By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State opened bowl practice on Friday afternoon and began preparations to meet Northwestern in the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl.
Before heading to Jacksonville, Fla., after Christmas, head coach Dan Mullen said his team was anxious to return to the practice fields.
“It’s great to get bowl practice started, get back out there on the field,” said Mullen, who has led MSU to three straight bowl games. “Our guys have had a couple of weeks to let their bodies and minds rest and get ready to go. As we go through bowl practice we are going to get everybody running and stretched out and ready to go today.”
In the first few practices, Mullen said he plans to put most of the attention on the younger players, particularly true freshmen who redshirted this season. He also noted of one position change, involving sophomore linebacker Christian Holmes, before Friday’s opening day of bowl practice.
“We will do some experiments,” said Mullen. “Not as many this year but Christian Holmes, I think I am going to try him out at tight end, fullback, our motion back a little bit. He is the only main one right now look to be moving around. A lot of the freshman that have some talent are going to have that opportunity to get out there on the field.”
Especially at two positions, said Mullen when talking of the 2013 campaign.
“The two positions, when we take the seniors all out of the lineup, are going to be corner and wide receiver,” said Mullen. “That’s where you really want to see a lot over the next week because when you take out those five senior wide receivers, obviously there’s going to be a lot of holes in a lot of spots and a lot of opportunities to fill on the field. Bowl prep and spring is going to be huge for us at that position.”
Among the departing seniors will be cornerback Johnthan Banks, who won the Jim Thrope Award as the nation’s top defensive back on Thursday.
Testing the waters
Also on Friday, Mullen noted a pair of juniors – offensive guard Gabe Jackson and safety Nickoe Whitley – will submit paperwork to the NFL for feedback concerning their possible draft status. Junior tailback LaDarius Perkins will do the same but said he has “full intentions of returning” for his senior year.
“Gabe and I know Nickoe are going to fill it out,” said Mullen. “I don’t know if (quarterback) Tyler (Russell) ended up doing it or (defensive end) Denico Autry were going to do it. But I know those two (Jackson and Whitley) were going to do it. Rockey Felker does a lot helping them out when I am out on the road recruiting this time of year. So I know he helps them out a lot to get that paperwork filed.”