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March 31, 2011The Mississippi State defensive players had already left the field, showered, changed and headed to the parking lot to their cars on Thursday afternoon leaving their offensive counterparts out on the practice fields running plays in the drizzling rain.
It was that kind of day for the Bulldogs offense.
The offense was plagued all afternoon by countless poor execution by the offensive line.
"It was just sloppy, really sloppy," said State head coach Dan Mullen. "The receivers made some nice plays and the quarterbacks made some good throws but the offensive line was just really, really bad. We've got a long way to go with the offensive line right now but it's a really young crew. John (Hevesy) will get them figured out and going in the right direction."
The main issue with the offensive line centered around the center. With Quentin Saulsberry filling in at guard for the injured Gabe Jackson, Dillon Day moved up to first team center but struggled all afternoon with high shotgun snaps.
"It was just some inconsistencies," Mullen said. "That's a lack of mental toughness. That's easy. You can get that fixed tonight. You can take a ball home and sit in your dorm and snap a ball 10,000 times and I'd imagine be pretty good tomorrow. That's got to be a commitment level from our offensive line and our center."
The good news is that Jackson will not have any long term damage from an injury suffered during Tuesday's practice. Jackson left the scrimmage portion of practice after getting his leg rolled up by Corey Broomfield but was ruled as only a sprain. He was held out of practice on Thursday.
"That's a guy that's played a bunch of football," Mullen said. "Yeah, we need him back to keep the consistency going but we don't need to rush him back for reps. There are other guys who need reps more than he does."
Another player that was held out as a precaution was rising senior tight end Kendric Cook due to a spinal nerve condition.
"Right now we are just waiting to hear," Mullen said. "They are doing some more tests on it and it's really just precautionary with a spinal deal. He's fine and he wants to play but they are just doing some more precautionary tests before they allow him contact."
The defense had a solid afternoon with several big plays by safety Dennis Thames along with linebackers Chris Hughes and Deontae Skinner.
"They were excited and running around, coming from everywhere," Mullen said. "The biggest problem that I had were the glaring mistakes. There were a lot of big plays which I love but we've got to get the other things cleaned up."
Mullen, who also serves as the Bulldogs special teams coordinator, has been impressed with the competition at punter this spring. Baker Swedenburg and William Berg are both bidding to replace departed senior Heath Hutchins there in the fall.
"Baker and William Berg have done a nice job," Mullen said. "The key to them is coming in as young guys is consistency. Both of them are really talented. You can see it out here in both of them. They are putting it out there 65-yards, booming punts but they're not always consistent. That to me is a maturity level where they need to grow and continue to develop to be consistent."
MSU will have one more practice on Friday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday afternoon before Saturday's scrimmage inside Davis Wade Stadium.
"We will be a much lighter day tomorrow," Mullen said. "We'll kind of clean up a lot of the things we did today. We'll have a lot more individual (work), slow it down and teaching then full live stuff. We'll still be pretty physical because I like physical football."