Friday Afternoon Practice Notebook

It was supposed to be a routine post-practice report, and after a non-contact session at that. But Coach Sylvester Croom had some news for waiting media, announcing that starting S Derek Pegues and backup LB Karlin Brown have been suspended for the opening game at Louisiana Tech August 30. "For violation of the University's academic policy, class attendance policy," he said.

Pegues is a junior who has played in all 36 possible games the previous three seasons and started the last 25, first at cornerback in 2006 and at free safety last season. Brown is a true sophomore who played on special teams in 2007 and was battling for a second-team status at outside linebacker this camp.

Croom, as is his practice, offered no other comment or explanation of the suspensions. MSU's athletics class policy is that four unexcused absences results in a one-game suspension; the next level would be suspension for the full season. Croom did not say when those absences came in the spring or two summer semesters.

*FOR THEIR SECOND Friday practice the Bulldogs worked in shorts, and indoors as the entire session was held in the Palmeiro Center. After a vigorous morning session in full-pads Croom was giving the players just a bit of a breather before Saturday's afternoon scrimmage.

"Basically today's practice was a learning practice, where we got some mental work done more than anything else. But we wanted to get them out of heat and get ready for tomorrow's scrimmage."

The Bulldogs responded with satisfactory effort and focus Friday afternoon, but after a good morning the offense had some issues in the passing game. "We had too many tipped balls today, the quarterbacks' ball-location wasn't as good as it has been. We've got to do a lot better job as far as accuracy and ball placement because that's creating turnovers. And a couple of them in one-on-one should have been caught."

Instead most tips were snared by the wrong color jersey guys for turnovers, to the defense's credit. "In fact they've done a good job all camp," Croom said. Still the coach hasn't lost faith in the pass-catching corps, particularly his three leading veterans. "I think our receivers are playing pretty well right now. Aubrey Bell, Jamayel Smith, Co-Eric Riley are practicing very well."

Croom has some general goals in mind for Saturday's session, which will last…as long as necessary. As usual the staff will watch how younger players, both redshirts and true freshmen, respond to working in a stadium venue. Croom is interested in tight end play, where an entirely new lineup is being groomed, as well the redshirt freshman running backs and some true rookie defensive linemen.

"And as much as anything else because after tomorrow we'll definitely decide who we want to get ready for this first ball game, they'll get the bulk of the work from then on. The rest of the guys we'll bring along at a slower pace."

*THE FIRST OFFENSIVE line-up was briefly back to normal for the afternoon session as RT Mark Melichar and RG Michael Gates returned to the #1 status for this whole practice. In the morning session Quentin Saulsberry took several turns as the top tackle on the right end, while Craig Jenkins temporarily took the place of Gates who was held out with a nagging back problem.

Then midway of drills Gates had to leave to have his ankle x-rayed. His status for Saturday's scrimmage is unknown, but veteran Jenkins will likely line up again with the first group of RT Melichar, OC J. C. Brignone, LG Anthony Strauder, and LT Derek Sherrod. The second line has been Saulsberry, Jenkins, D.J. Looney, freshman Tobias Smith, and Chris Spencer; with the departure of Johnny Carpenter the backup guard will likely be Dakota Merritt.

*MORE INJURY UPDATES: The other new injury reported from the morning's contact drills was WR Delmon Robinson with a hamstring problem. "Hopefully he'll be back tomorrow," Croom said.

For the first time in camp, and because this was a non-contact session, Looney worked in offensive maroon and not limited yellow, though he could still be held out of Saturday when everybody will be hitting except quarterbacks and specialists. Friday afternoon, players still in limited-yellow (offense/kickers) or defense (purple) were DS Aaron Feld, RB T.J. Patterson, and DE Tim Bailey. CB Charles Mitchell practiced in a red cross, and wearing the same shirt CB Damein Anderson took a few turns after being sidelined for six days with a hamstring pull. DE Brandon Cooper (back) did not come to the indoors practice as he is being treated.

Nor did DT Kyle Love, who has been hobbled this camp after off-season toe surgery and usually wearing purple. He stayed in the training room.

*THERE HAVE BEEN no noticeable changes in the offensive backfield rotations this week. At halfback Anthony Dixon continues to have what Croom calls his best camp ever, not just in running plays but as a receiver in both unit drills and against defenders. Dixon has only strengthened his status as the #1 halfback, ahead of Christian Ducre. Based on practice snaps and order Robert Elliot appears to be slightly ahead of classmate Wade Bonner for the third slot.

At fullback Brandon Hart has drawn more praise this week than in all his previous camps combined, both for his condition and his execution. The position, a serious worry for Croom in spring camp, is more encouraging also because so far Eric Hoskins has shown no signs that the injured shoulder nerve of last November is hampering him. Hoskins missed all spring work and was a question mark coming into pre-season but hasn't missed a day so far. Arnil Stallworth has settled in as third fullback though in some drills he also gets snaps as a halfback, his former full-time position.


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