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Football Reports, First Practice Set For Thursday

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MSU players, including Taveze Calhoun (above), met with members of the media on camp reporting day.
Photo Courtesy of hailstate.com

STARKVILLE, Miss. – After an offseason filled with excitement and expectations, Mississippi State football will hit the practice field for the first time this preseason camp at 4:45 p.m. CT Thursday at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex.

Thursday’s practice is the first of 29 workouts permitted under NCAA rules prior to the August 30 season-opener against Southern Miss. All practices and scrimmages during camp are closed to the public.

Sixth-year head coach Dan Mullen welcomed 105 players to camp on Wednesday. The majority of the roster spent the summer in Starkville attending classes and going through a rigorous offseason strength and conditioning program under new coach Rick Court, who came to MSU from Ohio State.

The Bulldogs spent Wednesday going through academic and compliance orientation. Freshmen and newcomers were fitted for new equipment. The afternoon included positional meetings, which will also occupy most of Thursday morning.

Of the 105 players who reported, 47 of those are on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins’ squad returns nine starters, which is tied for most in the Southeastern Conference with Georgia. Fifteen defensive players started at least one game last season.

“I feel really good,” said junior cornerback Taveze Calhoun. “It’s just the beginning of camp and we have a lot to work on. We need to get our chemistry down, but I feel good with the players we have. I feel like we’ve got a lot of talent. We could have a special year if we go to work every day and get our chemistry together.”

Follow live updates from MSU’s first practice on Thursday via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (click the links). A video recap and video interviews will be available on www.HailState.com. Below are player quotes from Wednesday’s reporting day media session:

15 – Dak Prescott – Jr. – QB

On coming to camp as the starting quarterback …

“I know where I came from. I know who I am and what I’ve got to do to get better, and that’s really all I’m worried about at this camp.”

On the unofficial team practices this summer …

“It helped a lot. It has been tremendous just to see all of the guys come out and have the great attitude. They’ve had to get better on their own individually and then go into group sessions and team sessions.

“Everybody gave full energy like if all the coaches were out there. Everybody is worried about getting better and being accountable.”

On Damian Williams helping tutor the other quarterbacks …

“It’s big. Damian [Williams] is a smart guy, and he knows what he’s doing. During those team sessions we ran out there, he was out there speaking up, coaching younger quarterbacks and receivers, helping me with little things and telling me if I’m doing anything wrong. We’re just making each other better, and Damian is a great quarterback.”

On the experience of the wide receivers …

“They’re great. We have a bunch of different guys who can do a lot of different things with speed, size, getting open and just getting the ball in their hands quickly and letting them do things. We have a bunch of talent and we’re excited for them.”

On the no-huddle offense …

“I actually like it. In high school, we never huddled up at all. It’s kind of going back to day one and my roots. I’m excited for it. I think it will be fun getting the guys going.

“I’m energetic anyway so going fast, non-stop, getting the guys on the line and getting another play as quick as we can I think will be fun and a good change.”

96 –Chris Jones – So. – DL

On this summer’s difference from last …

“I feel like I’m on a more serious note now. Last year was a learning year for me. My expectations are so much higher than last year because last year I didn’t really expect to play as much as I did. This year my expectations are so high. I have to be serious about everything. I can’t just have fun and play; now I have to be serious and critical of my mistakes.”

On working towards being a starter …  

“My biggest thing is going out there and making plays. It doesn’t matter if I’m a backup or starter.”

On working and competing with older players …

Kaleb Eulls and Preston Smith are great leaders. I look up to those guys and learn a lot from them, but I let them know I’m going to compete and try to take their spots. It’s a work day every day. By competing like this, it’s going to get us better.”

On the defense working to obtain more sacks this season …

“We have to pass-rush and look at film a lot more. Last year we didn’t have a great year sacking quarterbacks. This year we have to be more critical of that. Last year was more of clogging gaps and letting Benardrick [McKinney] make plays. We’ve got to get to it [quarterbacks].”

On winning this year …

“I feel like talent isn’t an issue here. We have key talent. The issue is staying healthy. If everyone is healthy, I feel like the sky is the limit for us.”

23 – Taveze Calhoun – Jr. – DB

On the defensive backfield …

“I feel really good. It’s just the beginning of camp and we have a lot to work on. We need to get our chemistry down, but I feel good with the players we have. I feel like we’ve got a lot of talent. I feel we could have a special year if we go to work every day and get our chemistry together.”

On becoming a playmaker on defense …

“I take responsibility for being a playmaker, but I also think everybody does because the most important thing on defense is emphasizing getting the ball. I think everybody is in a playmaker role. It’s not just me, but I do take responsibility making plays.”

On this year’s biggest difference from last …

“I think we learned a lot last year just getting out there and getting experience. I think a lot of people didn’t know about us, but I always felt like we had talent. We have to continue to get better and better every day.”

On coach Deshea Townsend

“We’re not in the learning stage with him anymore. We know what to expect from him, and he knows what to expect from us. A lot of it is about getting better every day, not just teaching all the details of drills. We’re kind of beyond that stage.”

66 – Ben Beckwith – Sr. – OL

On the offensive line …

“We have a really good group. We’re kind of an underrated group. We have a lot of seniors … every position is a battle. You want competition. It breeds excellence. We look really good.

“All we care about is protecting Dak [Prescott], protecting our running backs, scoring points and getting on the ball as fast as possible. That’s our deal this year. Our conditioning this offseason was built around doing that and being ready to go - snapping the ball every 30 seconds and as fast as possible. I’m really happy with it. We’ve got a bunch of leaders up front, and it should be a great year for us.”

On Jamaal Clayborn replacing Gabe Jackson

“Jamaal [Clayborn] is a really good player. Of course he is young and has the youth factor to him, but he’s going to come in and we expect him to play. We expect him to step in and not miss a beat.

 “They’re hard shoes to fill, but you can’t look at it as replacing Gabe [Jackson]. You have to look at it as your being Jamaal and that’s your spot now.”

On young players competing on the offensive line …

“It’s competition. We were sitting in the meeting room the other day going over stuff, and we all agreed that we love each other, but when it comes to fall camp we’re trying to earn a spot. You came here to play, not to be behind somebody. Everybody is trying to take somebody’s spot.” 


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