By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Three words Mississippi State fans have been longing for – football has returned.
The Bulldogs held their first practice of the fall Thursday afternoon in helmets and shorts. Coach Dan Mullen left the field enthusiastic about being back to work.
“We’re getting back to some football action,” Mullen said. “The guys came out today with some great energy and excitement and are ready to go play. I’m pleased. They don’t let us put pads on, so you’re careful and want to keep everybody safe.”
All 105 players on the roster were accounted for and went through the two-hour practice. MSU has 18 starters and 57 letterwinners back from last season but welcomed 18 newcomers for their first practice.
“We put stuff in and threw stuff at people,” Mullen said. “We’ve got such a wide mix on the team, from the old to young guys. Training camp is going to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people this fall.”
Although Thursday’s practice was the first official of the fall, the Bulldogs have held player-led practices throughout the summer. Mullen was encouraged to see his players take that type of initiative.
“That’s great, it tells you that you have a lot of leadership amongst the team,” Mullen said. “Older guys are setting the standard within their position group and on the offensive and defensive units. A lot of the young guys are going to follow that lead.”
Rashun Dixon signed with Mississippi State as a four-star safety in Sylvester Croom’s 2008 class.
But the former Terry two-sport standout never arrived in Starkville after being selected in the 10th round of the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics.
Following his release by the Class A Stockton Ports last fall, Dixon decided to give football another try.
Dixon returned to the gridiron this fall, suiting up for the Bulldogs as a walk-on freshman.
The 23-year old is the younger brother of former MSU standout and current Buffalo Bills running back Anthony Dixon.
“He’s an older guy and a little bit more mature,” Mullen said. “He’s been through a lot more. He’s not coming off the high school field out here to practice. He’s coming off a professional field. He has a little better grasp of what it’s like to be a pro and how to handle your business than some of the younger high school guys. I think the adjustment will be pretty easy for him.”
The younger Dixon spent six years in the A’s farm system, where he hit .242 with 59 home runs and 254 runs batted in during 550 career games as an outfielder.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is listed as an athlete on the roster but his No. 85 suggests he will be utilized on the offensive side of the ball.
Mullen confirmed Thursday that redshirt freshman defensive end Trent Simpson intends to transfer in order to pursue playing baseball.
The 6-foot-4, 277-pounder from Oxford, Ala., redshirted in 2013 and went through spring practices. But a back injury sustained over the summer led to his decision to switch sports and schools.