Mississippi State Athletics
Joel Coleman, Senior Writer
Leach sees things to like as Bulldogs start preseason camp.
STARKVILLE – The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It’s a new year, but on Friday towards the end of Mississippi State’s first practice of the 2022 season, there was an old face making a big play. Veteran receiver Austin Williams did what Austin Williams does when he hauled in a pass near the goal line and snuck just inside the pylon for a touchdown. It earned high-fives from excited teammates and a round of praise from one of State’s receivers coaches, Steve Spurrier, Jr.
Ah, but on the practice fields at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex with a team led by head coach Mike Leach, the competition is always fierce. There’s little time to relish any accomplishment.
Only moments after Williams’ scoring reception, there was safety Jalen Green making a big stop to keep the offense out of the end zone. Suddenly it was the MSU defense with the upper hand and celebrating.
Back and forth. Strong moments and times for teaching. That summed up State’s first work on the march towards the season opener. Leach seemed overall pleased, even with a couple snafus that are normal when working out offseason kinks.
“Good effort,” Leach said of his team. “It was a lot like was to be expected on a first day…Guys were sloppy at times with guys going really hard the wrong way sometimes, but there was more good than bad.”
A strong start to camp should almost be expected from this bunch. Remember, it’s a team whose foundation is largely a group of guys whose careers began as wide-eyed youngsters in Leach’s first season at State back in 2020. Even back then, they showed plenty of promise. Now, two years later, those players are all grown up.
That’s not to even mention veteran Bulldogs like Williams, linebacker Nathaniel Watson, defensive lineman Jaden Crumedy and others who’ve been around Starkville four or more years.
It’s an experienced group – one that, per ESPN, returns the most production in the entire Southeastern Conference – and you better believe that matters.
“It feels like we have a stronger locker room than we’ve had,” Leach opined.
A big reason why? The students have become the teachers, whether it’s with words or actions. That should be a theme both in preseason camp, as well as into the season itself.
“The older guys can help the younger guys,” Leach said. “[It’s] not always verbally. Sometimes it’s by example. And you get better film as far as a, ‘We want it like this’, type of thing. You get examples [of older guys doing things the right way] on the screen.”
Of course everyone – regardless of experience level – can stand to improve and that’s what these next few weeks are all about.
Leach preaches constant improvement. He values consistency. So, when State gets back on the practice fields Saturday, they’ll do so aiming to take another stride towards becoming the consistently productive Bulldogs Leach desires.
It’s not going to happen overnight, that’s for sure. It’s all about stacking good days on top of each other.
“It’s kind of a series of corrections,” Leach said of these early-season practices. “[We’ve got to] keep circling [and] keep shoring it up.”
Friday sure seemed to be a great first step in that direction.