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March 29, 2011Mississippi State returned to the practice fields on Tuesday for the first time since their scrimmage on Saturday.
Bulldog head coach Dan Mullen was encouraged by the intensity of the practice but still sees plenty of room for improvement on both sides of the ball.
"I liked the intensity of the kids," Mullen said. "I was disappointed in our execution today. We simplified things down to the basics but it felt like a Mississippi State football practice. It was high-energy, high-intensity, tough, physical practice. When you have a young team like we have and a limited number of seniors on this team, the young guys have got to understand that sense of urgency that they've got to play with and how fast the time is going to go by. I liked the intensity but we've got to clean the execution way up."
Mullen and the rest of the MSU coaching staff seemed to turn their motors up in an effort to further motivate the players.
"We got after some guys," Mullen said. "Guys were coaching hard out there and guys were playing hard. That was a pretty physical practice coming off of a scrimmage. That's what I like. Your sitting here at eight practices and got seven left - one of them is no pads and one of them is the spring game. Guys have got to take some big strides over the next week and a half."
With rising senior tight ends Marcus Green and Kendric Cook both limited this spring due to injury and the loss of two seniors from the fall has left the unit rather depleted at practice. Redshirt freshmen Brandon Hill and Malcolm Johnson have both gotten most of the reps during practice and have started to make strides in their absence.
"(Hill) is coming slowly but surely," Mullen said. "I was hoping he would be able to do it maybe a little bit quicker picking things up. He's got a long way to go mentally and commitment-wise. Malcolm Johnson has done a nice job. He's not a prototypical tight end but we can use him as kind of a hybrid player in there and he's shown the toughness that he can do it."
Tuesday's practice also had a pair of casualties as both offensive guard Gabe Jackson and walk-on cornerback Dexter Shelton both left the field late in practice with apparent knee injuries. It was also learned that redshirt freshman running back Nick Griffin would miss the remainder of the spring with a torn ACL in his left knee. Mullen is hopeful that Griffin will be good to go for the season opener at Memphis.
Sophomore safety Nickoe Whitley also missed Tuesday's practice with a sprained knee.
The Bulldogs will take Wednesday off before returning to the practice fields for the remainder of the week.
"We will be real physical again Thursday, lighten up a little on Friday and then get ready for a big scrimmage over in the stadium Saturday morning," Mullen said.