Wednesday Afternoon Football Practice Report

It's not quite the same as back when he was sweating through August, when two-a-days really meant twice-daily drills for days as long as the head coach wanted. So with the third and final two-a-day date done, Coach Sylvester Croom is almost at loose ends. "I don't know what I'll do with myself now. In my day we wouldn't be half-way through yet!"

Much less have cut a camp session as short as Mississippi State did Wednesday afternoon. The Bulldogs concluded their second workout of the day with barely two hours practicing, indoors and in shorts. The session was even moved up almost an hour earlier than usual with a 3:10 start, so everybody could have a longer than normal evening ahead. This was by late change of plan, Croom explained.

"Hopefully we'll get a little rest, we didn't practice very long today. "We'll see a movie tonight. Basically it's a little night off and relaxation, maybe enjoy the night and get their mind off football for a few hours."

The Bulldogs did not act as if they were thinking of any breaks, fortunately. Even after a good sharp morning session in pads, they came back mid-afternoon with a satisfying effort to round out Wednesday. "We had another pretty good day of work," said Croom. "Concentration was good. We worked primarily in the red zone on both sides of the ball. It wasn't anything special, we just wanted to get some concentration."

That might not sound like a key camp priority to fans, but given the strains this squad has been under since camp began the coaching staff really did want to gauge how intense everyone could be on day-ten and practice #13. Before practices opened Croom commented that the plan was to work everyone harder than normal in preseason; partly because of the number of veterans who needed to take their games up a notch, and ironically also because a number of newcomers are expected—needed, even—to take on major roles.

"We have pushed them pretty hard," Croom said. "And they've held up well. I think some of our freshman are getting to that slump, and I know we've pushed them harder than normal because some of them got in there a little bit quicker than normal. But they've all hung in there.

"School will start next, we'll be getting closer to game time and everybody will start feeling good then. But we're going to push through the rest of this week and find out who is going to get ready for this ball game, and go from there." This includes regular practices Thursday and Friday, and the weekend closed scrimmage which Croom hopes will settle the two-deep before focus turns to opening-game preparations.

There aren't a lot of first positions left to determine, Croom said, but the few that remain have some quality competition going. Such as offensive right tackle where Mark Melichar holds a very slender lead over Quentin Saulsberry. " That's the biggest one right now," said the coach. He also is keeping an eye on Chris Spencer who needs to keep it up and settle the backup left tackle.

"Then you've got four wide receivers, all four are going to play and are on the first team but I don't know who is going to start yet." Normally it has been Jamayel Smith and Co-Eric Riley as the top two, alternating with Aubrey Bell and Brandon McRae. "That's a heck of a battle to see who ends up being the two starting guys."

Defensive left end is another spot of contention. Cortez McRaney has gotten most first-squad snaps at left, but that's been in the absence of Brandon Cooper with back problems. "Now we're getting healthy again and Brandon is getting back in the mix. Tim Bailey is going to start at one end, it's a question of who is going to start at the other. That's going to be an interesting battle." Maybe Wednesday's most encouraging development was the return of left tackle Kyle Love to full-contact work with the first unit, moving Charles Burns back to second.

And at fullback Brandon Hart has had his best college camp yet, but Eric Hoskins—who took the job from Hart last late-season before a shoulder nerve injury—has come back well and made it a fight again. "They'll both play," said Croom.

"Other than that I think everything else is set, unless some of them change my mind—for good or bad—in the scrimmage Saturday."

For afternoon passing-play drills a mix of first, second, and even some third-group guys were put together for a play at a time. In fact the backup corners got more reps than the starters as competition keeps the depth chart adjusting. As has the return to active duty of redshirt Damein Anderson, after missing ten days with a touchy hamstring. He lined up second on the right corner this time behind starter Marcus Washington, who had several series off to allow Anderson all possible snaps in the effort to catch up for lost camp time. Jarvis Williams is running third at the moment.

The left corner still belongs to starter Jasper O'Quinn but it's getting deep, in a good way, over there. Tay Bowser is having to fight off Louis Watson and Corey Broomfield.

The Bulldogs should enjoy their evening off, whether at the cinema or not. And now they no longer have to report for a morning practice, though with two days left before classes open there will likely be some other team responsibilities set. There will be late afternoon practices Thursday and Friday, then the closed Saturday scrimmage to wrap up week-two.


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