Monday Football Practice Notebook

It took almost 45 minutes before the quarterbacks actually threw a pass-pattern today, with reporters watching for who would be the first one to toss the ball. It turned out to be…Wesley Carroll. He took the first three snaps in passing drills, before Josh Riddell stepped in for the same number of snaps, same set of plays, and same wideouts and tight ends to throw to.

And what did the order of work mean? According to Carroll, not a thing…at least in terms of who will be starting this weekend at South Carolina. "Nothing is set in stone, just like it has been and will be. No matter if it's Mike (Henig), me, or Josh, anybody. Whoever is getting the first snaps it doesn't mean necessarily they'll start. Josh and I both get reps with the ones, and reps with the twos. It's a matter of executing whatever play you're given at that time."

And the two quarterbacks were given a lot of plays to execute Monday as Mississippi State worked more on the passing aspect of offense than is usual this early in a game-week. That was by design, Coach Sylvester Croom said. "Because we have to improve that. We're running the ball pretty well but that's not going to continue if we're ineffective in the passing game."

At the moment fans aren't as interested in execution as order, or who is number-one quarterback today, this week, this game. Neither candidate knows, of course, but they think the competition is working out nicely for the offense as a whole. "It went well out there," said Riddell of the Monday session, adding "You'd probably know more than I do about who is leading! I don't know what the latest is, I'm just going out there practicing and working hard."

"Practice went well today," Carroll agreed. "We put a couple of things in to adjust to what we need to do preparing for South Carolina, and fix a lot of the little things we did wrong in the game. We looked at the film and saw what we needed to correct, and came out today and executed really well, actually."

Croom was of a similar opinion after the 90-minute work day. Both quarterbacks were effective he said, but so was the catching and route-running from a group of receivers who came in for criticism after the Gardner-Webb game. For that matter the entire team got good eye-ball evaluations today for no other reason than their focus and intensity was clearly a step-up from last week when the Dogs were getting ready to play a team few if any had heard of.

"I thought our concentration was a lot better than last week," Croom said, adding "We've got to play better than that to have a chance at South Carolina." And most of all at quarterback, where even the win's highlights—such as two touchdowns thrown by Riddell—weren't all they appeared. Croom said review showed both scores were thrown into coverages, or at least what Gardner-Webb defenders were trying to cover but didn't have the speed or awareness to execute against those plays. "I know it looks good in the stats and everybody loves it, but those plays get you beat," Croom said. "Against a Gardner-Webb, yeah, it comes out OK. But you're not going to luck your way through the SEC."

"That's why I say each week our (quarterback) decision will be made on who performs better. it doesn't mean who completes the most passes, that means who quarterbacks the game better. I'll make that decision along with our staff, regardless of what public opinion might be."

*Three players reported in red-cross jerseys today. DE Tim Bailey has a minor groin strain, his second of the fall but a different muscle than the one injured in preseason. DT LaMarcus Williams has a hurting foot, and DT Cortez McCraney still has a sore ankle from the Auburn game. At this point all should be able to play by the weekend.

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