March 19, 2014 4:53:10 AM
STARKVILLE - Dan Mullen had nearly forgotten the numbers crunch he and his staff were going through last spring because of injuries and offseason surgeries limiting the depth in 2013.
"Who did we even have out there (at quarterback) last year besides Tyler Russell?," Mullen asked Tuesday.
And with that question to the group of reporters that met with him after the first spring practice of the 2014 season, Mullen answered for himself the only scholarship option behind center last spring. Senior Tyler Russell and a pair of walk-on options were all Mullen had to run the offense through the month last spring. Graduate assistant coaches were forced to throw passes to wide receivers in drills to limit the amount of throws for Russell in the allowed 15 workouts in 2013.
"Yeah, so it's good to have a couple guys out there," Mullen said with a grin and laugh.
When Mullen and the Bulldogs ran onto the practice field Tuesday evening, they had three scholarship quarterbacks, led by junior Dak Prescott.
"We're installing pretty quickly," Mullen said about the offensive scheme Tuesday. "I guess what you go home and feel better about is that guys know what's going on out there on the field and there's not that much confusion."
The first installation practice will be followed by another one at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday before the first workout in pads at 3:15 p.m. Friday. Both practices are open to the public at the Seal Complex.
"I like the excitement and the energy our guys have," said Mullen, who begins his sixth season with the program. "They're excited to be out there and play some football. We threw a lot out there to guys on both sides of the ball. The older guys picked up where we left off and the younger guys are trying to figure out what is going on because it all happens kind of fast for them. But, overall it has been pretty good."
Here's a detailed notebook from the observations gained by The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog coming out of the Bulldogs' first spring workout in 2014:
- With the lack of linebacker depth, MSU had senior Christian Holmes back on defense in his normal linebacker duties for this practice. The 2014 spring roster, which had Holmes listed at tight end because that's what he played mostly in 2013, had just six scholarship linebackers and so, Holmes' conversion to defense makes 7 options for MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins in his linebacker group.
"Christian is a good program guy, he has a role on the team and he knows his role," Mullen said. "He was top 40 in reps on the team last year, now most of them are special teams, but when you look at total number of snaps played he played a lot of snaps last year. When guys look back sometimes and they look at things and realize 'you know what I do have significant role, I'm playing a lot of plays.' Everybody wants to be a starting All-American, but when you have a great team everyone understands their role and does their job to the best of their ability. That's when you have a great opportunity to have a great team."
- The injury pit had only two members in it Tuesday: Defensive tackle PJ Jones and defensive lineman Kaleb Eulls. In a encouraging sign, Jones carried his walking boot to the injury pit and seemed to walk without a limp while it was off his left foot.
- Three players coming off of season-ending injuries were participating in both team and individual exercises Tuesday as defensive back Jay Hughes, offensive guard Justin Malone and linebacker Ferlando Bohanna were in action. Bohanna was a surprise after Mullen speculated his career might be over due to concussions that kept him out of the 2013 season.
"We are going to protect him," Mullen said. "We went out in pads today, and we will see how he adjusts and how he feels. He is a guy that has had a couple of concussions and didn't get over it the right way. He missed all of last season, but hopefully it is something that he can come back from and actually play for his senior year."
- Gabe Myles, the former Starkville High star, was back with the wide receivers after spending some time there sparingly during bowl preparations. Myles was also fourth in line for punt return duty behind Jameon Lewis, Will Redmond and Cedric Jiles.
- The first-team defensive line unit, led by position coach David Turner, went as follows from left to right: Preston Smith, Chris Jones, Nelson Adams and Ryan Brown. This means Jones, who is coming off a spectacular freshman season where he tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 7, was back at defensive tackle but that might just be because again, Eulls and PJ Jones were in the injury pit.
The second-team defensive line unit was: Trent Simpson, Jordan Washington, Nick James, Jordan Harris
- In his first MSU practice since being hired as quarterbacks coach, Brian Johnson spent most of his time with his position group going over ball control drills similar to what you'd see on a basketball court. Quarterbacks were seen doing essentially Pete Maravich drills with a football to promote a culture of getting used to not ever dropping the football.
"Brian does a good job," Mullen said. "He understands the game and is a very smart coach. He's played the position and has played in big games and has made things happen. He was always a very fundamentally sound guy and always had to use his fundamentals to have a lot of success."
- Offensive line drills were a little hard to tell anything relevant without pads on but here was the first-team unit from left to right: Blaine Clausell, Jamaal Clayborn, Dillon Day, Ben Beckwith, Damien Robinson. MSU offensive line coach John Hevesy said after the practice that only Clausell and Day had assured themselves of a starting spot for 2014 while everybody else was "searching for a job". I honestly missed Malone's presence for most of the practice but was told later he was going through drills and was on the field goal unit line.
"I told them unless you're a starter and to me, that's Blaine and Dillon that have solidified a job, then there's a bunch of guys running around being told to go find a job," Hevesy said. "It might be at tackle or guard or whatever. We need to go find the next Gabe Jackson. I'll let you know who the front runner for those spots are in about 15 practices and then in September, you'll see it on the jumbotron."
- Starkville High star defensive tackle Maleke Bell was watching MSU practice Tuesday as he'll enter his junior year of high school for one of the Class 6A favorite programs in 2014.
- The first-team wide receiver unit in team drills were as follows: Jameon Lewis, Robert Johnson and De'Runnya Wilson. Second-team unit was: Joe Morrow, Fred Brown and Jeremy Chapelle but they also had Brandon Holloway when they wanted a slot receiver instead of a tight end.
- Former East Mississippi Community College and West Point High School star Justin Cox was back at safety Tuesday during team drills after working at cornerback for most of the 2013 season and during bowl preparations.
- Prescott, who Mullen said wasn't 100 percent healthy for this spring season, showed some early leadership when a snap was sent back too early. The junior quarterback looked around, tapped his helmet and screamed "no, no, no - let's do it over again' before the play could get started. Prescott looked at his interior line and yelled "think, think think!"
- Mullen said junior defensive back Dee Arrington was missing from Tuesday's workout because of "a medical issue" and said he "wasn't sure" if he would be available for the 2014 season. Arrington had 10 total tackles and a forced fumble last year but was bothered by a severe hamstring injury throughout the 2013 campaign.
- After missing the first part of the workout, Josh Robinson was put into the first-team unit during team drills Tuesday. The junior had 5.9 yards per carry and will look to win the starting tailback job as LaDarius Perkins is lost to graduation.
"It's huge," Mullen said. "The confidence of being an every-down guy and knowing how to do all of the little things the right way, when it comes to pass protection, routes, and so on. We know he can run the ball pretty well, but doing all of the other little things are really important."
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.
4. Out and About for the week of March 1, 2015 ENTERTAINMENT
5. A Stone's Throw: The veil COLUMNS