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2013 Liberty Bowl practice report #2 - Individual skill sets reinforced with younger players




Matt Stevens


STARKVILLE -- The open practice Monday was defined by certain individual skills being addressed in each team drill during each position group.  


The Mississippi State coaching staff got another look at the younger and inexperienced members of the roster in a two-hour workout Monday afternoon in much warmer weather than Sunday evening. MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning got another day to work with 18-year-old quarterback Nick Fitzgerald as the former Georgia prospect continues to try and learn the offensive playbook on the fly just a week after taking his high school final exams.  


"It's kind of a whirlwind for him that's for sure," Koenning said of Fitzgerald's last week. "If you watch us right now, I'll turn and give Dak a play and then tell him to go coach Nick up on it." 




Here's some of the other items that were noticeable in practice up during the open practice Monday: 




- Both freshman Damian Williams and early enrollee Damian Williams took a majority of the reps today at quarterback as Koenning wanted to see them against scout team defenses in team setting drills. Koenning was working with both quarterbacks extensively Monday on trying to look off the deep safety before they threw a post route to the corner.  


"We knew a lot about Nick from camp and we're really excited to have him because he's got a lot of ability," Koenning said. "It's remarkable how well he's picking up (the offense)." 




- In 7-on-7 settings, MSU is still trying to use a lot of two-back systems pairing senior LaDarius Perkins and sophomore Josh Robinson with freshman Ashton Shumpert. Shumpert, who received just 39 carries in nine games this season, looks trimmer and a more explosive first step than he showed earlier in the season.  




- MSU offensive line coach John Hevesy worked with all the offensive lineman Monday on a initial punch needed within the first second after the snap of the ball. Hevesy had former four-star offensive lineman prospect Jake Thomas working with starting left tackle Blaine Clausell in the same position group. The former all-state selection out of Columbus High School was progressing nicely in one-on-one work but Hevesy still wants him to stop lunging forward at the end of the engaged block. The MSU defensive lineman were winning a lot of the one-on-one drills in practice due to MSU offensive lineman focusing on the footwork that MSU assistant David Turner has pressed on them to master.  




- Even with the lack of depth at tight end without the services of Brandon Hill, who is out for the season with a injury, the sliding of BJ Hammond to tight end has allowed Christian Holmes to moved primarily back to linebacker for this bowl preparation.  




- At the end of the scrimmage, MSU players wanted to negotiate a double-or-nothing deal on running wind sprints based on MSU kicker Evan Sobiesk being able to connect on a 40-yard field goal. Sobiesk did barely get the kick through and then was lifted up on his teammates shoulders in jubilation to end the two-hour practice. 




- MSU will conduct a informal scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium Tuesday morning that will consist of mostly the younger and inexperienced players on the roster that is open to the public starting at 10 a.m.  




All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.



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