Team Prepares for Maroon-White Game

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are coming off their last scrimmage before the Maroon-White game. Coach Manny Diaz showcased some new formations during the scrimmage which gave the offense problems. Coach Dan Mullen now heads into the last week of spring practice looking to correct those problems caused by Diaz's defense Saturday.


Quarterback Battle

The battle between Chris Relf and Tyler Russell is at a crossroads as neither player has taken control of the starting position. And Tuesday's practice didn't do much to change that since neither quarterback did enough to separate himself from the other.

Chris Relf started off strong, completing 10 of 14 passes in 7 on 7s. He also completed 12 of 19 passes during during 11 on 11s. While Relf didn't have a big day he did look good before throwing five straight incompletions. He finished the day on a positive note, connecting on his last four passes.

Tyler Russell had a good start also, completing 9 of 15 passes in 7 on 7s. He didn't fare as well in the 11 on 11s, completing 11 of 19 passes. Russell looked frustrated at times Tuesday, throwing a few errant passes. He has to come out and have a better day Thursday if he hopes to go into the spring game with momentum.

Overall, the quarterbacks had an ok day but their numbers may be a little skewed because of some drops by the receiving core.

Running Backs

Vick Ballard has emerged as the number one tailback even though Robert Elliot had a good Saturday scrimmage. The team mostly worked on passing so the running backs didn't get as much work with the team.

I didn't record stats for the running backs but LaDarius Perkins did a good job in the receiving game, catching a few dump-offs for long gains. Perkins has developed into a legit option at running back and may very well be the second best running back at this point.

Elliot didn't get much work, giving up carries to Perkins and Ballard.

Wide Receivers

Every week a new receiver seems to emerge with Brandon Heavens, then Chris Smith, and now Ricco Sanders or Charles Bailey looking to be the next guy to become a part of the rotation.

Charles Bailey had a good day with five catches and doing a good job of running routes and finding creases.

Ricco Sanders only had two catches during 7 on 7s and 11 on 11s but looked great during 1 on 1s. Although he had a drop, he is starting to do a good job of getting open.

Leon Berry, Chad Bumphis and Brandon Heavens continue to impress, combining for 13 catches on the day.

While I do praise the receivers for solid play, I feel they dropped too many balls. The receivers have to help out the quarterbacks especially given how important they are to the success of the offense.



The linebackers dominated the 2nd scrimmage with Coach Diaz rolling around a bunch of guys. Diaz continued that during Tuesday's practice, using different guys on the first, second, and third units. Mike Hunt hasn't gotten many reps this spring but got a few with the first team in the practice. He replaced Cameron Lawrence but he is not expected to occupy that spot long. The day mostly consisted of Diaz rotating guys as if they were in a real game.

Defensive Backs

The defensive backfield has been one of the strongest units this spring. Tuesday, there was an interesting wrinkle as starting free safety Johnthan Banks was moved backed to his original position, cornerback.

Banks started off the day working on press coverage during one-on-one drills. He was involved in a spirited battles with Chris Smith, jawing throughout the drills. Banks then worked at cornerback during team drills with Nickoe Whitley first team free safety. Diaz stated that the move was temporary but could the move be permanent with Arceto Clark moving back to receiver. Potentially, the trio of Banks, Maurice Langston, and Corey Broomfield could be one of the best in the SEC.

The moving of Johnthan Banks to cornerback is definitely the most interesting news of the practice and something I will monitor Thursday and at the Maroon-White game Saturday.

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Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for He can be reached by email at

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