Thursday Football Practice Notebook

The way Coach Sylvester Croom sees it, this training camp is just about completed. Now it's time to get ready to play the game, as Mississippi State transitions into a different preseason practice schedule starting with tomorrow afternoon.

Mississippi State had a somewhat shorter Thursday practice session, working a little over two hours, conditioning included. The day divided between outdoors unit drills and some 7-on-7 competition outdoors, then full team-on-team periods in the Palmeiro Center. It turned out the inside stuff was again built around red-zone situations and placekicking.

"We had good work," Croom said. "I thought the guys did well. It was a few special situations, coming out when backed-up and when the defense is backed-up at the goal line. Just trying to cover everything you need to, any situation that comes up in a game. Some of it was a walk-through. We did the same thing in the kicking game. We just don't want to get caught the first ball game with something they haven't seen. But I liked the way we worked and the concentration level."

The Bulldogs have one more ‘camp' practice, at 4:00 Friday; then Saturday starts the countdown week to the opener. There will be game-prep sessions on Saturday at Sunday at 5:30, with no day off as Thursday's kickoff approaches.

"Tomorrow is going to be pretty much kicking practice," Croom said. "We'll do some team work but very limited. I want one day to cover every situation, however long it takes to walk through it, talk through it, and get that covered. And we want to give them some sort of a break between the end of what I call training camp and preparation for LSU."

*Mississippi State announced that already more season tickets have been purchased for 2007 than were bought last year. As of Wednesday's latest tally, State had sold 30,442 for this fall's home schedule. The 2006 sales totaled out at 30,365. Officials credited the rise to increased sales of both full-price season tickets as well as the ‘Maroon Plan' discount package.

Ticket sales will continue through the LSU game next Thursday.

*The injury list added two and lost one Thursday. Starting WR Lance Long was out today after hurting a big-toe in indoors passing Wednesday, and he might be out for a while. "That's one of the worse injuries we've got right now," Croom said. "I don't know if he'll play or not, he's got that turf-toe deal. A lot depends on pain tolerance. The trainers give it a 50-50 shot if he'll play or not, but he's going to want to play and probably will if humanly possible. But I'm going to plan as if he's not, just in case."

DE Avery Hannibal, who had been practicing anyway despite his limited-purple jersey, had the normal varsity white on when he lined up at starting right end. The only other purple shirt was on DT Kyle Love, and that was a promotion after three days in a red-cross for an ankle problem.

The other new red crosses belonged to backup S Zach Smith with a calf infection, though he too took part in some drills as a third ‘cat' safety.

TE Dezmond Sherrod and rotation receivers Tony Burks and Ryan Mason remained in red crosses on offense, while OT J.D. Hamilton and TE Brandon Henderson were in limited-yellow. On defense, DE Tim Bailey was downgraded from purple to red-cross; and S Demario Bobo was also in a red cross but doing most unit-practices with his fellow defensive backs.

"We've got a few guys nicked-up, hopefully we can get them back this weekend," Croom said.

*With Love getting back into the mix the defensive tackle depth chart adjusted again. Cortez McCraney and Jessie Bowman are first at left and right (nose) tackle respectively; in 7-on-7 work they were backed up by Love and LaMarcus Williams, himself back off a minor injury this week. The third pair was Rodney Prince and Quinton Wesley.

At ends, LDE Titus Brown is being backed by Bailey who should be full-speed when ‘game week' work starts this weekend. Brandon Cooper and Davonne Wilson are the reserves. Right DE Hannibal is ahead of freshman Jimmie Holmes and Cooper, who works both ends as needed.

Walk-on Devon Edwards continues to hold on to a job with the second-unit linebackers despite good competition from some talented freshmen. He is backing up SLB Gabe O'Neal. On the weak side veteran Anthony Littlejohn has responded to the challenge and worked himself into essentially a tie with juco Dominic Douglas, though the latter does get more ‘first' snaps in unit drills. And as much as the staff wants to find work for Jamon Hughes after two stout scrimmages, Jamar Chaney has maintained a grip on the middle LB job.

*As preparations intensify for the first game State is doing more team practicing of varsity vs. scouts. Thursday the scout ‘offense' debuted, with either Zack Harrington or Chris Relf running the show. Freshmen Marcus Green and Ethan Stockett were halfback and fullback mimicking LSU's backfield. The scout blocker were, right to left, Spencer Yates, either Chris Herrera or Dakota Merritt at left guard, D.J. Looney, John McMillan, and Addison Lawrence.

While Croom is holding off absolute redshirting decisions until at least a couple of SEC games into the season, scout-team status for a freshman at this point is a good indication of who doesn't have to rush to get ready to play.

*One rookie who is being prepared to play but, hopefully, without being forced to is quarterback Wes Carroll. With junior transfer Josh Riddell currently under team suspension—though still at practice every day—the freshman is now starter Mike Henig's backup. It's a lot to ask of a first-year collegian, though Croom doesn't entirely put Carroll in that category.

"Wes has had a good week of practices. I'm still in the back of my mind a little concerned because he is a freshman, but not as concerned if it was anyone other than Wes. Because he has played in big-time high school programs and won everywhere he's been. And he's just a little different, he really is. He's one of those guys with somewhat the same maturity level Anthony Dixon had last year. They're not easily intimidated."

Croom said Harrington is the third quarterback. "Hopefully we don't have to go any further than that because we'd like to bring (freshman) Chris Relf along slowly."

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