August 3, 2013 11:51:21 AM
STARKVILLE - It was the first day of shoulder pads in the fall for the Mississippi State University football team Saturday morning as first and second-string units matched up on the practice field.
It was not tackle to the ground as players weren't in pads below the waist but contact was allowed in the trenches.
The interesting element was the emerging first-string guys especially at receiver that are finding a connection with fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Russell through the first three weeks of practice.
I had a feature in Friday's edition of The Dispatch (http://cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=25988&TRID=1) on that exact topic but the media got a chance to speak to MSU wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales Saturday morning about his philosophy that seems to resemble the Ricky Bobby ideal 'Go fast again'.
"Play fast," Gonzales said of his theme to his receiving group. "If you start making plays then you're going to start making us [coaches] to make you learn at a higher level. Everybody in the room has to go to another level because I think the leading receiver in my room with touchdowns is Robert Johnson with two."
Here's a bullet point of noticeable items gleamed from Saturday's morning's practice session:
- LaDarius Perkins was back with the first-string as the senior obviously doesn't have summer school classes on the weekend. The leading rusher returning from MSU looked solid working with the first-team offensive line and even showed some of what MSU will want to do in the pass game as a receiver in the flat. Perkins and sophomore Derrick Milton led the tailback group at practice.
- With shoulder pads being introduced this morning, it was the first chance to see significant 1-on-1 work between the offensive line and defensive line. MSU offensive line coach John Hevesy was more consistent with his first and second string units this morning except at right tackle where Charles Siddoway rotated with Justin Senior at the position. Junior offensive tackle Damien Robinson continues to be in the injury pit and a spectator for team drills. Hevesy even had projected starter at left tackle Blaine Clausell at right tackle throughout half of the team drills this morning.
- Junior wide receiver Robert Johnson made some great catches on balls thrown by Tyler Russell today as the Hattiesburg native continues to gain confidence under his third position coach since joining the MSU roster.
- Malcolm Johnson went down with what appeared to be cramping late in the practice session but appears to be fine. It's his second visit with the training staff in as many days but when he's on the field continues to lead the youthful tight ends in team drills. P.J. Jones appeared to roll his ankle badly early in the session but continued to play through the painful incident and even continued to be on the first-string defensive line with veteran Kaleb Eulls at defensive tackle.
- No surprise but offensive linemen Dillon Day and Gabe Jackson had very solid days in 1-on-1 drills as the inside duo of the MSU offensive line had pancake blocks on MSU rush ends.
- Dee Arrington had a interception on a tipped ball thrown by Dak Prescott Saturday. While the third-year sophomore has looked understandably rusty in his first action since returning from offseason toe surgery. Taveze Calhoun also had a interception of Prescott this morning.
- Former MSU quarterback Tyson Lee attended practice today. Earlier this spring I wrote a feature on his new position as assistant leader of the FCA chapter at Mississippi State University (http://www.cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=24171&TRID=1&TID=) and I imagine the former star at Columbus High School will be deeply involved in that aspect of the football team.
- Jeremey Chappelle had some nice catches from Russell over the middle and then appeared to cramp up after going high in the air for a pass and being sandwiched by two MSU defenders. His 6-foot-3 frame and leaping ability will be a nice comfort blanket for Russell early in the year if he can get the playbook down.
The rest of the Mississippi State roster will practice at 2:30 p.m. this afternoon, 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.
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