By Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – If Pernell McPhee had his way, Mississippi State would keep practicing non-stop, right on through Christmas.
“I don’t look forward to going to see my friends, family or nobody,” said McPhee, the senior defensive end. “I just want to keep practicing, practicing and training for the game and play football and win.”
Alas, the No. 21-ranked Bulldogs will practice once more today and then part ways for the holidays. They will report to Jacksonville, Fla., for Gator Bowl week on Dec. 26.
For McPhee and the other starters, the past four days have been dedicated to normal game-week, game-planning work. Michigan has a lot to plan for, namely electric quarterback Denard Robinson.
Playing the part of Robinson for the scout team has been freshman Jameon Lewis, who’s also played Kentucky’s Randall Cobb, among others.
“Jameon Lewis gives us a great look,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “He’s very shifty. I don’t know if we can do anything to simulate the speed that Denard has.”
While planning for Robinson can be a headache, having the veterans taking the most reps after focusing on youth last week makes things easier on the coaches.
“It’s funny, when you put them back in practice, most of the veterans, it’s amazing how much better that is for my voice,” Diaz said. “Suddenly practice is much easier, because they get it.”
By all accounts, the Bulldogs have had a strong week of game prep.
Today’s workout “will be a Thursday practice for us – just helmets like a normal Thursday,” Mullen said. “That’s how we prep for the bowl is get ready to play. We should be ready to play the game three days from now just like we would in a regular game week.”
n The season-ending collarbone injury Chad Bumphis suffered against Ole Miss has forced coaches to make some moves in the receiving corps.
Sophomore Brandon Heavens is now the No. 1 at the slot position, a.k.a. the ‘H’ receiver. Backing him up will be redshirt freshman Ricco Sanders, who had been playing on the outside behind Arceto Clark. That gives more reps to freshman Michael Carr now.
Chris Smith is at the other outside spot, backed up by redshirt freshman Sam Williams.
“Those are guys who have played and been in that position and been in games, so we feel pretty good about those guys stepping up and being ready to play,” Mullen said.
n After practice, nearly 40 MSU players loaded up on a team bus and went to Walmart for some Christmas shopping.
The gifts, for charities, were bought with gift cards the players received from the school for reaching the Gator Bowl.
The charities are the Children’s Mansion in Tupelo, the Boys and Girls Club of Starkville, The Father’s Child Ministry in Columbus, and the Mississippi Children’s Cancer Clinic in Jackson.
The presents will be delivered today and Wednesday by the players.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or email@example.com.