Dogs Work Indoors For Friday Afternoon

Mississippi State completed preparations for the first scrimmage of preseason, and the second round of two-a-days, with a Friday afternoon practice. The two-hour session was in shorts and headgear, just like the morning session, but this one was held inside the Palmeiro Center due to the exceptionally hot afternoon conditions on campus.

Besides, the Bulldogs will be plenty warm Saturday as Coach Sylvester Croom runs them through an afternoon game-type, full-contact practice at Scott Field. The 2:00 scrimmage is closed to the public.

"Tomorrow we're going to get after it and test things a little bit, look at certain guys," said Croom. "We're not going to stay out there very long, as much as anything it's to get used to being out there. We'll see how bad it is (heat-wise) and we may change the times if it's really bad. It won't be as long as our normal first scrimmages are when I try to find out who likes contact. But I've got a pretty good idea about that now."

In Friday's second non-contact session there was a marked emphasis on passing schemes and execution. Quarterback Mike Henig and backup Josh Riddell took turns tossing to a receiver rotation that has grown to eight clear candidates in the last couple of days. "Today we really hit our third-and-long packages, some of it testing some things out. The receivers caught the ball well, Mike threw the ball well."

Brandon McRae and Jamayel Smith remain the designated ‘first' team wideouts though that designation means little more than they would be on the field for the first play. After them come a cycle of catchers who all appeared to be catching-on to the gameplan better as camp progresses. Transfer Co-Eric Riley has jumped up into the second grouping with Tony Burks, Lance Long, and Aubrey Bell and at times got to go ahead of those, or at least until he had to step aside and the left thigh iced. Alex Carpenter has come on well of late also, and the surprise of the afternoon was Ryan Mason's presence in many more plays than expected after missing so many days with a muscle strain.

"We've got a really good competition between our receivers and defensive backs," Croom said. "And the guys made some big-time catches today. Ryan Mason stepped up, the first time he's shown what we thought he could do when he got here. But they all caught the ball well."

There were no changes to the two-deep on either the offensive or defensive lines from the morning. With starting tackles Mike Brown and J.D. Hamilton sidelined, Mark Melichar and Derek Sherrod were running first-team at left and right tackles respectively, ahead of Addison Lawrence and Roland Terry. Those younger tackles are likely to get plenty of work Saturday if State opts to protect the starters from stressing anything further at this point of camp.

The same will be true on the defensive line where LDE Titus Brown is being held out with a groin strain. As Croom has said, the senior is a sure thing and the scrimmage will mean more to settling who is second and third end.

Plenty of time was spent on placekicking this afternoon, with veteran Adam Carlson and rookie Eric Richards competing. And, mostly on longer-range kicks ranging from 42 to 52 yards. In simple practices, un-defended, Carlson hit several of his longest tries while Richards struggled to find the range. Later when the rush was on neither was successful from 52 yards with Carlson falling short and Richards getting blocked by Tay Bowser. Croom was still encouraged by the leg-strength both displayed. "They kicked well and showed some distance." But he really liked Bowser's work. "I think he's got a knack for doing that and it's a plus, we really haven't had anybody with the speed to get it off the edge and the length he has."

Aaron Feld is the first snapper, walk-on Anthony Bowles the second, and Blake McAdams the holder for both. Punting was not practiced indoors but there will be plenty balls booted and returned Saturday.

There were no noticeable changes to injury status from Friday morning (see previous report for full list). Two Dogs did go to the sideline during the session, HB Arnil Stallworth and Riley, the latter with ice on his left thigh.

Croom doesn't intend to wear anyone out Saturday, because the real goal is settling the depth chart for the remaining weeks of camp. "As much as anything we want to look at some young guys, like Sherrod and all the young linebackers, the young running backs Robert Elliot and Ethan Stockett. Those are the guys I need to see. I want to know if they're far enough along for us to invest a lot of our time in the next two weeks in preparing for the LSU game. If that's the case, then exactly where we put them in the kicking game, and offensive and defensive schemes. When we leave the scrimmage tomorrow, all that has got to be nailed-down."

After the scrimmage Mississippi State will take Sunday off, then turn in the last of three two-a-day dates on Monday.

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