In the first case, "We looked very sluggish," the coach said. Maybe that was inevitable for college kids coming off a holiday just as the weather turned good. But the coaches had hoped to see more spring in practice-steps, as the '07 squad showed when they got back to work.
As to specifics, a recurring problem was back full-force. "We had too many (missed) quarterback/center exchanges," Croom said. "That concerns me considerably. We should be past that right now." At the same time this was the first practice in over two weeks for J. C. Brignone, who missed five working days before the break for the death of his father. A converted guard, Brignone has been adjusting to center duties hurriedly this camp and after one week was making progress in getting clean exchanges. Now, it's back almost to the starting point.
Also, Croom noted, "Our backs are not picking up blitzes very well right now, that's a problem. We've got some young backs in there so we still have a lot of work to do in that area." Very young in the cases of redshirts Robert Elliot and converted safety Wade Bonner who are in a four-way halfback rotation with Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre. State wants to utilize their talents in an expanded offense, but getting the kids up to par with blocking is taking time. It doesn't help that the fullback position is still unsettled.
And now short a player as Devon Edwards's football career is over, according to Croom. The former linebacker went down the first week of March when a practice collision in blocking drills left him numb all over and hospitalized. He regained all feeling and today was walking around practice today, but not dressed out because he will not play again. Croom said a role for Edwards will be found in the football program still while he works towards graduation.
Most of the other players hurt or limited in the second week of work were back on the fields in full gear today. The defensive line was particularly glad to get some bodies back to work with, as pre-break the group was too thin for heavy-duty drills. Returning today were DT Quinton Wesley (back disc), DE Jimmie Holmes (deltoid strain), and DT LaMarcus Williams (calf). Even DE Brandon Cooper was able to pull on gear after missing the first two full weeks with back issues.
Only DE Charles Burns (shoulder) was wearing limited-yellow on defense, FB Eric Hoskins (shoulder) red on offense. S Zach Smith (hamstring), WR Brandon McRae (turf toe), LB Karlin Brown (knee), and FB Brandon Hart (ankle) were also practicing again.
With all the bodies back, though some—like Wesley—will be watched closely for a while, the defensive line stacked up with Cortez McRaney and Prince at one end; Tim Bailey and Holmes on the other ahead of walk-on Davonne Wilson. Left tackle is Kyle Love followed by Reggie Odom and Wesley; right tackle Jessie Bowman, Wesley, and Anthony Smith.
On the other line, Brignone was immediately plugged back in as the first center, with D.J. Looney stepping back to #2 man and Chris Spencer the third center. The other four slots lined up the same as a week ago on the two-deep with left tackles Mike Brown and Quentin Saulsberry; left guards Anthony Strauder and Dakota Merritt; right guards Mike Gates and Craig Jenkins; and right tackles Derek Sherrod and Mark Melichar.
The day wasn't without a few positive points. "I'm still impressed with our two receivers," Croom said. "Jamayel Smith and Co-Eric Riley are doing a good job. (Linebacker) Dominic Douglas catches your eye on defense. Other than that, I didn't see a whole lot today to get excited about." Not even having all the d-lineman back. "They were back out there, but a couple of them might as well have been in the training room from what I saw today." Mississippi State will be in full-gear for the Tuesday and Thursday practices, when Croom will put the emphasis back on areas such as third-down and red-zone work on both sides. Also, while first quarterback Wes Carroll wear hands-off red still, his backups—Chris Relf and Tyson Lee—were both in maroon today. Which means the defense has more liberty to go after these quarterbacks, and thus put more pressure on them to hopefully accelerate the learning process.
The original spring plan for a Thursday scrimmage before Easter has changed; Thursday will be full-contact but a standard practice. "Then we'll get a good scrimmage next Tuesday when we get back in. We'll find a little bit more at that time."
With a week to review everything, a host of players were promoted to spring-number status today. Ten, specifically: QB Chris Relf, QB Tyson Lee, LB K.J. Wright, PK Adam Carlson, S Chris Nance, S Mike Hunt, P Blake McAdams, TE Brandon Henderson, DE Rodney Prince, DT Jessie Bowman. They joined those who were awarded numbers for practice performance in the first two weeks: S Keith Fitzhugh, HB Robert Elliot, S Derek Pegues, S De'Mon Glanton, LB Dominic Douglas, QB Wesley Carroll, WR Co-Eric Riley, C Marcus Washington, HB Wade Bonner, LB Jamar Chaney, C Jasper O'Quinn, HB Anthony Dixon, HB Christian Ducre, FB Brandon Hart, FB Eric Hoskins, DE Tim Bailey, OG Anthony Strauder, OG Craig Jenkins, OT Mike Brown, OG Mike Gates, OT Derek Sherrod, WR Jamayel Smith, and DT Kyle Love.