As to whether this inspired Mississippi State to any special exertions, well, Croom will judge that better after reviewing the day's tapes. "But we did some good things on both side of the ball so all in all it was a pretty good day," he could say following the two-and-a-half hour session. "Nothing great, but I thought we got a little bit better today."
The perceived progress likely came from a sharper showing from the offense. Not that they ‘won' the day by any means, nor that they were exceptional in execution. Still this unit was able to hold its own more often Tuesday and that is always a good sign considering the early-practice mismatch with a more experience stopper-squad.
"The defense should be ahead," Croom said. "They should be playing with a lot of attitude because those guys have played a lot of football. But it was very competitive and I like that. It's not that much difference but the defense is ahead because we've got a few new guys in there on offense and the young tight ends and Derek Sherrod playing a different position. But we'll continue to improve offense as long as we keep working like we're doing."
On offense passing practices took up several segments. In the undefended drills, starting QB Wesley Carroll threw to first-unit receivers Co-Eric Riley and Jamayel Smith. The first group included two tight ends, Marcus Green and Brandon Henderson. The second rotation of receivers was a threesome with Aubrey Bell, Brandon McRae, and O'Neal Wilder with Austin Wilbanks the lone tight end. The third grouping was wide receivers Major Sosebee, freshman Charles Bailey, and freshman Arceto Clark and tight end Nelson Hurst. Freshman Delmon Robinson—who got a complimentary nod from his head coach--and Andrew Ellard were the fourth rotation of wideouts.
Nothing has changed in the quarterback order of Carroll and Tyson Lee taking turns on the first offense; Chris Relf and walk-on Todd Kilpatrick with the second.
Croom doesn't want to mislead about just how far the offense has progressed; he is still more concerned with how far the unit has to go. Pre-snap penalties continue to draw flags, and the coach noted uncertainty in some sets, particularly with young or new personnel. "We had too much indecision as far as guys coming out of the huddle not knowing what the heck they're doing, that kind of stuff slows it down."
But progress of any sort is still most welcome considering that the defense has set a consistent tone all three days. Croom called out DT Jessie Bowman and MLB Jamar Chaney for their Tuesday work, particularly praising Chaney's execution in full-team blitzing. "He was a lot more aggressive than what he has been." And freshmen are starting to emerge in drills. "(CB) Louis Watson caught my eye once or twice out there, and (S) Charles Mitchell continues to impress. They look like they're going to be able to make a contribution this year."
The three players held out Monday for heat-stress issues from day-one drills--DE Cortez McCraney, SLB K.J. Wright, and DL Devin Jones—were back to work today, though wearing purple jersies. Also limited on defense was DT Kyle Love with a toe problem. Offensive players in limited yellow were OC D.J. Looney (meniscus), RB T.J. Patterson (ankle), and DS Aaron Feld. But OG Michael Gates was back in active maroon after taking it easy Monday with back issues. He was also back on the first unit at right guard.
The red-cross list grew by one as second LOG Johnny Carpenter was sidelined by a shoulder. Others missing all work Tuesday were DE Brandon Cooper (back) and CB Damein Anderson (hamstring).
Getting some linemen back for at least limited duty allowed the defensive front to set up a more normal practice depth chart. Though in purple, LE McCraney and LT Love joined RT Bowman and RE Tim Bailey as the regular first defensive line. The second group was LE Charles Burns, LT Reggie Odom, RT LaMarcus Williams, RE Jimmie Holmes; and the third line was LE Nick Bell, freshman LT Jones, freshman RT Joshua Jackson, and freshman RE Sean Ferguson. Cooper is waiting activation to resume practice at right end, while freshman Shane McCardell is fourth on the left end.
With shoulder pads on the players were given more freedom to collide if not truly tackle, though in some drills bodies still ended up on the ground. Such as in a session where running backs were to block blitzing linebackers. In a first-vs.-first matchup RB Anthony Dixon mauled WLB Dominic Douglas, putting him down at the line of scrimmage. But starting MLB Chaney evened the score by beating FB Brandon Hart to the quarterback—actually a tackling dummy—and SLB Wright blew through RB Robert Elliot too easily. Later Elliot bounced back to handle LB Mark Lynn much better, but the blitzers on the whole came out better in these matches.
"The defense definitely is slightly ahead at this point," Croom said. "The offense has got to pick it up."
For that matter everybody has got to pick it up early Wednesday. With two days of summer semester exams done, the Bulldogs will be on the field and working by 7:00 am in shells. They will pull on the full padding for Thursday's morning session, then have their first two-a-day set of drills Friday before a Saturday scrimmage.