Monday Spring Practice Report

The Bulldogs were back to work, and so was their boss. Not that Sylvester Croom was exactly spry moving around the Palmeiro Center this Monday afternoon, still suffering the after-effects of a weekend illness that kept him out of Saturday's contact practice. Yes, he said, it's better now, but… "Anything is better than it was. I'm not 100% yet."

Regardless, there was work to be resumed Monday as Mississippi State moved into the second week of 2008 spring training. This non-contact practice in shells was conducted indoors due to the threatening weather, and the head coach's condition. Croom spent the first several periods seated at the end of the Palmeiro Center observing some unit drills, mostly by the offensive groups, before getting involved in the second half of the day's schedule with 11-on-11 drills.

"It was good to sit back and look at things," Croom said afterwards. "I thought our intensity was good, particularly for this early in the spring." But the coach also had some critiques Monday, which actually bucks the overall trend so far this camp of general compliments. Fumbled footballs tend to do that to a perfectionist. "We've got too many balls on the ground," said Croom.

"We're still not finishing things as well, on either side of the ball. I thought we did early but as the practice went on some guys weren't finishing as well as we need to do that. We've still got a lot of execution things. Some guys are not making plays when they have opportunity, that's got to change or they're not going to play. But overall I like our work ethic."

Croom wasn't the only Dog not 100% Monday. The weekend session did take a toll on the depth chart with various injuries; "Nothing really major," Croom said. DT Quinton Wesley missed the day having his lower-back examined after the Saturday practice aggravated a problematic disc. WR Brandon McRae suffered a turf toe and is out a couple of days. DE Jimmie Holmes strained a deltoid and took the day off, as did DT LaMarcus Williams.

All of those casualties were running on second units. The first offense was still without current #1 center J. C. Brignone, excused Saturday to go home after the death of his father. His place is being filled for now by redshirt freshman D.J. Looney, but as Croom agreed replacing graduated veteran Royce Blackledge remains the toughest challenge for the offense.

While there were no specific first-team promotions resulting from Saturday, some younger offensive players who had been working as backups were given more chances and snaps with the top unit. At halfback freshmen Robert Elliot and Wade Bonner performed often and well enough that today they almost seemed to be equal with veterans Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre, whether it was running or passing sets. And at receiver, O'Neal Wilder has clearly moved up into the rotation; the first trio remains Co-Eric Riley, Jamayel Smith, and Aubrey Bell while Wilder and Ryan Mason are the next group with McRae.

Reporters aren't the only ones noticing what these pups have done so far. "Guys like Elliot and Bonner catch your eye every day. Wilder has done some good things," Croom said. He noted the work of redshirt Marcus Green at tight end, as well as other redshirts on defense like linebackers Karlin Brown and Jamie Jones who are both running second-team this camp.

"The young guys are starting to show up a little better," Croom said. "Hopefully they'll stay healthy and we can get them a lot more work over the course of spring."

But, none of the redshirts had managed as of Monday to earn a jersey number. In fact review of Saturday produced only one spring promotion as OG Anthony Strauder was allowed to wear a numbered jersey Monday. He joined fellow veterans WR Co-Eric Riley, WR Jamayel Smith, and DE Tim Bailey, S Derek Pegues, CB Marcus Washington, HB Anthony Dixon, OT Mike Brown, OG Mike Gates, and DT Kyle Love, 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.

Mississippi State will be in full pads Tuesday afternoon, though practice site will be determined by how quickly the overnight weather front moves through. The scheduled Thursday and Friday practices should not be bothered by weather based on forecasts.

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