Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Today’s Theme: Moving Forward

March 27, 2009

Day 2 of spring drills for Mississippi State was different mainly because it wasn’t Day 1. Know what I mean? Dan Mullen does. Following Thursday’s session, he noted that difference: “I think practice moves a little bit smoother, practice moves a little bit better. But also, my expectations are much higher Day 2.” Indeed they are, as evidenced by the volume of his, um, instruction. Hey, most coaches yell, but it’s always interesting to watch how certain coaches handle a practice. Mullen’s intensity is unmatched, and nobody is exempt from his wrath, including assistant coaches. If you don’t know the drill, expect to get reamed out.

The thing that you have to like about Mullen is that he balances that intensity with praise. He cited the players’ efforts Thursday while emphasizing how much work lies ahead. “There were some improvements, but a long way to go. I think offensively, just the execution, I’m a little disappointed at the speed in which we’re picking things up right now.”

MSU returns to the practice field at 10 a.m. Saturday for fully padded, full-contact drills. Mullen expects to learn a lot about his team then.

Speaking of moving forward, I’m supposed to set up my new blog today at NEMS360.com, our new Web site. Hopefully, I’ll be posting stuff on it by this afternoon. Stay tuned to this blog for details.

As you can read in today’s Journal, MSU basketballer Jarvis Varnado is still pondering his future, while teammate Kodi Augustus has decided to stick with State. Speaking of players staying and going, Ole Miss starting center Malcolm White has left the team.

Finally, in baseball, the Bulldogs look to bounce back from a three-game sweep at the hands of Georgia and hope to find some runs at Arkansas this weekend. Today’s game starts at 6:35 p.m.

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Brian Johnson: Clock’s Run Out

March 25, 2009

Following Mississippi State’s loss to Washington on the NCAA tournament on Thursday, senior Brian Johnson said he was going to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. I can see why: He’s had to sit out two of the five years he’s been a collegiate athlete. He took a medical redshirt at Louisville his first year there (2004-05) and had to sit out after transferring to MSU (2006-07), per NCAA rules. So does he have a case?

Doesn’t look like it. MSU compliance guru Bracky Brett said Johnson would need an extension of his “five-year clock,” and that’s not likely to happen. “He does not meet the criteria for a clock extension,” Brett said. Why not? Because athletes are allowed two medical redshirts in their careers, and Johnson’s transfer season counted against that total. Sitting out for transferring is considered “under the control” of the athlete, Brett said, which just means Johnson had the choice to take that route.

Brett hasn’t yet talked with Johnson about it, but the coaching staff is aware of his intentions.

MSU’s football team began spring drills Tuesday, and so here’s the story on that. Dan Mullen and company return to the field Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Fan turnout yesterday was modest, with maybe 50 people in attendance at one point. Perhaps Saturday’s 10 a.m. session will draw better.

MSU greats Ron Polk and Rafael Palmeiro are among 10 selected to the 2009 National College Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Class. So that’s pretty cool. Speaking of baseball, the Bulldogs got whipped last night by South Alabama, 17-12. State hit three home runs in the ninth, which tells you how bad it really was. MSU is back in action today against Memphis, at home (6:30 p.m.), weather permitting.

Spring Practice, Day 1: Full Speed Ahead

March 24, 2009

The Dan Mullen Era is officially under way, because the product he’s putting together took to the field for the first time today in the first of 15 spring practices. The Bulldogs went for about three-and-a-half hours, and the difference between a Mullen practice and a Sylvester Croom practice was immediately apparent to the players.

“I think it’s more intense, more attention to detail, and a fast pace,” said linebacker Jamar Chaney. Quarterback Tyson Lee echoed that: “It’s just intense the whole way through.”

Everyone was happy to get outside and start practicing what they’ve been studying. “It’s great to back out on the field right now,” Mullen said. “This is what you work for. You do all that so you can get out here and play some football.”

Injury updates: TE Marcus Green (hamstring) looked completely healthy; Chaney (ankle) looked solid; RB Robert Elliott ran pretty well but was limited and just a little gimpy; WR Brandon McRae (leg), also limited, was moving gingerly; WR Delmon Robinson came up gimpy late in practice, holding his thigh. Also, Mark Melichar (mono) and Eric Richards (hip) were in uniform but didn’t practice.

Being pressed for time as I am tonight, here are some thoughts from Mullen, Chaney and Lee. Starting with Mullen:

• “We’ve got a long way to go. But I think our guys came out and gave some effort today, and that’s what we’re looking for after this offseason.”

• On freshman Cameron Lawrence (January enrollee) at QB: “We want to give him a shot, especially early on so he can learn the offense and add a little extra depth. If he does move to a different position, at least he has a foundation at quarterback.”

• On anyone standing out today: “I don’t know if there’s anybody that really jumped out and said, Boy, right there we’ve got ourselves a real football player. I think we’ve got a long way to go to get ourselves some football players.”

From Chaney:

•  On returning from injury: “I missed coming out here, dressing out with them before they go on to practice, just the little things that you wouldn’t think was a big deal before the injury.”

• On the mental workload: “On defense, we’ve got probably 25 percent of our defense is already in right now. They’re just putting it on us.”

• On Mullen’s coaching style: “He’s a real fiery guy. He’s a real cool coach, but he’s going to get after you, he’s going to make sure you do your job, and he’s going to make sure you go 100 percent, give all your effort.”

From Lee:

• On the mental workload: “It’s one thing sitting in a room and seeing things on paper, but actually getting out there with defenses and people moving, it makes a difference. That’s why tonight and tomorrow, watching film, it’s huge to look and see what I did wrong, what you did wrong, so you can learn from it.”

• On the QB battle: “It’s an open position. I ran with the ones today, Chris (Relf) ran with the twos. I don’t think that dictates or indicates anything as far as me starting.”

Springing Forward

March 24, 2009

Well, we can officially put basketball in the books. The Lady Bulldogs’ NCAA tournament run ended last night in Columbus, Ohio, with a 64-58 loss to No. 3 seed Ohio State. The 11th-seeded Lady Bulldogs (23-10) were held scoreless over the final 6 minutes, 43 seconds of the game and were denied their first trip to the Sweet 16. Nevertheless, a fine season.

We’re actually not quite done with hoops. The Bailey and Gillom trophies will be handed out next Monday, and MSU’s Jarvis Varnado and Alexis Rack are up for those awards, respectively. The focus for the next four weeks will be on MSU football. Spring drills start today at 3:30 p.m. Open to the public, so come on out to the practice fields behind Shira Fieldhouse. (By the way, State isn’t the only SEC team starting practice this week.)

New coach Dan Mullen promised his new players the hardest offseason workout program they’d ever experienced, and quarterback Tyson Lee can attest to that. The hardest part? “Everything,” Lee said. “Day in, day out, each workout, it pushes you to give everything you have. It’s not a workout where you can give 80, 85 percent.” The challenge now is to learn Mullen’s spread offense, a two-edged sword according to Lee. “The spread offense can be good and can be bad. With so many plays and formations, knowing what everybody is doing and getting the ball to the right person at the right time (is crucial).”

More on the first day of practice later today. I’ll be there.

What Day Is it Again?

March 23, 2009

Is it still Monday? I’ve been awake basically since Sunday morning – a fitful rest of the plane didn’t help much – so it feels like it should be Tuesday. But no, we know it’s Monday because Mississippi State’s women, seeded 11th, haven’t yet played No. 3 seed Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. That’s coming up at about 6 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio (ESPN2). Here’s the preview.

We’ll know when Tuesday’s here, because that’s when the MSU football team opens up spring practices under new coach Dan Mullen. We’ll have more on that in Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s papers. Remember, practices are open to the public, which Mullen sees as an advantage to his team. “For our players, you put 3,000 people out there on the hill watching practice, that’s going to increase the intensity of the team drills.”

Speaking of hoops, Jarvis Varnado is a finalist for the Howell Tropy, while Lady Bulldog Alexis Rack is a finalist for the Gillom Trophy. Winners to be announced March 30.

And the Bulldog baseball team, which is 13-9 after being swept at Georgia, has a pair of midweek games at South Alabama (Tuesday) and versus Memphis (Wednesday). Then it’s off to Fayetteville for a three-game set with Arkansas.

Mullen Whipping Bulldogs Into Shape

March 19, 2009

Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen spent some time with us media folks this morning – via phone for me, obviously – and talked about myriad topics. One topic that kept getting talked about was the Bulldogs’ offseason conditioning. Mullen said there’s been quite a bit of work to do to get his players into proper shape. Take the defensive linemen. “I think the defensive line group was really out of shape,” Mullen said. “They’ve done a really good job of working hard as a group to improve.”

Then there’s tailback Anthony Dixon, who tipped the scales at 255 pounds when the offseason workouts began with Mullen and strength coach Matt Balis. Dixon’s now down to 235. “I want him to be as big and strong as he can be and being as fast as he can be,” Mullen said. Mullen also said the Bulldog’s toughness level is in need of improving: “It wasn’t very good, but it’s getting there.”

Mullen has a certain standard for his players, and a select few have achieved it: They’re part of what he calls the Champions Club, entry to which requires excellence in all areas on and off the field. Seventeen have earned that distinction so far, including linebackers Jamar Chaney and K.J. Wright, QB Tyson Lee, offensive lineman Derek Sherrod, and safeties Charles Mitchell and Wade Bonner. “Those 17 have bought into what we’re preaching,” Mullen said. “What we need to do this second quarter of spring ball is double that.”

Will more buy in? Mullen thinks so, thanks to Balis. “Usually when they see him at first they think he’s a little nuts, but they do buy in and believe what he’s doing because they see progress. … As they saw their bodies change, see them physically improve, it made it easy for them to buy in.”

Spring drills begin Tuesday, and yes, I listed Bonner as a safety. Mullen has moved him from running back because of the depth there. “Whether we use him offensively or defensively, we need to find a place for him on the field next year.”

Some other highlights from this morning’s conference call:

• On status of Arceto Clark, Anthony Johnson and Maurice Langston: “They’re all suspended from the team until further investigation.”

• On WR O’Neal Wilder, who missed last season with injury: “O’Neal’s gonna be full go this spring. He’ll be full go for what he can do.”

• On running the ball: “We’re going to be a big running team. I think the misconception of the spread is you throw it, but the version of our spread offense is we’re going to be balanced 50-50.”

• On the offensive line: “One of the things we’ve got to do is place them, get our five best offensive line on the field right now, not being too concerned with who’s playing tackle, guard or center.”

On Tap, On the Links

March 11, 2009

Parrish Alford and I will be heading out for St. Pete Times Forum shortly. Press conferences and practices will be held today, and practices will be open. So, full access. Mississippi State’s press conference will be at 1:30 p.m. local time. So I’ll report from that, finish up my Georgia-MSU advance, and then head for dinner with an old friend who works at the Tampa Tribune. Speaking of the Tribune, here is their SEC Tournament Central.

MSU has a pretty good setup for making a run to Sunday’s title game. If it wins today, South Carolina will be next on Friday. If State can’t make a deep run, then it’s probably the NIT. The Web site NITology.com still has the Bulldogs as a No. 7 seed, matched up with Maryland.

Also, as y’all know, Jarvis Varnado and Dee Bost were honored by the SEC. Here is our story on it.

Also also, a football link. Former MSU running back Dontay Walker – yes, that’s how he spells his first name now – is headed for house arrest. Speaking of Bulldogs in trouble, nothing further yet on Arceto Clark, the sophomore receiver who was suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team policy.

Live from Tampa

March 10, 2009

Settled in here at the Holiday Inn Express on the north side of town, about eight miles from St. Pete Times Forum. That’s where I’ll be tomorrow afternoon for a press conference with Mississippi State players and coach Rick Stansbury. The team also arrived in Tampa tonight, touching down around 8:30 p.m. local time. Elgin Bailey didn’t make the trip, but he had a good checkup at the doctor today and got fitted for a new cast on his dislocated right ankle.

On the newsy side, those who follow me on Twitter know that MSU receiver Arceto Clark, a rising sophomore, was suspended indefinitely by coach Dan Mullen for a violation of team policy. No specifics were given, and coach Dan Mullen isn’t commenting. This comes on the heels of Maurice Langston being suspended after being arrested on a drug charge.

OK, I’m off to bed.

Mullen Tour Resumes; Byrne Blogs; Etc.

March 5, 2009

MSU football coach Dan Mullen has set his 17-city tour of the Southeast – a.k.a. the “Road Dawgs Tour” – which will begin in late April. In-state stops include Clarksdale, Columbus, Corinth, Greenwood, Jackson, Laurel, McComb, Natchez, Ocean Springs and Vicksburg.

AD Greg Byrne posted his weekly blog today, and he spent quite a bit of it pontificating on the whole Nicholls State fiasco. Some great detail in there, including, “The Nicholls coach’s (Chip Durham) final words were that our team would be the only one on the field.” And there was this: “[T]he spirit of college athletics and the competitive nature of what we do were compromised.”

And then there is this: MSU junior center Jarvis Varnado was named to the NABC District 21 second team, along with “teammate” David Huertas. Once again, our state is disrespected.

Also, a statement from basketball coach Rick Stansbury regarding Elgin Bailey, who’s lost for the season with a dislocated ankle: “He was absolutely playing one of the best games of his career. He’ll be missed. Number one, we’re just thankful there’s no more damage than what’s already there. It’s still a serious injury, but it could have been a lot worse. But if anybody can handle this in a positive way, it’s Elgin. He was really playing with the toughness and energy we knew he could bring. With him being out, it’s really going to hurt our bench. But the other guys are going to have to step up now.”

Stansbury also spoke today about the passing of Lake Kelly, one of his coaching mentors. Kelly was a former Austin Peay head coach and Kentucky assistant: “his is so hard to believe. If not for Lake, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He gave me my first chance at coaching, and I’ll forever be grateful. You know, as great of a coach as he was, and there was no one better, he was even a far greater person. This was a man that loved basketball and talking Xs and Os, almost to a faut. He was more than a coach to me. He was like a father. We did everything together, golfing and fishing. … I owe him everything for where I’m at today.”

Links Aplenty

March 5, 2009

Oh, where to begin? I guess with the big news from Wednesday: Maurice Langston‘s arrest and subsequent suspension from the football team. This look bad for Langston, and it’s a blow to MSU if he isn’t reinstated to the team. Langston was expected to help shore up the cornerback position, which is thin on experience and talent.

To brighter news, here is my account of the Bulldog basketball team’s 80-71 win over Florida. It now becomes very simple for State: Beat Ole Mis on Saturday, and you earn the No. 3 seed and a first-round matchup with Georgia in the SEC Tournament; lose, and it’s a No. 4 seed and a game with Vanderbilt, which stunned LSU last night. Speaking of wacky results, Georgia beat Kentucky. But back to MSU, I failed to note in my story that point guard Dee Bost set a school freshman record for single-season assists. His four last night gives him 130, breaking Jamont Gordon‘s mark of 129 (2005-06).

There was, of course, some bad news last night for State: The severely dislocated ankle suffered by Elgin Bailey. He had X-rays last night and was to see doctors this morning to determine the need for surgery. We should know the answer to that within the next couple hours.

On the women’s side of things, MSU opens SEC Tournament play at 9 p.m. today against South Carolina. More on that later.

Finally, on the baseball front, MSU is in Honolulu getting ready for a four-game set against Hawaii. They better enjoy it, because coach John Cohen probably won’t schedule this trip again. Junior lefty Tyler Whitney will start today’s game, which begins at 10:35 Central. Also, the MSU softball team is there playing for the first time.

So Who Is This James Jenkins Fellow?

March 4, 2009

(Updated at 6:21 p.m.)

Well, the man arrested with Maurice Langston is described by police as a 21-year-old from Columbus. Langston had a teammate at East Central CC named James Jenkins, an offensive lineman who I have confirmed is from Columbus and is currently 21 years of age. Coincidence? Doubt it. Jenkins left East Central a year before Langston did and did not sign with a four-year school. He had a couple of Division II offers and considered walking on at MSU.

East Central head coach Steve Cheatham was the team’s defensive coordinator for one season before taking his current post last year. He was in charge of enforcing discipline and said he never had any problems from Jenkins. “He was never on any list for me for being late (to practice) or doing anything,” Cheatham said.

The coach also said that Langston and Jenkins didn’t seem to be fast friends. “I wouldn’t say they were big buddies.”

So what’s Jenkins doing these days? Good question. Said Cheatham, “I haven’t heard from him since he left.”

Langston, Friend Had ‘About a Pound of Marijuana’

March 4, 2009

UPDATE: See the last paragraph of the press release for a correction. They were charged with possession of over an ounce, not over a kilogram, which is equal to about 2.2 pounds. I can’t believe I caught that, because math is not my strong suit. Thanks to the HPD for fixing it.

CORRECTION: If convicted, Langston actually faces up to 20 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine.

Synarus Green of the Hattiesburg Police Department sent out a press release detailing the account of Maurice Langston‘s arrest on Saturday, so I’ll let it speak for itself, in full. By the way, Langston and friend should have had their initial court appearance on Monday.

“Hattiesburg police arrested James Jenkins, 21, of Columbus, MS and Maurice Langston, 20, of Meridian, MS for the possession of about a pound of marijuana in Hattiesburg on Interstate-59.

“On Saturday, February 28, 2009 around 6:00 p.m., officers with the Hattiesburg Police Department’s Highway Interdiction Team were monitoring traffic on the northbound side of I-59 near the 60-mile marker when they stopped a black Jeep Liberty for a traffic violation.

“The driver of that vehicle was identified as Maurice Langston along with another occupant (identified as James Jenkins). Langston’s nervous behavior, along with the odor of marijuana noticed during the initial contact, prompted the officers to conduct the traffic stop more thoroughly. This deeper look in the investigation lead officers to the discovery of about a pound of alleged marijuana (*street valued at approximately $1000.00). The narcotics as well as about $500.00 in U.S. currency were seized by police.

“Both Jenkins and Langston were taken into custody, arrested and transported to the Forrest County Regional Jail where they were both charged with (1) count of possession of marijuana over an ounce with the intent to distribute.”

Langston Charged with Marijuana Possession, Intent to Distribute

March 4, 2009

We now know why MSU’s Maurice Langston was suspended indefinitely: Marijuana possession. The Hattiesburg American’s crime log said Langston was arrested Saturday by Hattiesburg police and charged with “possession of (a) controlled substances, marijuana, with intent to distribute.” I’m no legal expert, but the “intent to distribute” part means this is a whole lot worse than it could’ve been for Langston.

Just how bad? Well, it depends on how much dope he had on him. According to Mississippi law, if Langston was in possession of less than 30 grams, then the max punishment for this particular felony is a $3,000 fine and/or three years in the penitentiary. If it’s over 1 ounce but less than a kilogram, it’s up to a $1,000,000 fine and/or 30 years.

More to come, I’m sure.

Langston’s ex-Coach: ‘He Was Top Shelf’

March 4, 2009

Steve Cheatham, who coached Maurice Langston at East Central CC, was surprised to hear about the indefinite suspension imposed on Langston earlier this week. He was suspended for a “violation of team policy,” and Cheatham had not heard about it until we spoke. Cheatham said he never had any trouble with Langston in his time there. “Maurice is a good kid. … He was top shelf when he was here with us.”

Cheatham still occasionally speaks with Langston, who seemed happy with things under new coach Dan Mullen. “I talked to him probably two weeks ago. He loved it, enjoyed it, everything was going good. He felt like he was fitting in and everything was going good.”

Maurice Langston Suspended Indefinitely

March 4, 2009

Football player Maurice Langston, a juco transfer and early enrollee, has been suspended indefinitely “from all football activities” by coach Dan Mullen, MSU spokesman Joe Galbraith confirmed. The suspension took effect Monday and was a result of a “violation of team policy.” No specifics were disclosed, and Mullen is not commenting further on the matter. Langston “will still be accountable for his study hall and academic responsibilities,” said Galbraith.

Langston (5-foot-10, 185 pounds), recruited as a defensive back, was an all-region and all-state selection at wide receiver last year for East Central (Miss.) CC. He was Super Prep Magazine’s No. 24-rated juco player in the country.

Spring Game on TV

February 26, 2009

AD Greg Byrne and football coach Dan Mullen have talked about wanting to pack out Davis Wade Stadium for the Maroon-White Game on April 18. For those who can’t make it, though, just flip on the TV. That’s right, the spring game will be broadcast live on CSS (that stands for Comcast Sports Southeast).

In a department press release, Mullen said, “This is another great opportunity for people around the region to see what Mississippi State is all about. A chance for us to put on display the passion that not only our team will play with but also that our fans and students have for this university.”

Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m.

Spring Football Practice Schedule

February 23, 2009

Here it is. Remember, it’s open to the public:

Tuesday, March 24 – 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 26 – 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 28 – 10 a.m.

Tuesday, March 31 – 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 2 – 3:30 p.m.

Friday, April 3 – 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 4 – 10 a.m.

Tuesday, April 7 – 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 9 – 3:30 p.m.

Friday, April 10 – 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 11 – 10 a.m.

Tuesday, April 14 – 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 16 – 3:30 p.m.

Friday, April 17 – 3:30 p.m.

Saturday, April 18 – Maroon-White Game, 5:30 p.m.

Brad Pendergrass to Wisconsin

February 17, 2009

Brad Pendergrass, who served first as personal staff assistant to former head coach Sylvester Croom and then as assistant AD for football operations, has caught on at Wisconsin. It was announced Monday that he will be the Badgers’ director of football operations. Pendergrass came to Starkville in 2004 and took the football ops post in June. He was previously at Tennessee (1998-2003) as a student assistant, grad assistant and then recruiting assistant.

Football Game Swap

February 12, 2009

MSU has announced a change in the 2009 football schedule, swapping the Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech games. The Bulldogs will now visit Vandy on Sept. 19 and host Tech on Oct. 3. That’ll give State three straight home games, with Tech sandwiched between LSU and Houston (homecoming).

“In working with the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference and within our new television deal with ESPN, we switched the dates of these two games,” director of athletics Greg Byrne said in a release.

The revised schedule:

Sept.   5              JACKSON STATE
Sept.   12       * at Auburn
Sept.   19       * at Vanderbilt
Sept.   26       * LSU
Oct.      3              GEORGIA TECH
Oct.      10        HOUSTON (HOMECOMING)
Oct.      17        at Middle Tennessee
Oct.      24          * FLORIDA
Oct.      31       * at Kentucky
Nov.    14       * ALABAMA
Nov.    21       * at Arkansas (Little Rock)
Nov.    28       * OLE MISS

Bumphis’ Eligibility Restored

February 12, 2009

Mississippi State football signee Chad Bumphis is now eligible for intercollegiate competition, according to Bracky Brett, MSU’s associate athletic director for compliance. As you’ve likely heard, Bumphis was declared ineligible after State reported a secondary violation involving Bumphis and former coach Sylvester Croom (details). Routine stuff.