Friday Football Practice Notebook

The fast thundershower that hit campus around 4:00 did nothing to affect practice plans, as Mississippi State was scheduled to work indoors already. Still the Bulldogs seemed to welcome a quick, cooling wash en route to the Palmeiro Center for Friday's session. Whether they're so thankful Saturday morning, scrimmaging on a more humid Scott Field, might be another matter.

Mississippi State concludes a long week's work with a 7:00 am scrimmage, which Coach Sylvester Croom hopes will be decisive in settling several remaining questions about this team and roster. Where last Saturday's first scrimmage was to shake out the overall depth chart across the board, tomorrow's game-type session will be more about setting the lineup and top backups for August 30 and the season-opener.

"We'll probably work the ones (first teams) a little more than we did last week," Croom said. "We'll have a little more kicking, see field goal, punt, and really for the first time two kickoffs and two kickoff returns. After we finish up we'll give them the weekend off and get them back Sunday night."

The players will be off, that is. Not the coaches, who will return to the offices after the scrimmage and spend the rest of the day breaking down scrimmage results. "We'll do a long evaluation of all of it and make decisions," Croom said.

"By tomorrow evening I'm going to make decisions on who will start at all positions based on film. Right or wrong that's who it is going to be. We've got to get the guys to work on the game plan and go from there, so we'll pretty much know tomorrow who the starting lineup will be unless we get an injury."

*As for Friday's session, indoors and in shells only, the coach said the results were neither good nor bad, but "just another practice." That wasn't a criticism, though, but a sign that the Bulldogs are fully into the routine of things. And, that the effort was consistent start-to-finish.

"It was another good work day," Croom said. "More of a learning session than anything else." Such as, learning more aspects of red-zone work. That has been a theme all week and every day the situations get closer to the goal line. Friday, it was from the two-yard line where both sides have to respond instantly…or else. Where on Thursday the defensive coverage came out better, today it looked as if quarterback Mike Henig and his receivers were on top of their game with lots of sharp passes and better catches.

*Remember that Thursday note about the first day in memory no Bulldog reported wearing a red cross jersey? It was the exception to practice rule obviously as three players reported in the out-of-practice shirt. OT Mike Brown was one, though this was more for resting purposes as the left tackle has worked daily in limited-yellow almost as much as his fellow starters and he needed to back off the pace somewhat. Also in red crosses were DE Reggie Prince and SN Aaron Feld. OT J.D. Hamilton, starter at right tackle, stayed in yellow.

While Hamilton did participate in some drills, both Roland Terry and Derek Sherrod took turns as his RT alternate. And Mark Melichar replaced Brown at LT, ahead of Addison Lawrence. Reserve OG Chris Herrera was upgraded from yellow to full-speed after missing several days with a groin problem.

*Defensive players in limited-work purple were DE Avery Hannibal, DE Charles Burns, and DE Tim Bailey, though Hannibal and Bailey also are just about full-strength and working first and second teams, respectively, at opposite ends of the line. When Hannibal took a break his right-end job was filled by either Jimmie Holmes or Brandon Cooper. Bailey was backing up starting left end Titus Brown.

"Avery is a little nicked-up but he comes out and works every day," Croom said. "Tim is now starting to get work in and show positive things, Jimmie is showing some positive things. If those two guys come around and all four are healthy and we can play all four we'll be in pretty good shape. At least we've found out Jimmie and Tim are the next two guys to work with. I just hope they can stay healthy."

*Freshman LaMarcus Williams was also upgraded to full participation, having twice been slowed by a muscle pull. And he was immediately assigned to the second team as right tackle behind Jessie Bowman. First left tackle Kyle Love is backed by Cortez McCraney, who himself has been on the first unit several times this camp. While there haven't been any abrupt changes of depth-chart status this week, Croom says the interior line is still not established. "It's still a group by-committee right now. I think LaMarcus Williams is starting to make a move again, he was doing real well before he hurt a groin. Kyle Love is starting to make a move. I'm really hoping somebody steps up Saturday. But we can use all of them."

That group includes freshman Quentin Saulsberry. Croom will be reviewing scrimmage tape of this area closely over the weekend hoping to see signs someone will clearly claim the tackle spot(s). "Just show me they want the job."

One Dog in contention for a job, tackle Quinton Wesley, was excused from Friday's practice for personal reasons. He has been running second at right tackle the last week.

*Snapper Feld is slowed by a staph infection, so several others took turns hiking in placekick work including Anthony Bowles, Austin Wilbacks, and Addison Lawrence.

*While the defensive staff still debate how best to utilize all the linebackers worthy of playing time, the first group still has not changed despite good competition in the middle. Jamar Chaney remains the first MLB with Jamon Hughes his backup, and neither has been moved around…yet. That may change after tomorrow's scrimmage, but for now Gabe O'Neal and Dominic Douglas are still the first-team outside ‘backers. The change is on the second group as freshman K.J. Wright has muscled his way up the two-deep and now backs up O'Neal. Anthony Littlejohn is second behind Douglas.

In passing-down drills, it's O'Neal who goes out so an extra safety—Keith Fitzhugh—can join starters Derek Pegues and De'Mon Glanton in the nickel package. The second secondary is regular safeties Zach Smith and Wade Bonner with Jasper O'Quinn as the extra or ‘cat' safety in this five DB scheme. But O'Quinn is also alternating with Keon Humphries as the backup left cornerback, so competition continues here.

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