As the calendar hit the midway point in August, the Missouri State Bears continued their march toward their Sept. 1 season opener with Kansas State with a pair of workouts Wednesday. The Bears focused on situationals and individual position work with a 90-minute morning practice, before finishing up on the grass practice fields late in the afternoon.
“These are grind-it-out days,” head coach Terry Allen commented. “They are more mental than physical. We’re going to be out here for two practices today. It’s a good time to see which guys are mentally tough.”
It’s important to take advantage of the hours we have with them this week – not only on the field but in the meeting rooms. We have to teach an awful lot on special situations, so we try to take advantage of all the extra meeting time we have this time of year.”
One area in which the Bears should feel comfortable in terms of being ahead of the learning curve is on the defensive line. This year’s d-line will feature three players who started at least seven games last season, combining for seven years of experience at the collegiate level. MSU will also have additional depth on the d-line, giving position coach Courtney Sanders reason to be optimistic.
“We have guys who can play — who can run and make plays,” said Sanders. “It’s hard to replace a guy like (fifth-year senior) Mikel Ruder, but I like the talent we have this year, and I think finding a leader and playing as a unit will be the key to our success.”
Ruder brought down 48 ball carriers in 2011 and started all 11 games en route to earning All-MVFC second-team distinction. But returnees Tevan Ferguson, Martin Montgomery and Eric Pearce combined for 22 starts and 97 total tackles a year ago while maturing significantly in the process.
“Those three guys had great springs,” Sanders said. “We will count on them to lead us. With the depth we should have, we just need to work as a unit and stay healthy.”
The Bears will get the services of defensive ends Anthony Grady and Corey Feagin back after they missed all of 2011 with injuries. Juco transfers Spencer Emerson, who arrived this spring, and C.J. Randall will also add depth and push for significant playing time along with redshirt freshman James Barnes who emerged from the spring as a serious contender for defensive reps.
“The surprise of the spring was James Barnes, and if Corey Feagin can stay healthy, he can really help us too,” Sanders said. “I am also really excited about C.J. Randall. He can compete for a starting position, has maturity and great leadership potential.”
The Bears head back to the practice field Thursday for a 3:30 p.m. workout, followed by a pair of practices Friday. MSU will also engage in its second controlled scrimmage of the fall camp at Plaster Field, Saturday at 10:15 a.m.