"It was just some finishing touches," Croom said of this morning's abbreviated practice in shorts. "We wanted them thinking some football, but also winding down and getting them into the weekend. We'll be back 8:00 Sunday evening." State put in two full practices this week, just enough to prevent late-season rust without risking over-work either. Besides, Croom said, there will be an adjustment to next week's working schedule as the Dogs begin direct preparations for their November 10 home game with Alabama.
"We'll change up Monday, it will be like a Tuesday practice so that gives us an extra day. We'll go in pads Monday which we don't normally do." The State staff really did want to give the players both physical and mental down-time so nothing done this week was specific to the next game. It was another matter for the coaches, who Croom said have gotten a head-start by working on first- and third-down plans. "Which is way ahead. We've got a pretty good idea. And I'll get into their kicking game and what they do offensively Sunday night when I get back." From Mobile, that is, where Croom will both be visiting his granddaughter and celebrating his wife's birthday. "So this is going to be family time for me!"
The assistant coaches won't have it so easy. Five were already out on the road today, in fact, with four aides remaining to take care of Thursday's session before most of them also go out recruiting. Yet here in November 2007 there is not quite the same urgency as in some years-past, for the best reasons.
"We're way ahead," Croom said of Mississippi State's recruiting outlook. "In fact while the coaches are out now they'll be heavily into getting film on juniors so we can get our offer-letters out for juniors next year." At the same time ‘ahead' doesn't mean ‘finished' because the staffers will be keeping in touch with committed prospects from now to signing day. And Croom said, without giving any names of course, that there are still some facets of the expected 2008 signing class to take care of.
"In-state there's two high school players we're holding scholarships for right now, waiting to see what they do," Croom said. "And we're still evaluating to make sure we haven't missed somebody, or looking for guys who might have developed late. And even some guys to get to walk on at certain positions."
Specific positions Mississippi State is still looking for fresh help are linebacker, a ‘speed' specialist both on offense and in the return game, and possible walk-ons to boost the fullback and tight end depth chart. Croom did mention State will only look to sign one running back this year, because while only one regular back—HB Justin Williams—is a 2007 senior, that's a good spot to over-stock each year. "But we're not far from being done, to be honest," the coach said of 2008 recruiting.
Gametime for next week's rivalry match of the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide is 11:30ct with regional telecast by Lincoln-Financial.
INJURY UPDATE: The same three players who were held out of work the previous two practice days were still in red crosses Thursday. #2 OC Johnny Carpenter is sidelined by an ankle; #2 OG Mike Gates by a leg inflammation; and backup CB Tay Bowser is still recovering from a knee sprain.