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March 31, 2007The Bulldogs finished the 2007 spring with a game that could signal things to come for the Bulldogs. Mike Henig and Josh Riddell both threw touchdown passes. Brandon McRae, Jamayel Smith, and Aubrey Bell all made plays in the passing game. Seniors Titus Brown and Avery Hannibal held down the defense, and Adam Carlson connected on all his extra point attempts.
"This concludes spring practice and I am excited, we did not get anybody hurt today. That was the main thing today; I thought we did some good things out there today. We have improved tremendously over where we were at this point last year. Now, where it is as far as where we are going to be in August- we got a lot of improvement to make. I told our players that exactly what they do between the last whistle of the spring game and August 1 will determine what kind of season we will have. We have a lot of conditioning to do; they know the plays that we are going to run, and it is a lot of things that they can do on their own that must be done between now and August 1st," Coach Croom said.
"The potential is there to do some good things, how good I do not know, because I do not know where the other teams are in the conference. I know that we are a lot better than where we have been in the past. We leave spring practice with a positive attitude about what we have done, and what we can be. The potential is unused talent, we got to use that and get every ounce of every guy on our squad, from our last walk-on to the best player on offense and defense."
Juco transfer Josh Riddell has claimed the backup role at quarterback, as he continues to impress with his ability. Mike Henig has been consistent as any Bulldog this spring and continued that during the scrimmage.
"It was obvious that Mike and Josh did some good things, and we expected that out of Mike because he has had a good spring. He is our starting quarterback. He has gained some weight, probably too much, we got to get him back down to 195. He throws the ball extremely well, but he has improved on his drops, and ball mechanics. Time and repetition have allowed him to have a better understanding of the offense and also understanding coverages and defense," Croom said of Henig.
"We have it set up, where he has a computer and a video deal where it allows him to study on his own throughout the off-season. It allows him to study coverages, and what the other teams are doing, understanding the game as far as field position and what we expect to get out of certain plays, the different concepts, and how to play and intertwine with one another and compliment each other. That can only come through repetition and time, but he has a better understanding of that now.
"Josh has done a good job of getting himself acclimated from the west coast to here, adjusting to a new school, learning a new school, and especially since we have the entire playbook open right now. I think he has done a tremendous job as far as learning the offense right now, and now that we got things narrowed down, we will spend next week working on exactly what are going to be working on in training camp. We will get our playbook ready and that will help him and give him something to lock into and sink his teeth into," Coach Croom said of the Riddell.
Coach Croom now turns the Bulldogs over to Coach Pollard and his staff, to get them prepared for the season.
"Again we start with toughness mentally and physically and that will start with our strength coach, and our off-season program will take on that. We got to get stronger, quicker, faster, and leaner. We got about 8-10 guys who got to get their weights down. We are going to have three different report dates, 1st day of summer school, 1st day of the second semester of summer school and a weight to have to be at the first day of practice, and I expect them to take a lot of pride in getting that done, if they want to be champions they will get it done," Coach Croom stated.
Defensive line was a question for the Bulldogs before the spring and due to some lineup changes, it has caused the Bulldogs to be thin in another area.
"We got the people there, we got the numbers and we got the talent there to improve. We are very young there, what has happened is that we have more numbers there and not enough numbers at defensive end. That puts a premium on a guy like Jimmie Holmes and possibly K.J. Wright, who we recruited as a linebacker. If he hits another growth spurt, which I hope he does, we may need to start him off at defensive end, because he can play both and we told him he could play both. If he goes to defensive end, he is No. 2 on the depth chart today," Coach Croom said of the defensive line.
The attitude of the Bulldogs has changed since the arrival of Croom, but he still thinks his team is moving toward changing the culture of Mississippi State football.
"We are definitely moving in that direction, as far as our attitude about ourselves and believing in ourselves. It's also the kind of mentality we want to have; we want to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical, and disciplined football team. We want to be a team that plays for 60 minutes, and plays together as a football team, and you have to have some talent, but those intangibles come first," Coach Croom said of his expectations for the 2007 Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs return some experience along what will be an inexperienced defensive line, with seniors Titus Brown and Avery Hannibal. Also in the linebacking corps and secondary, Mississippi State has a wealth of experience with Chaney, Pegues, Fitzhugh, and O'Neal.
"Titus and Chaney are the key. Titus gives us a guy up who is an anchor a very good pass rusher. You have to be strong up the middle and Chaney and Pegues gives us that. Those young defensive tackles, I do not know who is going to start but whoever emerges as a starter out of that bunch, we should be in pretty good shape.
"Avery Hannibal is a guy who will go unnoticed, but we will be more productive at that position with Avery over there, because he has had a tremendous spring. I like our corners, we got a few too many penalties, but I like our aggression though, so I think that is a positive," he said.
Anthony Dixon has solidified his position as the top running back for the Bulldogs. Coach Croom hopes to have four quality running backs when the 07 season starts.
"We feel good about Dixon and we are solid at running back, with those two guys coming in they are going to change the whole landscape there. We think Marcus and Elliott will give us some explosiveness and speed that we do not have at the position. Whoever it turns out our top four running backs are going to be pretty good," Croom said of the running backs.
The offensive line of the Bulldogs has more depth than any other time during the Croom era. Last year the quarterbacks were sacked 17 times in the first six games, but in the last six games those guys on gave up six sacks.
"We have eight guys that we feel like that we can play with, last year we felt like we only had two," he commented.
Special teams were where the Bulldogs were the worst last year, but they have been consistent this spring.
"We definitely improved there, but we still got a lot of improvement to do. Those young kids coming in will help us, but our kickers and punters are doing a lot better," he said of the special teams.
MAROON - Sherrod 19 pass from Henig (Carlson kick)
MAROON - Dixon 6 pass from Henig (Carlson kick)
MAROON - Smith 39 pass from Riddell (Carlson kick)
RUSHING - MAROON - Bell 1-27, Williams 7-19, Dixon 5-17. WHITE - Ducre 3-(-2), Ellard 1-(-2), Evans 1-(-5), Harrington 4-(-29).
PASSING - MAROON - Henig 7-14-0 113 2TD, Riddell 1-6-0 39 TD. WHITE - Harrington 5-9-0 37, Evans 1-3-0 6.
RECEIVING - MAROON - Smith 3-93 TD, McRae 2-26, Sherrod 1-19 TD, Williams 1-8, Dixon 1-6 TD. WHITE - Threadgill 2-15, Stallworth 1-10, Burks 1-9, Franks 1-6, Shelton 1-3.
TACKLES - MAROON - Burns 5, O'Neal 5, Hughes 3, Hannibal 2, McCraney 2, T. Brown 2, Fitzhugh 1, Sherrod 1, Haskins 1, Love 1. WHITE - Humphries 3, Summers 3, Stowe 3, Bowser 2, Bailey 2, Bowman 2, Prince 2, Lynn 2, J.D. Williams 1, Henderson 1, Stallworth 1, Wesley 1, Bobo 1.
FUMBLE RECOVERY - MAROON - Hughes 1-0.
SACKS - MAROON - Hannibal 2-23, Brown 1-6, Love 1-5.
TACKLES FOR LOSS - MAROON - Hannibal 2-23, Brown 1.5-8, Love 1-5, Burns 1-2, O'Neal 0.5-1. WHITE - Bailey 1-3.