Thursday Bulldog Football Report

Mississippi State wrapped up game-week preparations for their Saturday matchup against Arkansas with a 90-minute practice session in the Palmeiro Center. Afterwards Coach Sylvester Croom confirmed intentions to get some second-year backfield Bulldogs, Wade Bonner and Chris Relf, into this SEC contest.

Though, Croom said, running back Bonner is much surer of seeing action in game-eleven than quarterback Relf. "I want to find out about Bonner," he said. That's because the redshirt freshman is a converted safety; the defense graduate three seniors from those two positions. But Bonner needs a truer game-test to show what he might can do on offense next season and beyond, since rotation backs Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre are both juniors and Bonner classmate Robert Elliot is coming off knee surgery.

Putting Relf into action is a trickier matter for Croom. "Don't pin me in on it," he said. "I'd like to get Relf out there, but I'm not saying for sure. I'll see how things are going before the other decision but we've prepared him for that, with the idea he will. But sometimes in game decisions I'll decide to go another route."

Of course the need to see Relf in a real competitive setting is greater since Croom has indicated State's offensive approach may be adjusting routes in 2009, away from the standard fullback/tailback sets to more varied and even spread-type schemes. Relf was signed as a raw prospect with the idea of giving him two years to develop in college. He's developed just about on that schedule.

"He's the best athlete we've got at quarterback," Croom said. "And the thing I want to do is see where he is. He's done some good things in practice, we want to just put him out in the real deal and see how he will function."

Croom also repeated that true freshman Delmon Robinson will replace senior Derek Pegues on kickoff return duty. "Derek has been over-worked and coming off that concussion (in the Alabama game) he's even going to be splitting time on defense. But we definitely need him to catch the punts. I think Delmon can handle the kickoffs with not problems and he'll be our backup punt returner as well. But I feel safer starting the game with Pegues as punt returner."

At Thursday's practice Pegues was in limited-purple as a precaution, just as OC J. C. Brignone was in limited-yellow. Brignone will return to starting center this week, after opening at left guard for the Alabama game. Mike Gates, who took the week off, is back as close to full-strength as he's going to be this month and will start at left guard.

The Bulldogs will have a brief Friday walk-through before the team evening meal and overnight stay in Columbus. Kickoff at Scott Field is 1:30 Saturday, with the annual Senior Day recognition preceding the game.

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