1st Full Squad Practice

Tonight I went with my son and my brother to Starkville to see the Bulldogs 2nd practice, which was the 1st practice that involved the entire team. They are still not in full pads, so it’s hard to evaluate the total progress of the team. However, watching the QBs and WRs work was where I found myself learning the most. It’s very hard to practice the running game without pads. Kyle Veazey has a great summary of practice. I did take some notes on the passing game. So here’s some details you may not find any where else.

In the stretching and warmup drills led by Coach Balis, Dan Mullen took part at full speed in every drill, sprint, and stretch. It was quite entertaining watching him push the guys. None of them wanted to be out hustled by the coach.

In the 7 on 7 drills Relf, Russell, and Favre were each given 9 reps. Relf was 4 for 9 w/ 1 INT. 2 of Relf’s completions were very easy throws less than 5 yds from the line of scrimage (screen to Elliot and a shuffle pass to Ballard). He had 2 good completions. One completed 15 yds down field to Marcus Green and the other 10 yds down field to Arceto Clark. Russell was 5 for 9 highlighted by a TD pass to Arceto Clark (in my opinion; play was blown dead early), a dropped definite TD pass to Ricco Sanders, and a dropped INT by K.J. Wright. Favre was 6 for 9 highlighted by a pick 6 by Mark Lynn and a 30 yd pass to Jameon Lewis. Relf and Favre’s passes seemed to be much easier to make. Favre had 2 completions behind the line of scrimmage…1 a screen, the other a shuffle pass.

Between the 7 on 7 and full 11 on 11 scrimmage the offense worked some on the running game. I can honestly say, I think Robert Elliot is ready to play. And LaDarius Perkins has really put on some muscle. Relf still looks shaky to me handing the ball off and pitching it. Favre is a natural athlete. Pitches come so natural for him. Tyler does well also. He just looks a little awkward doing it because of his height.

In the 11 on 11 scrimmage Relf, Russell, and Favre each had 10 reps. Relf took 5, Russell took 5, Favre took 5, then they repeated the process.

Relf was 4 for 9. Here’s how his 10 reps went: under threw Leon Berry; Ball batted at line of scrimmage; Overthrew Vick Ballard; 20 yard completion to Kendrick Cook; Dropped INT by Louis Watson; 15 yd completion to Leon Berry on a throw so ugly it fooled the defenders; Overthrew Ricco Sanders on simple out route; Sacked after at least a 5 secs in the pocket; 5 yd completion to Ricco Sanders; and a bubble screen to Ricco Sanders for a big gain (probably a TD).

Russell was 7 for 10. His 10 reps went like this: 15 yd completion to Arceto Clark that might have went for a TD; 5 yd slant to Chris Smith that gained about 15; His arm was hit as he threw and the ball was freakishly batted up then intercepted for a pick 6 I think by Brandon Wilson; 10 yd completion to Chris Smith to the far side of the field on an out route; Dropped passed that was batted up and intercepted; screen to Brandon Heavens for a big gain; 10 yd slant to Arceto Clark; shuffle pass to LaDarius Perkins for a TD; 10 yd out to Arceto Clark; incomplete bubble screen to Arceto Clark that was under thrown.

Favre was 4 for 10. And here’s how they went: 5 yd completion to Robert Johnson (he gonna be good) that went for a TD; screen to Nick Griffin for a decent gain; Overthrew Michael Carr (seemed frustrated…probably because he’s still learning plays and drills); Short pass dropped by Allen Tolbert; 10 yd completion to Charles Bailey who then fumbled it; Overthrew Carr again; Dropped INT by Matthew Wells on a deep ball; 10 yd completion to Jameon Lewis; Threw it away wisely; 15 yd completion to Robert Johnson.

You know my biases toward Tyler Russell. However, I consciously tried not to let them have an effect on how I evaluated this evening’s practice. I honestly have to say that, especially in the passing game, Tyler Russell is the most comfortable and without doubt the most accurate. The only throws that seemed a little off for Russell were the deep balls (which the wind may have had an effect on). Relf still seems inconsistent. When he makes a good throw, it’s incredible. But when he makes a bad throw, it’s really off target. Favre has a cannon, just like his uncle, and he will get better. But His height really hurt him in the 11 on 11.

For me the players that impressed me the most today were Jameon Lewis (really hustled, made some great catches, and has some speed); Robert Elliot (looks stronger, faster, and focused); and Robert Johnson (won’t be surprised if he’s not red shirted…we be like Chris Smith was last season).

Relf seems to have a down day when I’m there. Hopefully, he’ll get better. I think we’ll have a 2 QB system when the season starts and probably when the season ends. But don’t be surprised if we see both Relf and Russell get starts during the season. Tyler is kind of a quite guy. But today I saw him instigating conversation w/ Mullen after mistakes. He’s definitely working hard and getting better. And you can see the 2nd teamers rallying around Tyler as if they want to get in the game too. Relf still may be our best QB come the 1st game. One thing’s for sure, they’re both making the other better.

Mullen watching Russell make a throw

Mullen watches as Favre makes a throw

Go to BulldogBlitz.com for more great pics from the practice.

First Day of Practice

Cornerback Coach Melvin Smith and players

The heat is on here in Mississippi. Temperatures are threatening to reach 100 degrees. The humidity is unbearable. But that means it’s time for football practice to begin. MSU began practice sessions today. I expect to have more blog posts in the near future as I’m finally over the USA soccer team losing to the Ghanarians in the World Cup Round of 16. By the way, why is Bob Bradley still our national team head coach?

Big Questions going into fall practice:

1. Who will be QB? As a citizen of Meridian, it’s natural to want to see Tyler Russell play. Though I have all the confidence in the world in Russell, it may be best for his and MSU’s future if Chris Relf can make a significant impact this season. I believe Tyler will get his chance, but not many succeed when given the chance as a freshman in the SEC. Hopefully Relf and Russell will complement one another and force defenses to have to prepare for more things than usual.

2. Will we see a much improved defense? With the addition of Manny Diaz and Chris Wilson, hopes are high for an attack style defense. Here’s a link to a recent article in Sports Illustrated about them rooming together this spring before their families were able to move to Starkville: Meet Mississippi State’s odd couple.

3. Will we have a successful running game? Losing a RB like Anthony Dixon always hurts. But I think we have 4 very capable running backs, in Robert Elliot, Vick Ballard, Montrell Conner, and LaDarius Perkins, to replace Dixon and Ducre. Check out this article by Chris Low at ESPN to read about the key elements of the team going into Opening Camp.

Below are 3 videos. The first is some comments from Coach Dan Mullen after today’s morning practice w/ returning starters and new freshmen. The second is comments from Chad Bumphis a few weeks ago in an interview w/ Brad Locke (beat writer for The Tupelo Daily Journal). The third is Chris Relf at SEC Media Days.