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MSU Gator Bowl practice report No. 1 - Analyzing 1st two open days of MSU bowl workouts



Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE - As MSU opened up its practices to the public this week in preparation for the 2013 Gator Bowl, fans can expect a lot of new faces seldom seen before in prominent roles on the field. 


Typical of its routine in bowl preparation, Mullen suggested a lot of the freshman and first-year players will receive a lot of the snaps in order to get them prepared for increased playing time during the 2013 season. 


"A lot of the freshman that have some talent are going to have that opportunity to get out there on the field," Mullen said Friday when asked who to look for out at the practice field. "Some of the younger offensive lineman." 


The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog will give you an informed look at what we've witnessed over the past couple of days. So well.....what did we learn? 




MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell has had a protective boot on his right foot. The Bulldogs starter behind center suffered the injury at the end of the Egg Bowl loss at the University of Mississippi but hasn't been held back from certain individual throwing drills that involve minimal mobility. Mullen said Thursday, after Russell didn't actively participate in practice, that the plan is a off and then on schedule in order for the former Parade All-America selection out of Meridian High School to be ready when the actual bowl preparation begins Monday. 


"What we did with the trainers, is every other day with that," Mullen said. "He'll be back out throwing (Friday), and throw a day, rest a day. The whole key was to make sure he was ready to go Monday when we start the game plan.". Therefore, redshirt freshman Dak Prescott is getting his crack at all of the first-team snaps as MSU (8-4) begins its first week of preparation for the 2013 Gator Bowl. The early book on Prescott is when attempting to make all the throws the primary issue is touch. The redshirt freshman from Louisiana tends to throw every ball like it's coming out of a cannon, which demonstrates a better arm than I remember him showcasing since he arrived in Starkville, and that's even including dump offs to the tailbacks and tight ends.  


""He's getting to run the whole show and get a lot of the reps right now," Mullen said Thursday after practice. "Tyler is getting some good rest and I think that's really just going to help (Dak) as he continues to move forward." 




Sophomore linebacker Christian Holmes will go back to his natural position starting Monday but has worked the last two days at the h-back role of tight end and fullback for the MSU offense. During the first practice on Thursday, you could see some tutelage going on between senior Marcus Green and Holmes, who the players have nicknamed 'Turtle'. Mullen said Thursday the determination to if the position switch will be permanent will be during the spring and I asked the Bulldogs fourth-year head coach if it was possible to see Holmes in a similar role to former Stanford player Owen Marecic, who played both for the Cardinal and is now doing so in the National Football League. Mullen shot that idea down quickly saying a decision of one side of the ball will be made before the end of spring drills. 


"We'll probably keep him one way or the other, but that decision won't come until spring," Mullen said. "He'll be playing linebacker still in the bowl game." 




The key for some of the freshman getting significant roles this week in practice is consistency. The best example of this concept is wide receiver Brandon Holloway as the freshman showcased a unbelievable ability to get the football on some impressive catches Wednesday inside the Palmeiro Center but in the 11-on-11 work Thursday night dropped some passes that he'll need to make to secure a starting spot in this wide-open race for spots in the 2013 season. 


"The two positions, when we take the seniors all out of the lineup, is going to be corner and wide receiver," Mullen said. "That's where you really want to see a lot over the next week because when you take out those five senior wide receivers, obviously there's going to be a lot of hole sin a lot of spots and a lot of opportunities to fill on the field. Bowl prep and spring is going to be huge for us at that position." 




- MSU sophomore tailback Nick Griffin has suffered another major knee injury that will require reconstructive surgery. Griffin suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his 


right knee in a Saturday practice during non-contact drills and was scheduled for surgery Thursday. 


The surgery will make Griffin unavailable for the 2013 Gator Bowl against Northwestern University (11 a.m., ESPN2) on New Year's Day in Jacksonville, Fla. 


"It's just a tragedy," Mullen said. "That's twice to a young man. Non-contact, I mean just running down the field injuries. That's the sad part about it. But with him, I think the confidence he gained in playing the best football I've seen him play the last couple of weeks of the season coming back from the first injury, is going to give him more confidence coming back from this one." 




The future looks extremely bright for MSU at linebacker as the two Brown's (not related of course but that's how they refer to themselves folks) Richie and Beniquez were able to work a majority of snaps with the first-team defense. 


Four-star prospect Richie Brown saw a majority of snaps at middle linebacker while being monitored by not only his position coach Geoff Collins but the player that spent more time in 2012 season in the middle of the Bulldogs front seven in redshirt freshman Benardrick McKinney. 


"I'm not doing too bad and a lot of freshman are getting a lot of reps because of injuries or other factors that have popped up at this time," Richie Brown said. "I'm excited about getting on the field but I still have to learn the playbook right now. We learned right now it's okay to make mistakes as long as their aggressive mistakes flying to the football." 


Brown, who picked MSU over the University of Southern Miss, University of Tennessee and the University of Mississippi, said he and "a group" of freshmen coming into the program were given an option to redshirt or begin their college football career in the 2012 season. 


"(Coach Mullen) gave us all an option and we sat down as a group as said 'hey guys if we stay out this year, our last years together are going to be awesome," Richie Brown said. "We're going to collectively build this thing together and we're all excited about that idea." 


Rated a four-star prospect by major recruiting services, Florence (Ala.) High School prospect Beniquez Brown was the second recruit of Collins since his arrival from FIU and will be expected to be an impact player for the next four years in Starkville. 


"Mississippi State just felt right," Brown said at his signing day announcement in February. "Talking to coach (Dan) Mullen and all the coaches down there, they're going to push me to be the best I can be. 


Auburn came in late and made a run for it, but there's just something about Mississippi State." 


Richie Brown joked that while he spent this season on the scout team, he didn't worry about the player he was told to mimic more than his playing number. 


"During a week of practice I would get numbers of guys where the jersey number would be an adult medium and wearing the jersey was cutting the circulation of my arms," Richie Brown said with a laugh. "It would look like I was wearing one of those half-jerseys guys would wear 10-15 years ago so I loved being guys that had big numbers so I could wear a jersey that actually fit me." 




- With Griffin out again with an injury, the running back battle for carries and touches behind junior LaDarius Perkins is now between a pair of redshirt freshman in Josh Robinson and Derrick Milton. Both looked effective in individual drills and in team work the last two days but it's Robinson that has looked much more effective in the pass game with the blocking and safety valve than he looked coming out of spring and fall camp.  




Here's some other notes from MSU's regular season opener loss Friday night:  




I was interested in the post-practice speech by Mullen coming out of Thursday's work because he addressed the veterans on this Bulldogs team saying they should pick up and start watching film on Northwestern University since their final exam schedules are over. The mental preparation for the 2013 Gator Bowl on New Year's Day is already beginning despite the first-team regulars not seeing a majority of the action until Monday. 


"Yeah, they should be," Mullen said when asked if the veterans are watching film on the 9-3 Wildcats. "Finals are done now and not a lot going on around town, I think most people have left. They get some down time so they should really be all starting to look at it. The young guys get the opportunity to watch this film, older guys should really be looking forward, into a little extra time with Northwestern." 




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.



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