Yes, one of that much-criticized number came through today. The usual field goal drills to complete practice saw three makes and a miss, and Mullen seemed ready to order a run. That turned into something of a double-or-nothing with everyone depending on Evan Sobiesk to save them from sprinting. He did. With P Baker Swedenburg taking the snap and placing on the left hashes around the 30-yard line, Sobiesk knocked it high and just long enough.
RB Josh Robinson wouldn’t have cried about running. He’d had a pretty easy day anyway and was fresh, and certainly conditions were far more comfortable than after Sunday’s evening practice when everybody had to run two gassers. Still, he was celebrating the made kick.
“It’s a team deal so if he missed a field goal in the game it’s going to affect the whole team. If we’d have missed it we would have to run for it,” Robinson said. “Oh yeah, we’ve got to have every point we can get!”
Robinson is equally fine taking second turns in bowl camp behind senior LaDarius Perkins, who in two weeks will make a fourth bowl trip. Derrick Milton is running third, though more often this camp he’s a target for throws instead of handoffs. The offense has shown more of these long outs to the backs and Milton seems to enjoy it. RB Ashton Shumpert, now, he’s been playing pretty much pure power-back during his turns at tailback.
For all they did well this season, even a fifth-year senior like Perkins still has to go through the same basic drills of taking and securing a handoff, dancing over pads on the ground and keeping pad level low enough to get under gates. Such fundamentals aren’t being overlooked in advance of a bowl game against a physical Rice defense.
*One remarkable back-story to Mississippi State’s late season surge was OT Charles Siddoway. The senior was pained much of the schedule with a couple of troublesome back discs yet kept playing without complaint or even comment. His team also kept Siddoway’s situation quiet for good reason.
Now the senior is getting the over-due break, as well as further treatment so he can cap his two-year career in a second bowl game. Siddoway hasn’t dressed for these initial campus practices. His place as the first right tackle is taken by junior veteran Damien Robinson, who has swung from tackle to guard and tackle again over his own career.
However the promotion doesn’t mean Robinson is doing what most of the first-team linemen are, i.e. watching the seven- and eleven-man competition periods. OC Dillon Day, LG Gabe Jackson, and LT Blaine Clausell are taking it very easy so far; while RG Ben Beckwith is taking some turns with the #2 offensive line due to numbers at guard.
More often the second offensive line is RT Robinson, RG Jamaal Clayborn, OC Dylan Holley, LG Archie Muniz, LT Justin Senior. The third unit is Cole Carter, Rodney Lacy, Devon Desper, Kent Flowers, and Jake Thomas. The twos and threes are getting plenty teaching attention in position drills as well, with Coach John Hevesy’s emphasis today on finessing their footwork.
*The tight end group was hit by injuries before and during the season, and veteran Brandon Hill is still sidelined. But Gus Walley is back in the mix for bowl camp and running routes, if not yet taking any contact on that still-wrapped right side. A ’12 redshirt, Walley can appeal for a medical year down the road by not playing in the bowl game.
Walley brings the tight end roster back up to five behind Malcolm Johnson, Rufus Warren, Artimas Samuel, and B.J. Hammond.
*The group has had to ‘return’ one of their early-season number, as Christian Holmes is a full-time linebacker again. He’s enjoying himself in the third-team too, as when he saw QB Nick Fitzgerald and walk-on RB Josh Creekmore blow a quick-option pitch. The loose ball didn’t last long as ‘Turtle’ Holmes scooped and ran through about 30 teammates towards the end zone.
*Monday had a period of one-on-one drills matching wideouts and tight ends with safeties and fast linebackers; not to catch the ball but to do downfield blocking at five- and ten-yard distances behind a ballcarrier. Making the handoffs in this drill was none other than Mullen, freeing the quarterbacks to stay busy elsewhere in passing drills.
*Practice opened with a round of hurry-up offense, 11-vs-none. Dak Prescott ran the first offense, Damian Williams the second following them down the field.
*During the pass/skel period Prescott took part with the first and second receiver rotations. At one point coverage was steady enough that Prescott rolled out…and out, and back, and out, for what must have been a dozen seconds before finally throwing. For a completion too. Of course the one designated ‘rusher’ was only waving at the quarterback.
Prescott has taken advantage of this un-pressured freedom to just take off downfield, turning to laugh at defensive backs following but not daring touch him. Prescott reports the ‘burner’ suffered at Texas A&M, which numbed him from shoulder to elbow at times, is not bothering him at all now.
It wasn’t a perfect day though as during pass/skel Prescott was actually intercepted on a ten-yard out throw. Of course it took a good break and better hands by CB Taveze Calhoun to make the pick. And Calhoun made other quarterbacks pay this past regular season, so no shame was involved.
*Defenders frustrated about limited contact have managed to let a little steam off in ‘thud’ situations. During 11-on-11 competition Mullen will allow a good first contact but no tackle. Of course if that thud happens to put the offensive guy down, well… Gabe Myles found out that his former defensive cohorts won’t cut him any slack after moving from cornerback to slot receiver, S Kivon Coman put him down hard after an over-the-middle catch.
*Maybe no presses stopped. But eyes did pop open at a most unusual sight Monday. On a sideline route WR Jameon Lewis got his hands on a pass…and dropped it. Sure, there was a time when this was normal, but that was before the 2013 season when Lewis turned into a sure-handed receiver and terrific play-maker. So today’s drop was a surprise, and not repeated.
*He spent his redshirt season and this regular season as a slot receiver. Now Brandon Holloway is working from one of the split-end spots and doing well. Going against the first secondary today he lost everyone streaking the left sideline for a deep catch.
The receivers rotations when State practices with four-wides has a first group of SR Jameon Lewis, WRs Robert Johnson and De’Runnya Wilson, TE Malcolm Johnson; a second unit of SR Jeremy Chappelle, TE Artimas Samuel, and WRs Joe Morrow and Fred Brown; and third group SR Myles, TE Walley, WRs Holloway and Shelby Christy. Fred Ross is out with the injury suffered at Arkansas.
*Backup WR Michael Hodges and LB Deandre Ward ended up fighting for a pass first in the air, then rolling on the turf wrestling away. Though the rest of the defense came over to congratulate redshirt Ward for the takeaway, the ‘official’ ruling was this tie went to receiver Hodges.
*DT P.J. Jones has not been practicing, instead he has been resting the gimpy left ankle that bothered him during the season.
*It hasn’t been announced yet by Mississippi State. But the new Medal of Honor Bowl game, scheduled for January 11 in Charleston, S.C., lists a pair of Bulldog seniors already. LaDarius Perkins and Denico Autry are in their Player Spotlight as of today.
For the inaugural MOH Bowl, Chan Gailey is coaching the National team, and Ralph Friedgen the American team.