April 6, 2019 11:27:42 PM
By BEN PORTNOY
It's all coming together.
For a defense that lost as many key components as Mississippi State did this offseason, head coach Joe Moorhead and his staff were tasked with quite the rebuild. But in Saturday's scrimmage at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex, the unit was staunch and sturdy.
"We taking over!" shouted junior cornerback Cameron Dantzler after breaking up a pass in the corner of the end zone during goal line defense simulations.
While the offense focused primarily on the passing game throughout the session, the defensive line was stout.
Running backs senior Nick Gibson and juniors Kylin Hill and Alec Murphy combined for 36 yards on nine carries -- 15 of which came from a Murphy touchdown run.
In the secondary, senior Brian Cole flashed his versatility as a blitzer. The one-time Michigan man finished the day with a sack, two tackles for a loss, and two quarterback hurries.
He was one of just six players to finish with two or more tackles.
Here are a few other takeaways from Saturday's session:
Redshirt freshman Cameron Gardner has the size. At six-foot-four and 215 pounds, he possesses the physical traits to be a dominant receiver in the Southeastern Conference. And for a team that desperately needs receiver help, he'll need to grow up quickly.
Gardner, who helped Starkville High School to the 2017 Mississippi High School Activities Association 6A Championship, was solid in Saturday's scrimmage, notching two catches for 22 yards.
On one of the first plays of the day, Gardner sliced through the middle of the defense, finding a soft pocket against zone coverage.
Freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader then delivered a strike to the aptly positioned receiver for a 13-yard gain that drew plenty of antagonizing shouts from the offensive sideline.
Senior Stephen Guidry and junior Osirus Mitchell should lead the charge for the MSU receiving corps, but with a dismally shallow group Gardner figures to factor into the rotation.
QB PLAY: After redshirt freshman Jalen Mayden wowed onlookers with a 12-for-15, 135-yard performance in the opening scrimmage of the spring last week, he was conspicuously quiet Saturday.
He finished just 1-for-1 for 8 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't for lack of reps -- he finished with three rushes for 15 yards.
Of those three attempts, only one -- a run/pass option to the right side of the field -- was designed. The other scampers can be attributed to solid coverage and an inability for his receivers to get open.
Thompson was again mediocre with a 7-for-16, 69-yard day. He missed on a few passes to the sidelines and led receivers high as the route trees moved further down the field.
That said, Moorhead has believes he's seen steady improvement in Thompson.
"I think we're seeing small, positive gains by him on a daily basis," he said. "I'm most impressed with his improved decision-making and accuracy, thus far. I think that comes with confidence of year two in the offense and quite frankly, how we're protecting."
DAWG NOTES: Moorhead announced Saturday that sophomore linebacker Tyler Dunning has entered the transfer portal.
The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native was listed as a three-star prospect by Scout.com, ESPN.com and 247Sports.com coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
"Wanted an opportunity to get closer back to home in Florida," Moorhead said. "We're going to support him and try to help him get to somewhere that he feels comfortable finishing out his career."
Fabien Lovett was a limited participant Saturday. He was seen doing work on a stationary bike during the scrimmage. He's slated to return to practice Tuesday.
Next up for the Bulldogs is the April 13 Maroon and White Spring Game as part of Super Bulldog Weekend. The event will begin at 1 p.m.