"We did some things better," Croom said.
The Bulldogs did have better results from Friday. Certainly better than anything that might have come out of the originally-scheduled scrimmage at Scott Field. For one thing, in the chilly drizzle conditions would have been an uncomfortable distraction for a bunch of players already thinking of their upcoming week-off. But of more import was the lack of practice personnel in several areas that would have made all-out scrimmaging either unproductive, risky, or both.
So while the players did remain in full-pads, the session moved indoors and ran through a typical practice; seven periods in unit work and six more of 11-on-11, not counting pre-practice placekicking drills.
Though things did work out for the better, that did not mean Croom was entirely content with what he saw Friday. In fact, he thought the absence of a few first-teammers and several more top backups had an effect. Especially on the lines of scrimmage.
"I know we don't have our first two centers out there. And we have some defensive linemen hurt. And I'm sure that's the way some of our kids feel, all our starters aren't in there. But it doesn't make any difference, if we had to line up and play a game you have to line up and play with what you've got."
Which is why Croom extended the team's time indoors by a period of up-downs. These were the price of unforced mistakes, and not only to those who actually committed the gaffes. Though the running backs didn't fumble as often today, they had some false-starts; and defenders jumped off-sides. Then there were the failed quarterback/center exchanges. The outcomes was the end-of-day penalties.
"Every time we have a fumble or somebody jumps offsides, the whole team is going to do grass drills after practice," Croom said. "Every day, from now-on. Today we had six or seven, we had to do a lot of grass drills. We have to get that corrected because we cannot beat ourselves. We're not good enough, and very few people are, to put the ball on the ground and commit pre-snap penalties and still have a chance to win."
At the same time Croom acknowledged that with the only experienced center out for spring, and his successor out all this week, bobbles in the snaps were expected. 2007 backup Johnny Carpenter's camp ended a week ago with shoulder surgery, while J. C. Brignone has been excused since last Saturday after the death of his father.
Four injured players returned to work Friday. All were in limited-yellow and participating mostly in unit drills except when sheer lack of depth demanded they at least line up for full-team sets. Those back today were S Mike Hunt (hamstring), DT Quinton Wesley (back disc), WR Brandon McRae (turf toe), and DE Jimmie Holmes (deltoid).
DT LaMarcus Williams was still out with a strained leg muscle, FB Brandon Hart with a hurt ankle, and LB Karlin Brown with a knee. DL Charles Burns has been limited all camp and did not participate today; FB Eric Hoskins dresses for drills but is very limited with a shoulder nerve condition. DE Brandon Cooper is still out with a back problem.
In the morning State got encouraging word on FB Devon Edwards, who lost feeling in a Thursday practice collision and was taken to Memphis. The walk-on had regained feeling and movement, but will remain in the hospital until Tuesday.
With so many defensive linemen either out or limited, even getting enough drills done was a challenge with only one healthy backup tackle available. First LT Kyle Love was the lucky starter, getting spelled by Reggie Odom; but first RT Jessie Bowman had to take quite a few snaps with the second unit. Odom did take some turns at right tackle also. Williams is expected back when camp resumes; Wesley, while he did run some drills today, will be restricted while the back is evaluated further. Walk-on Anthony Smith provides what depth there is for now.
The left ends are Cortez McRaney and Rodney Prince; on the right end Tim Bailey is the lone scholarship man still healthy until Holmes returns in a week. He is backed up by walk-on Davonne Wilson.
With Brown out, Mike Hunt is backing up first WLB Dominic Douglas. MLB is unchanged with Jamar Chaney, Jamie Jones, and Jamon Hughes; while at SLB K.J. Wright is still a step-ahead of Terrell Johnson with Jarvis Kyles the #3 man.
Though in yellow, Smith did take plenty of snaps as the #2 free safety in both base and nickel packages. Back after sitting out Tuesday, Derek Pegues is still the starting FS; Keith Fitzhugh is ahead of De'Mon Glanton at SS, though Glanton is also the third safety in the nickel set. For more depth today, first LCB Jasper O'Quinn lined up sometimes as an extra safety; walk-on Emmanuel Gatling also took some turns there. Tay Bowser backs up O'Quinn on the left corner, with Marcus Washington and Damein Anderson on the right corner.
The only offensive line changes this week have been to adjust for Brignone's absence, with D.J. Looney working four days as first center and Chris Spencer the backup. Right tackle is Derek Sherrod, Mark Melichar, and Phillip Freeman; right guard Mike Gates and Craig Jenkins; left guard Anthony Strauder, Dakota Merritt, John McMillan; and right tackle Mike Brown, Quentin Saulsberry, and Addison Lawrence.
One more player, WR Jamayel Smith, was promoted to wear jersey numbers Friday. Though he actually didn't, garbed in limited-yellow for this day. He joined OT Derek Sherrod, OG Craig Jenkins, HB Robert Elliot, HB Wade Bonner, OG Anthony Strauder, 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.
The Bulldogs are almost two-thirds of the way through camp, having completed nine of the 15 allowed practices. Until yesterday the head coach had been generally pleased with the progress overall, but the evaluation has slipped in the past two days and Croom doesn't think now the team is as far along as hoped after nine days.
"Because of the injures, no. I feel good about our schemes, but a lot of people have missed a lot of work, for things they can't control. But we were fortunate last fall not to have injuries. And if you're going to do as much contact as we've done, you're going to get some guys hurt.
"But hopefully with the break we'll get a few of them back for the last part of the spring. And we need to get some of them back, too. We need to get a better evaluation of our centers, it would be nice to get our fullbacks out to get that situation squared away. And the defensive line is decimated right now, that's my main worry. That really bothers me."
But Croom is not at all bothered about interrupting camp for an open week. Just the opposite. Not only are the players turned loose, "It's spring break and we're going to partake as well! I know it's a welcome break for the players, and a welcome break for the coaches as well. I'm going to hang around the next couple of days, I'm too tired to pack and travel. But at some point I'll go see my daughter and her family."
The Bulldogs will have six practices left upon return from the break, three each week with two scheduled scrimmages including the concluding Maroon-White practice on March 29.