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Positions up for grabs on Mississippi State football team


Danny P Smith



STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State entered the second week of preseason football practice Monday and none of the players are confident enough to say they have earned a starting position. 


Senior quarterback Tyson Lee, of Columbus, said there''s competition at every position, which is just the way coach Dan Mullen wants it. 


"It''s wide open on offense and defense," Lee said. "Coach continues to stress that. Whoever wants the job, that''s who he is going to give it to." 


After a morning workout in pads which focused on the running game, the Bulldogs practiced in helmets and shoulder pads with a little more pass emphasis Monday afternoon. It was the same format as the first set of two-a-day practices on Saturday. 


MSU plans one practice today in full pads. 


Mullen says competition is the key in practice and believes if the players continue to fight to impress, the team will improve as a whole. 


All of the drills are set up in practice with that in mind. 


"There''s a lot of one-on-one drills, two-on-two drills and high-flying drills with the guys going against each other," Mullen said. "(When) we call it out and say we won that drill, that keeps the competition going. 


"With depth and you make a mistake, we''ll just put somebody else in. That leaves the guys to compete a little bit harder." 




Turning up the heat 


Practices at the intramural fields not only seemed to step up the level of performance for the Bulldogs, but they said the temperatures seemed to be on the rise, too. 


Heat index numbers have been a little higher the past few days, reaching into the triple digits. 


Lee said it''s been "a little different and seems a lot hotter," but thinks the team is getting better. 


Senior linebacker Jamar Chaney agreed with Lee about the heat, but knows there''s a purpose with two-a-days. 


"It''s been tough out there," Chaney said. "We''ve gotten a lot of stuff accomplished. (Being at the intramural fields) has helped us focus on 100 percent football right now." 


Mullen said the location has helped the players push themselves without any outside distractions. The coaches have even put them up in a hotel to make sure the focus remains on football and each other. 


"This one week is all about football," Mullen said. "We''re all on the same floor at the hotel. School starts again next week and we''ll be all about being college students again. That''s why we did it." 




Win for the defense 


Poor ball-handling by the offense was the reason the defense was credited for having the better practice Monday morning. 


Lee said the right plays were called, but the offense just missed in execution and the football hit the ground a couple of times. 


Chaney said the defense did a good job of forcing mistakes, which included a couple of fumbles by senior tailback Anthony Dixon. 


"The offense was struggling a little bit so the defense did alright," Chaney said. "We''ve still got a long way to go." 




Smith out longer 


After originally hoping to get redshirt freshman offensive guard Tobias Smith, of Columbus, back on Monday, Mullen expects it to take a little longer for Smith''s sprained ankle to heal. 


Mullen said the training staff continues to treat the injury aggressively and looks to get Smith back on the practice field in about a week. 


"With something like that, we''re not going to push it to get him back and make it worse," Mullen said. 


In the meantime, Mullen said it''s important for Smith to stay encouraged and prepare mentally for the season. Smith''s injury is just a sprain and not broken like it was last year. 


"He knows it will be a matter of days before he gets back," Mullen said. "It''s not a season-ending injury. Sometimes if you have a season-ending injury, you have a different mindset. Tobias still has to prepare for that first game and get ready to play in a couple of weeks." 


Junior defensive lineman Brandon Cooper was the only other Bulldog to miss practice time with an eye injury. Junior defensive lineman Pernell McPhee returned to practice Monday after suffering a slight concussion last Friday. 


Junior offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, a Caledonia High School graduate, was shaken up a bit Monday, but Mullen and the trainers believe he will be fine. 




Tuberville at practice 


Former Ole Miss and Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville visited MSU''s practice Monday morning. 


Tuberville, who now works for ESPN, was impressed with how practice was run and how the spread offense was coming together under Mullen. 




No news on Sanders 


There was no new updates Monday on whether wide receiver Ricco Sanders, who signed in February, was cleared academically. 


Mullen said last Friday that Sanders would be allowed to practice immediately once the paperwork had been received. 




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