Archive for October, 2008

Blog Bag: Halloween Edition

October 31, 2008

Wow, only one football question this week, and I’m afraid I don’t have an answer, BirdZ. I didn’t notice your question in time, but with an off-week coming up, I’ll try to remember and ask about that day off. Sorry.

Had a bunch of baseball questions (thanks, biloxi13). Got a good interview with coach John Cohen, though I somehow failed to ask him specifically about his hitters.

BASEBALL
Q: Ask Coach Cohen to asses the depth of his pitching staff and to break down how his starters stack up and how his closers/late inning pitchers will be able to hold on to leads.
A: Cohen: “If we can’t get 80-100 innings out of Ricky Bowen, I think we’re going to struggle. I think Forrest Moore has a chance, if he’s throwing strikes, I think he’s got a chance to be a real factor for us, potentially as a starting pitcher. I think Michael Busby is a young man who’s starting to figure things out on the mound, and I think he’s got to roll. I think Greg Houston is a young man who’s going to have a prominent role for us out of the bullpen.”

Q: Also, how have the players responded to his workout regimen?
A: Cohen: “I think they’re taking it very well. We’re at the end of fall right now, we’ve been doing it since August. I think there are parts of it that have been a little bit exhausting for them. But I think they’ve kind of grown into it.”

Q: Have the hitters taken well to his teaching methods?
A: Cohen: “It’s just a great help to me, certainly the first time in my coaching career when I’ve been somewhere and I have a pretty good idea of what’s happened before. … All of us, except for the six new players we have, played for Ron Polk. And I think that’s been very, very helpful in a lot of ways.”

Q: What is the status of a catcher that can handle pitchers and run the game? Big hole for us last year.
A: Cohen: “That’s an issue for us. We really don’t know who’s going to win that battle just yet.” He added that Cody Freeman and Scott DeLoach are in the running, but he’s also trying out some middle infielders behind the plate.

Q: Who is his favorite Mstate back-up catcher?
A: I didn’t ask this question, because I figured the answer was … biloxi13?

Q: How has his family adjusted to Starkville?
A: Cohen: “It’s not a difficult transition for me at all. … In the history of this university or in the history of this town, I can’t think of a better time to live in Starkville. I think it’s been a little bit more of a transition for my wife, my children, because they’ve never lived here. But they’re adjusting fine, they love it, and we’re having a good time.”

BASKETBALL
Q: Do you think Dee Bost is going to be the real deal this year?
A: He’s only a freshman, but he’s an older freshman thanks to that year of prep school. From what little I saw at the scrimmage, he’s got the tools that coach Rick Stansbury has spoken about. An intrasquad scrimmage is one thing, SEC play another. But I expect him to contend for league freshman of the year honors.

Q: Did the scrimmage Saturday indicate that Ravern Johnson and Bost are ready to lead the charge, or did the way the scrimmage was played lead to the inflated offensive numbers?
A: Johnson was aggressive and showed great versatility when it came to scoring. Neither he nor Bost are short of confidence. I certainly expect some rough times with such a young team, but they could surprise some people.

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On the Links: The Good & the Bad

October 31, 2008

The Eric Richards story does not appear to be online, but there’s not much more to it than what I posted on here yesterday. A bit ironic, I think, that the story of his wasted opportunity runs on the same day as my story on MSU center J.C. Brignone. Quite an inspiring tale of heartbreak and resolve. It’s guys like J.C. that make this job, and the game of football, so much more enjoyable.

Checking in with our friends at the Lexington Herald-Leader, we get a closer look at Kentucky’s special teams struggles. It should be noted, however, that the Wildcats have one of the nation’s best punters and kickers – one guy, Tim Masthay, who leads the SEC in both touchbacks (18) and in punt average (46.0 yards).

I’ll answer your Blog Bag questions later today. Had a good interview with baseball coach John Cohen, so it’ll be heavy on that. Looking down the line, I’ll have an update on the baseball team next Sunday (Nov. 9).

Oh, by the way: Happy Halloween. “I got a rock.” Classic stuff.

Michael Brown Update

October 30, 2008

Ever wondered what’s happened to former MSU offensive lineman Michael Brown, he of the itchy trigger finger? Well, the NCAA has denied his return to the field.

Kentucky-MSU: Official Predictions Thread

October 30, 2008

As I mentioned earlier, the over/under on this game – 39 points – seems a bit high to me. You’ve got a Kentucky offense that’s minus two of its best players, is starting a dangerous but inexperienced quarterback, and hasn’t found traction all season. You’ve got an MSU offense that’s scored only five touchdowns in its four SEC games and hasn’t shown big-play ability against league competition.

And both of these offenses are going up against relatively stout defenses. For some reason, I foresee multiple turnovers by both teams. That, or about 20 combined punts.

First one to 10 wins. My prediction: MSU 10, Kentucky 7.

Eric Richards Suspended

October 30, 2008

Kicker Eric Richards has been suspended indefinitely from the football team for violating team policies. Coach Sylvester Croom‘s only comment is from a press release: ““I’m disappointed in Eric’s lack of judgment. We talk to our guys about their actions and decisions away from the football field on a regular basis, and they know that bad decisions carry consequences.”

Richards hasn’t played much this year due to a hip injury, and that injury has left Croom shaking his head at times. After Tuesday’s practice, which Richards did not participate in, Croom told reporters he didn’t know where the kicker was but figured he was off taking care of the injured hip.

Richards said on Oct. 14, just before the Tennessee game, that he was ready to go, and he handled both of MSU’s kickoffs that week. He did not play against Middle Tennessee State last week.

On the Links

October 30, 2008

That 63-5 loss to Florida notwithstanding, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks still thinks he’s got a good defense. I certainly expect Saturday’s game to be a defensive struggle. Hopefully not of the 3-2 variety – that score will forever live in infamy, won’t it? – but I’ll take the under (the O/U is currently at 39 points; you kiddin’ me?).

From the Lexington Herald-Leader, we learn that the Wildcats are looking for leaders.

I’d love to stick around, but I’ve got a feature and GameDay stuff to write. I’ll post a predictions thread later on.

SEC Power Rankings: The Dirty Half-Dozen

October 29, 2008

You’ll notice that this week’s power rankings are truncated. Call it laziness if you want; I say, I’m not gonna B.S. anybody.

Team (Pvs): Comment
1. Alabama (1): Arkansas State looks to be this year’s La.-Monroe. Yeah, right.
2. Florida (2): Who cares if Tim Tebow isn’t playing like a Heisman winner? Doesn’t need to.
3. Georgia (4): Shoulda picked the Bulldogs last week. I obviously haven’t learned my lesson, because I’m taking Florida.
4. LSU (3): I spotted the Tigers’ defense on a milk carton the other day.
5. South Carolina (5): Had a week off, so Steve Spurrier had extra time to figure out a way to beat Tennessee again.
6. Ole Miss (6): Irony of ironies – a win over Auburn on Saturday could make Tommy Tuberville’s seat too hot to handle.
7-12. I ain’t got a freakin’ clue. You try to figure out who’s better among Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, MSU, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. They all stink, so I give up.

SEC Coaches Say …

October 29, 2008

Coach Sylvester Croom on today’s SEC coaches teleconference:

• On MSU’s pass rush, which has produced a league-low 12 sacks: “I’m not tworried about stats right now. At this point, you’re just trying to win a ballgame. Then after that, the season stats and how that washes out, we’ll see when the season is over with.”

• “I think this will probably be defining moments for our seasons.”

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks:

• “I believe we’re catching Mississippi State at times when they’re really putting things together.”

• On freshman QB Randall Cobb, who’s also played WR: “I wish I had about five of him. He’s really done a remarkable job for a true freshman, handling everything we’ve thrown at him and asked of him. He’s mature beyond his years.”

• On his defense: “I never expected something like last week. But when you get two punts blocked on the 3 and 6 (yard lines) to start the game, it’s kind of a tough scenario. But we are improved on defense. The one game notwithstanding, we are one of the best defenses in the league at this stage.”

And Alabama coach Nick Saban said he expects stud NG Terrence Cody to return by next week, against LSU. So he’ll be in fine shape for MSU.

On the Links: Spotlight on Defense

October 29, 2008

Dang, it’s cold this morning. Makes me wanna go tackle somebody. Speaking of tackling, my two stories in today’s Journal focused on the defense.

The main story, about how MSU prepares for teams unsettled at quarterback;

• and the notebook, led with a look at how MLB Dominic Douglas is playing, and also touching on State’s tackling troubles.

And for those of you who missed it – which you wouldn’t have were you following my Twitter feed (bradlocke) – here is a story from the Lexington Herald-Leader about ex-starting QB Mike Hartline, who blamed his teammates for his demotion. What a tool. And from the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky special teams coach Steve Ortmayer blames himself for the special teams breakdowns against Florida (that’s how you handle failure, Hartline; own up to it).

I’ll have some sort of story on UK for tomorrow’s paper – probably about its defensive line – and later this morning I’ll be on the SEC coaches teleconference. Also, keep an eye out for my new SEC power rankings.

Practice Update, Players Speak

October 28, 2008

Quick practice update: FS/KR Derek Pegues was on the field despite an injured thumb. Wearing red cross jerseys were TE Nelson Hurst (shoulder), LB Terrell Johnson (eye), OL Michael Gates (toe), LB Karlin Brown (shoulder). Not practicing was PK Eric Richards, who played at Tennessee but sat out last week.

In big honkin’ video board news, athetics director Greg Byrne – after thoughtfully picking up some trash next to the track complex – informed us that there will be picture but no sound when the big honkin’ video board debuts Saturday for the Kentucky game.

I wanted to post some audio clips from my interviews with some players, but I can’t figure it out. Maybe next time. But here are some excerpts:

• LB Dominic Douglas, on Kentucky QB Randall Cobb: “We know he has the ability to run. It’ll be the same story this week like every week, a quarterback coming in, being able to run. They still can put the other guy in (Mike Hartline) and try to be efficient on the passing. We’re just going to have to prepare for both run and pass and just be solid on defense.”

• C J.C. Brignone, on the offensive line’s play: “One thing that we have been able to do a lot is run the ball and block very well against it. Now we need to work on the aspect of pass blocking. It’s one thing to have young guys and a few mistakes happen, but I think as you start getting deeper into the season, we’re starting to pick up more and more things every game.”

• RB Arnil Stallworth, on his four-catch, 60-yard game last week: “I guess you could say it was a coming-out party for me. … It was as open on the game field as it was on the practice field, so I just carried it over to that.”

• DL LaMarcus Williams, on MSU’s tackling troubles: “We always do tackling drills. I think it’s more emphasis on, as far as the secondary, as far as the roll tackle, instead of just trying to knock a man out, we want to really get a lot of body on the ball and get him down.”

Croom: On Cat Stevens, Video Boards & Kick Returns

October 28, 2008

And much, much more of course. Here are some press conference excerpts from coach Sylvester Croom, who came off the podium singing Cat Stevens‘ “Peace Train.” I’ll post some player quotes later, and if I can figure it out, I’ll have some player audio. Now, Croom:

• On his musical tastes while studying film: “I’ve got a lot of CDs, most of it’s old stuff, from the ’60s, ’70s, gospel, rhythm and blues, jazz, a little bit if everything. A little Cat Stevens. I was introduced to Cat Stevens in 1971. My roommate liked Cat Stevens, and I love Cat Stevens. ‘Peace Train.’”

• On something more germain to this week’s matchup with Kentucky – the Wildcats’ frosh QB, Randall Cobb: “The guy’s a very good athlete, he throws the ball well, reminds me a lot of our Chris Relf. Probably a little further advanced, but his ability to pull the ball down and run is extremely scary.”

• On his team’s tackling woes of late: “It wasn’t up front. Our linebackers tackled very well. We didn’t use our techniques in the secondary. … We practice tackling every day, even when we’re in shorts. The bottom line is, those guys have got to do what they’re taught to do and get it done.”

• On preparing for teams that are unsettled at QB: “The responsibility of the players is to understand what they emphasize when that quarterback is in the ballgame. The whole thing you try to do defensively is, it’s almost like you’ve got a computer in your brain, you try to narrow the possibilities before the snap in your own mind.”

• On RB Arnil Stallworth: “With Stallworth in there, that gives you an added dimension, and still be able to run your two-back game. The flexibility to break formations, send him in motion, send (Anthony) Dixon in motion, and put a little bit more pressure on the defense.”

• On FS/KR Derek Pegues‘ injured thumb: “I’m expecting him to play and not wear anything extra, no more than what he wore last week.”

• On breaking a kickoff return for a TD: “Kickoff returns, the job of the returns’ front-line guys (is to) redirect the guys coming down, and then the wedge blow up the guy who we’re centering on. Everything else is up to the return guy. How good you are on kickoff returns – and I’ve always believed this – is up to the returner. Basically you get to the point, you’ve got to beat one guy. We’ve had some good returns, but we haven’t beat that last guy. One of them was the kicker.”

• On the giant video board due for completion this week (latest word is that it will be fully operational for Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. kickoff): “I would think it will have a true wow factor to it, just the size of it. Any time I go over there, I look at it and try to imagine what it was going to look like, and I still can’t. I hope it’ll help us see the officials’ calls a lot better.”

On the Links, On Tap

October 28, 2008

Good morning, people. The column is back this week, so here it is. Enjoy, discuss.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader, a story on why UK coach Rich Brooks changed quarterbacks. And here is what John Clay of the H-L thinks of it.

From the national scene, I’m afraid I’m not the only writer who thinks MSU is the worst team in the SEC. My new power rankings will come out tomorrow.

I’ll soon head out for Starkville to cover the weekly press conference and catch some of practice. Don’t forget to drop your question(s) in the Blog Bag.

Tay Bowser: Back to Offense

October 27, 2008

CB Tay Bowser, I’ve been told, is working with the offense at practice today (things got going at 4:45). The redshirt junior came to Starkville as a receiver but was moved to defense after his redshirt season. He’s stayed there until now.

Bowser hasn’t played the last two games for undisclosed reasons. I’m going to try to get somebody to disclose those reasons soon. In six games (no starts), he’s made 12 tackles and one pass breakup. He’s also blocked two kicks, and I imagine we’ll still see him on special teams.

I don’t think this is so much about finding another offensive weapon as eliminating a defensive liability. There’s no room for him on the depth chart at receiver anyway.

Blog Bag: Hit Me

October 27, 2008

Fill it up, people. Football, basketball, and what the heck, baseball. I’m hoping to catch up with John Cohen this week. The Diamond Dogs wrap up fall drills this weekend. The Maroon/White World Series will be played Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at Dudy Noble Field.

And speaking of baseball, I’ve somehow failed to post their 2009 schedule on here. So in case you’ve not seen it yet, here’s the link.

Croom Teleconference

October 27, 2008

Belatedly, some comments from coach Sylvester Croom‘s telconference. Wish I could post more, especially all the things he said about Arceto Clark, but I had trouble typing today for some reason. Still trying to get ahold of the replay. Anyway, here’s some of it:

• On Clark: “I still think he’s a guy with the ball in his hands on a single play can hit a home run, and we need that on offense.”

• More on Clark: “He has what I call a quiet arrogance, a quiet cockiness, and good football players have that.”

• On the risk of pulling a redshirt: “If there’s any risk, it’s that from practice to game, it’s different.”

• On the final four games of the season: “One of the big things we emphasize is it’s down to the end now. One of the things we’ve always taken pride in is we finish things strong.”

• On center J.C. Brignone, the SEC’s offensive lineman of the week: “He played an outstanding game. The thing I’m very impressed with, it’s hard making the transition to center. I’ve done it, it’s hard.”

• On Kentucky’s defensive line: “If your feet get crossed over, these guys are so strong they’ll just throw you out of the way.”

Some notes:

• FS Derek Pegues is getting an MRI on his hand today and will miss practice.

• OL Michael Gates (turf toe) should return to the field today.

• Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said today that freshman Randall Cobb, who took over for sophomore Mike Hartline during Saturday’s 63-5 loss to Florida, will start against MSU.

Brignone Honored; Plus, SEC Notes

October 27, 2008

MSU center J.C. Brignone was named the SEC’s offensive lineman of the week. Don’t have the rest of the list yet. I imagine Brignone was named because of the success State had running the football – 169 total, including 126 by Anthony Dixon. Brignone is a 6-foot-1, 290-pound sophomore.

Also, some notes from around the SEC:

• The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is set for Saturday, when No. 5 Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC) meets No. 8 Georgia (7-1, 4-1) in Jacksonville. It’s on CBS, with kickoff set for 2:30 p.m. Here’s what members of each team aren’t saying this week.

• The SEC leads the nation with a non-conference winning percentage of 80.0 (28-7).

• Florida’s streak of 250 games without being shut out is second in the nation, behind Michigan’s 296.

• The average SEC game this year is averaging 3 hours, 11 minutes in length, three minutes below the national average. Saturday’s Middle Tennessee State-MSU game took 3:21.

Magical Monday: On the Links

October 27, 2008

Actually, there is nothing magical about today. Total sarcasm there. Anybody got some Red Bull?

Here’s the MSU rewind. And from the Lexington Herald-Leader, John Clay opines about Kentucky’s tendency to play a really crappy game at least once a year. And MSU gets mentioned near the top of the column. The Wildcats, of course, are coming off a 63-5 loss to Florida. They switched quarterbacks, and they’re without my cousin, RB Derrick Locke, who’s out for the year with a knee injury. What, you don’t see the resemblance?

Coming up later this morning will be coach Sylvester Croom‘s weekly teleconference. Perhaps I’ll have a column idea by then.

MSU Homecoming

October 27, 2008

Brad sorry to cut in, but wanted to share this video Daily Journal photographer Deste Lee shot during the MSU homecoming activities. Enjoy.

Thanks,

Todd Vinyard
Online Editor

Rich Brooks Says …

October 26, 2008

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks spoke with the media via telephone a few moments ago. His Wildcats (5-3, 1-3 SEC) are coming off a 63-5 drubbing at the hands of Florida. So here, Brooks’ thoughts heading into Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game at Mississippi State (3-5, 1-3 SEC):

• On the Florida game: “Offensively we just didn’t generate anything, and defensively we were just playing catch rather than striking. We didn’t have the intensity, we just didn’t have the energy we’ve had, and that’s my responsibility.”

• On his QB situation (freshman Randall Cobb replaced Mike Hartline): “We’ll just probably make a decision by Tuesday after we meet with players and go through everything. There will probably be a few other positions changes as well; not changes, but different people moving up and starting.”

• On one of his players, DE Jeremy Jarmon, placing the blame on the players: “That’s my job to get them to do that. It was an almost total systems failure, when you have total breakdowns in blocking assignments and execution and getting lined up right, communication. Those are things I’m responsible for.”

• On MSU: “They are a very hard-nosed football team that I think takes after their head coach. He’s a tough guy, and their team plays hard, physical football.”

• On the importance of this game: “Every game is important, but this one coming off the embarrassing loss we suffered, is critically important.”

On the Links: Reviewing Saturday

October 26, 2008

Good Sunday, friends. Now that I’m done with churh and lunch, here’s what was written about MSU’s 31-22 win over Middle Tennessee State on Saturday:

Game story

Sidebar on RB Anthony Dixon

Notebook

Enjoy. Discuss.