Practice No. 17 on Thursday afternoon was an abbreviated session for the Bears who modified the scheduled workout to accommodate thunderstorms in the Springfield area. The practice lasted just over two hours at Plaster Field and was sandwiched right between a series of showers.
“It was sultry hot when we got out here around three o’clock,” said head coach Terry Allen. “The humidity was pretty intense. We did things in a different order in practice so we could make sure that we got those things in. I think it was good for us.”
Allen noted the change of routine was a healthy break for his troops after two solid weeks of workouts.
“After 17 practices of relatively the same routine, it gets a little old and boring,” Allen explained. “So we changed things up which upped the intensity. We got done a little bit early and beat the storm.”
The Bears plan a long practice on Friday morning at 8:30 a.m., followed by a special teams session on Friday afternoon. Most of the players will spend part of Friday afternoon moving into the dormitories or helping other students as they arrive on campus.
Camp officially concludes on Saturday morning with the team’s second fall scrimmage. Allen said the Saturday session may be moved up to 9:15 a.m., pending confirmation from the game officials.
One of the key ingredients to the Bears’ success this season will be the team’s running game where MSU returns just 12 percent of its rushing yards from 2011. Two-year letterman Vernon Scott (Muskogee, Okla.), a junior, leads the list of returnees after he carried 42 times for 167 yards a year ago. The only other letterman in the backfield is Mikael Cooper-Falls who missed all of 2010 and 2011 with a pair of knee injuries. The Springfield native led the club in rushing as a true freshman in 2009 with 424 yards on 92 carries.
Also returning are redshirt freshmen Ryan Heaston (Cordova, Tenn.) and Maddy Johnson (Webb City, Mo.) along with spring addition Benny Jones (So., St. Louis, Mo.) and converted defensive specialist Josh Mattes (So., Eldridge, Mo.).
Joining the cast is Memphis native Cedric Miller, a true freshman who assistant coach Gerald Davis says is in the mix for playing time after he led the squad in the first fall scrimmage with 51 yards on 9 carries with a touchdown.
“Right now it’s an open position,” the Bears’ running back coach explained. “Vernon (Scott) has the most experience, and it’s his time to shine. But guys like Ryan Heaston, Cedric Miller, Mikael Cooper-Falls, Maddy Johnson and Josh Mattes are all pushing him, so he can’t take a day off.”
Davis also noted that the pass blocking ability of his group has impressed him the most so far this spring.
“We’re making strides every day,” said Davis. “The young guys are coming along. They’re all picking up the offense. They’re sticking together and pushing each other every day.”