Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was accurate in describing conditions for the Bulldogs first preseason football practice.
“It was hot out here today,” Mullen said.
Under excessive heat warnings throughout the Starkville area Tuesday, Mississippi State went through a pair of two-hour split-squad workouts that introduced 28 freshmen to the rigors of football practices in the Southeastern Conference.
“I thought there was pretty good energy throughout the practice,” the Bulldogs second-year head coach said. “You could see guys wearing down near the end, which is expected in this heat.”
Mullen, dressed in a long sleeve pull-over jacket, made it clear that the 100-degree heat was going to have to be a constant undertaking for the 105-player roster this preseason.
“All of them are going to struggle, it's their first day (and) we threw a lot at them up here,” Mullen said. “The goal at practice with them is learn how to practice from the older guys. That’s why we bring them out here with the older guys is so they can learn the tempo.”
The second workout of the day was interrupted by weather and a lightning alarm that moved the remaining of the practice time under the air-conditioned room of the Palmeiro Center.
“That was an answered prayer to come in and work in the cool air conditioning,” sophomore linebacker Cameron Lawrence said. “I honestly think we performed better not being so fatigued with the heat.”
Lawrence and sophomore defensive back Louis Watson both had the highlights of the afternoon session with interceptions returned for touchdowns during the 7-on-7 drills. Lawrence is competing with, among others, Emmanuel Gatling for that final starting spot at linebacker after being moved from safety this spring.
“The coaches are using me more as a hybrid type player right now but I finally feel comfortable as a linebacker,” Lawrence said. “My body type has really changed since I first got here and put on 25 pounds to make the transition.”
A scattering of Bulldogs fans got its first look at freshman quarterback Dylan Favre as the 2009 Mr. Football Selection in the state of Mississippi worked as the backup signal caller during the morning session behind junior Chris Relf.
Mississippi State split up the four players vying to make up for the playing time and production loss from the school’s all-time leading rusher Anthony Dixon. Junior Robert Elliot and junior college transfer Vick Ballard were showcased during the morning and the pair of redshirt freshmen Montrell Conner and LaDarius Perkins were part of the afternoon session.
“We’re all different backs in one way or another but I feel like it’s our job help the younger guys,” Elliot said.
West Point standout Michael Carr was under temporary status Tuesday and will continue to be under that category so the all-star recruit can practice with the team while his NCAA paperwork is under review. Under NCAA rules, Carr, a scholarship player, is allowed 14 days of preseason practice before the season starts before he’s cleared by NCAA officials.
Carr’s first 10 minutes of practice didn’t start well as he was the only player in the morning session to appear fatigued and even Mullen went to check on his three-star recruit.
“I told him not to worry,” Mullen said. “He hasn’t gotten to go through the conditioning the rest of the team has. Physically we've got to be a little more careful with him out there on the field.”
As expected, Carr was given jersey number 86 and therefore participated in all receiver drills throughout the morning suggesting he will line up as an outside weapon in the Bulldogs spread-option offense in 2010.
MSU will not return to the practice field until Thursday evening with a full-team workout scheduled to start at 6 p.m.