April 3, 2009
STARKVILLE -- Leon Berry experienced success as a wide receiver at East Mississippi Community College by reaching the second round of the junior college playoffs last season.
He hopes that success rubs off on Mississippi State.
"We''re going to try and turn this program around," Berry said.
Berry, one of the Bulldogs'' mid-term signees, is adjusting slowly to Division I-A football after being an All-American in junior college.
"EMCC prepared me for this and we worked hard there, but this is the SEC and it''s a lot harder," Berry said. "We train harder and lift weights harder. This is a big move."
In his final season at EMCC, Berry caught 59 passes for 1,003 yards and nine touchdowns for coach Buddy Stephens. He also returned 43 kickoffs for 1,126 yards.
Berry has been a welcome addition for MSU coach Dan Mullen, especially with all of the injury problems at wide receiver.
"He''s doing a good job," Mullen said. "We''ve had to move him around to a couple of different positions with all the injuries we''ve had, and that''s kind of frustrating, but Leon is working hard and trying to do things the right way. We need it to eventually sink in for him."
Toward the end of Thursday''s practice session, which had to be moved inside the Palmeiro Center because of a thunderstorm, Berry took a shot while trying to catch a pass over the middle.
He was slow to get up, but made his way back to the offensive huddle.
"They switched my position on me," Berry said. "I was supposed to run an out and they hitched up on me because the linebacker dropped. I kept going, but it was my fault."
More than 250 high school coaches watched the Bulldogs'' fifth spring practice session. The coaches were on campus for a clinic.
n Running back Arnil Stallworth tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and is scheduled for surgery next week.
"He is a dedicated and hard-working person," Mullen said. "We talked with the trainers and strength coach. (After surgery) hopefully we''ll have him back by the last week of August or first of September for the season."
Quarterback Chris Relf pulled up lame after a couple of plays in team drills, but Mullen said it appeared to be only a cramp in his hamstring.
"He said he didn''t feel anything pop, but was just tightening and cramping a little bit," Mullen said.
n MSU team spokesman Joe Galbraith confirmed former starting defensive back Anthony Johnson was no longer a part of the program.
Johnson was suspended indefinitely last year after being involved in a gun incident on March 27, 2008, and he withdrew from school at that time. He was academically ineligible for the 2008 season, but returned to classes in the spring even though he remained suspended.
When asked about the situation, Mullen sounded like a coach who would like to have Johnson as a part of the team.
"He has some different opportunities," Mullen said. "He''s still in school. He''s working and trying to earn his way back."
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