Friday Practices Tunes Dogs For Scrimmage

The first scrimmage of preseason isn't until tomorrow. Yet to hear Coach Sylvester Croom discuss this morning's practice the Bulldogs are almost in a warm-up mode for the game-type Saturday session already.

Mississippi State spent just over two hours on the practice fields Friday morning, in shorts and helmets, as part of their second two-a-day date of this camp. They will return to work at 4:15, again with the overlying goal of getting everybody and everything ready for tomorrow's action at Scott Field.

"Today it was a ‘mental' practice as much as anything else," Croom said. "Getting assignments down and in situations understanding what to get done. We'll go inside this afternoon, in shorts again, and have the scrimmage tomorrow."

The morning session was split between the usual section drills, then full-team work focused on situational reactions and that mostly in both passing and defending the pass. Croom said the play-calling leaned largely towards third-and-long plays both to judge how the throwers and catchers worked and how the blitzers responded. On balance the defense came out ahead.

"I thought our blitzes were a lot crisper and we made improvement there. They corrected some things they made mistakes on yesterday. We didn't throw the ball as accurately as we have, probably because we had more pressure from the defense." It didn't help the passers that they were without their best protectors this morning, either.

Starters held out entirely this morning were OT J.D. Hamilton (ankle), OT Mike Brown (groin), and DE Titus Brown (groin). Also in red-crosses were FB Jeremy Jones, OG Chris Herrera, and DT LaMarcus Williams.

DE Tim Bailely remains limited with a groin strain.

Several players held out of both Thursday sessions were activated for full work this morning. S Derek Pegues returned after a bout of back spasms, and S Keith Fitzhugh has gotten over the serious case of cramping in the first two-a-day set. CB Chris Nance also returned to work after several days with a hamstring problem, and DE Jimmie Holmes is also over a pull and practicing full-speed again.

With both the top offensive tackles out this morning, the revised first-line was (right to left) freshman Derek Sherrod, Mike Gates, Royce Blackledge, Anthony Strauder, and Mark Melichar. The second line had Roland Terry, Craig Jenkins, Johnny Carpenter, J. C. Brignone, and Addison Lawrence. Chris Spencer is the third center, Dakota Merritt third left guard. Freshman lineman D.J. Looney has been working with special teams this preseason.

"We had some young tackles in there, that was a good chance to see Melichar and Sherrod get some work with the first unit to see how they responded," Croom said. "It's a noticeable difference when you don't have to two big guys out there, but they need the work. And they'll get a lot of work tomorrow as well in the scrimmage."

Cortez McCraney returned to first defensive tackle, alongside Jessie Bowman, as Kyle Love moved down to second team. Quinton Wesley remains Bowman's backup. To get ready for the team-work the secondary drilled a good bit in coverage packages with five defensive backs. As veteran Demario Bobo is out several weeks with mono/tonsillitis, alternate safety DeMon Glanton was the first choice for ‘nickel' safety, while freshmen Wade Bonner and Zach Smith got to take their turns as well as the fifth d-back. In more standard sets, Bonner is the backup to Fitzhugh/Glanton, and Bonner to Pegues.

As the morning session ran a little shorter than the previous two days, not much time was spent on any aspect of special teams. Placekicking should get some turns this afternoon when the Dogs go inside the Palmeiro Center for another couple of hours. And again the theme is preparing for all-out contact work Saturday. "We'll really test some guys tomorrow," Croom said. "After that we'll pick out the guys that get the bulk of the work in preparation for LSU."

"We have a few guys we really want to look at. Sherrod, Melichar, all those young linebackers like Wright, Brown, and Dominic Douglas some because he's playing a new position. And the two freshem in the secondary, Bonner and Smith. And we'll look at our kickers and punters. Some of our top guys I just want to check their mental toughness out a little bit. Some guys like Titus Brown and J.D. Hamilton I'm not worried about. We'll keep our first unit intact as much as possible just for timing purposes, then see how some of the backup guys fit in there. And we have to see how the young guys run with the big Dogs."

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