Under cooler-than-expected temperatures, Mississippi State continued Gator Bowl preparations on Saturday. Once again it was the younger players getting most of the reps in team drills while also preparing for Sunday's scrimmage at Davis Wade Stadium.
Several veterans were absent on Saturday due to graduation ceremonies as well. But with the guys that were at practice, head coach Dan Mullen saw a group having a lot of fun, especially with semester finals now in their past.
"You know what the great thing is about these guys? They love playing football," said Mullen. "This time of the year there is no school going on and no real game planning. It's just going and playing the game of football and getting better themselves and working hard. To me it is a great feeling to have a bunch of guys that love to do that.
"These guys would've stayed out here and practice for another couple of hours and still continued to have fun doing that. It is good to see the guys have that attitude they have. All they are worried about now is being football players and it's why you see those smiles on their faces."
MSU has plans to scrimmage at 2 p.m. Sunday. However, expected rain may force a change of plans, said Mullen.
"Rain or shine but the time of scrimmage might fluctuate because it is supposed to rain early," said Mullen. "We are going to get out and scrimmage in the stadium tomorrow but we just have to be flexible with the schedule. But there are no lights so it has to be before it gets dark. But if it is just going to downpour all day we will probably just go inside."
And like practice displayed this week, Mullen expected a lot of the true freshmen currently redshirting to get most of the work.
"Yeah and the guys that have been doing everything here are just going to go and do it in a scrimmage, too," said Mullen. "It depends on our tempo with the reps we get and we want to give them about 60 reps."
Early on in bowl preparations, the Bulldogs have exhibited several two tight-end packages in their offensive sets. Mullen noted Saturday that it doesn't necessarily mean that will be more of the norm in 2013 but it does speak to their experience returning at that position compared to the receivers.
"We got a bunch of tight ends coming back and we got a bunch of younger receivers," said Mullen. "So I think the (tight ends) are going to be more involved in the offense at times. We will develop that into next year. These practices haven't been exactly the direction we are going in for next year but more about getting experience for guys and getting them comfortable in the system.
"Then this offseason we will research like we always do. We're not going to change our offense but will tweak towards the strength of the guys we have on the team."
Of course, MSU's bowl preparations are also centered around the opponent - Northwestern - on New Year's Day. And that process is in the early stages and will get ramped up even more next week.
"We really haven't grinded them on that today and I know our coaches are going out recruiting today," said Mullen. "But we start to get a good foundation (of studying Northwestern) of it. We will have a normal game week next week so I want our guys ready to play as if a week from today is game day."