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By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State now has three practices under its belt as they are preparing for the Music City Bowl.
During the practices that are open to the public, fans get to see the stars such as Vick Ballard, Chris Relf and others. However, they have been seeing a heavy dose of the future as the younger players have been taking a lot of reps.
"This gives them an idea of what it (practice) is really like," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "A lot of those guys have not been in the mix and they don't even understand practice all the time. This week gives them an opportunity to understand what spring's going to be like when we're counting on them to make that next step forward."
Now that the younger players have a full season behind them, they understand what is expected of them.
"When they come in they think they know a lot, but as the season goes on they understand they didn't quite know as much as they thought they did," said Mullen. "Now they understand that there is a lot of work and things that have to get done for them to be able to succeed."
One reason the younger guys have been getting a ton of reps is so Mullen and the coaches can figure out how to replace players who will be leaving after the season.
"We're trying to find where young players fit and where they are going to be their best," said Mullen. "It's hard when they're really young because they're trying to figure out what to do, but now they know what they are doing so we'll see where they best fit."
After the bowl practices and game is complete, Mullen hopes to see the experience carry over into spring practices.
"Hopefully this does jump start a lot of the guys that didn't get a ton of reps during the season for the spring," said Mullen. "They are starting to get a lot of reps now and are understanding they are guys who are going to have to take a step forward next season."
With the younger guys getting a lot of reps, it appears several of them are getting better quicker than others, but none of them have caught Mullen's eye too much.
"There's so many of them rolling through there, I don't know if any of them jump out, but I just want to see them constantly improve and us improve as a team," said Mullen.Â
On Monday, the Bulldogs didn't change practice up very much from the first two.
"We did a lot of the same stuff really," said Mullen. "Worked on fundamentals and getting back to a lot of basics and a lot of things we don't have time for during the season while we're in game plans like our base fundamental offense, defense and special teams."
After practice was complete, senior defensive lineman and four-time Southeastern Conference defensive lineman of the week Fletcher Cox was named as a First Team All-American by Pro Football Weekly.