Practice Winding Down

With two practice days left prior to their home opener, Coach Croom feels his team is physically ready for the nationally televised matchup with the No. 2 LSU Tigers. "It was a good day's work," said Croom. "We got the rest of the mental preparation done. And today was the end of any contact. Now that the physical work is over, it's time to get mentally sharp and go play."

Obviously one reason for the end of contact is that game practice is winding down, but another reason is simply trying to keep guys healthy for an LSU team that will probably be the toughest opponent of the season.

"I was more concerned about having healthy guys," said Croom. "And we are about as healthy as we possibly can be at this point.

"Everybody that I think is going to play was at practice today except for Lance (Long) and I think he is going to be able to play in a limited role. We'll probably have him practicing Tuesday."

Players that he is referring to that were limited in practice, but will probably play are safety Demario Bobo (purple jersey), tight end Brandon Henderson (yellow jersey) tight end Dezmond Sherrod (yellow jersey), wide receiver Lance Long (red cross jersey), defensive end Brandon Cooper (red cross jersey), and wide receiver Ryan Mason (red cross jersey).

One group that hasn't felt much of an injury bug this preseason camp is the offensive line, a unit that Coach Croom feels really good about it.

"These guys played very well during the second half of the season last year. They only gave up 6 sacks during the last six games of the year," noted Croom. "I don't think there's any question that they are better. They are more solid and have seen a lot of SEC action together. And they haven't missed much practice, so they've been able to practice together a lot during the preseason practice.

"It's the best that I have felt about the offensive line since I've been here, and I think they are going to be a strong point of this team."

Depth-wise, junior Michael Brown was starting at left tackle during the practice with junior Anthony Strauder alongside him at left guard. Senior Royce Blackledge manned the first unit center position. Sophomore Craig Jenkins held down right guard with senior J.D. Hamilton at right tackle. Their backups were redshirt freshman Mark Melichar at left tackle, redshirt freshman J. C. Brignone at left guard, sophomore Johnny Carpenter at center, junior Michael Gates at right guard and Roland Terry at right tackle. True freshman Derek Sherrod also worked with the second unit at tackle.

Coach Croom has also been just as impressed with junior punter Blake McAdams who continued to impress with his consistent punting during preseason practice.

"Blake McAdams just keeps getting better," noted Croom. "If he kicks like he's practicing, we are going to be in good shape because he has practiced extremely well.

"I really think he's going to have a big year."

While the O-Line and punter make him smile these days, one area that was a concern going into preseason camp, defensive end depth, is still a bit shaky although improved.

"(Defensive end) has been a concern, but I feel good that we have the numbers there," said Croom. "But they haven't played at that position in a conference game yet. That's my concern there. But feel better at this time compared to this time last year."

Juniors Tim Bailey and Jimmie Holmes were the defensive end backups during the practice session.

The defensive tackle group consists of six players - juniors Jessie Bowman and Cortez McCraney, sophomores Kyle Love and Quinton Wesley, redshirt freshman Rodney Prince and true freshman LaMarcus Williams. Williams has made a strong push for significant playing time since coming off the injury list, and did so during Monday's practice.

Another true freshman, linebacker K.J. Wright, worked in a few snaps with the second unit defense at times during the practice.

At the wideout positions, Co-Eric Riley, Tony Burks, Brandon McRae and Aubrey Bell took the majority of snaps when the first and second offensive units were alternating during a drill.


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.


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