As for Wednesday's general report from team-on-team drills indoors, "We still dropped a few too many balls that were open, but we made some nice catches, too," Croom said. "Our defense is flying around. A pretty good practice today." Which is the sort of no news/good news a coach prefers at this point. Certainly Croom hopes by next week to have the starting lineups and alternates at every position are not only finalized by on the field together for a change.
"It's pretty much set on who is going to play what and where they're going to be, it's just a matter of some of these guys getting well," Croom said. "Not so much well for the game, it's being able to go through all the reps we need in practice. Because the big thing we have to do is be absolutely sure we know what we're doing so we can play with confidence and play fast. If there's any hesitation on our part it gives them a huge advantage."
The Bulldogs are stay on the 4:00 afternoon practices for two more days, with Friday expected to focus on kicking. Because the opener is a week from tomorrow, though, there will be no weekend off. Instead State will have 5:30 sessions both Saturday and Sunday, matching what they would normally do in the first days of a regular game-week. And Croom is very much in a game frame of mind by now.
"We've still got some things to cover," he said, adding "If we keep practicing like we did today we'll be ready by game time."
*The injury list did not change from Tuesday, though at the end of the session WR Lance Long was carted over to the Shira Complex with a bruised toe. The pre-practice red cross list was still TE Dezmond Sherrod, TE Brandon Henderson, WR Tony Burks, WR Ryan Mason, DT Kyle Love, DE Charles Burns, and S Demario Bobo.
However, for the first time this camp Bobo was actually on the field and participating in some drills. The safety was unable to start preseason, or even be around teammates, with mononucleosis and severe tonsillitis. He joined the squad Monday and after a couple of days watching from the sideline he ran through some unit drills as a backup at ‘cat' or nickel safety in the coverage packages.
Players still somewhat limited for health or just protection are OT J.D. Hamilton, DE Avery Hannibal, and DE Tim Bailey, all expected to either start the LSU game or alternate with a starter. With just over a week left none of the injured players who are counted on to play appear likely to miss the game.
*S Keith Fitzhugh remains the top ‘cat' in the Dogs secondary, a role Bobo was expected to take before he became ill. His return makes this one of the deepest spots on the squad, even though the other two contenders have no college experience. Still freshmen Zach Smith and Wade Bonner have the ability and the attitude State's staff likes and are essentially equal in the reserve ‘cat' depth chart.
"We've still got a few guys nicked-up. Tony and Dezmond should be back out this weekend, we really need them back out there. We have a lot of guys practicing that are nicked-up; J.D. still has a little bit of an ankle, (OG) Anthony Strauder has an elbow, little stuff like that. But they'll be OK."
*He isn't injured but HB Anthony Dixon begins every practice day with a good ten minutes on the exercise bicycle while other backs go through the initial drills. "Just trying to keep my hamstrings warm," he explains. *Special teams work focused again on on-sides coverage and kicking, after a round of placekicking practice. Both had to proceed without the starter though as PK Adam Carlson was in a late Wednesday class. With freshman Eric Richards out after a broken foot and weekend surgery, just about all the booting was done by walk-on Brad Moore, a redshirt freshman from Starkville. He didn't have to attempt any deep kickoffs, just on-sides nubs so the ‘hands' team (much of it listed yesterday) could chase the bouncing ball around. He also placekicked, nothing longer than 35 yards, and more to give the protection and blocking teams work. P Blake McAdams is the holder.
"Adam is doing fine," Croom said. "I'm very pleased with the way he is kicking, and with the way Blake is punting the football. The thing that was impressive today, we didn't try Brad on any long ones, I think we went back to the 25, and he kicked well. So we've got a solid back-up in Brad right now. We're still disappointed we lost Eric but you move on. The good thing is Brad sees his opportunity to step up and it seems he's getting ready to take advantage of that."
After Richards' injury in the scrimmage, all State specialists now come to practices wearing the same red jerseys as quarterbacks.