Slow Start, Strong Finish To Thursday Work

Mississippi State returned to the practice fields Thursday for the third working day of 2008 spring camp. After having taken Wednesday off it seemed to take a bit longer for the Bulldogs to back get up to practice pace. Still the two-and-a-half-hour session was a positive to Coach Sylvester Croom. "We started slow, and finished strong," he said. "I think we're getting better."

The day itself did not get off to a good start, as the Mississippi State had to take care of a disciplinary matter. Croom announced that veteran linebacker Jamon Hughes has been placed under suspension for violation of undisclosed team policy. Except this does not mean Hughes, a junior middle linebacker, is off the team for now. Just the opposite, because he will continue to practice in spring ball and be sidelined for an unspecified period come the fall.

This, to Croom's mind, is real punishment for a player. Asked if Hughes should miss spring camp the coach responded "You want to do him a favor? Suspending guys for spring practice is an absolute farce. When you get suspended around here you're going to miss games."

Hughes was running second at middle linebacker. His place was taken on the #2 trio by Jamie Jones, between WLB Karlin Brown and SLB Terrell Johnson. The first linebackers are still MLB Jamar Chaney, WLB Dominic Douglas, and SLB K.J. Wright.

There were two Bulldog starters who did miss Thursday work, excused for other reasons. LOG Anthony Strauder was out with a family emergency that arose just before practices, while SS Keith Fitzhugh had a mid-afternoon class conflict. Also, backup OC Johnny Carpenter was on the field but in a red-cross jersey, first of this spring. "He's going to get a shoulder operation and is done for the spring," Croom said. Carpenter began camp as the first center but fell back to third after one day.

The various absences did provide a look at depth in several areas of the spring squad. Such as on the first offensive line which ran, left to right, Mike Brown, Craig Jenkins (moved over from backup ROG), J. C. Brignone, Mike Gates, and Derek Sherrod. The second line was thus Quentin Saulsberry, Dakota Merritt, D.J. Looney, John McMillan, and Mark Melichar. This being spring there aren't enough scholarship linemen for three full units, but the third center was Chris Spencer and juco transfer Phillip Freeman was working at right tackle.

In the secondary Derek Pegues and De'Mon Glanton are still first at free and strong safeties; with Fitzhugh out today the backups were Zach Smith and Chris Nance.

Six Bulldogs were awarded their spring jersey numbers based on the first two days of practicing. Joining the nine who wore numbers to Tuesday's drills were: S Derek Pegues, CB Marcus Washington, HB Anthony Dixon, OT Mike Brown, OG Mike Gates, and DT Kyle Love. They joined: S Keith Fitzhugh, S De'Mon Glanton, LB Dominic Douglas, LB Jamar Chaney, CB Jasper O'Quinn, QB Wesley Carroll, HB Christian Ducre, FB Brandon Hart, and FB Eric Hoskins wearing digits on their shirts.

With the third workout of spring still a mandatory shorts date, Thursday drills followed much the same pattern as Monday and Tuesday. It's been a productive trio of workouts so far, but Croom is ready to ramp-up the intensity to get a fuller evaluation of personnel. Working in shorts is a good way to judge athleticism and conditioning, he said. But when it comes to physical and mental toughness, "You can't tell until we put those pads on."

Which comes Saturday afternoon, as Friday only shoulder pads will be added to the gear. Even that will offer the opportunity for some contact though, judging by past State practice policy, and will certainly speed up the action. Croom has praised the athleticism of the defensive team every day; now the Dog D gets to chase offensive people with a real purpose in mind. And the offense will have to pick up their pace to avoid more contact than necessary.

Which means the ‘preliminaries' of spring are over. Now Mississippi State will get down to the real work.

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