STARKVILLE — Mississippi State began football practice Tuesday with two split-squad sessions and plenty of eyes on the team”s newcomers.
In the first of three practices open to the public, Mississippi State newcomers took the field for the first time this fall in a format head coach Dan Mullen hoped would acclimate the freshman/transfer class to practice routines.
The morning group, which consisted of 24 true freshmen and mostly starters, fired off shortly before 9 a.m. for a two-and-a-half hours in triple-digit temperatures. They”re afternoon counterparts had it much easier when lightning forced the team into the climate controlled Palmiero Center after 45 minutes of work outside.
Mississippi State”s freshmen, who participated in the morning session, showed the obvious effects of practicing for the first time.
The heat was issue enough, but first-year players learned how to run through drills at an unfamiliar pace.
“Top of the numbers” was yelled five times from assistant coach Mark Hudspeth to freshman receiver Robert Johnson, as the latter began showing the effects of having a freshman overload.
“All of them are going to struggle; it”s the first day and we threw a lot at them,” Mullen said Tuesday morning. “But I was real pleased. The goal for practice for them is to learn how to practice from the older guys. That”s why we bring them out here with the older guys, so they can learn the tempo and what”s expected of them. It”s their first time learning the offense. We installed it this morning — their first time running it (and) they”re going to struggle a little bit.
“You could see guys wearing down near the end, which is expected in this heat with only half of the squad out here today.”
Tuesday”s practice format, which will be repeated Friday, was aimed at speeding up the learning curve for the younger players. Mullen said it wouldn”t be ideal to have the entire squad out for Day 1, with freshmen clustered together in five-deep individual drill lines.
The idea also put an emphasis on the veteran players, adding extra tutelage and examples.
“It”s always a pride point,” junior guard Quentin Saulsberry said. “A positive attitude is just as powerful as a negative attitude. It”ll spread quickly and next thing you know your whole team is down. If you come in with a bad attitude and try and loaf because it”s hot out here, the next younger guy is going to say, ”If he says it”s hot, I”m going to say it”s hot.” If they see me pushing hard, they”ll know that”s what they have to do.”
The heat was especially unkind to West Point native and The Commercial Dispatch Athlete of the Year Michael Carr, who labored through drills in the first 30 minutes of practice. Carr, one of a handful of freshman to not go through summer conditioning on campus, received attention from team trainers but was able to finish practice in a limited capacity.
“I told him not to worry,” Mullen said of Carr. “That”s one of the reasons why we try to get the freshmen in early. A guy like Michael, we pulled him out of a lot of stuff today because he hasn”t gotten to go through the conditioning the rest of the team has. Physically, we”ve got to be a little bit more careful with him out there on the field.”
Quarterbacks Chris Relf and true freshman Dylan Favre split reps in the morning period, working with nearly all the team”s first-team skill players. Tyler Russell and walk-on freshman Brantley Adams worked in the afternoon.
The Bulldogs return to the practice field at 6 p.m. Thursday. That practice session also will be open to the public.
n Carr is currently awaiting clearance from the NCAA, but is practicing with the team. While awaiting word from the NCAA, he can participate in 14 preseason practices. Classes begin August 18.
n Freshman Jameon Lewis worked out at receiver after going through summer conditioning with defensive backs. “All summer he”s been working on corner, so to come in on the first day and do as well as he did it shows real focus,” starting safety Charles Mitchell said.
n Sophomore Johnthan Banks, of Maben, went through morning drills at cornerback, while red shirt freshman Nickoe Whitley lined up at safety during 7-on-7 drills.
n Wide receiver Malcolm Johnson, who is out with a foot injury, will not join the team until fall classes begin.
n Reserve linebackers Karlin Brown and Terrell Johnson have left the team, a team spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
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