Saturday's Practice - "Intense"-Croom

The last day in full pads saw exactly what you would expect to see - a very competitive and a very intense two hours of football. And Mississippi State head man Sylvester Croom liked what he saw.

"I thought our intensity and competitiveness was good today," said Croom. "There was some crisp hitting out there today even though we weren't fullspeed.

"The only thing that was disappointing were the last four or five plays because they weren't as sharp as I would have liked them to be. But we are starting to play fast again. Our tempo is starting to come back, but it's still not where it needs to be."

But, overall, he was impressed enough with the veterans that he gave them a little more rest and the young guys a little more work.

"We gave the young guys more playing time because (the veterans) looked pretty good today," he said. "And I look at some of these young guys that we are redshirting and see that we have some guys that are really going to be good football players."

Starting safety Keith Fitzhugh plays with one of the freshmen that has impressed Croom - safety Wade Bonner. He's as impressed with him as Croom is.

"Wade Bonner is like an offensive guy foot-wise and he knows how to use that," said Fitzhugh. "And his cover skills are real good."

But it's not just the freshmen that have impressed him, a couple of veterans that have played mostly as backups on the D-line this season have really come on of late.

"Cortez McCraney is playing better and so is Quentin Wesley," said Croom of the junior and sophomore. "I'm really pleased with how both of those guys have practiced this week. Really, this is the best practices where they have put good, consistent practices together. As good as our defense has played, if they play as well as they are capable of, we could be even better."

And they'll need to with All-SEC defensive end performer Titus Brown not expected to be fullspeed for the Liberty Bowl.

"Titus is not practicing right now," noted Croom. "The question is how much work he will get between now and then, but I'm sure he's going to play; I just don't know how much. We are going to play (Cortez) McCraney at defensive end some just to shore up that position."

While the defense isn't at fullspeed due to Titus' injury, the offense appears to have really stepped it up the last few practices. Croom explains why.

"We are really emphasizing our execution because we haven't executed well since the Kentucky game," he said. "I take responsibility for that because we probably had too much stuff in our offense. We are really going to narrow it down and get a lot of reps on those things."

All in all, Coach Croom has really enjoyed the practices leading up to the bowl game for several reasons.

"I'm having a lot more fun because winning allows you to have more fun and it's fun being around the players because I really like them and I like how they work," said Croom.

Fitzhugh sees that excitement.

"He's excited now because he sees how much passion we have," said Fitzhugh. "He sees the team differently. And we let him know that we aren't going to let him down."

And Croom not only likes his players, but he likes the potential he sees in them.

"I like what we can develop into," he said. "We had a good season and we have made tremendous strides, but we haven't come close to reaching our potential. The foundation is in place. We have the right attitude and the right people in place. Now, we have to strive for perfection.

"And I'm excited about what we can be next year."

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

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