Saturday Football Practice Report

Coach Sylvester Croom had to pause a moment to recall and recalibrate. "What's today, Monday?" he pondered with the trio of reporters covering Mississippi State's Saturday football practice. "And tomorrow is Tuesday, and Monday is Wednesday…"

No, the Mississippi State coach isn't reading off the wrong August calendar. He and the Bulldogs are working within the standard game-week practice schedule that has been revised for the non-standard Thursday night kickoff when State hosts Louisiana State at Scott Field. So today was the sort of practice, in content and length, that would normally be held on Monday of a new game week.

This meant just 90 minutes of work for the Bulldogs, and with helmets the only padding required. Sunday (or ‘Tuesday' in this case) will have players practicing in more gear and at least two hours, maybe more. Or maybe not, Croom said.

"It will a regular practice. But I plan to practice shorter than we have in the past. I want to keep them fresh and at this point if I err it's going to be on the side of under-working them. I'm going to make sure their fresh and ready to go."

*With only a couple of real working days left before opening night Croom hopes to have some hurting players ready to go, or at least go as long as they can and be effective. Three starters on the offensive team were either in red crosses again Saturday, or in the case of WR Lance Long did not even report to the practice field as his sprained big toe (a turf toe) is treated. WR Tony Burks' right knee is still sore and he is very limited, while TE Dezmond Sherrod continues to protect a sore right foot—though he doesn't have to wear a protective boot any more. Burks and Sherrod were hurt in last Saturday's scrimmage.

"Lance is better," Croom said today. "But that's going to go all the way down to game-time with him. On both of them, probably. We expect Tony to work tomorrow, but right now I'm optimistic both of them will play. How much, I don't know. Same thing with Dezmond."

While Long's situation will come down to how much pain he can handle, for the other two starters it is a matter of losing some conditioning edge here late in camp where both were playing very well. Burks is the larger concern, Croom said. "I worry more about the lungs than anything else, not catching the ball or knowing what to do. Because he was in the best condition since he's been here, I'm worried about how much time he's had off. And with that much time off it's how much we can ask him to do anyway."

"I think all of them will play, it's just a question of how much and how we use them. I know we can take all three of those all the way down to Tuesday before making a final decision."

*There were no additions to the injury list Saturday, but a few changes for the better. DT Kyle Love is back to full-strength and in defensive white. S Demario Bobo continues a fast comeback from missing almost three weeks of work with mononucleosis. He has been promoted to purple and was running third at strong safety. And S Zach Smith also swapped a red cross for purple.

On offense, OT J.D. Hamilton continues to practice in limited-yellow as some knee soreness has flared back up. TE Brandon Henderson is also in yellow. The rest of the red-cross crew today was DE Tim Bailey, TE Dezmond Sherrod, and WR Ryan Mason.

*So far just one potential participant has been ruled out. Reserve DE Charles Burns had torn cartilage in his left shoulder socket repaired Thursday evening and he will not play this season. Burns had previous surgery on his right shoulder a year ago. The injury is the same sort of labrum tear as took out two MSU pitchers in the past season.

*Though back to normal practicing DT Love hasn't returned the first team just yet. Cortez McCraney and Jessie Bowman remain the starting tackles, left and right; with Love and LaMarcus Williams currently their seconds ahead of Rodney Prince and Quinton Wesley. Though, the second and third right-tackles remain very much in competition. Reggie Odom is the reserve on left side.

With Bailey still limited, Brandon Cooper is running second to Titus Brown at left defensive end while on the right side it is starter Avery Hannibal and backup Jimmie Holmes.

*The linebacker rotation seems to have settled back into expected patterns as Dominic Douglas is first weak-side man. He has been given a good push by Anthony Littlejohn who realistically is the second man to both Douglas and SLB Gabe O'Neal, though walk-on Devon Edwards practices on the second unit. And Jamar Chaney continues to keep his middle-man starting status even in the face of an excellent challenge by scrimmage hero Jamon Hughes. Chaney's edge is his greater awareness of all things expected in the middle in support and coverage.

*Precocious pups Smith and Wade Bonner will likely see the field first in special teams work, but both are also set in the safety depth charts with Bonner second today behind starting FS Derek Pegues and Smith third behind alternate strongs De'Mon Glanton and Keith Fitzhugh. Bobo is also in the strong safety mix, as well as in rotation at nickel back with Fitzhugh and Jasper O'Quinn.

*There have been no changes for two weeks in the starting offensive line, since LT Mike Brown returned from a minor injury. And Hamilton remains the first right tackle. For now freshman tackle Derek Sherrod has been assigned to the third line as well as the scout offense, so Roland Terry is Hamilton's backup. Mark Melichar backs Brown. State plans to take at least two complete lines into the LSU game, for which only 80 players can dress out, though more might find a way onto that opening-night roster.

*With Friday's practice focused on special teams, there were limited appearances of those squads Saturday. Only placekicking, in fact, with PK Adam Carlson getting all the five total attempts from the 27-, 37-, and 47-yard lines. P Blake McAdams held for three and QB Zack Harrington the other two.

Carlson took two of those long shots; the first had range but drifted left and the second cleared the crossbar. A shorter attempt from 37 yards out (Harrington holding) never had a chance as Tay Bowser blocked it cleanly.

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