Camp Day-One Ends With Dogs Working Indoors

It was only the second time Dan Mullen could recall taking advantage of the Palmeiro Center for a practice. "And I'm kind of mad at myself that we did," the coach joked, after Mississippi State made an abrupt move of Tuesday's afternoon split-squad session from the practice field to the indoor facility.

No other objections were heard, beyond a Bulldog or two who said they would have enjoyed working out in the short shower that arrived an hour into the afternoon work. Rain didn't force the change of plans, though. It was those lightning strikes a bit too close for coaching comfort that convinced Mullen to take the team inside for the rest of the two-and-a-half-hour practice.

Take half the team, to be exact; the half that did not work in the same sort of morning session. Well, not quite the same either because that practice was done under unblocked sun and numbing humidity. As noted in the morning practice report, the first session paired the near-complete first teams on offense and defense with the true freshmen. The goal was to have veteran experience rub-off on rookies as much as possible for opening day of camp.

The afternoon was another matter, with the second- and third-teams taking their turn as well as a selection of new walk-ons. When everyone arrived the conditions were even hotter, with a reported peak of 105 degrees on the field. But the oncoming storm was already in sight and a brisk wind took some edge off the heat. Had it not been for the lightning, practice would have been unreasonably pleasant.

Weather-wise, that is. Though on the whole Mullen found the work to be satisfactory as well. Since almost everyone involved had been through spring practices together and in plenty cases an actual college season, drills went off without as many hitches and halts caused by new kids unsure of, well, of a whole lot. By the same token it meant the coaching staff held these players to a higher standard of execution; for the most part they delivered and Mullen was pleased with the results.

One good example of how the sessions differed was the twos and threes getting off more offensive plays in 11-man drills. #2 quarterback Tyler Russell was reserved for the afternoon session and took care of most work, with walk-on Brantley Adams as his backup. Adams, a true frosh, tossed both of the intercepted passes scored by the backup defenses, with a pick-six for strong-side LB Cameron Lawrence a highlight of the day.

While redshirts Montrell Conner and LaDarius Perkins were both on hand to take care of running back plays, they did as much work as receivers in unit drills. In full-team situations most of their runs were outside pitches as State expands the repertoire this second season under Mullen. Reverses by receivers Brandon Heavens and Ricco Sanders were an afternoon staple as well.

The defense did have some veterans who are listed as starters or co-starters, not because these Dogs had done anything to displease their coaches but because their numbers were needed to round out two complete units. This included defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, defensive end Nick Bell, cornerback Maurice Langston, new SLB Lawrence (his alternate Emmanuel Gatling practiced in the morning), and rotation tackle James Carmon.

Lack of numbers meant redshirt defensive end Johnathan McKenzie did double-duty, working with both units in full-team drills. Rodney Prince and Reggie Odom were the second tackles in this roster.

One other difference, based on participating personnel, was the morning practice included punter Heath Hutchins and snapper Aaron Feld. The afternoon featured both placekickers, Sean Brauchle and Derek DePasquale, banging off field goals after everyone moved indoors.

With one day under their collective belts—there were two practices but it only counted as one practice day in NCAA eyes since the squads were split—the Bulldogs will not have to work out Wednesday. This day is reserved for final summer semester exams. Mullen did tell the team to report for 7:00 am treatment though. Defensive tackle Josh Jackson was seem limping away from practice with a hurting left leg, but no serious setbacks were observed. And nobody had any reason to fall-out from heat in the afternoon, as had true frosh receiver Michael Carr in the morning.

Camp resumes Thursday at a scheduled 6:00, with the session open to the public. Mullen told the afternoon team that everyone will work on the same material Thursday as they did on day-one, with nothing new to install for day-two.

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