STARKVILLE – Jamar Chaney shouldn’t be here right now.
He’s supposed to be in an NFL training camp. But a broken leg suffered in the first game of what would have been his senior season led to a medical redshirt, and now he’s got one more go as Mississippi State’s middle linebacker.
Chaney was among the 102 players to report Sunday for MSU’s preseason camp, the team’s first under new coach Dan Mullen. They met for about an hour at the Holliman Athletic Center.
The first of 29 practices starts today, with freshmen going through a separate session this morning and the rest of the team hitting the field at 3:15 p.m.
The afternoon practice is open to the public.
Chaney, who went through four preseason camps under Sylvester Croom, views last season’s misfortune as a blessing in disguise, mainly due to Mullen’s grueling offseason program. The 2007 All-SEC second-teamer expects his time under Mullen to improve his NFL stock.
“This is the best shape I’ve ever been in,” Chaney said. “This is the hardest offseason I’ve ever been a part of, and I think that’s something I needed going into this year.”
Chaney and his teammates have raved all offseason – from winter workouts to spring drills to summer conditioning – about how hard Mullen and the coaching staff are working them, how much stronger they are individually, how much closer they are as a team.
This is the preseason, though, a different animal.
“Spring drills, a lot of times you have a day to practice and then a day to really learn what you practiced before you go to the next one,” Mullen said. “You get into summer, you’ve got practice one day, you learn it, we’re teaching all new things the next day. …
“You’ve got to know what’s going on out there.”
Plenty will be going on, what with the myriad challenges facing a team that finished last in the SEC West last year and has been picked to finish there again.
There’s a shortage of receivers, star tailback Anthony Dixon faces a DUI charge, the quarterback position is unsettled, and then there’s the simple fact that it’s a new coaching staff with new schemes and a new philosophy.
And not everyone is in house yet. Freshman receiver Ricco Sanders is still awaiting academic clearance, while junior college transfer Maurice Langston if facing drug charges stemming from a February arrest.
“With Maurice, we’re letting the judicial process run its course, and as soon as we get some answers from the judicial system here, we’ll make a decision on Maurice after that,” Mullen said.
The consensus among the players is that they’re eager to start working toward the Sept. 5 season opener against Jackson State. The first and foremost challenge: With a new coach will come a new approach during August.
Two-a-days begin Saturday, and Mullen said he’ll probably hold two full scrimmages along with several “half-scrimmages.”
Said Mullen, ” Our schedule’s going to be constantly flexible until kickoff.”
“We don’t really know what’s going to go down,” junior offensive tackle Derek Sherrod said, “but we should be well-prepared for anything that they throw at us.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal