Mississippi State will take the preparations to the next level as practice for the 2011-12 season begins.
The Bulldogs have been in conditioning for a while, but now head coach Rick Stansbury gets to have his players in the facility working.Â
"As always, this is a good time of year," said Stansbury. "We get to do what we enjoy doing, coaching and we know where we're at everyday. In March, you don't always know where you're at, because you're on the road traveling."
So far this preseason, Stansbury thinks the attitude of his team has been good, but thinks his players are ready for something different.
"It's been a long summer and fall," said Stansbury. "I think we're ready to change what we've been doing. They're ready to change from conditioning and start practicing and start playing."
The summer was a little longer this year as MSU spent some time in Europe playing against some tough teams and getting to build some chemistry, but it did cause for the players to miss some off time.
"This summer it was a little bit different because we did a little bit more conditioning in July because of the trip in August," said Stansbury. "You don't get that break after summer school, because our kids came back from Europe and went right into class, so it's been a pretty long fall for them and they are ready to change. I think our attitude and work ethic has been good."
During the Europe trip, the Bulldogs won all five of their games and gave the coaches an idea of what they can do with a game plan this season.
"I think we as coaches figured out some things," said Stansbury. "We are ahead in our mindset going into this on some strengths and weaknesses and who does what best. Defensively, at least we were able to do some things in July, play some games, so we are a step ahead than we normally would be at this time of year. The trip helped us and I think it will show once we start practicing."
One player who didn't make the trip to Europe with MSU was Renardo Sidney. Even though Sidney didn't make the trip, Stansbury doesn't feel like it's going to be too hard to work him in with the team.
"We have to fit Sid back in some things because he wasn't with us this summer," said Stansbury. "I don't think it's a major obstacle because he's been around all fall. He's been with them (the team) and he's worked out with them. He's been a good teammate, and I think the team has handled him pretty well."
Sidney being a good teammate could be a shock to some as most fans memory is one of him punching then-teammate Elgin Bailey while sitting in the stands in Hawaii. However, with that behind him and the rest of the team, his biggest challenge will be getting in the shape and that's what Stansbury wants.
Stansberry feels Sidney has made improvements.Â
"His challenge will be like always, it's get that conditioning, defending, rebounding and playing hard," said Stansbury. "He's not perfect but he is better than he was. This is the first conditioning that he's made it through. That doesn't mean he was winning every race, but he made it through it and for him, that's a step in the right direction."
Sidney was suspended until Southeastern Conference play began last season so this year will be a change for him since he is eligible from the word go.
"To get started from day one I think that's helps him a lot mentally," said Stansbury. "He's eligible from day one and this is the first year that has happened. That had to carry over into his conditioning, knowing he's going to be ready and that ready comes pretty quick."
MSU will host Florida Tech on October 29 in an exhibition outing so Sidney doesn't have long to get ready and Stansbury is worried about Sidney getting a couple of things where they need to be.
"I'm not worried about his offense," said Stansbury. "He can score, but we have to continue to get his condition to the level it needs to be and get him to defend and rebound better."
As Sidney enters his senior season, he seems to have grown up a bit which is what Stansbury wants.
"His attitude with his teammates has been better," said Stansbury. "We haven't had any blowups. You can call that maturity, or call it whatever you want to call it, but that's what we want, need and expect from him."
MSU fans will get their first chance to see the new Sidney and the rest of the Bulldogs on Friday night at Maroon Madness. The Bulldogs will have a 20-minute scrimmage after the Lady Bulldogs scrimmage and a regular season volleyball match that begins at 7 p.m.
With a home football game being played on Saturday, there's a chance for a big crowd.
"I hope we have a packed house," said Stansbury.