“We had a pretty good practice,” the coach said after a two-hour session in shorts and headgear. “Our effort was good and I think our spirits are good. I think we’ve gotten better this week, we just have to carry out our assignments. And when play is close, have the commitment to step up and make plays.”
The Bulldogs (1-4, 0-3 SEC) are expecting a tense contest Saturday afternoon at Scott Field from the visiting Blazers (3-1). For the third practice day of the week the State staff focused on specific situation in both mid-field and goal-line settings. Croom also devoted a significant amount of snaps to third down plays of all lengths, and on both offense and defense. Third downs have been a downs-fall for the Bulldogs this year.
“We’re trying to get settled on that so we can convert and stop third downs better,” Croom said.
The coach noted that UAB presents the third different sort of offense State has seen in as many weekends. Louisiana State was basic but overpowering, and Vanderbilt relied on option-based schemes. The Blazers fit no exact mold as Watson Brown’s offense can line up in anything from a wishbone to a no-back set, and use from one to five wideouts. So the Dog defense has had to forget everything they were taught the past two weeks to get ready for UAB.
“It’s exposing our kids to a lot of stuff in a short period of time,” Croom said. “Thing about it, we’ve seen three very good quarterbacks in a row, that’s the big thing. Including this one,” referring to Darrell Hackney.
Turning to the Bulldog quarterbacks, Kyle York and Mike Henig continue to work as essentiall co-#1s, though veteran York is booked for his second start of the year, fourth of his MSU career. Rookie Henig brought a contused left (non throwing) shoulder back from Nashville but has practiced all week and will play in a quarterback rotation this weekend, and earlier than he did at Vanderbilt.
Four-game starter Omarr Conner was out at practice today, mostly throwing passes on the sideline with trainers. “We don’t expect him to play, of course,” said Croom, who does anticipate Conner being ready for Florida after the open date.
Left offensive guard Brian Anderson returned to practices Wednesday in a yellow jersey, and Croom is more hopeful now the soph can be able to start a second-straight game this weekend. Veteran Johnny Wadley has worked daily and his sore knees and ankle look to be more rested now. Right guard Will Rogers took it easy Monday and was full-speed Wednesday. “We’re in a lot better shape than we were Monday for sure,” Croom said. He also said defensive end Willie Evans and fullback Darnell Jones are being protected more this week to be ready to play full-strength. “We just have to give those guys a little more rest and see what they can do.”
Also, freshman cornerback Corey Spells was able to get his first regular practice work in on Wednesday. Croom doesn’t expect the true rookie to play this year, after breaking his ankle in the summer, but Spells’ appearance in a normal practice uniform was a good sign for his future.
The Bulldogs will work in shorts again Thursday for about 90 minutes.