March 25, 2011 8:53:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- After two weeks away from the practice field, the Mississippi State football players were bound to be rusty.
MSU started spring practice March 3 and had four sessions before taking two weeks off for spring break.
The Bulldogs returned to the field Thursday for a two-hour session in front of fans and dozens of high school coaches who were attending MSU''s coaches'' clinic.
It was the first time MSU football coach Dan Mullen opted to start spring practice that early in the season and have a long gap in the middle.
"I spent a lot of time just reviewing where we are, what we need to improve on, what I liked, and what I didn''t like out here on the field," Mullen said. "We have our high school coaches clinic going on, so there''s all these coaches here, another little distraction for them. We kind of changed our practice routine because of that, so we''ll watch the film. More important is how we come out (today) and Saturday."
While the Bulldogs were limited in the team portion of their drills, they continued to use mass substitutions -- usually every three to four plays -- on both sides of the ball. The idea is to get players working with players on other units and against different defenders.
The effect is most evident at quarterback, where Mullen wants to see each player overcome obstacles he wouldn''t normally face working with the same personnel.
"I''m waiting for someone to show me something even different from what they''ve done," Mullen said. "Chris (Relf) has been real steady. Tyler (Russell) did a real nice job throwing the ball. Dylan (Favre) comes in and makes a lot of plays. On the other side, I want to see Chris make the plays. I want to see Tyler have the demeanor on the field. I want to see Dylan manage -- work on not their strengths, but their weaknesses.
Practice resumes at 4:30 p.m. today. MSU will hold a scrimmage at Saturday''s practice, which begins at noon.
Wilson: Maye to add versatility
Clemson University transfer Brandon Maye feels he''s a comfortable fit at middle linebacker, but MSU coaches are excited about Maye''s experience outside and at defensive end.
Maye, a rising senior who will enroll at MSU this summer, is a former 100-tackle per season defender at Clemson. Part of the reason he decided to transfer was because a position change from inside to outside linebacker.
Breaking in three new starting linebackers, defensive coordinator Chris Wilson lauds Maye''s versatility and what he''ll bring to the scheme in 2011.
"He is athletic and brings us size and speed," Wilson said. "With our concerns at the defensive end positions, he may be that stand-up outside linebacker for us."
Wilson said Maye''s biggest challenge will be learning MSU''s terminology in playing-calling and the concepts of the defense.
But as a three-year starter, Maye brings a wealth of experience, which includes stints in two systems.
"The same power play in junior high is the same power play I ran when I was in the NFL," Wilson said. "It won''t take him long at all."
Old faces stop by
With a lockout between owners and players in the NFL, a handful of MSU''s professional alumni watched some of Thursday''s practice.
St. Louis Rams receiver Brandon McRae, San Francisco running back Anthony Dixon, and New England Patriots defensive tackle Kyle Love joined projected NFL draft picks Derek Sherrod and Chris White on the sidelines.
"It''s great for us to get all the former players and NFL players back out here," Mullen said. "Hopefully it shows a lot about our program that they want to come back and work out here in the offseason."