By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – After taking one last, hard look at its younger players, Mississippi State is ready to begin Gator Bowl preparations in earnest.
Practices will be closed off, much film will be watched, third- and fourth-stringers will resume their rightful positions on the depth chart, and the big boys will go at it starting today.
On Thursday, the Bulldogs held an hour-long scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium, with most of the older guys doing little more than observing or calling plays.
“Just having fun,” coach Dan Mullen said. “And for us now, the whole focus changes (today). We come in, and it’s scouting report. … We go into game week. We’ll go through a full game week before we leave for Christmas vacation.”
The Bulldogs will practice the next five days before taking some time off. They’ll report to Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 26 and resume practices there.
There was a little film-watching Thursday, and getting a head start on Michigan is a good idea, especially with dynamic quarterback Denard Robinson returning to full health, and thus full speed.
“After (today) we’ll kind of have a good idea what we’re going to do for them,” linebacker Chris White said. “You know they run the quarterback a lot, and that’s kind of hard to stop, because that just means an extra blocker out there for the offense. So it’s going to be tough, but we’re going to be ready.”
Building a foundation
While MSU’s focus turns to the present, Mullen hopes the past week produces benefits for the future. A team so young will soon be relying on several of the players that saw action Thursday, guys like receivers Malcolm Johnson and Jameon Lewis, defensive lineman Kaleb Eulls, and linebacker Brandon Wilson.
Spring practices begin in early March.
“You’re 21⁄2 months out,” Mullen said, “so you’re hoping that it’s building a foundation for them to go into this offseason and go into spring ball, they’re not a blank page on Day 1, that two-deep guys are ready to start rolling, not just your older guys.”
Among the standouts in the scrimmage were Johnson (four catches, 63 yards, one touchdown), Lewis (six catches, 71 yards, one TD) and quarterback Dylan Favre, all freshmen.
Favre was 15 of 20 for 174 yards and two touchdowns passing, and he added 41 yards and three TDs rushing. He played with the kind of flair his Uncle Brett is known for.
“I don’t think he can get away with that stuff if this was an SEC game right now,” Mullen said. “That’s stuff he’s going to have to learn and develop. He’s a playmaker. You can see his excitement – he loves to play the game, and that’s really important.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.