By LEE ADAMS
The Mississippi State Bulldogs began preparation for the 2011 season by holding their first practice of the year on Thursday night.
To knock some of the rust off, MSU head coach Dan Mullen had all of his players getting reps on the field in the first practice.
"We were trying to get guys adjusted to being back out here," said Mullen. "With the older guys it was about getting some recollection and teaching the younger guys what a college football practice is all about."
One of the "older guys" is senior offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry and he was impressed by the intensity level the Bulldogs showed on the first day.
"The intensity level was high," said Saulsberry. "We all had good attitudes tonight and we had a lot of energy."
The high energy level could have easily been lost as a storm rolled into town, moving practice indoors to the Palmiero Center, but as the offense and defense went head-to-head, the energy grew with every play.
Despite the rain, the Bulldogs got everything accomplished they wanted to as they planned breaks to combat the weather.
"We plotted times to come inside," Mullen said. "To break early or to break when we did come in. We got what we needed to do on the big field, and in here (Palmiero Center) so it worked out well."
Position battles are common in practices before the season begins, but the Bulldogs are not focusing on that just yet.
"In the first few days, we try to get everybody as many reps as possible," said Mullen. "Everybody is getting the same reps and equal opportunities."
The position battles will come soon though as the Bulldogs start split practices today and the coaches get closer looks at the players.
However, it's not just head up position battles the Mullen is looking for.
"We want to have the best 11 guys on the field." said Mullen. "If two guys are battling for a position and they are both better than a guy in a another position, we are going to do some tweaking."
Before the Bulldogs took to the practice field on Thursday night, the USA Today Pre-season Coaches Poll was released and had the Bulldogs ranked No. 20. Also in the poll were several of the Bulldogs Southeastern Conference foes, including Alabama, ranked No. 2 and LSU, ranked No. 4. However, the ranking holds little weight with the Bulldogs.
"Everybody is 0-0," said Saulsberry. "It's like we tell the high school guys, you can take all those stars and throw them away, because everybody is 0-0 and they got to put their 11 men on the field against ours."
To get their best 11 men on the field, the Bulldogs will begin split practices today with one group beginning at 9 a.m. and the other at 7 p.m.