Bulldogs Start Slow, Finish Well Tuesday

There was a moment at the start of Tuesday's practice when Coach Sylvester Croom saw signs the team wasn't at their sharpest; that they might try to "get through the day" as the coach accused during warm-ups. Those words seemed to push the right emotional buttons because the Bulldogs responded with a reasonably productive day's work.

"It's obvious they're tired," Croom said afterwards. "That's what they are supposed to be. They weren't mentally into it at the start but picked up as it went along."

And did so on both sides of the ball, whether outdoors for the first nine periods of unit drills or inside the Palmeiro Center—and away from the measured 105-degree heat index—for full-squad segments.

"The defense did really well in nine-on-seven drill today, we had some linebackers make some nice plays," Croom reported. One was expected in starting middle LB Jamar Chaney; another was one of the many Mississippi State freshmen making strong pre-season impressions as rookie Karlin Brown made his presence known. "You have a hard time finding him in there because he's so short but he popped out and made some nice tackles today," the coach said.

Some offensive aspects drew praise as well, mostly in the passing game. "We had a lot of new stuff, practiced a lot on second-and-long today. Mike (Henig) didn't throw it as well as he normally does down the seam today but really threw the outside stuff pretty dog-one good." So were such pass-catchers on those sideline routes, such as Jamayel Smith and Co-Eric Riley.

"All in all I thought we got better today. The main thing I was concerned with was our mental approach coming out, but it was good it happened today. It was extremely hot and they were tired and they can't give in to those situations. With our team more than anything else it's the mental part of it, the toughness and discipline and attention to detail."

There was progress for several injured Dogs, as OT J.D. Hamilton's ankle has healed sufficiently for him to return to full-speed and the first-team. DTs LaMarcus Williams (groin) and Jimmie Holmes (hamstring) both were upgraded from red-cross to purple status, as was CB Chris Nance (hamstring). Meanwhile DE Titus Brown (groin), DE Tim Bailey (groin) and WR Ryan Mason (hamstring) stayed in red cross shirts, and FB/TE Jeremy Jones' abdomen strain returned to sideline him Tuesday. As of today most should be able to participate in Saturday's scheduled scrimmage, though S Demario Bobo (mono) has missed all camp and is doubtful for some time.

With Brown taking it easy—he grinned broadly when ‘accused' by a reporter of faking his limp—Charles Burns was back running first-team at left defensive end opposite starting RDE Avery Hannibal. Practice depth at both ends of the line is becoming an issue with Bailey and Holmes both limited, though in some blocker-on-rusher drills Holmes was participating as if nothing were wrong. The backup to Burns this day was walk-on end Devone Wilson; while Hannibal was backed by Brandon Cooper and Holmes.

Competition remains good in the interior d-line. While Jessie Bowman and Kyle Love continue to run first-team, rookie Quentin Saulsberry has muscled his way into contention with somewhat more experienced candidates Cortez McCraney, Quentin Wesley, and Rodney Prince. Nothing changed Tuesday in the linebacker depth chart of note. In the secondary, juco corner Jasper O'Quinn was taking some snaps today as a backup safety to De'Mon Glanton and Keith Fitzhugh, with freshmen Wade Bonner and Zach Smith also in the safety(s) mix.

Placekicking and punting continue to get more early-practice attention. Kickers Adam Carlson and Eric Richards were even this day making three-of-four field goal tries each, though Carlson's miss came after the defense jumped offsides as protection and rush got more intense. Punting results were mixed by all three kickers, and coverage plans are taking shape with CB Anthony Johnson and freshman CB Damein Anderson the first-team ‘gunners' ahead of Marcus Washington and O'Quinn.

"There were some good things in the kicking game," Croom said. "Blake is hitting the ball pretty well, Adam is kicking pretty well. I think our schemes are coming together, that's on schedule." A schedule that soon will add kickoffs and coverage to the daily checklist as the Dogs prepare for Saturday's scrimmage.

The Bulldogs will be on the practice fields at 7:00 a.m. Wednesday, then again at 3:15 in the afternoon for the first of three two-a-day dates. A single Thursday practice is scheduled for 7:00 in the morning as well as the pre-season pace quickens. Croom wants to have as many people in their best places going into next week, particularly the first-year Dogs.

"We have some freshmen with a lot of talent, they have to understand close is not good enough but be precise in everything they do," he said. "We'll continue to work position-wise like we are the rest of the week, then after the scrimmage find out about switching some guys. We've got to make sure we have the freshmen linebackers in the right spots. And we have to find what we will do with Marcus Green, he's not getting a lot of work at running back but he might be able to help us at another position. We have to see what he can do."

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