Practices Aren't A Grind This Preseason

The preseason practices for the Mississippi State football team have been a unique experience. They've practiced on the MSU south farm in front of a few cows while spending their nights in a hotel. Then they begin their regular practices by spending two hours under the lights of the practice fields. At least one player has enjoyed the experience.

"I think it has been great," said junior safety Zach Smith. "It's different because he's throwing us curveballs left and right. But when you think about it that's what good teams do - they go off for training camp, they get away and it's 24/7 football. And that's what we did. Now, he's giving us all day to watch film, get treatment, get our books handled, then we come out here late at night and practice."

Zach is part of a four-man secondary that has performed well during the preseason practices despite having three new starters among the group.

"(Senior) Marcus Washington has done a good job for us and you can tell he worked hard in the offseason," said Zach. "(Sophomore) Charles Mitchell is a phenom, an unbelievable player. (Sophomore) Damien Anderson has improved a whole lot. He's got good feet, good speed, a great frame and real strong."

Zach also feels good about their backups.

"There are some other guys who can come in for the two corners who I have a lot of confidence in," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in (redshirt freshman) Louis Watson, and (redshirt freshman) Corey Broomfield is a hard worker who is trying to prove himself. And (sophomore) Wade Bonner comes in as our nickel. He also has the ability to come in and give me and Charles a breather. He's a freak, too. He's a huge guy with all kind of speed."

Zach also feels like he's improved a lot since last season.

"I try to improve in basic football stuff - work on my footwork, speed, strength," said the youngster. "Getting bigger, stronger and faster has improved my game, but the main thing is I'm extremely comfortable back there right now. And the game continues to slow down for me which allows me to know what is coming or kind of narrow it down a lot more before the ball is snapped."

And the secondary has needed all the improvement they could muster due to the new high-octane offense that they are now seeing in practice on a daily basis.

"The great thing about this offense for our defense is if we can cover (head) Coach (Dan) Mullen's offense then we can cover anybody because there are not going to be many people in the country who can out-scheme him," said Zach. "We are getting everything thrown at us, so that is helping us get ready for games every single day."

While Zach has seen the benefits derived from the offense for the Bulldog defense, he also feels like the offense itself is going to be a very productive one no matter the situations it will face in games this season.

"The thing that I'm so excited about, besides helping us as a defense, is when we get into a game and everything is shutting down, (Coach Mullen) just has a way to go get six yards," said Zach. "He just has ways to come up with coverage beaters. He's done that to us in practice. He really knows his stuff."

And for the first time in a long time it appears the offense has the necessary weapons at wideout to help the offense be very effective.

"(Senior) B-Mac (Brandon McRae) is an old guy who works hard," said Zach. "The new guys who have impressed me and give our offense a whole new look are (freshman) Chad Bumphis and (juco transfer) Leon Berry. And (redshirt freshman) O'Neal Wilder can catch a deep ball. But Leon Berry and Chad Bumphis have really, really impressed me just due to their shiftiness and their toughness. Leon Berry stepped right in and became a leader on the offense. I have to be reminded that he hasn't even played a season yet because it seems like he's been here forever."

Although only one of the guys he mentioned has any experience in the SEC, Zach doesn't believe that will affect them too much.

"They are strong guys and they know how to run their routes and catch the ball," said Zach. "Yeah, it's a rush for a little bit when you are playing in front of 90,000 people, but football is football. "


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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