Bulldog Open Week-Three Under The Lights

The first couple of class days are out of the way. Afternoon responsibilities are taken care of. They've had time to recover from the last session. Heck, even the weather will be pleasant. So, Coach Dan Mullen says, nothing should be in the way of a good, productive Tuesday practice. Meaning, "Come out this evening and there should be no distractions."

None other than maybe the revised preseason scheduling, which has Mississippi State doing their daily practices in the evening hours. For the third week of camp Coach Dan Mullen is having the Bulldogs report to the fields around 8:00. Yes, working under the lights from beginning to finish which was projected at around 10:30 or so based on prior camp trends.

These hours might seem unusual; to Mullen it is just a matter of good timing, so to speak. "They don't have tutoring start until next Monday," he pointed out. "It gives an opportunity to come out and practice in the evening, there's no sun. And we're probably going to play some 8:00 games this year with ESPN at any given time, so it gives us the opportunity to get used to playing at that time of day." Or night, rather.

Whatever the hours, the head coach expects the same sort of efforts and execution that was demanded in all the preceding practices. Maybe more so since the Bulldogs haven't been on the field since Saturday, the last date of two-a-day practices and the unofficial half-way point of preseason. Nobody better show up looking or acting tired tonight, in other words, no matter how Mullen and staff pushed the players in their first 14 practice sessions.

"I know we've gone hard before. I'm realistic, saying we're not going to look like day-one practice out there again. But you hope the guys are just a little bit fresher coming out, especially it being a little cooler in the evening." And, Mullen added, he hopes the ‘shell shock' for new players of their first fall semester classes is out of the way. Which means it is time to get back to on-field work.

"It's practice-fifteen, so it's still a training-camp practice," Mullen said. "So I just want to see us come out and get a little bit better than we were the day before. Even though school started to me you're still in training camp for another two weeks."

At the same time the coaching staff has moved on to their next preseason phase. They spent Sunday and Monday going over practice video, evaluating both personnel and plays, and came up with a core gameplan of sorts for the fast-approaching season. Mullen said he thinks now the staff is "on the same page" after their group meetings when everyone stated their cases for what the Dogs can and should do this year. More specifically, what they should structure their practice planning around these next two weeks.

"It's been kind of fun for me, I've got to actually do some football for two days!" Mullen grinned. Not of course that what everybody had been doing up to then wasn't football. But now the coach has a clearer picture of, well, everything, along with evidence of how well the players have absorbed their instructions to-date.

"We're still in training camp but this part now is clean-up. Installation is over, so go back and polish up what we have in." Most particularly on the offensive side of the playbook, where weekend staff meetings helped get "a lot of things organized" in the head coach's words. "We went through and just cleaned-up a whole bunch of things offensively, how we're going to call, make sure everything is called the right way, that we're in the right personnel groups, getting the ball to the right players. And running the plays. Even though we threw a lot in, we kept the plays that we thought were going to be best for our personnel."

For the healthy personnel that is. State goes into week-three with a variety of injuries, the most notable being the sprained ankle to first OG Tobias Smith. He's in the second week of a month-long recovery from a procedure to strengthen the ligaments involved. Two-a-days ended with freshman WR Chad Bumphis finally sidelined from a painful foot; the rookie is in a boot for a while, Mullen said. "We fully expect him to play in the first game and be ready to practice that game week. The sprained foot, he's going to get treatments and rehab for the next two weeks and be ready to roll."

Mullen said second SS Emmanuel Gatling and third OT Michael Bufkin would not practice Tuesday with unspecified injuries. First OT Derek Sherrod (knee) and first FS Zach Smith (hamstring) were to be back tonight. "They might not do everything but they'll be back doing some things." As for all the other niggling bumps and bruises Mullen was not worried. Just the opposite after that two-day break.

"I'm hoping, we'll see out there on the field how everybody's legs (are). Hopefully we'll look a little bit faster than we were wrapping-up on Saturday." Of course some of the speed Mullen would like to see isn't just how his players move; he wants signs that they are thinking and deciding at a much quicker pace after their intense two weeks of installation and practicing. That would make for an excellent starting point to the new preseason phase.

"Hopefully we're a little bit more advanced in the teaching right now, of everything coming out of training camp. Instead of installation it's much more polishing going on. We're not adding new things, what we're doing now is cleaning-up the things we have."

The Bulldogs are to work every weekday evening and Mullen plans for most of it to be in full gear with the possible exception of Friday. "Just to get ready for the scrimmage on Saturday," he said. "After that, you really clean things up the next week in practice and get ready for game week."

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