Dogs Turn In Second-Straight Productive Day

Omarr Conner

When Monday's afternoon session ended with positive reviews, Coach Sylvester Croom added that now the challenge would be to break their cycle of good day/bad day and string consecutive productive practice days together. The Bulldogs apparently met the goal.

"I thought we had good work again today," Croom said after Tuesday's session wrapped up at 10:10. Whether the players were responding to a challenge, or just excited to get their last morning session of camp out of the way, was irrelevant. Only the results mattered and Croom seemed satisfied that the preseason work is going as scheduled.

"We're pretty much done with installation," he said. "Everything is in except some special situations like goal-line, two-minute, backed-up, those kind of things. We'll get them before the scrimmage (Saturday) and spend next week reviewing. And then we'll start details on the South Carolina gameplan."

The Tuesday practice plan had a twist as, after over an hour on the outdoor fields in kicking and position-unit drills, Croom took the team inside the Palmeiro Center. He said it was to beat the heat, and the coach had a point. Monday morning's all-outdoors session saw several Dogs struggle in the humidity and a couple go down with cramps. Nobody seemed to have any problems Tuesday though plenty of players took advantage of the cold tubs anyway.

"We still got a lot of work done," the coach said. "We worked primarily on what we call ‘strike zone' and did some good things. Tray Rutland got better, Mike Henig had a better day. Our protection is getting better now. We still didn't run the ball as well in 9-on-7 as I'd liked to have but our defense played the run very well." This was a change from late last week when the offense ran more successfully against a defensive front-seven that had been focusing on blitzing plans. They have worked on the ground game since and it showed today.

Still the full-contact work was more productive for the offense than last Saturday's scrimmage when the defense shut everything down everywhere. "I think we're getting better on both units now," Croom said. "I can see since we made some changes in the offensive line we've stabilized where we can start to get better."

The re-aligned offensive front of Monday was intact Tuesday with Brian Anderson now at right tackle and Michael Gates right guard, joining center Royce Blackledge, LG Anthony Strauder, and LT J.D. Hamilton. The second group was changed in one spot as redshirt Chris Spencer took a new position. Having worked at center and tackle this camp, he opened Tuesday at #2 right guard. Johnny Carpenter is the backup center now and Anthony Dunning the left guard, both wearing varsity maroon, with Craig Jenkins and Calvin Wilson at right and left tackles. The #3 group of four had Mark Melichar at left tackle, John McMillan left guard, converted defensive tackle J. C. Brignone at right guard, and Mark Brown at right tackle.

The list of sidelined and limited Dogs is essentially the same as Monday. The defense remains without linebacker Gabe O'Neal (shoulder), linebacker Jamon Hughes (hamstring), safety De'Mon Glanton (hamstring), while tackle Rodney Prince (leg) was in no-contact purple. Offensive holdouts were receivers Will Prosser (shoulder) and Ryan Mason (thigh), tight end Chris Herrera (ankle), fullback Casey Rogers (shoulder) and tight end Brandon Henderson (hamstring) in yellow. Receiver Joey Sanders wore no-hit red but participated in all drills. While having two young tight ends unavailable for contact work might worry some, this is by far State's deepest position with the trio of first-teammers Eric Butler, Dezmond Sherrod, and Jason Husband backed by Jeremy Jones and Jeremy Cunningham.

The first defense stayed the same another day with Anthony Littlejohn running in place of O'Neal. His backups are all blue-shirts, Mark Brown, Marshall Brown, and Aaron Feld. Up front, freshman tackle Kyle Love has solidified his presence as a backup to Andrew Powell, though the rookie is still behind the first-four interior men and wearing blue. Even with regulars Deljuan Robinson, Powell, Antonio Johnson and now Quinton Wesley the staff is still working younger tackles like Love. The same is true on the ends where the two-deep is settled but freshmen Prince and Brandon Cooper have gotten good snaps, along with redshirting transfer Cortez McCraney. Such depth is why the defense could give up freshman Brignone to the offense.

The starting secondary has not changed all camp and isn't likely to, with Derek Pegues and David Heard on the corners and safeties Jeramie Johnson and Keith Fitzhugh. The competition has been for second-squad jobs and it continues. Anthony Johnson and Adron Chambers are in good shape backing up the starting corners, while freshman Anthony Summers has moved up to #2 behind Fitzhugh. This has moved Marcus Evans over to free safety behind Johnson.

The third group this morning had Marcus Washington and Leron Yarbrough on the corners, while Jonathan Hill is the reserve free safety with Jarvis Kyles and Tay Bowser battling at strong safety. Bowser had been practicing at cornerback.

Speaking of competition, placekickers Adam Carlson and Keith Andrews remain almost even and their results practically identical. Andrews is a bit better on the longer kicks but not so much to reclaim his old #1 job. Croom wants more consistency out of both. "Every time we get feeling good about them they relapse and miss what should be a chip-shot. But I'm going to hang in with them because these guys have outstanding ability."

The August roster should add another name today as freshman wide receiver Alex Carpenter, finally certified by the Clearinghouse on Monday, will report. Croom cautions that the rookie will come in behind everyone already, and be further delayed by the five-day mandatory acclimation period that will keep him out of any contact and many other drills.

Still, "We're glad to have him, that's another set of legs and I'm sure the receivers will be glad to see him!" Along NCAA lines, Croom said there has been no further word on State's appeal for instant eligibility for halfback Christian Ducre. The Tulane transfer has been able to practice over a week and is running #3 behind starter Brandon Thornton and Anthony Dixon, clearly in the playing plans. "We're still waiting for that. But anxiously awaiting, I'll say, because he is practicing well and can be a big plus to us this year."

The news is less good on freshman back Courtney Jones, who failed to pass the mandatory Florida exit exam for high school graduation and thus cannot enroll this fall. "We don't know all the details of what we can do at this point with him," Croom said. "The original plan has been a junior college but none of that has been finalized."

The practice schedule changes to afternoon workouts Wednesday, with the fall semester starting Thursday.

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