STARKVILLE – A maroon line has been painted a few yards from Mississippi State’s practice field. When Bulldog players cross it, they must break into a run, and they don’t slow down until they run off at the end of practice.
Inside that maroon line, it was an experience quite different from what the Bulldogs had under Sylvester Croom.
MSU was full speed for 31-2 hours on Tuesday, as new coach Dan Mullen put them through the paces – fast paces – in the first of 15 spring practice sessions.
“It’s just intense the whole way through,” quarterback Tyson Lee said. “From the time we cross this maroon line until we cross it back, it’s just non-stop.”
That’s a reflection of Mullen’s go-go personality. He’s vowed to be patient as he installs his offensive and defensive schemes, but that does not, in his eyes, mean operating at a snail’s pace.
Linebacker Jamar Chaney estimated that the coaches have already put in 25 percent of the defensive package.
“He’s a real cool coach, but he’s going to get after you, he’s going to make sure you do your job, and he’s going to make sure you go 100 percent, give all your effort,” Chaney said.
Tuesday’s session was not one of quiet intensity. Running backs coach Greg Knox was barking non-stop, and running game coordinator John Hevesy, who also coaches the offensive line, was as loud as he is big.
So was Mullen happy with Day 1? Well, much work remains, he said, but he likes the initial returns.
“There’s that learning curve,” he said. “But they gave me what I wanted, which was guys running to the football, guys playing excited and playing with a lot of effort.”
– Chaney, who broke his ankle in the 2008 season opener, gets another shot at his senior season. He’s soaking it all up.
“I missed coming out here, dressing out with (teammates) before they go on to practice, just the little things that you wouldn’t think was a big deal before the injury,” he said.
Chaney is working at middle linebacker, where he started last year. Croom talked of moving him back to the outside, where he played as a sophomore. That would seem a natural move given the arrival of junior college transfer Chris White.
Mullen said nothing’s set in stone.
“Whichever one they want me to play,” Chaney said, “I’ll play.”
Seeking QB depth
– With only two quarterbacks returning from last year’s squad – Lee and Chris Relf – depth is an issue. Signee Tyler Russell (Meridian), expected to lead the offense eventually, won’t be in until August.
In the meantime, early enrollee Cameron Lawrence (Magnolia Heights) is taking snaps. He was listed as a defensive back coming in but also played linebacker and quarterback in high school.
“We want to give him a shot, especially early on so he can learn the offense and add a little extra depth,” Mullen said. “If he does move to a different position, at least he has a foundation at quarterback.”
– Kicker Eric Richards, who left the team last season, is back. He did not practice Tuesday, though, as he recovers from hip surgery. Offensive lineman Mark Melichar was also out with illness. É Receiver Arceto Clark and defensive back Maurice Langston, who were both arrested within the past month in separate incidents, are still suspended from the team and not practicing. Mullen: “We’re still kind of looking into those situations at this point.”
Brad Locke/Daily Journal