By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Two weeks prior to the season opener, Mississippi State held its final scrimmage of the preseason under the lights of Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday night.
Fourth-year coach Dan Mullen said he kept the closed session simple and put an emphasis on the younger players. He said the first-teamers got a little more than 60 reps, while the backups got about 70.
“We didn’t get very complicated, on purpose,” Mullen said. “Schematically, it wasn’t a who can out-scheme who or run a trick play to confuse the other side. It was get in the stadium, let kids play, so we know who’s ready to go play in two weeks, who we feel we can put on the field.”
There are still some wide-open position battles yet to be settled, most notably at offensive tackle, middle linebacker and kicker. Mullen is more concerned with having 65-70 players ready to go when the season starts Sept. 1 against Jackson State.
Young players will certainly get on the field, and some of those made an impression Saturday. Mullen mentioned receiver Jameon Lewis, tailback Derrick Milton, and defensive backs Dee Arrington and Jamerson Love.
MSU didn’t keep stats for the scrimmage, but Mullen said quarterback Tyler Russell had a good night overall, once he got into game mode in the mostly empty stadium.
“What happens in practice mode a lot, he’s thinking about his read, his steps, the follow-throughs, all of those things,” Mullen said. “And I want him to kind of let it go and be the leader out there, like it was a game situation more than he’s trying to analyze everything that’s going on.
“So I thought he started slow but then did a good job with it as we went on.”
Mullen also praised the work of punter Baker Swedenburg and freshman kicker Devon Bell, who could wind up with that starting job.
After 19 practices over 16 days, the Bulldogs won’t practice the next two days. On Tuesday, attention will turn to scout team work and JSU.
“There will be a lot of guys playing scout team so that everybody learns how to do it this week,” Mullen said. “Not heavy scout team period, still a lot of good-on-good, still a lot of stuff we’ve got to teach. We’re not into game-week mentality yet.”