March 29, 2009
Defensive lineman Pernell McPhee has looked like a man among boys the first three days of Mississippi State spring football practice.
McPhee''s 6-4, 270-pound frame was impressive enough without pads, but when the Bulldogs put them on for the first time Saturday, he really had the appearance of a giant.
The former Itawamba Community College player, from Pahokee, Fla., could probably play in the National Football League right now.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is glad to have him on his side, even if it''s only for two seasons.
As a mid-term signee, McPhee is getting the chance to see what he can do in the spring.
"The experience he is getting is invaluable for next year," Mullen said. "He''ll return as a veteran player for us in the fall."
McPhee has been a very active player on the defensive line during drills. He sheds blockers with ease and has a knack of knocking down passes.
That could be an indication of just a poor offensive line, which struggled at times last season.
But McPhee does have some skill. He definitely looks like a player who knows how to get into the offensive backfield and disrupt plays.
McPhee did enough at Itawamba to be listed No. 21 on Super Prep Magazine''s ranking of the top junior college prospects in the country. He achieved back-to-back All-American seasons by recording 33 sacks in two years.
Of course, there is a difference in doing that in junior college and taking it to the Southeastern Conference level.
It will be interesting to see how McPhee and the rest of the Bulldogs progress as spring practice continues.
Mississippi State practiced three times last week and start a four-day schedule this week as Mullen puts in more of his spread offense.
Mullen has made it clear that the option game will be a part of the spread and that came into play at the conclusion of Saturday''s practice. The offense executed a nifty reverse pitch from quarterback Tyson Lee, of Columbus, to Christian Ducre for a touchdown.
The Bulldogs are not going to throw the football all of the time, however. Mullen would like to see it a balanced 50-50 and there are drills to get the running game involved.
The running backs seem to be working just as hard or harder right now as the wide receivers.
Senior tailback Anthony Dixon likes being a part of Mullen''s offense and appears to be having fun on the practice field.
"I just want to play football," Dixon said. "I have to prove myself every day. That''s on the field and in the classroom."
Dixon has good hands and can be used in the passing game. Remember his 101 receiving yards, including a 53-yard reception, against Ole Miss in 2007?
It seems to me that Dixon''s ability to catch passes hasn''t fully been utilized through his first three seasons.
Don''t expect Dixon to necessarily lead MSU in receiving next season, but Mullen will find ways to get him the football.
Danny P. Smith is the assistant sports editor in charge of covering Mississippi State sports for The Commercial Dispatch. To contact him, write firstname.lastname@example.org.
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