STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State football held its first practice of the spring in helmets and shorts Wednesday at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex.
The Bulldogs worked out for just over two hours and will review the practice tomorrow in the film room as a team and by position.
“It was just in helmets today so it was really good to just wake everybody up, get us back on the field a little bit and get everybody moving around,” said head coach Dan Mullen, who begins his eighth season. “There is a transition for me from that offseason mindset where ‘I’m studying football, I’m doing drills on my own,’ and the players are running a practice out there, we’re watching some film, and lifting weights to coming out here and applying it going forward full speed.”
Several new faces made their debuts on the field, including defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon and defensive line coach Brian Baker. Baker, a 19-year NFL coaching veteran who mentored eight Pro Bowlers, makes his return to the college game for the first time since he was the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech in 1995. Baker was a member of the Yellow Jackets’ 1990 national championship staff.
“I’m thrilled to have him on staff,” said Mullen. “He’s got a tremendous amount of experience. People talk about him, the technician that he is, and helping guys develop and all the guys he’s coached in the. We hadn’t [crossed paths before], and I think talking to him it was just an opportunity, and a stage, and what he’d done, he was looking to make a transition to come back to the college game. The timing just worked out great for both of us. He was ready to make that move.”
Mullen also talked about what the Bulldogs will do schematically defensively this spring.
“We’re going to be multiple on defense,” he said. “We were very much like we were last year. I think we’re just installing it. I think we ended up being a little more 4-3 than 3-4. Even though we were multiple in both last year, with some of the new things we wanted to start on that end of it before we’re going to be playing at both fronts.”
Offensively, MSU must replace the program’s greatest signal caller in Dak Prescott, who heads to the NFL. Mullen said he will give equal reps this spring to junior Damian Williams, sophomore Nick Fitzgerald, redshirt freshman Nick Tiano and sophomore Elijah Staley.
“It’s absolutely wide-open today,” Mullen said. “Everyone is going to get reps with one’s, two’s and three’s. Day one, it’s a lot of new faces and it’s hard to see what they’re going to do, but I thought all of them felt pretty comfortable out there on the field. You look at Damian and Fitzgerald, they maybe have a little more experience, maybe are a little more comfortable when the team situation comes around and making adjustments. Elijah and Nick Tiano, you see the talent those guys have.”
Mullen said senior wide receiver Fred Ross, who led the Southeastern Conference in receptions per game a year ago and broke the school single-season record for catches, will miss the spring after having surgery earlier today.
“Fred had a surgery today on a groin issue that’s just kind of been nagging him throughout his career and he’s going to be out for the spring,” Mullen said. “We had a bunch of meetings on it and just thought it was better, where he’s at, to go get that done right now so he’s back ready to rock-and-roll going full time. And so he knows what he’s doing. I don’t need him out here. We need him come the fall time.”
The Bulldogs take off for spring break next week before returning to practice on Tuesday, March 22. The remainder of MSU’s outdoor practices are open to the public.
Draft eligible Bulldogs get their shot to perform in front of NFL scouts and coaches on Thursday at MSU Pro Day. The event will be televised live on SEC Network from 9-11:30 a.m. CT. Live streaming video is also available through WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app. Pro Day is closed to the public.
Follow coverage of Thursday’s Pro Day on social media via Twitter at @HailStateFB, like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/HailStateFB and join the squad on Instagram at Instagram.com/HailStateFB.