August 17, 2011 8:48:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- If there''s a position concern for the Mississippi State football team entering the season it''s tight end.
Last season, MSU coach Dan Mullen would admit the Bulldogs didn''t have a reliable dual-threat player at that spot after Marcus Green suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury to his knee.
This fall Green, who is entering his final season in Starkville, isn''t proclaiming himself perfectly healthy, but he said he is ready to reclaim his role as a versatile weapon in the offense.
"Because it''s training camp, I''m probably not 100 percent," Green said. "I''ll be at 100 when the first game starts."
The problem is MSU again will have inexperienced depth at tight end when it plays its season opener 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at the University of Memphis (Fox Sports Net).
Green has caught 31 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games at MSU. The rest of the players on the depth chart have zero catches.
MSU announced before fall preseason camp started that senior Kendric Cook''s neck injury would force him to end his football career and to become a student assistant.
"You have Marcus, two redshirt freshmen (Brandon Hill and Malcolm Johnson), and a true freshman (Rufus Warren)," Mullen said. "It''s hard to go all in and build that whole package when you''re an injury away from being away from that package."
That''s where it helps to have Green, who can tutor the trio behind him on the depth chart.
"I need to show them how to work, how to grind," Green said. "I''m just all about the team."
Hill, who is projected as the backup for Green, was a four-star recruit out of West Lowndes High School. He had 23 catches for 269 yards and two touchdowns as a senior.
The last time MSU has had an All-Southeastern Conference selection at tight end was 16 years ago, when Kendell Watkins was a second-team selection by the league coaches.
Smoot spoke to Bulldogs on Sunday
Former MSU cornerback Fred Smoot spoke to the team Sunday before the end of preseason practices.
Mullen emphasized Monday that the former All-SEC performer and second-round NFL draft pick talked about his experience on the Starkville campus from 1999-2000.
"We had a little Bulldog experience day, a lot of different speakers come in and cover a lot of different things," Mullen said. "We brought Fred in to wrap it up at the end and he did a fabulous job."
Smoot, who also spoke to MSU recruits in July at the conclusion of the 2011 Big Dawg Camp at Davis Wade Stadium, is still tied for fifth all-time in the school history with 10 interceptions.
"His message is awesome. You can see why he was All-SEC, All-America, all-pro," Mullen said. "His big point is he remembers the one time a receiver caught a pass on him in one-on-one drills. In two years he gave up one completion in practice, he remembers that one. You''d better compete at that level if you want to be successful every single snap of your career."
Smoot had 444 tackles in his eight-year NFL career that included stops with the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings.
Memphis still has debate at quarterback
Memphis coach Larry Porter isn''t being coy about his team''s decision on a starting quarterback.
If the second-year football coach knew who it was, he''d be happy to everybody.
"We''ve got a little more work to do before I''m ready to announce anyone," Porter said.
The battle for playing time includes four players who haven''t taken a snap in a college football game for the Tigers. Andy Summerlin and Will Gilchrist have experience, while freshman Taylor Reed has received snaps in practice with Wake Forest transfer Skylar Jones.
"It is time to truly start molding this team," Porter said. "We have spent nine days together. We have seen some good things and we have seen some not so good things, but, overall, I have been pleased with the progress."
After a scrimmage last weekend, Porter hinted he would narrow the candidates to two for the season opener Sept. 1 against MSU in the Liberty Bowl. He said Summerlin and Gilchrist were the likely candidates.
"Overall, (the quarterback play) was about average,'''' Porter said. "We''ve got to have more (consistency) to be productive in the way we want to be productive."
Summerlin ended spring practice atop the depth chart, and entered fall camp leading the race.
"None of the other guys have beat (Summerlin) out," Porter said. "His strongest days have been the past three or four days. I''m looking for is consistency at a high level. I haven''t quite seen that."
Like Mullen this week, Porter wasn''t pleased with his players'' energy Monday at a morning practice and was worried most about the quarterbacks.
"I didn''t think we had enough intensity to surge us through practice and execute at a level we needed to," Porter said. "Mentally, we have to be prepared to take the field every day we practice. There are no excuses, and they have to understand that."
Former MSU tight end Kelly signs with Atlanta
Reggie Kelly announced Tuesday he has found a job in professional football on his Twitter page.
The former MSU tight end who was drafted in the second round of the 1999 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons, will return to the Falcons for the 2011 season.
"How bout dem(sp) Falcons," Kelly tweeted.
Kelly played in Atlanta for four seasons before signing with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2003 to last season. Last year, he started 14 of 16 games for the Bengals.
Kelly, a four-time letterwinner from 1995-98, made 22 starts at MSU. He had 10 catches for 42 yards last season with Cincinnati.
1. Southern Mississippi beats MSU in Pearl COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Mississippi players help MSU grow softball in state COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Tight ends could play bigger role for Mullen's Bulldogs COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Energized Bulldogs push on to Sweet 16 LOCAL COLUMNS
5. New Hope loses to Oxford in region opener HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS