Archive for November, 2008

Recruits Speak on Croom

November 30, 2008

Much of this will be in tomorrow’s Journal, but I spoke with a handful of MSU commitments today: Meridian QB Tyler Russell, Meridian WR Chris Smith, Lafayette County QB Montez Phillips and Itawamba AHS DL/FB William Shumpert.

Smith and Phillips both said they will open up their recruiting again. Russell remains firm, for now. He spoke with assistant coach Reed Stringer today, and the departed Sylvester Croom spoke with him Saturday.

“(Croom) said he truly believes in the program,” Russell said. “There were some things that I guess didn’t really work out is why he had to leave or resign. That’s basically what he told me, and he said if I ever needed anything or needed somebody, I could talk to him.”

Russell has called up several fellow commitments since Croom resigned Saturday morning.

“We just talked about the situation, what’s happened up there. Right now I’m really not trying to focus on it, because we play for a state championship Friday.”

Said Smith, “I’m still thinking about going to Mississippi State. If they bring in a decent coach, I’m trying to look at their offense and everything.”

Phillips has waffled before on his commitment to MSU, and Ole Miss is definitely back in the picture now. “I just need to reevaluate everything and make sure I’m sure where I want to go before I make a decision.”

Shumpert said he’s still solid. “I don’t have any (concerns). I’m just going to see how the (new) coaching staff is.”


Croom: Recap & Reaction

November 30, 2008

Forgive my belated posting, but it is Sunday, of course. Now that I’ve received some spiritual and physical nourishment, let’s take a comprehensive look at the Sylvester Croom resignation.

From today’s Daily Journal, there is the main story about Croom resigning at the end of a 4-8 season, less than 24 hours after MSU lost 45-0 to Ole Miss. Then there is the matter of finding a new coach, a task that begins immediately. And we also see how some prominent Bulldogs supporters react to Croom’s departure.

As for national reaction, there is plenty of it:

•’s Chris Low says Croom can leave with his head held high.

•’s Dennis Dodd says forcing Croom out was a huge mistake.

Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal calls the move “business.”

• The New York Times examines the issue of minorities in coaching.

My plan today, when I’m not working the desk shift (ugh), is to track down some recruits and get their thoughts. MSU assistant coaches and Athletics Director Greg Byrne were to speak with them today.

Felker, Lee on Croom

November 29, 2008

We also spoke with running backs coach – and now interim head coach – Rockey Felker and quarterback Tyson Lee this afternoon about Sylvester Croom‘s resignation. Some excerpts, first from Felker:

• “This isn’t the first time I’ve been through something like this. It’s the way coaching is. I’ve been in situations three different times very similar to this. I guess he looked at me and thought I’d be more prepared than anybody.”

• “We’ve had a good recruiting year up ‘til now, we’ve got to really continue to sell our university, our program. Coach Croom, obviously he’s done a lot of great things, built the program. He left it in a lot better shape than he found it in.”

• On talking with Croom: “We didn’t have a very long conversation, but he seemed to be handling it about as well as he could. He just basically thanked me for what I put into it, and I relayed to him what I thought of him, and how appreciative I was of the opportunity to work under him. He did a lot of great things for Mississippi State, representing the university well. He certainly leaves it in better shape than he found it in.”

• “Coach Croom was the same behind closed doors as you saw him, as everybody saw him. He was the same person, he wasn’t into any faking or anything.”

Now, some thoughts from Lee:

• “I guess surprised and hurt, a combination of the two. I asked him if he was for real. We talked about it a little bit, and he said he felt like that was the best decision that should be made.”

• On what he’d tell recruits: “Go where you feel led to go. If you feel like Mississippi State’s the place you want to be, come. I feel like Coach Croom has done a great job with the things that he’s built in the program, and those things will continue to stand no matter who the coach is. So we say, if you want those things to be a part of your life and to be a part of the person you become, please come.”

• On the timing of Croom’s resignation: “If it were to happen, which I don’t like that it did happen, I guess maybe now is better. I don’t think there’s really ever a good time for something like this to happen.”

Byrne Speaks on Croom

November 29, 2008

Mississippi State Athletics Director Greg Byrne addressed the media this afternoon. He said he has become an NCAA-certified recruiter and will, along with assistant coaches, start contacting recruits tomorrow. Also, he said that assistant Rockey Felker is the interim coach.

Here’s what Byrne had to say about coach Sylvester Croom‘s resignation.

• “We talked about a lot of things this morning, including his resignation. And at the end of the conversation he decided to offer his resignation, and we accepted that.”

• “We talked about a lot of different ideas, and to his credit, he was open to different ideas. And through that conversation, we came to the resolution that we did.”

• “We’ll start a national search immediately for a new football coach at Mississippi State. We don’t have any time frames, we just want to find the right person, whoever that is and however long that takes, obviously being concerned about recruiting and being concerned about the stability of our program.”

• On what he’s looking for in a new coach: “We’re looking for somebody with high energy, a passion for recruiting, strong work ethic. It’d be nice if they had an understanding of the SEC, although experience in the SEC isn’t a prerequisite. We want somebody that has the intensity and the energy level to continue what Coach Croom has built on and take it to a higher level for us.”

• On having a list of candidates: “The old saying I’ve always heard is that you never know when your coach is going to be hit by a bus. You want to be prepared for any situation.”

• On Croom’s buyout: “We feel comfortable where we are financially as a department to fulfill our contractual responsibilities.”

• On public perception: “Our decision-making was what we thought would be best for Mississippi State University and our football program and our athletic department. And that’s what we had to make our decision based off of. We are certainly concerned about the way Mississippi State is viewed. At the same time, too, we have to do what’s right for the university.”

• On the potential negative financial impact of Croom staying (ticket sales, etc.): “As you evaluate your program, there’s several different areas that you look at. You obviously look at performance on the field, or the court, whatever that may be. You at socially and academically, with your program, how you’re doing. And then third you look at is for your revenue-producing sports, the financial impact of your program.”

• “I think we have a good nucleus of kids here that have won games in this league and can continue to build on that. There’s a very good foundation that’s been laid; we need to continue to build on that and grow into a regular bowl team.”

In Starkville

November 29, 2008

Just got to the Bryan Building. Sylvester Croom will not be made available today. Here is the official press release with comments from Croom. More later.

Heck, here’s the entire release:

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State University?s Sylvester Croom announced Saturday his immediate resignation as the school?s head football coach.

“Five years ago, Mississippi State gave me the unprecedented opportunity to be a head football coach in the Southeastern Conference and to build a program based upon a strong foundation,” Croom said. “I want to thank (then-president) Dr. Charles Lee and (then-athletic director) Larry Templeton for that opportunity. I also want to thank the assistant coaches and all the players who had faith and trust in me. We have tried to build a program the right way that can compete for conference championships. I believe the foundation has been set for those goals to be reached under the leadership of someone else, and it was my decision to resign.”

Croom concluded his fifth season as Mississippi State?s head coach in 2008 with a 21-38 overall record. He inherited a program coming off three straight losing seasons, one that was on probation for NCAA recruiting violations. Following losing seasons in his first three years as head coach at State, Croom guided the Bulldogs to eight wins in ?07, including a victory over Central Florida in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. This past season, however, the Bulldogs finished the year 4-8, the school?s fourth losing season under Croom.

“As we have said was our intention throughout this year, Coach Croom and I met following yesterday’s season-ending game with Ole Miss to discuss the football program,” Director of Athletics Greg Byrne said. “We discussed the football program and many topics were addressed, including resignation. I want to thank Coach Croom for the leadership he has provided our football program over the last five years.”

Mississippi State will begin its search for a new head football coach immediately. All current assistant football coaches remain under contract and will continue performing their duties until the new head coach is hired.

“I have great respect for Coach Croom and his decision,” incoming MSU President Mark Keenum said.  “He took over our football program during a difficult time and accepted the challenge head-on.  From that first day until today, he performed his duties with great class and the highest integrity that is reflective of the character of this fine man.   I join the entire Mississippi State family in thanking Coach Croom for his service to our university and wishing him the best in his future endeavors.

“Looking forward,” Keenum continued, “I plan to work closely with Athletic Director Greg Byrne to move quickly, but with due deliberation, to find a new head football coach with high energy and a commitment to compete for championships and bowl opportunities in the best conference in America.”

“Coach Croom instilled in our football program a level of academic commitment, good sportsmanship, and good citizenship that represents our institution well,” Interim President Dr. Roy H. Ruby said. “The Mississippi State family wishes only the best for Coach Croom and his family.”

Report: Croom Resigning

November 29, 2008

I’m headed to the Bryan Building – MSU football headquarters – because BulldawgJunction has reported that Sylvester Croom is resigning. I have received confirmation that assistant coaches, AD Greg Byrne and sports information director Mike Nemeth, along with football liaison Joe Galbraith, are holed up inside Bryan. Doors are locked.

I’ll report back soon.

Egg Bowl Aftermath

November 29, 2008

For those of you who care to read about it, here is the game story from yesterday’s Egg Bowl, a 45-0 Ole Miss win. And here is a sidebar about MSU’s lack of intensity. And also, we have a notebook.

And then we have my column, which calls for change. Any kind of change, heck. Get better or get out of the way, I say. Enjoy, discuss. Oh, and check out today’s poll question. Just scroll down, it’s on the left.

On the basketball front, the MSU men suffered their first loss yesterday, against Washington State. The Bulldogs (5-1) will face Texas Tech (5-1) at 4:30 p.m. (CST) in the Legends Classic consolation game. As for the ladies, they remain undefeated (4-0) after a win over UL-Lafayette in their first road test.

Egg Bowl Postgame: A Bit Testy

November 28, 2008

Yes, Sylvester Croom talked about Ole Miss and how well the Rebels played. But the real interesting stuff has to do with him and his future at MSU. He was asked when he might meet with his coaching staff and discuss possible offseason changes: “Well, I’ll look at all that stuff when I get back.”

He was then asked when he’ll meet with athletics director Greg Byrne: “I said, I’ll look at all that stuff when I get back.”

He was then asked if meeting with Byrne is a normal Sunday event: “I said, I’ll look at all of that when I get back.”

Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes and defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison were also asked about the coaching staff’s future, but neither cared to comment on that. Can’t blame them. And all the players asked about the future said they fully expect to have everybody back next year.

As for other Croom quotes:

• “They came in here with the idea they were going to kick our rear ends, and they did that from start to finish.”

• “We were challenged from the time the game started, and we didn’t respond with the kind of intensity that I would expect our football team to respond with. To say the least, I didn’t see that one coming.”

• “We were trying to correct everything. But when a guy just lines up and whips you, there’s not a whole lot of adjustment to that.”

• On his secondary: “I think our guys were a little bit concerned about their speed, and were hesitant. We missed way too many tackles. We didn’t break on the ball well. We just didn’t play well.”

More later. Gotta write.

Egg Bowl: Official Game Thread

November 28, 2008

Here we go, the Egg Bowl set to kick off. MSU wins the toss, defers to the second half. Ole Miss to receive. Rebels are wearing the blue jerseys with grey pants, the Bulldogs are in the white shirts with maroon pants.

Here we go.

Egg Bowl: On the Links; Pregame Notes

November 28, 2008

Here we are, friends. The sun is trying to peek out as the Ole Miss kickers warm up. If you’re not here, go ahead and read up on the Egg Bowl with our GameDay section. In today’s sports section, we take a look back at the 1983 and 1998 Egg Bowls. Also, I had a column about Raycom signing off. And on a basketball note, here’s an update on Rick Stansbury‘s bunch.

No lineup changes as of yet, but I’ll update this if necessary. Now, for the basics:

Records: MSU 4-7 (2-5 SEC), Ole Miss 7-4 (4-3).

Last meeting: MSU won 17-14 last year in Starkville.

TV: Raycom.

Current conditions: 52º, mostly cloudy, ENE winds at 6 mph. An expected high of 59º. Rain forecast: 10% at kickoff, 30% by 2 p.m., according to The Weather Channel.

Press box conditions: Room temperature, as it’s enclosed. Fine with me.

Notable stat: MSU has won only three times in Oxford since the series left Jackson in 1991.

Blog Bag: Stuffed

November 28, 2008

Had a ton of good questions this week, though I’m not how many answers y’all will find satisfactory. It was a short, busy week for me, but I did that best I could. Here you go.

Q: Is Brett Favre building a house in Starkville near Sylvester Croom? QB coach?
A: I have heard nothing of the sort. Seems far-fetched to me.

Q: Any scenario, such as a (70-3) beatdown, that Croom would resign after game? More likely, do you see coordinator/staff changes fairly soon after the game?
A: No, and if anything happens at all with the coaching staff, I would expect it to happen pretty quickly.

Q: Is anyone hearing about our recruits waffling at this point?
A: I’ve heard that DE Pernell McPhee (ICC) might be taking a visit to Michigan, and he’s now listed as a “soft” commitment. On the positive side, de-commit Pat Patterson still has MSU on his radar. But you never know what goes through a kid’s mind.

Q: Do we have any juniors that are considering jumping ship early, not that I know who would have a shot, but you never know what goes through a kid’s mind?
A: I don’t think anyone on MSU’s roster could fool themselves that much. The Bulldogs’ best juniors are RB Anthony Dixon and WR Brandon McRae, and they aren’t accomplished enough.

Q: Any teeth to the Wes Carroll wanting a transfer rumor?
A: If there was, I would’ve written about it by now.

Q: I never heard an explanation of the sideline interference call we got on that punt return where Blake McAdams got roughed in the Arkansas game.
A: J.C. Brignone and a few other linemen started walking onto the field thinking the play was over. We (the media) think they were told by a coach to go.

Q: Last year, Coach Croom brought in Emory Bellard before the Alabama game. I thought it was a fantastic move to show the bigness of the game and the possibility of winning it. Does the coach have any plans to bring in someone who had a key moment/big game against Ole Miss?
A: No idea. I’d planned to ask that question during the SEC teleconference on Wednesday, but I didn’t even have time to get on it.

Q: Where is Christian Ducre?
A: Waaay down the depth chart. Croom: “He’s not playing well. Anthony Dixon’s playing well, and (Arnil) Stallworth’s playing well.” And that’s all he had to say about that.

Q: Who is out there for an offensive coordinator?
A: Al Borges, Tony Franklin and Tommy Bowden come to mind. To be honest, I’m not real good at keeping up with assistant coaches from other schools.

Q: Will Croom fire his DC to try and get John Chavis from UT?
A: Don’t know why he would. Charlie Harbison has done a good job.

Cookin’ Up Some Links; Plus, Predictions

November 27, 2008

Ah, ’tis Egg Bowl Eve. Or, if you prefer, Thanksgiving Day. The respective teams’ game plans are in the oven, and we can’t wait to see which coach has cooked up the best one.

OK, enough cheesy puns. Check out today’s Egg Bowl stories:

• MSU senior free safety/kick returner Derek Pegues reflects on his career and how an off-field mistake keeps driving him.

• From the other side, Ole Miss players bemoan the way they lost last year’s Egg Bowl. Offensive tackle Michael Oher called it “disgusting.”

So there you go, my friends. A little something to whet your appetite. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Just hope I can resist seconds at lunch today. OK, I’ll stop now, seriously.

Coming up in tomorrow’s paper, all sorts of stuff, including: the GameDay section; a look back at the 1998 and 1983 Egg Bowls; and a story about Raycom’s farewell SEC telecast.

And don’t forget to turn on the radio at 4:30 tomorrow to catch the Bulldog basketball team in action against Washington State in the Legends Classic. I’ll have a story on Rick Stansbury‘s boys in Friday’s paper, too.

Since I will be out of pocket the rest of today – at my grandparents’ house – we’ll go ahead and make this the official Egg Bowl prediction thread. I think MSU can keep it close into the fourth quarter, but the Ole Miss line play on both sides will prove too much.

My prediction: Ole Miss 28, Mississippi State 14.

Happy Thanksgiving!

SEC Power Rankings: Some Real Turkeys

November 26, 2008

As has usually been the case this season, the bottom half of these rankings were near impossible to figure out, because those teams generally stink. So I tried to do the big-picture thing, which explains Vandy being higher than Tennessee despite losing to the Vols last week. Good news for MSU: You are no longer at the very bottom.

Team (Pvs): Comment
1. Florida (1): Big Twelve, Big Schmelve. This is the best team in the country, period.
2. Alabama (2): The Fighting Sabans are like the Tennessee Titans, which means somebody is eventually going to beat them.
3. Georgia (3): I’m picking the Bulldogs to lose to Georgia Tech. I honestly don’t know why, either. I guess it would seem a Georgia kind of thing to do.
4. Ole Miss (6): The Rebels are officially for real.
5. South Carolina (5): Don’t feel bad, Gamecocks. Florida’s been doing it to everybody.
6. LSU (4): You can’t put all of this on the quarterback situation. Most of it, but not all of it.
7. Auburn (10): Yeah, well, that Tennessee win over Vandy – which beat Kentucky the week before, and UK plays UT on Saturday – screwed things up. Hey, it’s the SEC.
8. Kentucky (8): Pansies.
9. Vanderbilt (9): Never thought I’d say this, but how did Vandy lose to Tennessee?
10. Tennessee (11): You beat Vanderbilt, but who’s going bowling?
11. Mississippi State (12): Out of the cellar at last.
12. Arkansas (7): Hogs are back where they belong.

Stansbury: On the Road

November 26, 2008

The Mississippi State basketball team is on the bus this morning bound for Newark, N.J., where they’ll play in the final two rounds of the Legends Classic. Friday’s game against Washington State is set for 4:30 central; the consolation and championship games will be played Saturday starting at 4:30.

The Bulldogs got a good win under their belts last night, holding off St. Bonaventure 76-71 in Olean, N.Y. Jarvis Varnado led the way with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 6 blocks. Ravern Johnson had 18 points. A lot of good to talk about, but some bad news: Freshman point guard Dee Bost sprained his ankle and is “doubtful or questionable” for Friday, coach Rick Stansbury said.

But, let’s focus on the good from last night. Stansbury was eager to see how his young team would handle its first road game. The Bulldogs (5-0) built a 15-point lead in the second half, but the Bonnies rallied to tie it up 71-71 late in the game.

“We got the big lead, then they came back and tied it up. Our guys didn’t fold right there,” Stansbury said this morning via Gregg Ellis‘ cell phone. “Those kind of experiences you can’t simulate in practice. You’ve got a chance to crack, you’ve got a chance to fold, and we didn’t do it. We got squeezed, and we found ways to make stops and make plays to win the basketball game.”

Stansbury offered some other thoughts about his team:

• On Bost and his backup, freshman Twany Beckham (8 points, 3 assists, 20 minutes): “We were very fortunate that Twany came and rescued us. He played with a lot of poise, played with a lot of toughness, played a lot more minutes that he was ready to play.”

• On the play of Johnson, a sophomore: “He found ways to score the basketball, and he showed a little toughness late last night. He got seven rebounds on the road, he got a little putback on an offensive rebound, scored it to put us back up three. All these kind of experiences he’s playing in now are only going to make him better.”

• On facing Washington State: “The challenges will continue to be at the point guard spot, No. 1, we’re going to be playing two freshmen guards – if Dee can go – against a really good guard (Taylor Rochestie), and we’re going against a veteran, smart team that’s been through a lot of wars.”

I’ll have an update/Legends Classic preview for Friday’s paper.

On the Pre-Thanksgiving Links

November 26, 2008

The day before Turkey Day, and I’ve got a few links for you to feast upon. From yesterday’s football press conference, I wrote about coach Sylvester Croom praising this team’s character in the face of adversity. And there was a notebook featuring K.J. Wright, Dominic Douglas, and the Egg Bowl’s impact on recruiting.

From the Ole Miss side, the Daily Journal’s Parrish Alford opines about the strides the Rebels have taken this year.

To the basketball court, we see that the MSU men defeated St. Bonaventure – in Olean, N.Y. – 76-71 to improve to 5-0. I will talk to coach Rick Stansbury soon and report back on his thoughts.

Now, I must write like a madman for the rest of the day.

Tuesday Teleconference: What They Said

November 25, 2008

First, some injury news: WLB Bo Walters will miss the Egg Bowl with a shoulder injury. Karlin Brown will start in his place. Also, WR Co-Eric Riley (shoulder) will be back in action after missing the Arkansas game.

Now, some quotes from coach Sylvester Croom:

• On SLB K.J. Wright: “He never wants to come off the field. He never does. He never asks to get out of anything at practice, never asks for any rest during the game. Fortunately, so far he’s been one of those guys who never misses practice and stay healthy. Some guys just have a knack of doing that.”

• On character: “I’ve never been through a season where more bad things have happened to a football team than this one. I can honestly say there hasn’t been a day of practice where I thought they gave up, there hasn’t been a day of practice where I thought they came out and punched the clock, and there hasn’t been a game where they haven’t played hard from start to finish. You can question a lot of things about this football team, but you can’t question their heart and their character.”

• On how the Egg Bowl impacts recruiting: “I don’t think it will have a great impact on recruiting this year, because it’s pretty much done. But it will always have an impact going into the next year. Because right now recruiting seems to be done a year ahead of time. It’s pretty much done when the season starts. … Rivalry games change perspectives. In this business now, what is, is not important. What appears, is more important than what is.”

• On what the Egg Bowl means to players: “That guy you line up against, 10, 15, 20 years from now, both of you may be walking around on canes, you’re going to pass him somewhere on the street, and you’re going to look him in the eye. And without saying a single word, one of you is going to know the other one got whipped.”

• On facing the Ole Miss defensive line: “We’ll give them some different looks and try to change up blocking schemes some to help counter it. But in offensive and defensive line play, ultimately it’s always going to come back to the one-on-one. There’s no way to get around that.”

• On Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead: “His mobility seems to have improved over the course of the year. He made some very nice runs against LSU, which you hadn’t seen him make early in the year.”

And a few player quotes:

• LB Dominic Douglas, on being the SEC’s leading tackler: “My dad was probably the first person that called me and told me. He was real excited. Of course I tried to just downplay it. But deep down inside me I’m very excited to accomplish such a thing.”

• LB K.J. Wright: “We don’t expect bad things to happen. We just know when bad things do happen, we’ve got to overcome it.”

• C J.C. Brignone, on facing Ole Miss DL Peria Jerry: “I think he’s got a motor on him that makes him go. I think the guys he’s played, you can see that once they get off the block and think he’s done, and he goes and finishes a play. I think that’ll be a big thing with me and him going at it, is finishing plays.”

On the Links: Busy Tuesday

November 25, 2008

Here is today’s opinion offering from yours truly. And from the other side, Parrish Alford writes about Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead, et al.

Here’s a reminder about what MSU’s basketball teams are up to today. And MSU cross country runner Robert Scribner ran at nationals yesterday.

Nothing else to offer you this morning. Got to go do a radio show in a minute, then it’s off to Starkville for an action-packed day. Don’t forget to drop a question in the Blog Bag.

Blog Bag: Egg Bowl Edition

November 24, 2008

It’s Egg Bowl Week, which means it’s a short week. Go ahead and send me all your questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them. But just so you know, my deadlines are scrunched up. It’d be a good time to ask about some Egg Bowl history.

Took in some football practice today. They went a little over two hours at the Palmeiro Center. I caught up with cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith and tailback Anthony Dixon. You’ll see their thoughts in the paper later this week.

OK, off to be with me. Ask away.

PS: MSU’s Robert Scribner finished 152nd at the NCAA Cross Country Championships today. He turned in a time of 31:20.8 – 10K course – in his final collegiate race.

Jarvis Varnado: Player of the Week; Stansbury Says…

November 24, 2008

MSU’s Jarvis Varnado has been named the SEC player of the week. The junior forward averaged 10.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 8.0 blocks over his last three games. He shot 60 percent from the floor. In Saturday’s win against Fairleigh-Dickinson, Varnado set a school record for career blocks.

The SEC’s freshman of the week was LSU forward Storm Warren.

In keeping with the basketball theme, coach Rick Stansbury addressed the media via teleconference today. His Bulldogs are already up in Yankee land for tomorrow’s game against St. Bonaventure and then the conclusion of the Legends Classic on Friday and Saturday. Some of his thoughts:

• “Our kids are working hard, and this will be a good tournament to find out what we’re really made of.”

• “Everybody’s good at home. But you’ve got to find what you’re really made of, and you can’t really do that until you go on the road.”

• “I think we’ll face a little bit of everything this week. No. 1, being in someone else’s environment, that’ll be our first challenge. Then, facing more quality of a team. St. Bonaventure, we know, Washington State we know how good they’re going to be year in, year out.”

• On his five-and-five rotation: “It’ll be game-by-game situations, how those games are going, who’s playing well. I want to play my bench.”

• On Varnado becoming a leader: “Last year he wasn’t called on to be a leader in the lockerroom. … That’s something we need Jarvis to become something more of. … He’s got to be able to demand it more physically and verbally.”

Croom Says …

November 24, 2008

Here’s some of what coach Sylvester Croom had to say this morning on his weekly media teleconference about his Bulldogs and the Egg Bowl (I hear Ole Miss is a 13-point favorite):

• On RB Christian Ducre‘s decreased playing time: “He’s not playing well. Anthony Dixon’s playing well, and (Arnil) Stallworth’s playing well.”

• On getting guys like Wade Bonner and Chris Relf some game action: “I would’ve loved to put them in there the other day, (but) the game’s still on the line. And I would’ve loved to have gotten those two guys some playing time, but you have to get the game in position where you’ve got things in control first.” He said he’ll try to get Relf in this week.

• On handling the emotional side of the Egg Bowl: “The thing you’ve got to do is with the short week, guys have to be very focused about preparation. … We’re getting down to the last classes, they’ve got to concentrate on that as well. Got to stay off their feet as much as they can.”

• On simplifying the playbook for Dixon on Saturday: “The keys, understanding the blocking game, those are specific things everybody has to understand. But I always look at running backs as artists in their own right. I like them to run with their own style, but not at the expense of the blocking schemes.”

• On what a win would mean: “The biggest thing is you finish on a positive note, and you feel good going into offseason and getting ready for spring practice and moving into next season.”