The battling resumed Monday morning as Mississippi State went through a two-plus-hour session at their South Farm facility. As it was a two-a-day date, the play-drills were dominated by running game plays for both offense and defense. Passing was not entirely ignored and one defender claimed coverage came out better this morning. But Mullen was more focused on ground game results from what he said "was still a first-down practice." I.E., establishing the run to open series.
"It was a good practice," Mullen reported. "I liked the tempo, I liked the attitude. We gave them a day-off yesterday so they came out fresh today." Besides, he said, "We got a little lucky with the weather, it cooled off today."
Conditions might have been cool but fortunately for the future of this team the camp competition remains preseasonably hot. Sunday-off or not, this was the 14th practice (in 11 working dates) and no matter the motivations there is bound to be some wearing-down of the troops. Though, fortunately, not from injuries. Mullen abides by his new-for-2010 policy of not reporting specific injuries until the Thursday of game week, so he had no individual updates to offer today.
Generally, though, team health is said to be just fine for this point of preseason.
Matt Balis has done a fabulous job of preparing our team for facing this situation," Mullen said. "Justin Gremillion and our trainers have done a great job of keeping us healthy. That is all a part of it. And the secondary part is making sure always hydrated, everybody is eating the right way, getting in the cold tanks. You see it, they're getting stretched after every single practice. That maintenance to prevent injury is huge. There hasn't been anything drastic for us."
No, just a steady string of working dates and practices completed without trauma. Drama? There seems to be a little more of that for players still locking-down their places on the position depth chart, or simply scrambling for some place in the pecking order. Probably a number of Bulldogs know they are going to line-up for the first play of 2010 at their position…but Mullen and staff have done an excellent job this August of keeping juuuuust enough doubt in veteran minds about such things. As well as holding out honest hope for others that they, too, still can win a starting job in the coming weeks.
This approach is paying off in practices, Mullen sees. "I like the fight of our team," he said. Yet he also points out the impact of having the Bulldogs doing their battling at The Farm, as the temporary South Farm facility is now permanently known.
"When you get out there, there is nowhere to hide. So everybody has to have a great day," said Mullen today. "When we're there, we're there; that is training camp. When we come back over here you're starting to get more into game-prep and your weekly routine. I think that is the greatest advantage it gives us going over there."
The Bulldogs are still down on The Farm for two more practices; this afternoon and Tuesday's single session. Two-a-days end a little earlier than usual for an August calendar, because Mississippi State's fall semester begins Wednesday. So the work resumes Thursday on the regular practice fields…for a day anyway.
Because Friday brings the next benchmark date of preseason, when Mullen holds what will be the only full-scrimmage session of 2010. There have been specific practice periods that saw situational scrimmaging of course, but nothing like Friday's game-type exercise. It is closed, too, because State wants no distractions in what looms as a key checkpoint for a whole lot of players.
"Really this week, the scrimmage Friday night will really kind of separate it after that," Mullen said. "You're two weeks out from game, we have to start getting ready to play a game at that point. So really this is still training camp. The threes are still getting the same number of reps the ones are, so everybody is getting a chance to still compete. But that is going to change after Friday."
Mullen hopes to receive an update on freshman wide receiver Michael Carr, who has been practicing since camp began in expectation of NCAA clearance. That has not come through though, or at least "not as of this morning I haven't heard," according to the coach. "Hopefully we get it done today, we've got to get it done before school starts." If uncertified Carr will not be able to practice further, until that clearance does come through. Last year freshman receiver Ricco Sanders did not receive clearance until the week of kickoff.
Carr and all wideouts can continue practicing this afternoon, though, with the second half of the last two-a-day. "It will be the same as our regular routine. A lot more pass oriented, just helmets and shoulder pad but a lot more pass oriented."