By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – The weather was so nice, Dan Mullen decided to start spring football a day early.
Mississippi State took to the practice fields Wednesday, a day earlier than scheduled, to open spring drills. Mullen, who’s entering his fifth year as head coach, decided to move things up because of more favorable weather.
And so the Bulldogs have begun the on-field process of moving on from the 2012 season, in which they went 8-5 and lost to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl, to 2013. They open Aug. 31 versus Oklahoma State in Houston.
MSU will hold 15 practices, concluding with the annual Maroon-White Game on April 20. The schedule is spread out, which Mullen likes.
“At the end of spring we’re 0-0; we’re not preparing for a game right now, we’re developing and teaching and becoming better football players,” he said. “You look for what the best way to teach is and that’s what especially spreading out spring allows you.”
MSU has just 12 scholarship seniors this year, which means Mullen is looking for some younger players to fill some roles. He hopes the spring gives him a better idea of who those players will be.
For instance, State is trying to replace four seniors at receiver. Robert Johnson, Jameon Lewis and Joe Morrow, all backups last season, are listed as first-string now.
“They’re it, they’re the starters now. So they have to perform and produce,” Mullen said.
State will go through spring drills without a handful of key players who are injured: cornerback Taveze Calhoun (shoulder), tailback Nick Griffin (ACL) and quarterback Dak Prescott (toe).
Prescott will be able to do limited work – he was throwing from a chair Wednesday – but this means even more work for starter Tyler Russell, who’s the only healthy scholarship QB.
Wide receiver Michael Carr, who left the team during the 2011 season for personal reasons, has been back and is practicing. Offensive guard Tobias Smith, who’s been granted a sixth year of eligibility, is not practicing and has yet to decide whether he’ll return for another year.
MSU returns to the practice fields at noon Saturday.