'Dogs Say "It's About Time" For Camp To Start

Just about everyone else has had a turn with these guys. Officials have accepted academic criteria; doctors have approved for participation the bodies. Trainers have prepared, managers equipped, and publicists printed. Now, finally, the Bulldogs are being handed over to their coaches as pre-season camp opens. "It's about that time," said senior safety Derek Pegues.

Mississippi State ran through some Saturday formalities of reporting in preparation for Sunday's official, and on-field, start to practices. And when Coach Sylvester Croom prepares, he means business as exemplified by an afternoon team gathering in the Shira Center that lasted almost 90 minutes. "And we didn't talk any football,"' Croom said. Instead the session focused entirely on what even the coach admitted was "boring".

"Policies, general information, parking, training room, weight room rules. The stuff that is boring but usually the most problematic, the things that cause distractions. Campus rules and regulations, firearms, all that stuff. We meet at 6:00 and then we'll start talking football."

Talking, and practicing, football won't come soon enough for Bulldog veterans of 2007's successes. "I can't wait until we get out there tomorrow," junior HB Anthony Dixon said. Dixon, and the rest of the varsity, have been lifting and running for a couple of months already. So the chance to do things in a full-team setting that involves real football plays is a most welcome change of pace. Even with an expected air temperature of 101 degrees and who-knows-what humiture on the field itself.

"We didn't expect it to be that hot the first day!" Pegues said. "But we've got to go out and get the job done, practice hard and get ready to compete."

Croom wants to make sure everyone is mentally ready to compete with both conditions and counterparts, though, so he has a 6:00 Sunday morning run scheduled. "That'll limit a lot of people in what they try to do tonight!" joked Pegues. "It won't be new to us (veterans), it'll be new to the freshmen and hopefully they'll come out and be ready to work tomorrow."

Calling this a ‘report' day was pure tradition, because practically everyone involved has been on campus for at least one month already. In the case of the varsity and redshirts, make that two months as they were enrolled in June's first summer semester. They were joined by the bulk of the rookie class for July, with two exceptions. QB Terrance Davis and DL Trevor Stigers are still awaiting formal certification from the NCAA's clearinghouse.

Hopefully in next week Stigers and Davis will get finalized, we think that will happen the next day or so," Croom said. "Every indication I've got is they should be able to practice sometime next week. The sooner, the better."

When these are cleared to join the team they will bring the camp-roster total to the maximum 105 allowed before school starts. Selected walk-ons will make up the difference between the scholarship roster and 105 cap and will be listed on Sunday.

True freshmen cleared in time for the second summer semester were WR Charles Bailey, DL Nick Bell, DB Corey Broomfield, WR Arceto Clark, TE Kendrick Cook, DL Sean Ferguson, DL Templeton Hardy, DL Joshua Jackson, DL Devin Jones, DL Shane McCardell, DB Charles Mitchell, RB T.J. Patterson, WR Delmon Robinson, OL Tobias Smith, LB Bo Walters, and DB Louis Watson. They joined LB Mike Hunt, TE Nelson Hurst, and WR O'Neal Wilder who enrolled in the spring semester and participated in those practices. Wilder was excused from most summer work as he participated in track meets, both NCAA and national. These rookies were joined by OL John Paul Alford for the fall semester, though he was originally booked to delay enrolling a semester.

Per policy, these true fall-semester freshmen will not be available to media until after the second scrimmage. "I don't want them talking to no freshman who just got off the durn bus and him say something stupid and put on that board, and he doesn't know anything about SEC football! Once he starts playing, if I think he's mature enough, then we'll let him talk. Otherwise they keep their mouth shut!"

February signees not reporting by their own choice are LB Kirkland Gainous, LB Antonio Hoskins, and KS Baker Swedenburg. These three intend to enroll in January, meaning their five-year NCAA ‘clock' will start in 2009.

Croom said the roster is in good physical shape to open camp after a rigorous month, or two, in Coach Ben Pollard's summer regimen. No varsity or redshirt Dogs will be out Sunday. Redshirt C D.J. Looney, who hurt a knee (meniscus) in July should practice. So should DS Aaron Feld (recurring back problems) and reserve OL John McMillan (abdomen strain).

"But we do have some guys with some wisdom teeth problems that may have to do that on Monday."

First-day practices will miss a familiar staff face, as longtime head athletic trainer Paul Mock is recovering from a quadruple-bypass heart surgery in Tupelo. Mock was transferred from intensive care Saturday and hopes to be back in Starkville by Tuesday, but of course is sidelined for a while now. Croom said assistant trainer Justin Gremillion will assume responsibility for the football team and former trainer Steve Smith will come back to that role after two years in the athletic academic compliance.

"And Dr. (Robert) Collins will be at all practices, so we've got it covered. And if that doesn't work we can always go get Strat (former trainer turned Bulldog Club director Straton Karatassos) back!"

For the players it's back to the on-field work they've prepared for over the summer season, with kickoff coming up on August 30. "Everybody's got a little jitters right now," said Pegues, who then immediately added not him. "I've been here four years now! But with Coach Croom we expect the unexpected. So we're going to try to have a great practice, because we know what the consequences are.

"The first day is the best day, everybody will be flying around. During the week it may slow down a little bit, pick back up when we get the pads on. But we'll have really good practices."

Sunday's camp-opening practice is at 4:00, and expected to run two-and-a-half hours. The first three days are in shorts and helmet, with another day in shells and day-five in full gear; all per NCAA regulations.

For old Dogs like Dixon and Pegues, opening another camp should be old-hat by now. But in 2008 it isn't because they and their veteran peers are coming off the breakthrough success of '07. Just enough after-glow of a 8-5 season and bowl victory still lingers that the whole roster, veteran and rookie alike, isn't looking at this camp as just something to survive. Instead it is the chance to take that proverbial next step, as well as prove 2007 was no one-season wonder.

This was also why Croom and staff took the time on reporting day to make sure everyone knew the boring-stuff groundrules for behavior on and off the practice field. There is no need at all for any problems and distractions that might thwart the potential seen for this new season. "Coach told us what our goals and what the rules are for this year, and what he expects out of us," said Dixon. "And we're basically going to of from there. It's always good to be reminded because sometimes they change things, but everything seems alright."

Or better than alright, Pegues said. "We're just trying to go out and win us a conference championship and hopefully get to a B.C.S. bowl."

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