STARKVILLE – This first week of preseason practice for Mississippi State is called an acclimation period by the NCAA. But the Bulldogs’ freshmen are getting thrown right into the middle of things.
The newcomers joined the rest of the squad during Tuesday’s two-hour, 45-minute session, the second of August camp. The freshmen had their own practice Monday morning.
New coach Dan Mullen said it’s too early to evaluate his new crop, but he’s throwing the entire playbook at them.
“We’re going to jam the installation right down their throat right now and see what they can learn,” Mullen said. “The faster they learn, the faster they’ll have the opportunity to get on the field.”
With so many holes to fill from a squad that went 4-8 last year, Mullen is going to have to lean on several freshmen, like receiver Chad Bumphis and running back Montrell Conner. And then there’s quarterback Tyler Russell, who will battle incumbent Tyson Lee and Chris Relf for the starter’s job.
“I thought he had confidence, and that’s the biggest part of (playing) quarterback,” Lee said of Russell. “The biggest thing for him right now is to be able to go at the pace that we’re going.”
And once the freshmen adjust to the fast pace, and to the schemes, “it’s going to be so much easier to give them a fair evaluation,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said.
Team policy is that freshmen will not be allowed to speak with the media any sooner than after the Sept. 5 season opener against Jackson State.
The Bulldogs return to the field today at 4:45 p.m. and will don shoulder pads for the first time. Full-contact drills begin Friday.
Around the SEC
Long day on Rocky Top
– Tuesday’s practice for players at Tennessee, the first fall workout for new coach Lane Kiffin, was a long one. The Vols worked for three hours. “I just don’t know another way to do it,” Kiffin said. … Florida receiver Riley Cooper, a pro baseball prospect, will first return for his senior season. He had 18 catches for 261 yards and three touchdowns last season. He’s also quarterback Tim Tebow’s roommate. … Georgia opened work on Tuesday with temperatures around 95 degrees. “That’s what it’s going to be like at Oklahoma State,” coach Mark Richt said. … South Carolina drew a couple thousand fans for its two-hour workout opener.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal