But the real theme of Saturday's session may well have been special teams, which got a major emphasis for the first time this preseason. It began with punting practice by Heath Hutchins, Derek DePasquale, and William Berg kicking it away under real pressure. Next up was downfield coverage with a look at several candidates for ‘gunner' led by Maurice Langston and Marvin Bure. The man they were covering? Mullen himself, who didn't actually field a kick but was the target everyone was to run at in their assigned alleys.
Sean Brauchle and DePasquale alternated kicking out of the hold of either Chris Cameron or, in an interesting twist, Chad Bumphis. This offers some clues as to tricks that may well be in MSU's minds this fall since the wide receiver of course played some quarterback in high school, and ‘blew his cover' as a potential passer in the very first game of his freshman season. Nothing was fake about the kicking Saturday though.
The only area not practiced was actual kicking-off, as a machine took care of firing the ball downfield. Bumphis and Berry, the proven returners of last season, made the first pair.
While not especially hot by MSU camp standards a slight pre-practice shower did raise the humidity to uncomfortable levels. So at 5:30 practice halted for everyone to get a break and drink under a tent…everyone but the quarterbacks and kickers that is. They ran a few gassers first.
The Bulldogs will stay on South Farm up to the start of fall semester classes, and lodge in a hotel to further bring the entire roster together in a working mindset. This is no gimmick to Mullen at all. "The foundations of a championship team are built here," Mullen told the team before drills began. "The Farm. Just us."
Despite the generally-serious tone there were at least a few hints of humor, such as Mullen joining the squad for pre-practice warmup runs and stretches. He ran with the first row, between the two senior offensive linemen Derek Sherrod and Brignone. The latter may have wanted to help the boss feel good because Brignone seemed to stay one intentional step behind Mullen in the 20-yard dashes.
Oh, and unlike last August, the opening day of South Farm training camp this year was not attended by some 2009 fans. "Must be the cows' day off," Mullen called out to sideline media. Indeed no campus kine bothered to come over the adjoining hills to watch as was the case last year.
Remaining preseason practices are closed to media and fans.