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August 12, 2008

Rain forces Bulldogs indoors

Rain may have chased the Mississippi State Bulldogs indoors this morning but it did not put a damper on their ability to have a solid practice.

The Bulldogs went for two and a half hours in full gear inside the Palmeiro Center for the second practice in a row and according to head coach Sylvester Croom, got a lot accomplished.

"We got a lot done today," Croom said. "We had to come inside because of the weather but the competition was very, very good. The defense gave up too many big plays. It's funny being a head coach because it's never a good practice. If the defense does good, you worry about the offense. If the offense is good, you're worry about the defense."

Croom said that running backs Robert Elliott, Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre all had big gainers for the offense on the ground.

"We had too many big runs on our defense this morning which normally doesn't happen," Croom said. "The offense must have been doing better but we can't have big runs like that. We've got to stop the run first on defense and we've got to run the ball on offense before anything else."

Croom also acknowledged several other individuals for their practice efforts.

"(Keith) Fitzhugh is still playing very well," Croom said. "We've got a walk-on fullback (Sylvester) Hemphill that looks like he wants to play for us this year. If he keeps working like that he will. But the group that continues to impress me is the receivers. Aubrey Bell, (Brandon), McRae, Co-Eric (Riley and Jamayel ( Smith) and that group are playing pretty well right now and making a lot of plays."

Croom stated that the offensive line starting rotation is nearly set except for one slot at right tackle. Sophomore Mark Melichar and redshirt freshman Quentin Saulsberry are in a showdown for the starting nod.

"We've still got good competition at the right tackle spot," Croom said. "It's still up in the air whether it will be Melichar or Saulsberry. That's going to be a big question. Those two guys are the leaders right now and that's going to be a battle."

Starters along the rest of the line appear to be Derek Sherrod at left tackle, Anthony Strauder at left guard, J.C. Brignone at center and Michael Gates at right guard.

Croom walked away Saturday's scrimmage impressive with the conditioning of his offensive front.

"We ran 29-straight plays with the offense with the same five big guys and there were no problems and no complaints," Croom said. "Nobody gave out so that's pretty good shape. That's good that our big guys are in shape. We'll be OK there once we find out who that right tackle is going to be."

As players continue to recover from injuries, the defensive line depth is starting to build up.

"I'm not as worried now about the depth now that we are starting to get people healthy," Croom said. "We're going to have to play 8-10 defensive linemen and keep those guys fresh. The reality of it is, we don't have one guy that is a dominating player but we will try to get the job done with numbers."

Defensive end Tim Bailey was back practicing at full speed Tuesday leaving Kyle Love (toe) and Brandon Cooper (back)as the only injuries along the defensive front.

Defensive backs Damein Anderson (ankle) and Chris Nance (wrist) practiced in purple jerseys while kicker/ punter Eric Richards (hip) was in a yellow.

Croom said the Bulldogs could be back inside the Palmeiro Center Wednesday if the forecast holds up. State is scheduled to hold it's final two-a-day practice Wednesday but would practice inside for a couple of reasons.

Croom said he did not want to risk injury in the wet conditions and also did not want to tear up the practice fields this early on in the year.

Mississippi State is set to practice at 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. tomorrow.



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