August 9, 2009 12:04:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State opened two-a-day football practices on Saturday with a two-hour session in the morning and a shorter workout in the afternoon.
The Bulldogs have changed locations from the football practice fields to the intramural field where they could be alone.
"We''re in training camp now and it''s a work-oriented location," Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said. "We''re away from the fans and the media. When we got out there, it was just us and the cows. The cows were up on a hill in the next field over. They were out early. We might have to get up and go earlier (today) so we can beat the cows out to work."
Mullen wasn''t exactly sure initially how the change in sites would work out, but said it "actually went smoother than I thought it would."
He gave credit to Coordinator of Football Operations Jody Wright, who organizes the day-to-day operations of the program, for ironing out any issues that may arise.
As the Bulldogs entered the fifth day of drills, Mullen said there were still some areas to clean up, but was pleased with the players'' effort.
"We''ve got a long way to go with execution," Mullen said. "As long as we''re coaching the execution and not coaching the effort, we''re going to continue to get better every single day."
In the afternoon practice, the Bulldogs went out in helmets and shoulder pads only. The focus was more on the passing game.
Smith, Cooper held out
Mullen decided to hold out redshirt freshman offensive guard Tobias Smith, of Columbus, from weekend practices after slightly spraining his ankle on Friday.
Smith is expected to return to practice Monday, but junior defensive lineman Brandon Cooper will be out longer with an eye injury.
"That''s one you don''t want to fool around with," Mullen said. "He''s a guy who''s been around, played football and gives a great effort."
After getting rattled during Friday''s practice, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Trevor Stigers was back at practice Saturday.
Junior defensive lineman Pernell McPhee suffered a slight concussion Friday.
Lineman leaves team
Sophomore offensive lineman Dakota Merritt has lost interest in football and decided to leave the MSU program.
Merritt informed Mullen of his decision and the two mutually agreed to part ways.
"He said he didn''t like football, didn''t want to play anymore and I said go home," Mullen said.
Merritt, a native of Cantonment, Fla., played only one game at Mississippi State and that was against Southeastern Louisiana last season.
Stadium in sight
One of the reasons why Mullen scheduled two-a-day practices for the intramural fields was he wanted to make sure the Bulldogs got a good look at Davis-Wade Stadium as a backdrop.
"It is still a little way away, but you can see our stadium from the practice field and we know what''s waiting for us on Sept. 5," Mullen said. "Hopefully, we''ll have a good sold out crowd and (the fans) will support us the way they have at practice and the spring game. I know the team is getting excited about that first game with Jackson State."
Kickoff for the Jackson State game is set for 2:30 p.m. (ESPNU).
Friday practice spirited
The final practice open to the media and public lasted nearly two hours and the players were in full pads on Friday.
After being dominated by the defense for most of the scrimmage work at the end of the session, Christian Ducre scored from the 1-yard line in a double-or-nothing challenge from Mullen.
"When the offense and defense go against each other at the end of the practice, the intensity must rise," Mullen said. "I think (Thursday and Friday) we did a good job of raising the level of intensity at the end of practice. Not so much on Wednesday. As long as we continue to raise our intensity as practice continues I will be pleased with practice."
Mullen said Friday that he expects all players on campus to be qualified and ready to go.
Wide receiver Ricco Sanders has completed all of his course work and will be cleared to practice once the paperwork has been received.
As far as other February signees, wide receiver Mardrecus Hood, from Pickens County, has enrolled at East Mississippi Community College, while defensive back Darius Slay has joined the Itawamba Community College program. Wide receiver Billy Hamilton signed a professional baseball contract.
Season tickets go out
For fans who have ordered season tickets, they are set to be mailed Monday.
Mississippi State football team spokesman Joe Galbraith said orders should reach their destination sometime within the next week to 10 days.
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