MSU Spring Practice Report (4/9)

I start off with my notes taken during drills, 7 on 7’s, and then scrimmage. Some thoughts at the end.

-Milton got all 1rst team reps due to injuries

-Holloway got RB reps in drills and scrimmage

-Rufus Warren looking good in receiving drills. Smooth routes and good hands

-Milton looked better in pass blocking drills

-Wells is again looking good in pass rushing drills. Just too fast

-Hughes is really coming on in drills. Getting 1rst team reps here and there

-Holmes struggling with pass blocking drills

-Pass blocking is not Malcolm Johnson’s forte

-Dak doing some standing w/out crutches but still throwing from seated stool

-nice pbu by Jameson Love in 7 on 7

-Carr showing good hands in 7 on 7

-nice move shaking the defender and making catch in 1 on 1’s by Fred Brown. Move put the defender on the ground

-WR’s have the drops today

-Nice long TD grab by Holloway

-Holloway w/another nice grab. Really fast

-Malcolm making good grabs and nice routes in 1 on 1

-int by Redmond in 7 on 7

-Morrow makes a decent grab in traffic across the middle

-great leaping grab by Christian Holmes on sideline. Catch of the day

-long TD grab by Rojo

-long TD catch by Malcolm Johnson

-nice grab in traffic across the middle by Holloway. Doesn’t look worried going across the middle

-another long TD for Holloway

-int by Quadry Antoine

-1rst play of scrimmage, rollout and grab by Fred Brown on sideline. Really good catch

-good inside run by Milton. Slashes through the line

-Nick James blew up a running play

-Ryan Brown got some first team reps at DE

-Holloway breaks a long run from RB

-Ricco gets a nice 20 yard grab. Looks better today

-John Harris makes nice tackle on run play for short gainer. He’s looked better today

-Cam Lawrence at practice, hand in cast.

-Holloway w/another good inside run for 20 yards. He darts through the line

-Jameon catches bubble screen. Seeing more of those.

-Brandon Hill with a nice grab but immediately met physically by Bohanna

-really good long run by Milton

-great break by Wells but drops the int

-Eulls looks better at DT

-Jameon again getting a lot of targets

-Ryan Brown w/TFL on off tackle run

-Running game has been much better today w/only Milton, Akins, and Holloway

-Even when dbl teamed, Nick James still gets some push

-Seeing a lot of R Brown and P Smith as first team DE’s

-Jameon Lewis routinely turns 5 yard catches into more yards. Slippery

-20 yard run by Milton

-TR more under C than I’ve seen thus far

-fumbled an exchange on the reverse. We still don’t run trick plays well

-40 yard grab by Jameon Lewis

-Benardrick McKinney stuffs an inside run for no gain

-Nice pbu by Deonte Evans. He’s looked good at safety

-nice hit by Deonte Evans on next play for pbu

-bad drop by Morrow on sideline

-Nice 20 yard catch by Rojo

-int by Jameson Love

-PBU by Nickoe Whitley by way of hit

-Jiles makes a nice PBU by knocking a high pass out of the WR hands

-long TD catch by Jameon Lewis
-Morrow out-muscles Cox for a contended catch and turns into a long gainer

– long TD catch on a post by Fred Brown

-good hands on pbu by Dee Arrington

-bad drop by Rufus Warren on a good throw from Josh Hand

After seeing another practice, there are a few things that are beginning to become the norm. Jameon Lewis has had the best spring of anyone in my opinion. I fully expect him to be a playmaker next year. Fred Brown continues to impress every day. He runs really good routes, has really good hands, and is getting a lot of targets. Brandon Holloway is performing better than I expected. He really surprised me at running back. He darts through the line and he appears to be hard for the defense to see. At WR, he uses his speed nicely on routes to get separation.

On the defense there is also some guys putting together good springs. Ryan Brown jumps out at you and has pushed for 1rst team reps. Kaleb Eulls looks much better at DT than DE in my eyes. He can better use his athleticism on the inside. Nick James has had a nice spring and looks to earn plenty of reps this fall. Everyone wants to know how the Brown’s look at LB and while they look good, it appears that they have lit a fire under Bohanna and Hughes. They are both having very good springs and look like they will not allow freshmen to steal their reps. The biggest advantage Bohanna and Hughes have over the Brown’s is physicality. They play angry.

The secondary is just another animal all together. This will sound homerish but they all stand out. At CB there is a stuff 4-way competition between Justin Cox, Will Redmond, Jameson Love, and Cedric Jiles. There isn’t much, if any, separation between the 4. In all honesty, I feel comfortable with any combination of the 4. The one thing I can guarantee you is that the starters will deserve it. No winners by default. At S the only incumbent is Nickoe Whitley and he looks much better and fully healed. Then you have Jay Hughes, Dee Arrington, and Deonte Evans battling it out for the other reps. Kendrick Market is right there as well. In all, there is better depth and competition in the secondary than I can remember in my lifetime.

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Tuesday Practice Notes and Thoughts

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-In running game drills they worked a lot of stretch or outside runs

-2nd look at Josh Robinsonand his conditioning looks improved from the fall

-Jameon continuing to look focused; going very hard in drills

-Malcolm runs drills w/WR (it seems they really want to exploit his pass catching ability)

-biggest thing  Derrick Milton/Josh Robinson need to improve is pass blocking

-Matt Wells,Richie Brown ,Bednardrick Mckinney,  Deonte Skinner, and ChrisHughes looked fast in pass blocking/rushing drills. They’re hard to block.

-Ladarius Perkins is our best pass blocking RB and isn’t close

-Matt Wells dominated everyone he faced in pass rushing drills. He’s just too fast

-walk-on QB Josh Hand (j)r has a decent arm and is our 3rd QB this spring

-Chappelle looks better in the 1 on 1 drills than in team or 7 on 7’s

-Nickoe looks 10x better moving. Laterally, cutting, etc…

-DB’s winning more of the 1on 1 vs. Wr’s

-Rojo Rojo Rojo

-great adjustment and back shoulder catch by Fred Brown

 

-Will Redmond and JamesonLlove got a few reps at ko return

-nice int by Jay Hughes in 7 on 7 passing drills. Another 1 on a tip a few plays later

-Rojo beats Cox on a fade/streak

-Fred Brown gets a long TD

-Michael Carr catching everything thrown at him

-Nice diving pbu by Richie Brown

– Dee Arrington has great size for SS. Looks like an all-SEC guy (eye test)

-PJ Jones blows up a running play

-Tyler Russel making audibles and coverage checks without coaching instructions.

-2 straight catches for Morrow

-Deontae Evans with a nice blitz and TFL

-nice 10 yard run by Derrick Milton

-Nick James killing 2nd team OL

-don’t think anyone has more fun playing football than Nick James

-Jameon Lewis getting plenty of targets and receptions  in scrimmage (5 straight receptions on passing downs). Looks to be Russell’s go to right now.

-15 yard run by Milton then 10 next play

-Brandon Hill layed out for a nice reception

-can’t comment enough on how much better Nickoe’s conditioning looks.

-long run for Ladarius Perkins

-Morrow w/a 20 yard grab on sideline

 

While in attendance of my 2nd practice of the spring I again jotted down notes as practice went along. If you notice more notes on skill players than lineman it’s because of where they practice on the field in relation to where fans have to watch.

So far I’d have to say my biggest surprise of the spring is Fred Brown. I honestly wasn’t expecting much but he constantly catches your eye in drills and scrimmage. You can really see him progressing as a WR after coming from a run only offense in high school. I feel good about his future at WR; he will be good for us.

The 2 guys that really seem to be asserting themselves as playmakers on offense are Jameon Lewis and Robert Johnson (Rojo). Jameon is going all out of every drill, has great hands, and gets more targets than any other WR. He is really slick when he gets the ball in his hands. I’m really excited about him this fall. Robert is the big, strong presence we have been missing at WR. He’s got really good speed as well and is never brought down by the first DB to tackle him. He’s just too strong for that.

On the defensive line it’s easy to notice that PJ Jones has really stepped up. He looks really good physically and is playing like what we expected from him. He’s the leader of the DT group. Nick James looks as if he has really turned it on. He’s my favorite guy to watch because he looks to have the most fun out there. He is definitely the personality of our defense and he looks ready to make a bigger splash this year. Preston Smith has really impressed me at DE. He is gotten bigger and looks really good out there. Since the QB’s are off limits it’s hard to judge his sacks but it looks like our T’s really struggle with him. I think he’ll lead us in sacks again.

At DB the number 1 thing that has been evident is how different Nickoe looks. His injury obviously greatly affected his conditioning last year and he looked to be a step slower last year. He is much slimmer this spring and appears to be moving like he used to. It was easiest to notice in the 1 on 1 cover drills how much better he appears to feel. Will Redmond continues to impress and get plenty of opportunities with the 1’s. The battle at SS is pretty cool to watch. Just from eye test and the drills you want to hand it to Dee Arrington. He’s impressive looking physically and athletically. Then in scrimmages and 7 on 7’s, Jay Hughes is always in the right spot (had 2 int’s close together today). I’m not sure who will ultimately win that battle but I’m comfortable with either.

The last thing that really jumped out at me was during our pass blocking/pass rushing drills how good our LB’s were.  They were matched up with RB’s and TE’s and our LB’s were simply unblockable. Mckinney is so long, he is physically suited to be a good blitzer. The number 1 guy that stuck out was easily Matt Wells. He is lightening and no one came close to putting a body on him. With Collins saying he’s bringing the mayhem, I really expect Matt Wells to be utilized much more to his ability. If he gets turned loose blitzing this fall, I really think he will make the biggest improvement from last year. The correct utilization of Matt Wells and his elite athletic ability will pay dividends.

Thoughts from Spring Practice

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After I attended MSU spring practice on Friday, I posted my notes I jotted as I watched. As promised today a few more in depth thoughts. Sorry about the holdup but I had a busy Easter weekend with traveling and family and I hope everyone enjoyed theirs as well.

-Quarterback- The main thing that sticks out here is that Tyler is taking a lot of reps in drills under center. Many fans have been calling for it since it seems to suit his skill set and I think we’ll see it.

-Running Back- Ladarius Perkins still looks like he is the most complete guy. No doubt about him starting again.  The competition between Derrick Milton and Josh Robinson for the 2nd spot is intense (Griffin being held out for ACL rehab) and it is being manifested in both guys going extremely hard on every drill. Milton looks like our best back for receiving out of the backfield and Robinson looks like a tough between the tackles runner. These 2 are in an almost dead heat.

-Wide Receiver- Rojo and Joe Morrow look to be the starters. Michael Carr looks really good for taking a year off and has the best hands in the group. Fred Brown is the surprise of this group to me. He looks really smooth out there and has a knack for getting open. At this point Jeremy Chappelle is our 5th best outside receiver. He looks kind of lost but that is to be expected. He should get a lot better by the fall but I doubt he can overtake Rojo, Morrow, or Carr. Jameon looks to be in the best shape he has ever been in and his hands are like glue. Jameon definitely looks to be cashing in on his opportunity. Brandon Holloway was a bit of a surprise too. He ran good routes and was really quick. He had 1 really nice double move to the corner for a TD.

-O line- With everyone basically returning I believed this could be a strength of the team and I think I was right. In my mind our O line is in better shape than it has been the last 2 years. Our starting 5 looks really good and there are some depth guys who look to be really improving especially Devon Desper, Dylan Holley, and Justin Senior.

-Tight Ends- MSU is set at TE for the next few years. Malcolm Johnson looked really good and is poised for a breakout year. Brandon Hill is bigger and more physical and has really good hands. I look for him to be a goal line threat. Rufus Warren is a massive guy that moves surprisingly well with good hands. Gus Walley looks to have gained some weight too. Mid semester Hargrave transfer Artimas Samuel was pretty surprising. First off is his size. His arms are bigger than my head and his hands may be the best of the position group. At 260 he is a bit overweight and it is affecting his speed but I fully expect Balis to get him at an optimal playing weight that I would estimate in the 235-240 range.

-D Line- The high end talent here is the best it’s been since the Joe Lee Dunn lines of the late 90’s. Nick and Quay both seem really excited and are giving a lot of effort out there. Hopefully they realize that they could be huge players for us and are taking advantage of their opportunity. PJ Jones looks really good too and it’s easy to forget he was a 4 star in his own right. David Turner doesn’t play to 2 DT positions differently like Wilson did and I saw some cool combinations. James and Viges looked like a huge, tough DT’s while Quay and PJ looked like a speed duo. At DE I mostly watched the younger guys. Ryan Brown and Torrey Dale are really tall guys. Brown will see a lot of reps this year and looks to be a future starter. AJ Jefferson also looks to have grown some. He looked taller to me.

-Linebacker- Our starting 3 of Mckinney, Skinner, and Wells all look improved. Mckinney looks to have picked up some weight and is starting to look like the NFL prospect that he is. Hughes and Bohanna are both doing everything they can to challenge for reps. Beni and Richie Brown are getting most of the 2nd team reps and it’s easy to see why they have so much hype. They are both really smooth players with a lot of speed. I don’t think they challenge for starter reps this year but our future is in good hands here.

-Defensive Backs- I’ll start this off with the fact that Justin Cox is everything that has been advertised. Dude is a legit lock down SEC corner. He plays very physical and mean out there and as he learns the system he’ll get better. He will help bridge the loss of Banks and Slay. The other surprising corner was Will Redmond. He was running with the starters and sure looks like that’s his spot to lose. If those 2 starters stick we still get a very good player in Jameson Love when we go 3 CB sets. I felt a ton better about CB after seeing those guys. At safety Nickoe looks to be in much better shape. He is much slimmer and appeared to be moving better. Dee Arrington was running as the starter at SS and that makes for a talented starting 4. I still expect Jay Hughes to challenge for a starting spot and he looked good in practice as well.

-Geoff Collins really seemed to coach the whole defense and not just his position group like Wilson. He is very hands on. There was 1 part of practice that stood out when he had the whole defense in a goal line set and he was having WR’s motion across the formation. He reviewed what this motion meant in multiple different defensive setups. Every time he was doing the same things. He was asking Mckinney, Skinner, Redmond, Cox, and Arrington who covers him? Do we follow him across the formation? How do we align? Collins was doing this even while the D line was standing where they would be lined up. It’s clear that he doesn’t want just the guy with the assignment to know but the whole defense to know what is going on and why they are making the adjustments.

-Our WR core looks completely different. The last few years we looked really small. Rojo is 224, Morrow is 210, Carr is 220, and Malcolm Johnson is 220. When these guys are all lined up we look huge out there.  Our guys have gone from small to looking like a stable of running backs. I’m very excited about this group’s athleticism and physicality.

-There were some high profile recruits at practice in CJ Hampton and Domique Booth. Although CJ Hampton is committed to Ole Miss he has given multiple interviews after the commitment that he is still open to the recruiting process and that it’s not over. His attendance in Starkville on Friday cemented those quotes in my mind and I think we have a good shot at flipping him.

MSU Pre-Spring Roster and Thoughts

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Yesterday MSU released its  Pre-Spring 2  deep depth chart and many eyebrows were raised across the state as fans immediately started breaking it down. Before I go any further, Dan Mullen was quoted as saying something along the lines of this depth chart not meaning anything. While that is correct, I still believe that it gives us a good idea of who we will see get reps next year and also who had a good offseason and gave themselves a shot at getting on the field more.

Let’s look at some of what I thought were surprises:

-Justin Senior (soph) appeared on the depth chart as the 2nd team LT. I have been wondering who was going to claim that spot because many have been given a chance at T. Good to see a clear backup for Blaine Clausell.

-Josh Robinson (soph) has the 2nd spot at RB. He is also listed at 5’9 225, which means he has gotten bigger. 2nd RB will be hotly contested this spring and even more so in the fall when Nick Griffin returns.  Do not count out Derrick Milton.

-Jeremy Chappelle (jr) starts of pre spring as a 2nd team WR backing up Robert Johnson. Many believe he has a chance to unseat Joe Morrow as the 2nd starter. We will have to see.

-Fred Brown (rFr) started as a 2nd team WR. That might not mean much to many but it is a shock to me. He came from a running offense in high school and had a lot to learn. I’m shocked sr Ricco Sanders is not backing up Morrow.

-Winston Chapman (soph) is our starting snapper right now. The reason I include him is because I’ve never heard of him and that’s a more important spot then a lot of fans realize. It’s only a big deal when he sails one over the punters head.

-Ryan Brown (soph) and AJ Jefferson (rFr) grabbed the backup DE spots. Brown saw action last year but Jefferson getting the other speaks to the offseason he had. Torrey Dale (rFr) is a guy a lot of fans are excited about but he couldn’t crack the initial top 2. Competition will be intense here, especially with Chris Jones on the way.

-Justin Cox (jr) getting a starting spot at CB from the get-go is somewhat a surprise. I thought he’d end up with it but start off with the 2’s.

-Kaleb Eulls (jr) got the starting nod at DT. I have to preface what I’m about to say with the fact that he is a great kid and great ambassador for MSU. In 26 career games as the starting DE he had 1 sack and 4 TFL. If he’s going to start at DT his production needs to spike dramatically. Great kid by all accounts but his numbers at DE will not cut it in the SEC.

-No Quay Evans (soph) in the 2 deep has many fans scratching their heads. Arguably our most talented DT and not in the early rotation. If he works hard this spring I can see that changing. I think it’s on him. He’s a potential future early NFL draft pick so he should be motivated to go all out.

-No Richie or Beni Brown (both rFr) is the LB 2 deep. It’s not a shock to me when you see how veteran the group is. Our top 5 guys have gotten extensive game reps and Zach Jackson has been in the program a year before them. I wouldn’t worry. They’ll probably play all special teams and push hard for reps.

 

Mullen Opens Spring Practice Again

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MSU announces that the spring practices are open to the public again this year. For all of the football related things that Dan Mullen closes to the public, I love that he gives the public a look in the spring. I went to 6 practices last year and it really gives you an inside look at the players progression, the coaches and their styles, and how the players and coaches communicate on the field.

There are so many things to watch this year many are glad the spring remains open. The position battles should be intense. There are 2 juco transfers (Jeremy Chappelle and Justin Cox) that are being counted on to compete immediately. We get to see how David Turner differs from Chris Wilson and the way the defensive linemen react to him. Billy Gonzalez takes over the WR position and the group lost 5 seniors leaving competition wide open. I could go on but you get the point; there is no shortage of story lines.

These practices are open for a reason. It’s 100% for the fans. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this privilege and go support the players and coaches.

Per MSU Media Relations
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Head football coach Dan Mullen and his charges will begin on-field preparation for the 2013 football season as spring practice begins on Thursday, March 21. The 15 practice sessions, which are all open to the public, will conclude with the annual Maroon-White Spring Game on April 20 as part of Super Bulldog Weekend.
The Bulldogs begin the 2013 campaign in the Texas Kickoff Classic on Aug. 31 against Oklahoma State.
SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULED DATES
**All times tentative, and dates may be changed due to weather. Follow @MStateFB on Twitter for the most up-to-date information.
Thursday, March 21 – 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 23 – 12 noon
Tuesday, March 26 – 4 p.m.
Thursday, March 28 – 4 p.m.
Friday, March 29 – 4 p.m.
Tuesday, April 2 – 4 p.m.
Thursday, April 4 – 4 p.m.
Saturday, April 6 – Scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium – 12 noon
Tuesday, April 9 – 4 p.m.
Thursday, April 11 – 4 p.m.
Friday, April 12 – Scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium – 3 p.m.
Tuesday, April 16 – 4 p.m.
Thursday, April 18 – 4 p.m.
Friday, April 19 – 3 p.m.
Saturday, April 20 – Maroon/White Spring Game – Davis Wade Stadium – 1 p.m.

Spring Practice Position Battle Watch

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MSU opens spring practice just around the corner and many fans like myself are already jonesin for some football. Every team has position battles that rage on in the spring and MSU is no different. Ever since the arrival of Dan Mullen, he has preached competition as a vital means for the team to improve. Some positions have a battle for the starting nod while others have players fighting for reps. Lets look at some positions to keep our eye on this spring.

QB- Nothing really to see here with Dak’s injury keeping him out. All Tyler Russell and his improvement.

RB- You have to believe that LaDarius Perkins has the starting spot nailed down. That still leaves an intense battle for carries between sophomores Derrick Milton and Josh Robinson (we won’t see Nick Griffin due to injury). Although Robinson seems to be the fan favorite, anyone who has attended practices will tell you that Milton is the most natural runner of the bunch. The competition for #2 back will be heated.

WR- After graduating 5 seniors this position is up for grabs. Robert Johnson and Joe Morrow will get their 1rst shot at starting positions. Also watch for juco early enrollee Jeremy Chappelle to challenge for starter. Jameon Lewis will get his chance to nail down the slot but we get to see if redshirt freshman Brandon Holloway can push him. Senior Ricco Sanders could be a wild card and redshirt freshman Fred Brown gets his first look. I know I’ll keep an eye on Micheal Carr since he has rejoined the team.

TE- I think Malcolm Johnson solidifies his spot with Brandon Hill cementing his #2 TE spot. Rufus Warren and Gus Walley will battle for what’s left. Don’t forget Christian Holmes made a switch to TE. Curious to see him on offense.

OL- I believe we are pretty set with Blaine Clausell, Justin Malone, Dillion Day, Gabe Jackson, and Charles Siddoway across the front. The battle here is for who comes off the bench. The guys I’m really watching to see progression are sophomore Devon Desper at center, junior Ben Beckwith at guard, and junior Archie Muniz at tackle. Damien Robinson has always been on the fringe and I’m really excited at getting a good look at sophomore tackle Justin Senior.

DE- Gotta believe senior Denico Autry and junior Preston Smith gut out the starting spots. The battle behind them will be intense between sophomore Ryan Brown & sophomore John Harris. We also get our first looks at redshirt freshman AJ Jefferson and Torrey Dale. A lot of talent and competition here.

DT- After the graduation of Josh Boyd and Dewayne Cherrington, these spots are wide open. Factor in new coach David Turner as well. It will be all out war between sophomores Quay Evans and Nick James and juniors PJ Jones, Curtis Virges, and Kaleb Eulls. Also get our first look at redshirt freshman Jordan Washington.

LB- Return some experience here in Deonte Skinner, Benardrick McKinney, and Matt Wells. Senior Chris Hughes and junior Ferlando Bohanna will make a big push with their physicality. Many fans are very excited with redshirt freshmen Richie and Beniquez Brown. A sizeable portion of the fan-base think Richie can press for a starting spot.

CB- All eyes will be on juco early enrollee Justin Cox, expecting him to cement 1 of the CB spots as expected. The battle for the other spot will be intense between junior Jamerson Love and redshirt freshman Cedric Jiles. Sophomore Taveze Calhoun has shown well and many are hoping redshirt freshman Will Redmond makes a big jump. They very well could be battling for reps in the DB heavy packages.

S- Senior Nickoe Whitley will be 1 starter but his continued recovery will be watched closely. I expect junior Jay Hughes to grab the other spot. Junior Dee Arrington will challenge Jay Hughes to the limit for the other spot. Many are hoping sophomores Kendrick Market and Deonte Evans make a jump and push for time. We also get our first real look at redshirt freshman “Hitman” Quadry Antoine.