August 2, 2013 11:04:35 AM
STARKVILLE - Friday morning marked the first of the split-squad practices of the day as the Mississippi State University coaching staff did its best to cut the practices between starters and newcomers. The second string and third-team players will take the field later at 6 p.m. tonight. Specifically, what this morning did for the MSU offense was allow true freshman signal caller Damian Williams to watch, learn and understand the finer points of being a starting quarterback in the Southeastern Conference from fifth-year senior Tyler Russell.
"Just don't get frustrated," Russell said were his words of encouragement to Williams through the first two days of practice. "You're not going to get everything down yet and nobody expects you to. I went through the same process at one point. It's the same for everybody being really good in high school and then you come to the Southeastern Conference and things get faster and over your head."
MSU fifth-year coach Dan Mullen spent a majority of his morning working intensely with Williams, a late signee that was originally committed to the University of Southern Mississippi from Metaria, La., on his mechanics during individual and team drills. Williams threw for 2,748 yards and 26 touchdowns while also rushing for 932 yards and 23 touchdowns in his prep career at Archbishop Rummel High School in the New Orleans area.
"I just told him to take your time, watch me and if you need anything I'll help you out but I have to say he's been learning real fast so that's been good for both of us," Russell said.
Instead of having just one scholarship quarterback in the spring, MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning has three to work with in the fall with Russell, third-year sophomore Dak Prescott and Williams and the instant depth at the position is noticeable.
"I thought today was great because it was great teaching by Tyler and a great learning experience for Damian just to see how things are done," Koenning said. "When we split up practices, it gives us a lot of chances to teach. It's one thing to put it on the board in the meeting room but it's quite another to get it done on the field."
Here's a bullet point of noticeable items gleamed from Friday morning's practice session:
- LaDarius Perkins was noticeably absent from a session that was supposed to be work with the first-string and the freshmen but that was only because the senior tailback has early morning summer school classes. Perkins and sophomore Josh Robinson will lead the tailback group Friday evening at practice.
- After being in the second-string unit all day for the first practice Thursday, East Mississippi Community College star Justin Cox was with the first string cornerbacks today.
- Freshman wide receiver Fred Ross spent the first hour of practice in the injury pit but rejoined his teammates for team drills in the final hour. Junior tight end Malcolm Johnson gave the training staff a scare as they were working on the projected starter in the shed but he quickly rejoined action with no noticeable issue.
- Of the many newcomers at wide receiver in this session Friday morning, freshman De'Runnya Wilson shined in individual and team drills by making some remarkable athletic catches from Russell. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound athlete, who was a All-State basketball player at Wenonah High School in Birmingham, Ala., was the most valuable player of the state of Alabama North-South All-Star Game this past summer.
- Senior safety Nickoe Whitley got his first interception of the fall camp against Russell on a beautifully-timed jump on a crossing route. The returning senior at free safety for MSU known for hard hits has shown progress with his hands this spring and early in fall camp.
- Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins made it a point to tell the media Friday that in the first practice Thursday afternoon he had all three of his projected starting linebackers (Benardrick McKinney, Matthew Wells and Deontae Skinner) playing all three positions on the field.
- The music, which had been blaring throughout the first practice and a half was silenced during team drills this morning so coaches could properly yell instructions and corrections to individual players in this workout.
- Southeastern Conference director of officiating Steve Shaw was on the MSU campus today going over the points of emphasis with the entire Bulldogs coaching staff today. The points of emphasis were the same instructions discussed two weeks when Shaw was at SEC media days in Hoover, Ala.
The rest of the Mississippi State roster will practice at 6 p.m. tonight, which will again be open to the public.
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.
5. He Out-Ponzied Ponzi BOOK REVIEWS