couple of injuries on the offensive front, as backup guards J. C. Brignone (shoulder) and Anthony Dunning (kidney) were sidelined today. But after evaluating the scrimmage game that ended the first two weeks of camp Croom is still looking for an answer in one particular starting spot. "We had to switch around a little bit at tackle," he said. Right tackle, where Craig Jenkins struggled in the scrimmage. "(DE) Titus Brown has something to do with it," Croom acknowledged. Still, he said somebody needs to play at the same pace LT Mike Brown, LG Anthony Strauder, OC Royce Blackledge, and RG J.D. Hamilton performed at before the break.

"Those four guys are pretty set but the right tackle spot bothers me a little right now." So this day redshirt Mark Melichar, a backup a left tackle last week, was running #1 on the right end. Brown was still a handful for the kid, though. "Either he's real good or we're real bad at right tackle, because we haven't blocked him all spring. That continued today."

Strauder has a late Monday class so Michael Gates got to work #1 at left guard for half the day, while Hamilton had to pull double-duty at RG due to Brignone's shoulder. And after practicing two weeks at defensive tackle, fall TE Chris Herrera was on offensive line today.

The defensive line also came in for harsh evaluations in the middle. Brown and Avery Hannibal are taking care of business on the ends but "I wasn't pleased with the performance of our interior tackles," Croom said. "But two guys who did step it up we moved." As in, second-team ends Charles Burns and Cortez McCraney. Burns jumped all the way up to #1 tackle ahead of Quinton Wesley, while McCraney was a backup tackle after two good weeks at #2 end. Meanwhile Kyle Love regained first-team standing at nose tackle as Jessie Bowman was demoted following the scrimmage. What we're trying to do is find some blue-collar guys who will just come to work, do their assignment, and give us some battlers inside that keep blockers off the linebackers. If we can find that we'll be OK because Titus and Avery give us some good things at end. And (DE) Rodney Prince is going to be pretty decent. But we still haven't found the two guys inside, Wesley and Love are still overweight and that extra 15 pounds they're carrying around is slowing them down."

Off either line there wasn't as much moving, other than Croom's decision to have tight end Jeremy Jones work at fullback. "We've got pretty good depth with three senior tight ends and I want to see if we can get him on the field some. That's pretty much it for right now."

Other shuffles came from injuries. WLB Anthony Littlejohn hurt an ankle in the scrimmage and might need surgery. WR Ryan Mason strained a hamstring before the break, while WR Joey Sanders (knee) and TE Eric Butler (toe) have been restricted all spring.

Monday revealed the players who had earned ‘number' status midway of camp, along with a couple of demotions following the scrimmage. On offense, those currently wearing numbered jerseys are QB Mike Henig, HB/FB Anthony Dixon, FB Eric Hoskins, HB Justin Williams, FB Brandon Hart, TE Dezmond Sherrod, TE Jason Husband, OG J.D. Hamilton, OC Royce Blackledge, OT Mike Brown, WR Brandon McRae, WR Lance Long, WR Aubrey Bell, WR Jamayel Smith. WR Tony Burks was the one offensive player to lose his number after the scrimmage evaluation.

On defense, number-players were FS Keith Fitzhugh, SS Derek Pegues, LB Gabe O'Neal, CB Anthony Johnson, CB Marcus Washington, LB Jamar Chaney, LB Jamon Hughes, LB Tim Bailey, DE Avery Hannibal, DE Titus Brown. No defensive tackles had numbers; as last week's #1 DT Bowman lost both his digits and his first-team status.

With the changes and adjustments in the front-seven for either injury or performance, the defensive secondary was essentially unchanged to open week-three. Washington and Johnson are the left and right corners as usual, in front of walk-on Jarvis Williams and Tay Bowser respectively with Keon Humphries a third corner on Johnson's side. Pegues and Fitzhugh stayed first-team safeties ahead of De'Mon Glanton and Demario Bobo respectively with Jarvis Kyles and Brandon Thornton the third pair.

Kicking continues to get plenty of practice and, generally, good reviews. Croom praised both PK Adam Carlson and P Blake McAdams. "I'm pleased with how they're kicking the ball now, that's a big improvement over last year," he said. "We'll continue to work on our kicking game. Our protections, we put some new schemes in and have to fine-tune that. We've still got a long way to go in that area but I like what we're doing." Return and coverage work are saved mostly for scrimmages, but Pegues, Long, and Johnson do take turns fielding punts.

The Bulldogs will have their tenth practice Tuesday, this time back in full-gear and with contact. The week also has a ‘shells' practice Thursday and the second spring scrimmage Saturday.

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