Archive for January, 2009

Lady Bulldogs Win; & Loads o’ Links

January 23, 2009

I kind of wish I’d stayed in Baton Rouge another night. Then I could’ve seen MSU’s women knock off LSU, 38-36, Thursday night. Armelie Lumanu‘s 15-footer at the horn lifted the Lady Bulldogs (15-4, 3-2 SEC) to their first win at LSU in 20 tries. Robin Porter led State with 10 points.

I’ve got some links I want to share with you, some of which I wanted to post last night, but Comcast had some sort of meltdown, and the Internet is still off at home. Anyway, from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, David Paschall writes about Dan Mullen‘s recruiting haul of in-state athletes, calling it “the SEC’s most surprising class of commitments.” This 2009 class is ranked 17th in the nation by, and it could go higher, according to the Web site’s national editor, Jamie Newberg. He told Paschall that he thinks Noxubee County WR Pat Patterson, the state’s No. 1-rated prospect, will wind up in Starkville.

Now to the Sporting News, where Matt Hayes lists the top five player-coach partnerships that must be developed during spring practices. At the top of the list is Florida QB Tim Tebow and his position coach, Scot Loeffler. “Don’t underestimate the loss of Dan Mullen to Mississippi State,” Hayes writes. “Mullen not only was Tebow’s position coach, he was his confidant and the mentor who – more than anyone – had Tebow prepared for every possible scenario on and off the field.”

Sticking with football, if you’re going to the Senior Bowl in Mobile to watch Derek Pegues or whoever, get down there today.

In our SEC news item of the day, Auburn’s new football coaching staff has basically booted its punter to the curb. Clinton Durst, who walked on and promptly became one of the best punters in the SEC and the nation, is not getting the scholarship promised him by the Tommy Tuberville regime.

And a quick men’s basketball note: MSU has an RPI of 86 even after that bad loss to LSU. The Bulldogs are about 100 spots ahead of where they were at the start of the month. They travel to Georgia on Saturday, and I’ll have a look at that game in tomorrow’s Journal.


On the Links, On the Road

January 22, 2009

Fixing to head back to Tupelo, but before I do, here is a look back at Mississippi State’s 81-57 loss to LSU last night. And in my notebook, I take a look at Dee Bost, rebounding and what proved to be a bad omen for the Bulldogs.

MSU (13-6, 3-1 SEC) returns to action Saturday at Georgia (9-9, 0-3). Tipoff is 5 p.m., and it can be seen on ESPN2.

As for other SEC action last night, here are some finals: Alabama 76, Ole Miss 73; Kentucky 73, Auburn 64; South Carolina 70, No. 24 Florida 69. Yeah, that last one was an upset, and it was exciting, too. Check out the ending.

By the way, MSU’s women (14-4, 2-2 SEC) are down here and play LSU (9-6, 2-1) tonight at 7.

Hoops: LSU 81, MSU 57

January 21, 2009

Mississippi State got out-shot, out-rebounded and generally out-played at Pete Maravich Assembly Center tonight. Marcus Thornton reeled off 17 of his game-high 31 points in the first 6 minutes, 17 seconds of the second half as LSU (15-3, 3-1 SEC) turned a three-point game into a blowout. MSU (13-6, 3-1) was led by Jarvis Varnado‘s 18 points.

MSU shot only 36.5 percent from the field, 25.0 percent from 3-point range. LSU hit 48.3 and 44.4, respectively.

Now, to the quotes:

MSU coach Rick Stansbury:

• On Thornton: “We had our best defender on him, Barry Stewart. … He’s had those kind of games before. You hope you don’t have to be a part of one of them.”

• On LSU’s rebounding: “Their toughness and their experience showed out there tonight. They were very good. They’ve been very good for the last three games.”

• On MSU point guard Dee Bost (2 points): “He got hit in the mouth, he wasn’t his self. And for us to be successful, he’s gotta get in there and be more of a factor than he was tonight.”

• On his team’s poor shooting: “We know we’re very fragile. We know we’ve got to make shots.”


• On Thornton: “He hit some tough shots. I put a hand in his face. Take the credit to his teammates they set some good screens off the ball, and they got him open.”

• On the loss: “I think this game is going to test our team and how quickly we can recover.”


• “They just out-toughed us. They got every loose ball.”

• “I felt like going into the second half we could win this game.”

MSU at LSU: Official Game Thread

January 21, 2009

We’re live from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, where MSU will put its first-place status in the SEC Western Division on the line. It’s the Bulldogs’ second road game in league play, having beaten Arkansas in Fayetteville. So here’s the factbox:

TV: None.
XM: Channel 201.
Series: LSU leads 101-92.
Last year: MSU, 61-39 in Baton Rouge; MSU, 84-75 in Starkville.
Coaches: MSU – Rick Stansbury (221-120, 11th year); LSU – Trent Johnson (173-124, 10th year; 14-3, first year at LSU).
Notes: MSU won both games last season. … State is 4-0 this year when four players score in double digits. … MSU has been out-rebounded in seven of its last nine games and is 5-2 in those seven. … LSU is tied for second in the SEC in scoring defense (61.4 ppg).

Probable starters
MSU (13-5, 3-0 SEC)

C – Jarvis Varnado    6-9    Jr.    12.6 ppg
G – Phil Turner    6-3    So.    7.6 ppg
G – Dee Bost    6-2    Fr.    10.3 ppg
G – Barry Stewart    6-3    Jr.    10.9 ppg
G – Ravern Johnson    6-7    So.    12.1 ppg
Top reserves: F Romero Osby, G Twany Beckham, G Riley Benock.

LSU (14-3, 2-1 SEC)
G – Marcus Thornton    6-4    Sr.    17.6 ppg
G – Bo Spencer    6-1    So.    12.2 ppg
G – Garrett Temple    6-6    Sr.    7.5 ppg
C – Chris Johnson    6-11    Sr.    8.2 ppg
F – Tasmin Mitchell    6-7    Jr.    15.2 ppg
Top reserves: G Terry Martin, F Quentin Thornton, G Chris Bass.

Hughes, Knox Hired

January 21, 2009

Made it in to Baton Rouge, where I await the tipoff of MSU and LSU at 7. While on the road, I learned of a couple of hirings to the MSU football staff: Tony Hughes and Greg Knox. The school announced Hughes’ hire this morning, and the Clarion-Ledger first reported the Knox hire, which an MSU spokesman confirmed.

Here’s some quick background on each coach.

Tony Hughes
2008: Southern Miss (secondary)
2007: Ole Miss (tight ends)
2005-06: Ole Miss (defensive backs)
2004: Louisiana Tech (outside linebackers)
2003: Louisiana Tech (defensive backs)
Also: Coached at Hinds CC, West Alabama, Hattiesburg HS, South Natchez HS, Philadelphia HS

Greg Knox
1999-2008: Auburn (receivers, recruiting coordinator)
1995-98: Ole Miss (receivers, recruiting coordinator)
1992-94: Stephen F. Austin (receivers, special teams)
1990-91: TCU (secondary, special teams)
1988-89: Northeastern State (running backs, special teams, quarterbacks)

On the Links, Off to Baton Rouge

January 21, 2009

I’ll soon be hitting the road to Baton Rouge for tonight’s game between Mississippi State and LSU. But more on that in a moment.

The big news of the day comes out of Tuscaloosa, where Alabama senior guard Ronald Steele announced he’s ending his injury-riddled career. The good news is that he’s already got his degree, so best wishes to him as he moves forward in life. As for what this means in relation to the current season, it obviously hinders Alabama’s chances of fulfilling preseason expectations. Which brings us to tonight’s game in Baton Rouge.

MSU (13-5, 3-0) battles LSU (14-3, 2-1) at 7 p.m. First place is on the line, although it’s still early, so I expect these two teams to be neck-and-neck the rest of the way. But the West is still pretty open, and Alabama can still make some noise. Here is my story previewing today’s game. And here’s a story from our friends at The Advocate. No TV for this one, so follow my updates on here and/or on Twitter.

Also in today’s Journal was a football recruiting update. Obviously, coach Dan Mullen is doing a great job on that front, if rankings are to be believed. As you’ll see in the story, I caught up with a couple of MSU commitments, East Webster’s Johnthan Banks and Meridian’s Chris Smith. A couple of more thoughts from those two on what why Mullen’s been successful in his recruiting efforts.

• Banks: “Good players are gonna follow good coaches.”

• Smith: “Where he came from and the offense that he’s bringing, I think we’ll have a lot more people committing to Mississippi State because of him.”

Rivals Rankings: MSU Dominates Mississippi

January 20, 2009 has released its Mississippi Postseason Top 30* player rankings for the 2009 football class, and not surprisingly, Mississippi State dominates the state. Thirteen of those 30 are MSU commits, including six of the top 10 players: No. 2 Fletcher Cox, No. 3 Chad Bumphis, No. 6 Josh Boyd, No. 7 Chris Smith, No. 8 Tyler Russell and No. 10 Dennis Thames.

How do other schools compare? Southern Miss has commitments from seven of those players, while Ole Miss has three, the same number as Alabama.

The No. 1-ranked player is, of course, Noxubee County’s Patrick Patterson, who is undecided.

MSU’s 2009 class is currently ranked 22nd in the nation by Rivals and 17th by Scout.

*I don’t know if this is premium content, so forgive me if the link doesn’t work.

Opinion Offering, & On the Links

January 20, 2009

I’ve been pondering, as I’m sure you have, just how this young Mississippi State basketball team keeps winning and sits atop the SEC Western Division. In today’s opinion offering, I assert that most of the credit belongs to coach Rick Stansbury, who has managed to find a lineup that works despite its lack of both size and experience.

At 13-5, 3-0 in the SEC, the Bulldogs are finding their way into bracket projections. has them as a 12 seed in Boise, playing Minnesota. Up next is a road game against LSU (14-3, 2-1) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. No TV, so turn up the radio and follow my Twitter feed and blog.

In other SEC news, Arkansas’ Brandon Moore has been suspended indefinitely from the team after a DWI arrest.

On the football front, the Senior Bowl week, featuring MSU’s Derek Pegues, is now under way. Game at 6 p.m. Saturday (NFL Network).

Blog Bag

January 19, 2009

Hey, the bag’s open. Leave your questions. Answers Friday.

On the Road

January 19, 2009

It’s Monday, which means the start of a new week. And for MSU coaches, it means hitting the road. Basketball coach Rick Stansbury is out today to check on some prospects, which means assistant Robert Kirby will be filling in on the SEC teleconference. And football coach Dan Mullen, fresh off a weekend of hosting recruits, is back at it trying to polish off a recruiting class that is now ranked 20th in the country by and 17th by That’s thanks to three new commitments, as I’m sure you’ve heard.

In women’s basketball, the Lady Bulldogs beat Kentucky yesterday, 52-45. MSU (14-4, 2-2 SEC) was led by Chanel Mokango‘s 15 points.

As for tomorrow’s paper, I’ll be columnizing about the hoopsters, who return to action Wednesday at LSU.

Big Weekend for Bulldogs

January 18, 2009

As some of you have mentioned, Saturday was a good day for MSU. There were the football recruits paying a visit, and three of them made a commitment. So much for any Frank Wilson fallout. And you had head coach Dan Mullen introducing the staff he has put together (got a couple more hires to make). Also, new school president Mark Keenum and his beautiful family were introduced, as was new volleyball coach Jenny Hazelwood.

And on the court, MSU rolled past Vanderbilt, 73-66. That makes the Bulldogs 3-0 in SEC play heading into Wednesday’s game at LSU, to be followed by a visit to Georgia on Saturday. LSU, of course, spanked Ole Miss yesterday. Oh, and here is my MSU notebook, which features Elgin Bailey, coach Rick Stansbury and Mullen.

Don’t forget, the Lady Bulldogs (13-4, 1-2 SEC) are on the road today at Kentucky (12-6, 2-1). Tipoff is 3 p.m., and it can be seen on Fox Sports South.

Mullen at The Hump: On Recruits, Coaches

January 17, 2009

New MSU football coach Dan Mullen and his assistants came to midcourt during halftime of the basketball game tonight, to a rousing welcome, of course. Of Carl Torbush, a veteran defensive coordinator, Mullen told the crowd, “Top defensive coordinator, I think, out there.”

Mullen then chatted briefly with the media. The highlights:

• On this recruiting visit this weekend:
“Our guys are really working hard, and our players are doing a good job of hosting. We’ll find out on Feb. 4 (signing day) how it all goes.”

• On RB coach/recruiting coordinator Frank Wilson’s departure:
“It’s always tough, but that’s kind of part of the business. He thought it was a good opportunity for he and his family.”

• On how Wilson’s departure affected recruiting:
“He was our assistant coach involved in it, but Rockey Felker is working right now, he’s been here forever, so he knows all that stuff that’s going on, and obviously Ryan Holleran is our director of recruiting operations. I think our staff’s not really missed a beat this whole weekend.”

• On finalizing coaching staff/roles:
“In my mind we’re pretty close, but for me our whole focus right now is all recruiting. We just need to wrap that up. After signing day, we’ll take care of all the recruits, and then we’ll get exactly what positions, because right now coaches anyway are 24 hours a day recruiting.”

• On this week’s tour of the region:
“It was much better than we even expected. I think the turnout was almost double what we were expecting going in at every single stop along the way. I couldn’t be happier with all the support we’ve seen from everybody around the state.”

Vandy at MSU: Official Game Thread

January 17, 2009

Tonight’s matchup features MSU (12-5, 2-0 SEC), the Western Division leader, against Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-1). Remember, the game is on Fox Sports South, with Rich Waltz and Daymeon Fishback on the call.

Let’s go.

On the Links, Late Edition

January 17, 2009

Yeah, I’m a bit late with this. Been kind of crazy around my house today. Trying to housebreak a giant yellow lab.

Anyway, here is my Vanderbilt-MSU basketball advance, examining how Phil Turner and the Bulldogs handle bigger teams on defense. And from the Tennessean, here’s a story on what Vandy must deal with in MSU center Jarvis Varnado. Here is the factbox that’s in today’s paper:

When: 7 p.m. today, Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville
TV: Fox Sports South. Live Internet streaming at
XM: Channel 199.
Series: Vanderbilt leads 71-42.
Last year: Vanderbilt, 86-85 (OT) in Nashville.
Coaches: Vanderbilt – Kevin Stallings (305-183, 16th year; 191-120, 10th year at Vanderbilt). MSU – Rick Stansbury (220-120, 11th year).
Notes: MSU coach Rick Stansbury has 89 career SEC wins, tying Richard Williams’ school record. … Vanderbilt has lost seven straight in Starkville. … State C Jarvis Varnado is second in the SEC in rebounds per game (9.8). … Vandy C A.J. Ogilvy missed the SEC opener against Kentucky but played in Wednesday’s 50-40 win over Georgia. He scored 18 points.

Probable starters
Vanderbilt (12-4, 1-1 SEC)

F – Darshawn McClellan    6-7    So.    3.1 ppg
F – Jeffery Taylor    6-7    Fr.    12.3 ppg
C – A.J. Ogilvy    6-11    So.    16.6 ppg
G – Jermaine Beal    6-3    Jr.    12.0 ppg
G – Brad Tinsley    6-3    Fr.    10.1 ppg
Top reserves: F Steve Tchiengang, G George Drake, C Festus Ezeli.

MSU (12-5, 2-0 SEC)
C – Jarvis Varnado    6-9    Jr.    12.9 ppg
G – Phil Turner    6-3    So.    7.2 ppg
G – Dee  Bost    6-2    Fr.    10.0 ppg
G – Barry Stewart    6-3    Jr.    11.1 ppg
G – Ravern Johnson    6-7    So.    11.8 ppg
Top reserves: F Romero Osby, G Twany Beckham, G Riley Benock.

Big Ol’ Blog Bag, Featuring Greg Byrne

January 16, 2009


Had a bunch of excellent questions this week. I saw where one or two were answered on the Blog Bag thread, so I’ll leave those alone. A couple of the questions required me speaking with AD Greg Byrne, so I did. And since he kindly gave me some good stuff, I’ll lead with that.

One of you asked about the new logo and when MSU apparel featuring said logo would be available for purchase. I’ve been told there are already some T-shirts and caps and such out there, and more is coming soon. How soon? Well, someone in licensing was supposed to call me today with details, but they never did. But I’ve gathered that such apparel should be widely available in the next 2-3 months, in plenty of time for football season.

Then I asked Byrne a little more about the significance of the logo change. Why now? “From time to time, logos are updated, and the university felt it was was appropriate time to do so,” he said. “We are obviously looking forward to using the new marks and hope they be a consistent mark for us for a long time.”

Fair enough. But it seems significant that this updated look comes on the heels of a big year of change in Starkville – Byrne taking his current post, new coaches John Cohen (baseball) and Dan Mullen (football), and a new president, Mark Keenum. Does the logo change signify the new era at MSU, Greg?

“I don’t think the mark was intended for that, but I certainly could see the timing going along with that pretty conveniently,” he said. “We certainly are doing everything we can to continue to grow and make Mississippi State athletics be as strong as possible, and how you’re identified is certainly a part of that.”

Something else that’s changed is the MSU football helmet, which will again be maroon. “Maroon is our brand, and you look back at the history of football helmets we’ve had, the most consistent color we’ve had is maroon. Hopefully, we’ll stick with maroon for a long time,” Byrne said.

And by the way, as you probably know, State has reached a five-year deal with adidas to outfit its sports teams. OK, now to the rest of your questions, with a little more Byrne sprinkled in.

Q: Could you predict the SEC West, and why you feel the No. 1 team will be No. 1?
A: After MSU’s win over Alabama, the preseason favorite, it’s tempting to go with the Bulldogs. But it’s still early, and this division is wide open. Honestly, I can’t make any sort of prediction. I could make a guess, but that’s all it’d be. I will say that I think State, Bama and Arkansas – if they can get it back together – could be the top three in some kind of order.

Q: How do the MSU coaches’ offices for the three big sports compare?
A: I’ve only been in Cohen’s and Rick Stansbury’s offices, once apiece. Both are spacious, as you’d expect, and have a polished wooden desk, very comfortable chairs, and a big ol’ TV. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t soak in much detail during my brief visits, as I was conducting interviews.

Q: What is the best site to subscribe to:, Gene’s Page, or another?
A: I have a subscription to Gene’s Page, but not to BulldawgJunction (I probably ought to). I can’t really answer your question, but I do know that Michael Wardlaw is good at what he does for BDJ. If all you want recruiting updates, then go the Scout route (Gene’s Page).

Q: Who is your pick for most outstanding freshman on the basketball team so far, and who has the chance to be the best long-term?
A: I’d say easily Dee Bost, the point guard. He’s the lone freshman starter, and he’s getting better each game. Long-term, though, I think Romero Osby could be the best of the bunch.

Q: Who holds the most points in a single game for an MSU player?
A: Bailey Howell scored 47 against Union on Dec. 4, 1958. MSU won, 121-78.

Q: I was wondering about WR Brandon McRae, RB Robert Elliott and LB Jamar Chaney. How are they healing, and did Chaney get his medical redshirt?
A: Couldn’t get a status update on those guys’ health – I’ll keep trying – but as for Chaney’s medical redshirt, MSU compliance guru Bracky Brett said it’s just a matter of putting together some medical documentation and turning it in. The OK should come very soon. “There shouldn’t be any problems,” Brett said.

Q: What are the early reactions to the new coaching staff from veteran/returning players? Anything other than the typical, “I think it’s going to be good”?
A: Unfortunately, we still haven’t been granted access to players, but I hope to speak with some very soon. When I do, y’all will be the first to know.

Q: Does Byrne keep track of what is said on message boards? And if so, does he think that is a disastrous habit for any AD to have?
A: Byrne: “I’ll read your fine blog, you can put that on there. And I’ll read the Clarion-Ledger blog, and we try to keep up with local media. … As far as the message boards, now, we’ve got some poeople in our department that keep eye on it in case there’s some false information out there.”

Frank Wilson Bolts?

January 16, 2009

UPDATE: An MSU spokesman has told me that Wilson turned in a letter of resignation to AD Greg Byrne.

According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, new MSU assistant coach Frank Wilson is expected to join Lane Kiffin‘s staff at Tennessee. Wilson was hired by new State coach Dan Mullen last month and has been serving as recruiting coordinator and was also expected to coach running backs.

An MSU spokesman could not confirm the story. I left a message for Wilson just a moment ago. Stay tuned.

Oh, So Close; Plus, On the Mullen Links

January 16, 2009

I caught most of the second half of the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs’ game with No. 13 Tennessee last night on TV. Very impressed, I was, but I had this feeling that Tennessee would find a way to pull it out at the end. Sure, the “Baby Vols” are young – one senior, zero juniors – but this is still Tennessee we’re talking about. So I just figured that by game’s end, MSU would be 0-for-29 against Pat Summitt‘s squad. Unfortunately for MSU, I was right.

Freshman Shekinna Stricklen scored the game’s final seven points, including a big 3-pointer, as UT won 63-56. Stricklen scored 15 points; junior Chanel Mokango led State with 15 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks. John L. Pitts was on the scene. The Lady Bulldogs (13-4, 1-2 SEC) will now hit the road for games against Kentucky (Sunday) and LSU (Thursday).

As for the men, they’re at home tomorrow night against Vanderbilt (7 p.m., Fox Sports South). I’ll have an advance in tomorrow’s paper.

On the football side of things, new coach Dan Mullen wrapped up his five-city tour yesterday with stops in Hattiesburg and Gulfport. Here are the stories from the respective newspapers that cover those areas:

Coach supports in-state contests (Hattiesburg American)

Head Bulldog gets love from pack (Sun Herald)

Mullen Poll: How Long?

January 15, 2009

Ran across a story by’s Ivan Maisel about new MSU football coach Dan Mullen (thanks to the Six Pack for the heads up). Maisel’s focus was on how many years the modern coach has to prove himself. Maisel contends that even at State, the expectation is for a quick turnaround. “Moving quickly and talking quickly had best lead to winning quickly,” he wrote.

So I put it to you, the Bulldog fans: How long should Mullen be given a chance to prove he can win at MSU? Not how quickly you think he will do it, but what do you think is an acceptable number? Go on and vote, and add your comments.

Mullen Officially Approved

January 15, 2009

OK, now it’s officially official: Dan Mullen has received IHL Board of Trustees approval as Mississippi State’s head football coach. Of course, he’s been hard at work for five weeks recruiting and getting to know the fan base. In fact, today he’ll wrap up the regional tour he’s been on this week, in Hattiesburg and Gulfport.

A reminder, Mullen will make $1.2 million a year for four years (expires Dec. 10, 2012). He gets $250,000 from auxiliary funds and $950,000 from the MSU Foundation.

Mullen Contract on Agenda; Plus, Hoopage

January 15, 2009

The IHL Board of Trustees is meeting right now, and it’s expected to approve the contract of new Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen. I was going to wait until they did that before posting this entry, but they’re taking forever. You can watch it online right here. I’ll have a new post when it’s done. Also, new MSU president Mark Keenum was formally introduced to the Board of Trustees and got a standing ovation.

Also on the football side, former Bulldog offensive line coach J.B. Grimes has interviewed for a job at Auburn.

To the basketball court, here is the game story from MSU’s 83-74 win over Alabama last night. The Bulldogs (12-5, 2-0 SEC) took sole possession of first place in the Western Division by beating the team that was picked in the preseason to win it. And here is the notebook.

On the women’s side, the Lady Bulldogs host No. 13 Tennessee at 7 tonight. Think they have a shot? Well, begin forming your opinion by reading my game advance in today’s paper. State is 0-for-28 against the Lady Vols.