March 20, 2013 1:12:22 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University strength coach Matt Balis expects a much less dramatic spring session for wide receiver Michael Carr than in his first tour of duty with the football program.
Carr, who is now a walk-on with MSU, has shown more signs to Balis and the strength staff of being physically fit since walking away from his spot on the team for the 2012 season.
"You know what, he's always been a good worker," Balis said in his spring preseason media session Tuesday. "I think he's in better shape because he's been more consistent with his workouts."
Carr has been participating with MSU players in the offseason weight training program since re- enrolling at Mississippi State in the spring semester.
MSU football coach Dan Mullen confirmed in January he had conversations with Carr about returning to the Bulldogs football program and the former star at West Point High School is expected to be on the field when spring practices begin Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
The school announced on March 21, 2012 Carr had decided to no longer be a member of the MSU football program citing a lack of overall devotion to the game.
"He just doesn't really want to play football any more," Mullen said to the media two days before the 2012 spring practices were to begin.
In the first media conference following the 34-20 loss to Northwestern University in the 2013 Gator Bowl on New Year's Day, the Bulldogs head coach began to sound somewhat positive about Carr's return to the team but not as a one of the 85 scholarship players.
"He's come to meet with me about it," Mullen said on Jan. 11 from the Leo Seal Family Football Complex. "Michael, obviously, left under some tough issues. It wasn't an issue in what he'd done wrong within the program, and it wasn't an issue in his dislike of the program, it was just some personal things he had to get figured out in his life."
Carr was not listed on the 2012 spring roster for the first time since signing with the Bulldogs in Feb. 2010 but nearly missing the first day of fall camp due to NCAA eligibility issues.
It was his inability to get cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center that led to his first fall practice at MSU being eventful in a negative way for the 6-foot receiver. On the August practice over two and a half years ago, Carr fell out of drills and needed to be helped off the field because of dehydration and fatigue.
After what he's seen the last few months in workouts, Balis said Tuesday he doesn't expect Carr to experience any physical limitations as he reenters the MSU program with two years of eligibility left.
"Where you've seen him really improve is the consistency in his conditioning now," Balis said. "I think he's going to have a really good spring."
Carr, The Dispatch's 2009 Large Schools Offensive Player of the Year and 2009-10 Athlete of the Year, was a former four-star prospect according to Rivals.com and caught four passes for 74 yards as a freshman in the 2010 season saving his best performance as a three-catch, 65-yard effort in a 52-14 victory against the University of Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl.
"We've opened the door for him, if he gets those things figured out, to take care of certain business and make sure he's on the personal right track to come and play for us in the future," Mullen said on Jan. 11.
With three senior starters graduating from the receiver position at MSU, Carr will be given an opportunity as a preferred walk-on to not only see playing time but make an impact among a youthful group of pass catchers this spring.
"That's partly why you probably had such an increase in those young guys' work ethic and attacking it," Balis said Tuesday. It's because of their foresight into 'OK, this is my chance to get on the field, this is an opportunity for me'. I think they understand the expectations of our program better now, they've been with us longer. That's maturity as a football player."
as well as well as maturity as a young man."