EDITOR’S NOTE MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
I LOVE YOU NOW
Flowood, MS Cleveland, MS (601) 953-9774 twenty11media.com
BY RORI EDDIE HERBISON
Rori Eddie Herbison Publisher/Editor email@example.com I’m going to go a little George Washington on this one. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t get it at first. Frankly, didn’t care. I’m a New Yorker. Northern girls dated hockey players. Soccer boys were very cool, too. That’s what the guys I went to high school with played in the fall – hockey or soccer, not football. I don’t think it’s ironic that our school’s soccer field was right at the entrance of campus. Front and center for all to see each morning, afternoon and night. Our football field was behind the school, and when I say behind, I mean way behind. We didn’t have a home football game until my sophomore year because we didn’t have a team, much less the facilities. Things weren’t much better at my college. We proudly – and I do mean proudly – proclaimed our football team undefeated since 1951. Folks, the Rider Broncs have not fielded a football team since 1951. And, believe me, when I tell you that that t-shirt was the most popular item in the Lawrenceville bookstore. In truth, the money the school made on that shirt, they probably could have fielded a team.
So, you see, I just wasn’t exposed. I didn’t know the error of my ways until I ventured 19.5 hours south and started calling Mississippi home. That’s when I got it. That’s when all that I had heard the rest of the sports world wax poetic about registered. Now, let’s not go casting me off. I had covered football. I knew the game, just not collegiately or on a high school level. I was a New York Giants fan even before Eli Manning was out of Underoos. I broke a couch one year with my Mom cheering so zealously, as then kicker Matt (we called him Matty) Bahr’s five field goals went sailing through the uprights in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, including a 42-yarder as time expired (that’s when the couch broke), lifting the Giants past the 49ers, 15-13, and leading them to an eventual Super Bowl crown. I’ve interviewed some football families, too, before my arrival below the MasonDixon. I knew Chris Simms was heading to Texas before Tennessee even knew he was going to rescind his services from the SEC school. It wasn’t until I took my own talents to the “Land of the SEC” and was standing on the field in early August, dodging mosquitoes in the Delta evening and heard the pop of the pads up close, the whiz of the perfectly thrown spiral, the engulfing cheers of an inspired crowd, that I fell for the this dear Mr. Football. It wasn’t until I traveled with a team deep into November and early December and transitioned from shorts and flip-flops, to two pair of socks, gloves, long shirts, sweater, jacket and “Holy Good God, I’m still cold,” weather that I understood the power of this contest the raw emotion of two teams pitted
President | Hays Collins firstname.lastname@example.org Vice President | Rori E. Herbison email@example.com Vice President | Paul Fryant firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director | Jon Yablonski email@example.com Sales Manager | Melinda Rayner Courtney firstname.lastname@example.org GAME TIME | The countdown to college football is finally over and fans across the country are reveling with tailgating parties and kickoff specials
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being held from church halls to dining halls, from living rooms to board rooms (PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
in fiery battle with armor adorned protecting their respective houses; the will of the human spirit to literally carry one man on his back across the plain of the goal line. It’ minimal in concept, really. Two opposing forces, same goal. It’s visceral and emotional. Yet, it’s complex with intricacy and masterful skill…Folks, this is where you might need to stop me and point out I’m now waxing poetic. To which, I would acknowledge, completely. This is also the part, where I apologize to you, Mr. Football. I apologize for my youthful misjudgment. I thank you for not holding a grudge and instead, embracing me with all that you have to give. I love you now football and I will forever be yours.
Publisher/Chief Photographer Hays Collins | email@example.com Publisher/Editor Rori E. Herbison | firstname.lastname@example.org Graphic Designer Jon Yablonski | email@example.com MultiMedia Services Paul Fryant | firstname.lastname@example.org Sales Manager Melinda R. Courtney | email@example.com Account Executive Roianna Correro | firstname.lastname@example.org Circulation Manager Jay Baker | email@example.com MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD is published quarterly. Mailed subscriptions are available at www.msscoreboard.com. COVER | Photography by Hays Collins (Houston Nutt) and Robert Smith (Dan Mullen). Creative Direction by Rori Eddie Herbison. Design by Jon Yablonski.
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FEATURES 04 EAT, LIVE, BREATHE FOOTBALL BY MIKE CHRISTENSEN Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Head Coach Steve Campbell knows one thing – football. And his record would prove he knows winning football even better. His Bulldog program readies for another season atop the national rankings. 08 SECOND CHANCE BY RORI EDDIE HERBISON Delta State’s senior wideout Chance Dennis is making the most of his second chance on the gridiron. After a five year hiatus from the game, Dennis broke out last season and now looks to make the most of his final collegiate season. 12 RELENTLESS REBEL BY CHRISTIAN STECKEL Count him out. Go ahead. He would prefer you do. Houston Nutt is unapologetic in his approach, and just might get the last laugh, leading his Ole Miss squad to an SEC title game appearance. 22 ULTIMATE SIGNAL CALLER BY MIKE CHRISTENSEN Mississippi School for the Deaf head coach Kevin Cronin has become his team’s ultimate signal caller, using American Sign Language and a unique set of hand signals to play calls for his 25-man roster, on and off the field.
CONTENTS FROM THE EDITOR BY RORI EDDIE HERBISON 10 ON 10 BY CHRISTIAN B. STECKEL 21 RICKY’S RENDERING BY RICKY NOBILE 24 PROVE ME WRONG BY JOHN C. COX 30 AROUND THE STATE 32 BEHIND THE LENS BY HAYS COLLINS 33 THE EXTRA POINT BY CHRISTIAN B. STECKEL 01
GO TEAM | The 2010 Delta State football team gather in a pregame huddle before last year’s Division II National Championship game. The Statesmen suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Minnesota-Duluth on a last second field goal. Head coach Ron Roberts will return a solid nucleus of last year’s squad and should make another push for Florence – home of the DII championship. (PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
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BY MIKE CHRISTENSEN
MGCCC HEAD COACH STEVE CAMPBELL KNOWS ONE THING — FOOTBALL. WINNING FOOTBALL, AT THAT.
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Steve Campbell goes fishing once a year. Maybe. He hasn’t picked up his golf clubs in, well, he’s not really sure when.
“I can’t change the oil in a car,” he says with some SEC, the NFL, other Division I and II programs. resignation. “I’ve had some opportunities to go other places What he can do — what he does virtually 365 days since I’ve been here, but really, when you look at a year — is coach football. And he does that very well, everything you’d want in a coaching job, it’s right here. thank you. “You want to be somewhere where they want to win Campbell’s record at Mississippi Gulf Coast and where they give you the resources to do that. It’s Community College is nothing short of remarkable. a great area for high school football. There are a lot of The Bulldogs are 60-16 during his seven-year tenure, good players on the Coast. It’s all here.” 41-7 the past four seasons. They’ve won three of the Campbell is a hands-on coach, and he gets to do last four Mississippi Association of Community and that at Gulf Coast, even as the man in charge of the Junior Colleges state championships, and they claimed program. a share of the NJCAA national title in 2007. “At a big school, the head coach is like a CEO,” he Gulf Coast, which has become a mainstay in the said. “At this level, you’re in the weight room with them. national rankings, entered the 2011 season pegged at You’re the academic guy. That’s the part of football No. 2 in two major polls. I like the most. I get to know the young men here, Most football fans would be hard-pressed to find develop relationships with them. That makes it fun Perkinston on a map. But Campbell, 45, married with and rewarding.” three kids, has found what he wants in this sleepy “He was always around,” said former Gulf Coast little community in Stone County. He’s happy. He’s dug receiver Kelvin Bolden, now a senior at Southern Miss. in. “He had so much energy, more than some of the players. “We bounced around a lot early in my career, really And he hated to lose. I got that from him. That rubbed until we got here,” he said. “We found a place where off on me.” we’re close to home. My wife and I are both from Campbell knew from an early age that football was Pensacola (Fla.). This is as close as we’ve ever been to his passion and his future. home. I love this part of the state. We’re close to our He was a standout lineman at Tate High School in
The No. 1 thing we tell them is, be unselfish. Honor your team and your family and your community. If you do all that, you’ll be in good shape. parents as they’re getting older. “We have a very supportive administration here. And you get to coach great players.” Under Campbell, Gulf Coast has produced nine first-team NJCAA All-Americans and too many All-State selections to count. And they’ve sent those players and more to colleges big and small all over the country. The last two BCS champs in major college football, Auburn and Alabama, featured players from Gulf Coast. Demond Washington and Eltoro Freeman played for Auburn in 2010 and Terrence Cody for Alabama in 2009. “I don’t know that everyone realizes it, but there is great talent in the Mississippi junior colleges,” Campbell said. “It’s football at the highest level. We’ve coached a lot of guys here who have gone on to the
Florida and moved on to college football at Troy State, an NCAA Division II powerhouse that won a national championship in 1987 with Campbell playing center. “I thought I’d play forever,” he said. “But then I started to see guys who were bigger and stronger and faster, and I realized the NFL was out of reach. Coaching was just a natural progression. I just knew. It’s what I loved to do.” Rick Rhoades, Campbell’s coach at Troy, helped him land a graduate assistant coaching job under Pat Dye at Auburn. He got his first fulltime job at Delta State, coaching the offensive line under Don Skelton. The nomadic life of a football coach had begun. Campbell made stops at Nicholls State, Southwest Mississippi CC, Delta State again, Middle Tennessee
LEADING THE CHARGE | Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College head coach Steve Campbell has led the Bulldogs to a 60-16 mark in his seven-year tenure. (Courtesy of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Sports Information)
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SEASONED STRATEGIST | In 2000, Campbell led his then Delta State program to a national title behind his unforgiving strategy to run the ball. His go-to-guy, Josh Bright (No. 10) was a dual-threat player as a rushing and passing quarterback. (Courtesy of Delta State University, Athletic Media Relations)
State and Mississippi State. His first head coaching job was at Southwest, where he turned around a slumping Bears program in two short years. As the head coach at Delta State from 1999-2001, Campbell won a D-II national title. He was at Mississippi State as an assistant in 2003 when the
the facilities. Since I’ve been here we’ve gotten a new weight room, a new locker room, new meeting rooms, a new turf field.” Campbell and his staff took care of the rest, recruiting better players, coaching them up and changing the culture. He had the Bulldogs in a bowl
I don’t know that everyone realizes it, but there is great talent in the Mississippi junior colleges. It’s football at the highest level. We’ve coached a lot of guys here who have gone on to the SEC, the NFL, other Division I and II programs. Jackie Sherrill era came to an end. That’s also when the Gulf Coast job came open. “My two oldest kids were in middle school at that time,” he said. “They had been to something like six different schools in seven years. My wife and I felt it was important to give them some stability.” Gulf Coast had been one of the state’s strongest JUCO football programs under George Sekul, who won over 200 games and a pair of national titles (1971 and ’84) during a 26-year tenure. But the Bulldogs had fallen on hard times by 2004. “From 1987 to 2004, they had three winning seasons here,” Campbell said. “I think the administration was ready to get it turned around. And they’ve provided
game, their first in 20 years, in his second season. They won the state title in 2007, unseating four-time defending champ Pearl River, Gulf Coast’s biggest rival. “He’s done a great job there,” said PRCC coach Tim Hatten. “It’s been a nip-and-tuck series. It’s been fun. They’re well-coached and they’ve got talent, like we do. We get along real well, actually. People think that because you’re rivals, you have to hate each other. It’s immature to be that way about it. “Life’s about relationships. Steve and I talk before and after the games, win or lose. We have a lot of respect for each other. You have to respect what he’s done there.” “He taught me a lot,” Bolden said. “He taught me how
to be a man, how to be coachable, how to be energetic on and off the field. I learned a lot of life stuff from him. I still talk to Coach Campbell to this day. I can call him anytime.” Campbell has built the Gulf Coast program on a simple foundation. “Run the football and stop the run,” he said. “You always start with that. Bear Bryant said that 50 years ago, and I grew up a Bear Bryant fan. We’ve had good receivers here. You’ve got to throw it to score in this day and age. But I’ve always felt you’ve got to run it to win championships. At some point, you’re going to have to run the ball to control the clock. Or to take the heart out of the other team. Or just to set up playaction. “You’ve got to hang your hat on something. Run it and stop the run — that’s what we do here.” Beyond that, he doesn’t have a lot of rules for his players. “We have a few things, but the biggest is, the No. 1 thing we tell them is, be unselfish,” he said. “Honor your team and your family and your community. If you do all that, you’ll be in good shape.” Campbell’s wife, Shellie, is involved with the football program as the cheerleader coach. His oldest kids are college age now, and he has a first-grader. When he does pull back from coaching, on those rare occasions, he just wants to spend time with the family. He doesn’t need any hobbies or new challenges. “I feel blessed to be here,” he said. “I really do. It’s been a lot of fun.”
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LAST CHANCE! — Delta State Senior Wide Receiver to End Collegiate Career Eight Years After it Started BY RORI EDDIE HERBISON
Under the unrelenting Texas sun in late August, atop a roof hanging shingles and sloshing tar brushes, it is hard for a man to find solace. There is no shade to escape the stifling temperatures. There is no room to walk around freely, and every step Chance Dennis took atop those Houston roofs, he knew he was not where he needed to be, where he wanted to be. But, as every bead of perspiration dropped from his 6-3, 200-plus pound frame, he knew he would return to the football field someday. “Football was gone at that point in my life,” Dennis explained, slow and calculated in his speech. “I had made some bad decisions and I ended up not going back to school and started working for my father, roofing. Took some other odd jobs in there – tank cleaner, chemical factory. I was making what I needed to pay my bills, but I never thought, ‘This is it. This is my life.’” He quietly knew he’d get another shot at playing the game he once excelled at in high school, the game that earned him a full collegiate scholarship to Stephen F.
Austin State University in 2003. It wasn’t arrogance or overly bold cockiness that brought him to that conclusion, it was his belief that things always have a way of working out. After all, he came by his name honestly. “My mother always wanted two girls and two boys,” the youngest of Forend Dennis and Sherry Miller’s children recounted. “When she found out she was pregnant again, she knew I’d be her last chance to get her dream. When she found out from the doctor, I would be a boy, she knew she was going
to name me Chance.” Just as that was his mother’s “plan,” he knew football was his plan. “We all have a plan we’re supposed to follow, life’s path – you know?,” he questioned, still controlled, mature and soft-spoken. “I believe in signs and knew the Good Lord above had a plan for me.” After reading an innocent-enough article online one night about a 32-yearold man that was returning to a Division III program after discovering he still had NCAA eligibility, Dennis knew his shot was coming. He just didn’t when
or where. “My dad and I had a lot of time on those roofs to talk, and we’d talk football a lot. It was never ‘if’ I was going to play, he’d always say, ‘When you start playing again, stay focused.’” A call a few months later from Dennis’ former offensive coordinator at SFA, Greg Stevens, made the elder Dennis seem prophetic. “Coach called and said, ‘Can you still catch?’ I told him, ‘You better believe I can still catch,’” Dennis laughed. “But I told him, ‘Coach, I’m not in football
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CHANCE DENNIS BY THE NUMBERS SR — WR — 6-3 — 200
Born August 29, 1985
Son of Forend Dennis and Sherry Miller Health, Physical Education & Recreation Major
ALL SMILES | Delta State senior Chance Dennis
BIG TARGET | Dennis has become a dependable
has much to smile about, as his collegiate career has
target for Statesmen quarterback Micah Davis.
come full circle, eight years after its start in Texas.
“Micah and I have a trust. He knows if he throws it up,
(PHOTO BY CHARLES SULLIVAN)
I will come down with it.” (PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
shape.’ He said we’d take care of it of guys out there who would have liked together and that was it.” to play in national championship game. After a brief geographic misstep We got to and no one can take that in thinking Stevens meant Cleveland, away from us,” Dennis defends. Ohio; not Cleveland, Mississippi, Dennis If there was one regret in the packed up, said goodbye to his new Houston native’s return to the gridiron, baby boy, Chance, Jr., and the then it was that his father did not get to see 24-year-old arrived in the Delta, as he his youngest son play the game they says, “all in.” spent so much time talking about. “He “On the first day of conditioning, I passed in January. Before the season told the coaches, I won’t quit,” the started, I dedicated it to him. I was incredibly skilled wideout said. “I wasn’t playing for him and I knew he saw me,” close to (being in) football shape, but I Dennis shared. “I still hear him in my would pass out or puke before I quit.” ear all the time, ‘Stay focused. Finish That determined spirit and voracious what you started. Hit the books.’ He work ethic earned an instant respect taught me so much.” with his Statesmen teammates. “They The starting Delta State wide saw how bad I wanted it,” he continued. receiver is now focused on this his And, on Sept. 04, 2010, five years last collegiate season. “We can make it after his last collegiate football game, back to Florence, if we do what we are Chance Dennis would return to the supposed to do,” the Statesmen team football field as part of Delta State’s leader maintains. “We are explosive on deep wide receiving corp. offense and have a lot of guys coming “Last year was so special, no question,” back on the other side of the ball.” the former 2003 Southland Conference Dennis may just have a point, as Freshman of the Year at SFA shared. Delta State exploded for 440 yards “There was a bond with those guys that total offense in its season opener, a 28couldn’t be broken, still can’t. We went 21 overtime victory over Elizabeth City through so much together, overcame State University. and stuck together.” Fittingly, the senior wideout – in That 2010 team fell one game shy his last season as a collegiate player of National Championship, losing to – hauled in the Statesmen’s first Minnesota-Duluth, 20-17, on a last touchdown of the season and finished second field goal, but Dennis saw the the night with seven catches and 88 experience as a positive, and one to yards receiving. build off this 2011 campaign. “This is my last chance. It’s been a long “It was heartbreaking, for sure. But, time coming,” he said, overemphasizing I’m a pretty positive guy. I don’t like the “long,” and smiling wryly. “I started to stay down about something too my college career in 2003. It’s 2011, long. And, maybe it is my age or my now. That’s eight years. I’m ready to put experiences, but I think there are a lot an exclamation point on this.”
2010 (Junior) Key member of the Delta State receiving corps that was a vital part of the National Championship appearance...Finished third on the team with 52 catches...Ranked second with 807 yards and four touchdowns... Recorded six catches for 114 yards versus Arkansas Monticello...His 72 yard touchdown reception versus Valdosta State was the longest gain of the year for the Statesmen offense. 2004 (Redshirt) Spent the season on Lumberjack demonstration units. 2003 (Freshman) Made 10 starts and appeared in all 11 games while leading the team with 709 yards receiving... also tied for the team lead with six touchdown receptions...career high six catches against Portland State (83 yards) and one touchdown...career high 98 yards on three catches in win over Texas State... also had career high two TD catches against Texas State... averaged 24.4 yards per catch as a freshman...earned 2003 Freshman of the Year Award. Prep Lettered three seasons for David Aymond at Northshore Senior High School...Started junior and senior years...Houston TD Club Offensive Player of the Year nominee as a senior... Grabbed 29 passes for 881 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior...Also lettered in baseball and track.
my best friend. We have kind of lived the same life – played ball together, got recruited, went to Division I colleges, made stupid, immature decisions and didn’t go back after our sophomore seasons. I’m doing this for both of us. Plus I came up with this little saying, ‘Put it in my vicinity and I’ll bring you down six.’” Biggest Cheerleader His mom is his biggest and loudest cheerleader. “Every mom wants the best for their kid. She’s no different. She’s always been there for me – cheering, screaming. You can’t miss her with her pom-poms and signs. I love her.” Body Art Ever proud of his Texas roots, Dennis has most every Texas-affiliated sports franchise’s logo tattooed on his arms, with plans to get the Delta State and Stephen F. Austin logos someday. “It started with these two pieces,” he says, pointing to the “Street” on his right forearm and the “Athlete” on his left forearm. “I want this side to be everything I’ve done athletically, and this side to be everything I’ve learned in the streets, in life. I just love art and expressing yourself.” Nickname “I’m also a musician, an artist. I love to make music. When we were younger and we would freestyle, my friends said I would eat up the beat like Pacman did on the video game – the way he ate those dots. So, it stuck and people have been calling me Pakman ever since.”
From 88 to 6 He changed his number from 88 to 6 as a way to celebrate his best friend, MoDerick Johnson. “He’s my brother,
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1 0 ON 10
1 0 QUESTIONS ON PAGE NO.10 BY CHRISTIAN B. STECKEL
When Hollywood decides to make a movie about your life, and Sandra Bullock wins her first Oscar in a leading role, you’ve officially gone main stream. Welcome to the world of Michael Oher, the former All-American at Ole Miss, now set to enter his third season with the Baltimore Ravens. But the reality is, his “American Dream” isn’t exactly the version you’ve already seen on the silver screen. So that’s why the 6-foot-8, 315 pound gentle giant is setting the record straight for every person in America, regardless of their love for the game of football. He’s telling his story for the first time, in his own words, with details only he knows in the release of his new book, I Beat The Odds: From Homelessness to The Blind Side and Beyond. MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOAD recently caught up with the NFL star to discuss his new memoir and the upcoming season.
THE OTHER SIDE | Michael Oher has authored a new book to dispel any possible misconceptions or inaccuracies about his life showcased in the Hollywood movie, The Blind Side. (COURTESY OF BALTIMORE RAVENS, NFL)
SB: Michael, there was already one book about your life that obviously went on to be a box office hit viewed by millions across the nation. Why did you choose to write your own book?
MO: I started to get mail from people all over telling me how much of a role model I was and how I inspired them. I know The Blind Side told a little bit about my story, but I wanted to go into depth about what it was really like and open the door for so many other people like me. The movie didn’t tell the whole story. SB: You were born to a drug-addicted mother in Memphis living in poverty, forcing you to grow up faster than most kids should. You also recount in the book, in chilling fashion, the day that Child Protective Services arrived to whisk you and your siblings away to state provided foster care. Why share such painful memories?
MO: I’ll never forget where I came from. I never forget the struggles; you can’t forget something like that. It wasn’t painful (to share). I understood what I wanted to share. SB: It seems like the goal of your new book stems from the desire to separate real-life fact from Hollywood fiction.
MO: After the movie came out, there were a lot of people asking me if my life was exactly how it was shown on screen. Obviously, moviemakers have to make artistic choices to tell the story
in the best way, but some of the details just aren’t true. Since so many people seem interested in these details, I hope that I can help to make a little sense out of it all for them. SB: So what’s the most important thing you want people to take from this new book about your life that we may have missed?
MO: Over 500,000 children in America live in foster care and we need to help the adults who give of their time and resources to help them. Less than half of those kids will ever graduate from high school and almost half of the boys will be imprisoned for violent crimes. That’s the most important lesson I want people to take from my book. You don’t have to get adopted by a rich family to make it. You don’t have to get adopted by anyone at all. You just have to have it set in your brain that you are going to make a better life for yourself and you have to be committed to making that happen. SB: You came from humble beginnings and now you play in the NFL where fame and money are readily available. How do you stay grounded?
MO: Knowing what got you here, knowing where you came from. Not taking anything for granted and knowing it can all be taken away from you in a split second. Always staying humble.
SB: In your book you say if an adult wants to help a kid out of tough situation, show them there is a different way of living. Who was that adult in your life and what was different about the life you saw?
MO: I didn’t have any mentors in my life growing up so I looked to athletes like Michael Jordan in 1993 and watching the drive and motivation he had. Knowing he was going to be the best person he could be. I looked to people like him for inspiration and just stayed positive. SUPER BOWL BOUND? | Oher’s Ravens have
SB: Fans know you as the player who protects the quarterback’s blind side. What is the key to being successful at that position?
MO: Fundamentals, technique and hard work. It’s the same thing at every position. It helps having great people and a great team around you. SB: What was the highlight of your career as a Rebel?
MO: My last year there, going to the Cotton Bowl. Helping turn that program into a winner and seeing our hard work pay off. SB: What does Ole Miss mean to you today?
MO: It means a lot; it’s why I went to college there. I’ll always be a part of it (the University of Mississippi). It
failed to complete their run to a Super Bowl, but the offensive tackle believes Baltimore’s 2011 edition has what it takes. (COURTESY OF BALTIMORE RAVENS, NFL)
is home. It is family. I still have a lot of friends there. I keep up with team. They’re a young team and they have a lot of guys coming back and I think they’ll be a lot better. SB: The last three seasons the Ravens have made it to the playoffs, but fell short of a Super Bowl appearance. What do you think it will take to accomplish that goal?
MO: Just continue to get better and make progress from the last season. I’m glad the lockout is over and the season is upon us. We have the talent to win a championship.
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Sunday Fun Day This past April, the National Football League (NFL) held the 76th installment of its annual player draft and several players with ties to the Magnolia State heard their names called inside Radio City Music Hall. As rookie running backs go this NFL coming season, Mississippi has two that you will hear a lot from this fall, including former Northwest Community College and Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas, who was selected in the second round with the 62nd overall pick by the Miami Dolphins. He will share carries with former New Orleans Saints sensation Reggie Bush for carries in South Beach. Natchez native Stevan Ridley was taken by the New England Patriots in the third round with 73rd overall selection. Ridley scored three touchdowns in his first preseason game with the Pats. The former LSU standout left school early for a chance in the pros. Ridley will compete for touches with former
Ole Miss star Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis in a crowded New England backfield. Derek Sherrod, an offensive lineman from Mississippi State, was taken in the first round by the Green Bay Packers. With the second selection in the fourth round and the 99th overall pick, the Seattle Seahawks picked former Mississippi State linebacker K.J. Wright. He played in all 47 games in his career with the Bulldogs and started 35 of them and totaled 259 career tackles and nine sacks. With the last pick in the fifth round and the 165th overall selection, the Baltimore Ravens claimed Mississippi State defensive end Pernell McPhee. Four selections into the sixth round, the Buffalo Bills chose Mississippi State inebacker Chris White from Vancleave and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Also in the sixth round, the Kansas City Chiefs chose Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe with the 199th pick.
Magnolia State represented in 2011 NFL Draft
Powe joins former Ole Miss players Dexter McCluster, Kendrick Lewis and Charlie Anderson with the Chiefs. The final Mississippi player chosen in the draft, OT Derek Newton of Utica was taken in the seventh round with 213th overall pick by the Houston Texans. Other players with ties to Mississippi schools or native sons are vying for roster spots through
BY JAMES O. COVINGTON
DRAFTED | Mississippi Stateâ€™s Chris White (No. 50) was one of several collegiate players with Mississippi ties to hear his name called inside Radio City Music Hall at this yearâ€™s annual NFL draft. (PHOTO BY ROBERT SMITH)
free agency and MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD will publish that list on its website, www.msscoreboard.com, as NFL rosters finalize.
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PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS 14
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R elentless Rebel
Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt won’t be deterred from doing things his way
BY CHRISTIAN STECKEL
Go ahead, count him out. Repeat the common opinion that his team has no chance this season in the toughest division in the best conference college football has to offer. He’s fine with it. In fact, if you’ve paid any attention to Houston Nutt’s coaching career, you’d be inclined to believe he’s got the competition right where he wants them heading into the 2011 season. Houston Dale Nutt, Jr., is about to embark on his 15th season patrolling the sidelines as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference. He’s built a reputation as a coach who knows how to mold a team with low expectations into one of the league’s best. But this fall, he may be tested unlike ever before, as few believe the Rebels have any chance to compete in a fully loaded SEC West Division with five of the six teams ranked in the Preseason Top 25, Ole Miss – the lone exception. “That doesn’t bother me,” Nutt said. “I don’t worry about things we can’t control. In fact, I’ve been telling people that I like the position we’re in. Again, it’s about what you do on the field in between those lines. You just want a team to play with an unbelievable amount of passion, unity and spirit. I love our attitude right now.” Obviously, those so called experts didn’t earn their degree in history. Nutt's former Arkansas program was picked to finish last in the SEC West in 1998 but ended up with a 9-3 record and a share of the division title. In fact, he guided the Razorbacks to three division crowns and two SEC title games in his tenure at the school from 1998 to 2007 – second only to LSU in that span. Not to mention he was a three-time SEC Coach of the Year. So when he arrived in Oxford in 2009 and led
a Rebel team predicted to finish last in the West to a nine-win season, including a victory in the final Cotton Bowl ever played on the famed Texas Fairgrounds, rumors were he was offered a gig to open for David Copperfield in Vegas. “We live in a world with such instant media, where anybody can take a picture of you anywhere at any time of the day,” explains the coach. “If you listen to the naysayers, they’ll tell you ‘You aren’t going to win a game, you’re going to finish last.’ And so, we’ve been there before and it has to be a mindset that you feed your players that ‘Hey, we can be a very good team if everybody is unselfish, and does his part.’” Nutt’s three years at Ole Miss have produced a roller coaster ride in Oxford worthy of its own attraction at Six Flags. Fans enjoyed the quick climb to the top in 2008 and 2009 when the Rebels won back-to-back Cotton Bowls and a combined 18 games for the program’s best two-year stretch in 40 years. Then they lost their lunch during last year’s freefall to a 4-8 finish, miserable by any standards thanks to a 1-7 record in conference play and losses to Football Championship Subdivision Program Jacksonville State and rival Mississippi State in the Egg bowl. This year it seems most are bailing out in case the plunge continues and the safety harness doesn’t work. But Nutt and his team are holding on for dear life.
“If you don’t believe, you’ll never achieve. That’s kind of been our motto, our theme. ‘Hey let’s give everything we have, let’s not worry about what the outside forces say, let’s just worry about each other and everybody doing their job,” Nutt said. “You (have) got to believe and it starts with hard work. Being desperate, learn to sacrifice, be dedicated - all those things are a recipe for it and we all know it so, let’s go to work. That’s the way it’s been.” Nobody has ever doubted Houston Nutt’s ability to lead and motivate, including the coach himself. Heck, he won football games at Murray State and Boise State before either program had a pulse. Yet observers scream for more consistency and stability at the helm, and Nutt has a message written just for them. “That outside pressure is really just a bag of hot air. It’s instant motivation when nobody respects you because they think you’re going to be a doormat,” Nutt says point blank. “So, everybody pull your weight, play as hard as you can, and we can live with anything that happens as long as everybody just gives their best.” It’s hard not to like Houston Nutt on or off the football field, no matter where your allegiance lies. He’s charismatic and charming. He can shake hands and kiss babies better than any politician in the Deep South in a generation. Heck, just nine months ago after winning the first
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BIG MAN IN THE MIDDLET | Ole Miss left tackle Bradley Sowell is one of nine returning starters on offense. Now in his third season, he will be looked to for his leadership and stable play. (COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI, ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS)
ever Cotton Bowl inside the billion dollar Cowboys Stadium, he could have run for any office in the state and won in a landslide. The gig just wouldn’t pay as good as his current one. But is the Houston Nutt we all see in front of the cameras, full of one-liners and positive spin, really that way behind closed doors? “He’s really comical. He knows how to get you fired up and he knows how to make it seem like things aren’t that bad, that things aren’t that hard, when in reality this game can be tough,” said senior left tackle Bradley Sowell. “You want to play for him because of the type of guy that he is.” Nutt agrees his job description starts with winning games, but the formula means relating to kids 30 years his junior. “You want them to know this game of football is going to make them a better father, a better person, a better citizen,” the coach said. “I try and instill those things in them along the way. Some days I’m funny, and we get them laughing. Or we may play a simple game of Simon Says, who knows? I just try to make it fun for them because it can be a really difficult game.” But what about when the pressure is on? What’s the remedy when national websites list you on the “hot seat” before the season begins or people doubt your ability to win with your own players and consider your recruiting prowess to be on par with coaches at North Texas and Washington State? Meaning, not good. “I think first and foremost that you have to be yourself. You can’t try and be somebody else because the players know. They (can tell) if you’re being phony,” Nutt said. “You can’t fool an 18-year-old (kid). But I also know that it’s a very hard, difficult game, it can be painful. “Sometimes you have to fight through that pain and all those things, so I want to make it fun. You know this is a game we all started playing when we were baby boys, when we first put on the pads. For me it was like six years of age, you know? It’s a great, great game. But more than that it’s a tremendous teacher in life and that’s what I love about it.” For the first time in his coaching career, Nutt will voluntarily give up offensive play-calling duties this season to new coordinator David Lee, who arrives from the Miami Dolphins – the only franchise in the NFL to successfully implement the Wildcat offense. For those of you who live in the Magnolia State bubble, that’s what the rest of the football world calls the Wild Rebel. “As much as I love it (calling plays), and I think I could still do that if I really wanted to, when I had a chance to get David Lee, who’s the best quarterback
I don’t worry about things we can’t control. In fact, I’ve been telling people that I like the position we’re in. Again, it’s about what you do on the field in between those lines. You just want a team to play with an unbelievable amount of passion, unity and spirit. I love our attitude right now. coach that I’ve ever known, I thought this would be a good time,” the fourth-year coach says. “With three brand new quarterbacks, to turn things over to him, it just lets me get more involved in special teams and defense and just be a better organizer.” But Nutt isn’t bringing in scapegoats or laying down padding for others to take the fall. He delegates to his coaching staff, encourages them behind the scenes to follow his lead and always take a positive approach. He preaches “team” and “family” more than any pastor at the pulpit. So don’t get confused, because again, there’s only one goal. “You know the job, the way it is. There is a lot of time demands placed on you every day and I just wanted to give our team the best chance to win. If David Lee
asks my opinion or if I have something on this series or play, I’m not going to be shy, I just think overall I can be closer to the team and do a better job. Set everybody up to have success,” the 53-year-old head man believes. The positive results are already easy to see in practice, as Nutt is delegating more then he ever has in the past, becoming a pure CEO of the Ole Miss Rebels football program and not just wearing his offensive coordinator hat. Not that you can’t be effective in that role, as Chip Kelly at Oregon or Bobby Petrino at Arkansas have proved, but across the board more and more coaches are realizing that running a program entails more than simply coaching one side of the ball. If the Ole Ball Coach gives up play-
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A MOUTH FULL | Unabashed in
FIRED UP | After an admittedly “surprising” season last year, Nutt
defense of his players and team,
has asked his players to “commit,” and believes with “the athletes we
head coach Houston Nutt is not
have here,” including running back Enrique Davis (No. 27), Ole Miss “can
above a screaming match with
very well compete for a championship.”
(PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
(PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
We live in a world with such instant media, where anybody can take a picture of you anywhere at any time of the day. If you listen to the naysayers, they’ll tell you ‘You aren’t going to win a game; you’re going to finish last.’ And so, we’ve been there before and it has to be a mindset that you feed your players that ‘Hey, we can be a very good team if everybody is unselfish and does his part.’
calling duties to someone else on his staff, you can understand why others would follow suit. “For awhile Coach (Steve) Spurrier and I were the only ones doing it. He gave it up, even though sometimes you feel like you can just do your team more justice by calling the plays, so I understand that too. It will probably be difficult when that first offensive series rolls around, but I’m looking forward to it and watching them perform. We’re in good hands with David Lee” In the end, every coach is measured by one thing and one thing only – results. Talent is what separates the best from the rest, and in the SEC, it’s the only equalizer. So far this preseason it’s crystal clear during practice that youth is being served, especially at the skill positions. Receivers Nickolas Brassell of South Panola, Donte Moncrief of Raleigh, and Tobias Singleton of Madison Central could all have prominent roles immediately as true freshman. Nutt is also high on linebacker C.J. Johnson of Philadelphia and cornerbacks Chief Brown of Winona and Senquez Golson from Pascgoula. Overall, Nutt doesn’t dodge the critics’ fire when it comes to the kids he brings into his program, instead, he takes the
bullet for them. “I think we’re in a great position recruiting with a beautiful campus and just a beautiful place here in Oxford,” Nutt says, the excitement in his voice rising. “I really think if we go out and do what we did last year, we won the state of Mississippi, if we can continue to do that you know we’ll have to get out and go to Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas... We’ll still do that but, the majority of our recruits are going to come from here in Mississippi. We can win that way.” Ole Miss returns nine starters on offense, including the entire offensive line. Left tackle Bradley Sowell anchors the unit at left tackle. At 6-foot-7 and 315 lbs., the senior enters his third season as the blind side starter. “It’s time to take the next step and not worry about gelling together anymore, but taking that next step and becoming a dominating offensive line in this conference,” says Sowell. The top thee running backs from a year ago all return, with Brandon Bolden leading the way ahead of Jeff Scott and Enrique Davis. Bolden, a 5-11, 221-pound senior, has been a workhouse in the backfield for three seasons and rushed for 976 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. The Ole Miss defense returns five starters, including sixth-year senior Kentrell Lockett, who was granted yet another year of eligibility after missing most of last season with a knee injury. The 6-5, 248 pound Lockett should play the role of coach on the field for the Rebels this season. He understands the scheme, and has a nose for the football and without his leadership last year the unit quickly morphed into one of the worst in the league. You can’t give up more than 35 points per game, as the Rebels did last year and expect to win. So go ahead, doubt all you want. Jump off the bandwagon before it even rolls through The Grove for
the first time this season. But before you do, know one thing, this team believes it can compete for an SEC title, and they’re not backing down from their lofty goal. Nor is their coach changing the way he’s operated throughout his career to simply appease those who think the rope is slipping. “Some practices are a little longer, a little tougher; that’s really the only differences that I see. You know for the most part, he’s still loose, staying the same, the ultimate encourager. And yeah, I think realistically, there’s a shot. It’s all how the ball bounces and how we prepare,” Sowell said. “It’s all up to us, and if you play hard, good things will happen. But yes, absolutely, we can win the Championship.” His coach agrees. “They’ve had a really good attitude since we started back in January. They’ve worked extremely hard and they’ve made a commitment. They (his players) didn’t have much problem last year when we went to back-to-back Cotton Bowls and everybody was feeling good. Last year was really a surprise and hurt us all. So we went back to basics and hard work. They’ve accepted it and right now we’ve had a really good camp.” Then one last time, like any good head coach defending his players, he fires one final shot across the bow of his doubters’ ship. After all, he’s not going down without a fight. “I just feel like with the athletes we have here - that’s where you start. We can very well compete for a championship. And when you win that championship in Atlanta, you’re going to have a chance to play for a National Title.” You may chuckle, but Houston Nutt is no stranger to having the last laugh.
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HEAD TO HEAD O LE MISS FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
OLE MISS OFFENSE
09/10/11 Southern IL
10/01/11 Fresno State
DEPTH CHART - QUARTERBACK 11 Barry Brunetti (6-0, 215, SR) 8 Zack Stoudt (6-4, 216, JR) 1 Randall Mackey (5-11, 195, JR) DEPTH CHART – BACK FIELD Running Backs 34 Brandon Bolden (5-11, 215, SR) 27 Enrique Davis (5-11, 222, SR) 3 Jeff Scott (5-7, 175, SO) Fullbacks 45 H.R. Greer 33 E.J. Epperson
(5-11, 235, JR) (6-2, 250, JR)
DEPTH CHART – WIDE RECEIVERS Tight Ends 83 Ferbia Allen (6-3, 250, JR) 17 Jamal Mosley (6-4, 260, JR) Flanker 85 2 7 81
Ja-Mes Logan Nickolas Brassell Tobias Singleton Terrell Grant
Split End 12 Donte Moncrief 10 Vincent Sanders
(6-2, 190, SO) (6-0, 172, FR) (6-0, 190, FR) (6-2, 210, SO)
(6-2, 217, FR) (6-1, 190, FR)
OLE MISS DEFENSE Depth Chart - Linebackers 44 Ralph Williams 15 Joel Kight 14 Serderius Bryant 52 Mike Marry 10 C.J. Johnson 24 Keith Lewis
(6-0, 238, FR) (5-9, 226, JR) (5-8, 230, FR) (6-2, 248, SO) (6-1, 235, FR) (6-1, 233, FR)
OLE MISS SPECIAL TEAMS DEPTH CHART – KICKING GAME Place Kickers 81 Bryson Rose (5-11, 202, JR) 96 Andrew Ritter (6-3, 223, JR) Punters 97 Tyler Campbell 96 Andrew Ritter
(6-2, 220, JR) (6-3, 223, JR)
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M S STATE OFFENSE DEPTH CHART - QUARTERBACK 14 Chris Relf (6-4, 245, SR) 17 Tyler Russell (6-4, 220, SO) 6 Dylan Favre (5-10, 195, FR) DEPTH CHART – BACK FIELD Running Backs 28 Vick Ballard (5-11, 215, SR) 27 LaDarius Perkins (5-10, 190, SO) 2 Robert Elliott (6-0, 210, SR) DEPTH CHART – WIDE RECEIVERS Wide Outs 19 Arceto Clark (5-10, 180, JR) 86 Michael Carr (6-1, 195, SO). 1 Chad Bumphis (5-10, 200, JR) 3 Brandon Heavens (5-10, 175, JR) 8 Chris Smith (6-2, 205, JR) 11 Ricco Sanders (5-11, 190, SO)
MS STATE DEFENSE DEPTH CHART - LINEBACKERS 22 Matthew Wells (6-0, 205, RFR) 2 Chris Hughes (6-0, 215, SO) 58 Brandon Wilson (6-0, 235, SR) 9 Brandon Maye (6-2, 235, SR) 33 Jamie Jones (6-0, 240, SR) 10 Cameron Lawrence (6-2, 225, JR) 51 Deonte Skinner (6-2, 235, SO)
MS STATE SPECIAL TEAMS
M ISSISSIPPI STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/24/11 LA Tech
Little Rock, AR
11/26/11 Ole Miss
DEPTH CHART – KICKING GAME Place Kickers 40 Derek Depasquale (5-8, 180, JR) 53 Brian Egan (5-10, 210, SO) Punters 39 Baker Swedenberg (6-0, 190, SO) 43 William Berg (5-9, 195, JR) OLE MISS | Quarterback Barry Brunetti, running back Brandon Bolden, a fired-up home crowd and head coach Houston Nutt. (PHOTOS BY HAYS COLLINS) MS STATE | Quarterback Chris Relf, running back Vick Ballard, a fired-up Bully and head coach Dan Mullen. (PHOTOS BY ROBERT SMITH)
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Flecther Cox spoke softly at SEC Media Days, until the question was posed about the Bulldogs expectations this year.
“If we work hard week in and week out, we can make our way to Atlanta (SEC Championship),” said Cox. After one big winning season and an offseason where the Bulldogs added All-World talent Brandon Maye at linebacker, Mississippi State has big dreams this season. “We’ve got to work to do,” said Maye. Maye, a transfer from Clemson, will help the Bulldogs where they need it most – after the NFL draft raided MSU of its defensive core at the linebacker position. Maye steps in to at least fill part of that void left behind. He will mix along with the likes of Cameron Lawrence, Matthew Wells, and Brandon Wilson as top head hunter. You can single out any one player in particular at State and find many different storylines, but for Bulldog fans it starts from the top. Head coach Dan Mullen, who first made his mark in the SEC as Urban Meyer's offensive coordinator at Florida, now has his own reputation since taking over at Mississippi State in 2009. In just two seasons, Mullen has built the program into a legitimate SEC West contender. The Bulldogs finished 9-4 under Mullen in 2010, capping off a breakout season with a 52-14 blowout of Michigan in the Gator Bowl. Mullen knows how to win. He knows how to recruit and he knows how to make Ole Miss frown. Every year no matter what, bragging rights come to pass on the last weekend of November, when the Egg Bowl (Nov. 26) takes place. Ole Miss, despite losing to State the last two years in the game, stole some of the Bulldogs thunder during the offseason by signing a recruiting class that included several targets that the Bulldogs had circled. "To me, we are the State University for Mississippi. We're the people's university," said Mullen during SEC Media Days. "It's really important for us and for me to get out there and make sure that we show that.” And boy, has he. MSU is a program on the rise and Mullen intends to keep it that way.
"I'd love nothing more than to win a championship for the people of Mississippi,” added Mullen. “They deserve to be champions. We will relentlessly pursue that championship and keep the excitement going that's around our program right now and keep everybody in the state of Mississippi excited about Bulldog football." Several key starters return to an “exciting” team with sky-high expectations heading into the fall. They are so high that last week several MSU students spent more than 15 hours camping out and waiting in milelong lines to get tickets for this season. Many believe that Mullen has sculpted this team for a strong and steady run toward an SEC West Title, and having those big games at home helps the Bulldog’s cause. “We’re sold out,” said Mullen smiling about the
To me, we are the State University for Mississippi. We're the people's university. It's really important for us and for me to get out there and make sure that we show that.
UPLIFTING | Junior defensive lineman Josh Boyd (No. 97) hoists last year’s Egg Bowl trophy. The Bulldogs are determined to lift more than just one trophy this year. (PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
Bulldogs games this season. “Everyone is going to want to be at Davis Wade Stadium to see the Bulldogs play.” OFFENSE Chris Relf returns at quarterback and that by itself is a huge plus. Relf is the leader of the team and a dualthreat player at his position. He can run through you or over you and has a rocket for an arm. Still he must be more accurate this season – especially in those ESPN-hyped games – and for good reason. Relf, a 6-4, 245 pound senior, holds the keys to the Bulldogs chances of being a Top 10-ranked team. If he can perform well, when the entire nation is watching, he could also thrust himself into the Heisman spotlight. The offense was ranked 10th in the conference
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last year in scoring, but that was still good enough for 48th nationally, by scoring 29.3 points a game. Mississippi State possessed one of the more dominating run games in the country, rushing for 214.9 yards a contest a season ago. Relf completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 1,789 yards on the 2010 campaign. He also rushed for 713 on the ground. Backing Relf up will be Tyler Russell and Dylan Favre (nephew of Brett). Both are improved and eager to play when given the chance.
also has former prep sensation Nick Griffin waiting in the wings after redshirting last season. Some holes need to be filled on the offensive line, mainly the one left by All-American left tackle Derek Sherrod, who the Green Bay Packers drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draf DEFENSE Many around the program believe the season depends on how well the linebacking group performs after losing all three starters from last year’s core.
We’re sold out. Everyone is going to want to be at Davis Wade Stadium to see the Bulldogs play. Junior Chad Bumphis will lead the receivers. He caught 44 passes for 634 yards and five touchdowns in 2010. Incoming freshman Joe Morrow is also getting some looks. He was impressive in training camp, catching one handed passes. Morrow’s 6-foot5-inch frame is also an asset. The running game has a dangerous one-two attack with senior Vick Ballard and sophomore LaDarius Perkins. Ballard is a monster, who set a school record with 19 touchdowns a year ago, while also averaging an eye-popping 5.2 yards per carry. Perkins is a bruiser and gives the team an agile and speedy weapon at the position. Both blend well in Mullen’s two-back system, which
Two other MSU linebackers also left the team during the spring. Transfer Brandon Maye is seeking a Master’s Degree at the University and has been granted the NCAA’s graduate student exemption. He started 33 games and finished with 231 tackles and 13.5 sacks while at Clemson. The ACC’s lost is the SEC’s gain and it’s one big gain for the Bulldogs. Maye has NFL size and speed at 6-3, 237-pounds. He’s also got that intimidating look and presence about him and that gives fans even more to cheer about. The front four has a solid group returning, but many question if the unit can hold up against the
LEAD DOG | Senior
TOP DOG | Head coach Dan
quarterback Chris Relf finished
Mullen ignited the Bulldogs
last season with 1,788 yards
to a nine-win season in just
passing. His accuracy and
his second year. State won six
leadership will be key to State’s
games in a row in the middle of
the season, and finished among
(PHOTO BY ROBERT SMITH)
the top 10 in school history in several offensive categories.
likes of LSU and Alabama. (PHOTO BY ROBERT SMITH) Tackles Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox will play a big role in stopping the opponents run game, but the real question is can it? The MSU secondary should be stronger and faster than last year. Everyone has been raving about senior strong safety Charles Mitchell and junior cover corner Johnthan Banks, who many believe might be the best player on the team. Banks, remember took two Tim Tebow passes back for touchdowns as a freshmen in 2009, and one went for 100 yards. He posted 50 tackles last season and has bulked up to 6-2, 195-pounds. SPECIAL TEAMS Senior Derek DePasquale returns at placekicker, hitting 20-of-24 field goal attempts in his career. The punting duties will likely fall on the leg of sophomore Baker Swedenburg. Several players will be used in the return game, led by receiver Chad Bumphis and redshirt freshman Jameon Lewis of Tylertown.
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R ICKY’S RENDERING B Y RICKY NOBILE
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ATOP THE NEST?
Southern Miss poised for big year
BY JAMES O. COVINGTON
Could the Southern Miss Golden Eagles go undefeated? The return of a high octane offense and a new and improved defense has many University of Southern Mississippi fans thinking just that with a schedule that features no Southeastern Conference opponents for the first time in memory. Head coach Larry Fedora knows that the Eagles must take things one game at a time, but for the fans, it’s hard not to look ahead. Three years after popular longtime USM coach Jeff Bower was let go, Fedora could finally step out of Bower’s shadow and into his own limelight with an exceptional season. Another big reason the Eagles are giddy is the hype surrounding defensive playmaker Jamie Collins, who will be playing his third position in three seasons. Recruited as a safety out of Franklin County High School in Meadville, Collins turned down scholarship offers from Auburn, Mississippi State, and Tennessee to become the jewel recruit of Fedora’s 2009 recruiting class. At 6-4, 245 lbs., Collins is best known for his 41-inch vertical that helped the Golden Eagles block several field goal attempts over the last two years. The kid also runs a 4.58 in the 40yard dash. Expectations are for Collins to be everywhere on the field, lining up at defensive end, linebacker, and maybe even on offense at tight end during goal line packages. Oh, and did we mention he played quarterback in high school too? Collins switched numbers from 22 to 8 this fall, so anything could happen. A lot of people might not be aware that Southern Mississippi has posted 17 consecutive winning seasons – one of the best marks in all of college football. With that in mind, is it any surprise that The Golden Eagles are consistently among the favorites in Conference USA? This fall could shape up to be a special season at Brett Favre’s alma mater. Fourteen starters return from a team that lost its three C-USA games last fall by a combined total of eight points, including two defeats by a single point. Can the Golden Eagles win the East Division for the first time since 2006 and capture the school’s first Conference USA Championship in nearly a decade? OFFENSE Southern Mississippi was dynamic offensively in 2010, finishing third in C-USA in points per game at a whopping 37 per contest. Even more impressively, USM was extremely balanced, posting averages for
over 200 yards rushing and 250 yards passing per game. With a top 15 scoring offense nationally, the Golden Eagles were lethal with the football. But as strong as the team was last season, USM has an opportunity to be even more prolific this fall. Senior dual threat quarterback Austin Davis (3,100 yards passing, 450 yards rushing, 30 total touchdowns, six interceptions in 2010) was a Second Team All-Conference USA selection and he will be entering his fourth season starting under center. Needless to say, he is one of the best signal callers in the conference. At running back, sophomore Kendrick Hardy (900 yards, seven touchdowns) leads a talented group. USM is deep at running back. Desmond Johnson, Jamal Woodyard and Jeremy Hester provide speed and power behind Hardy. Top receiving targets also return in senior Kevin Bolden (46 catches, 720 yards, six touchdowns), who led the team in receiving and junior Quentin Pierce (38 catches, 450 yards, four touchdowns) also had a fine campaign. Dominique Sullivan, Will Spight and Tracy Lampley will also be in the mix to catch passes too. USM’s lack of depth on the offensive line was an issue in the preseason last year. After a stellar 2010 season, that is not an issue this time around as three starters return. The unit is stronger and more mature than last year as a whole. The Golden Eagles offense could break records this season. DEFENSE Things are looking brighter here with a 4-2-5 defensive alignment. The Golden Eagles will bring nightmares to the opposing quarterbacks this fall. Up front, the Golden Eagles are very experienced. Senior Cordarro Law (48 tackles, six sacks) is a pass rushing threat. Law earned Second Team AllConference USA honors last fall. USM made a very interesting move in the spring, moving junior Jamie Collins (76 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions) into a hybrid rush linebacker position, titled “The Bandit” which could really cause opposing offenses trouble. Senior Terrance Pope also returns, and has looked good in scrimmages early on. This should be one of C-USA’s best lines. “I really feel that our defense is going to be better than last year,” said Collins, a Quentin native. “We’ve been working hard in practice and really want to have a great season.” The linebacker position is filled with talented,
STEADY AT THE WHEEL | Quarterback Austin Davis earned SecondTeam All-Conference USA honors and was a C-USA All-Academic Team member for his successful season both on the field and in the classroom in 2010. (PHOTO BY DENNIS RESTER)
even with Collins’ move up. Seniors Korey Williams (92 tackles, three sacks) and Ronnie Thornton (61 tackles) both enter their third season in the starting lineup after occupying big roles in last season’s stellar run defense. Playing behind a solid front, both men should have excellent senior campaigns. However impressive the upfront defense is projected to be, there is unquestionable concern in the secondary. That said, there are some very talented and game-tested players coming back, led by sophomore cornerback Deron Wilson (35 tackles, three interceptions), who was a Second Team AllConference USA choice in 2010. Senior safety Kendrick Presley (63 tackles) is
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2011 SOUTHERN MS DEFENSIVE PRESSURE | Southern Miss is improving on the
OFFENSIVE THREAT | The Golden Eagles are poised to make some
defensive side of the ball with its 4-2-5 alignment. The Eagles will
noise in a C-USA championship run, but will need a prolific attack to
look for newly converted hybrid linebacker Jamie Collins to wreak
compete against rival foe, Central Florida.
havoc on opposing schemes.
(PHOTO BY DENNIS RESTER)
(PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
FOOTBALL SCHEDULE 09/03/11 LA Tech
also a steady presence, giving USM the makings of a good group of defensive backs. Redshirt-sophomore Alex Smith has switched from cornerback to safety, while several incoming freshmen also push for playing time. The unit should be improved this fall with a better pass rush from the D-Line. The Southern Mississippi’s defense appears to be quite good. There are playmakers at every level, most notably on the defensive line. If Law and Collins have strong seasons, the pass defense will improve and the run defense will remain stout. Facts are, the secondary can’t give up the big play in close games this seasons. SCHEDULE So what can propel a good team to a great season? It’s a sympathetic schedule and Southern Miss seems to have a favorable slate this fall. Out of conference, they have to travel to Navy (with whom they match up well thanks to their top-notch run
defense) and ACC foe Virginia. Considering that the Golden Eagles beat the Cavaliers two years ago, sweeping the non-league portion—which also includes a home game against Louisiana Tech—is a very realistic proposition. The Conference USA lineup also has to have Fedora salivating. USM avoids West Division favorites Houston and Tulsa this year on the docket, but will have an explosive Southern Methodist University team visiting them in Hattiesburg. It also leaves USM, with Rice and UTEP as its other interdivision foes, which is good. As for their East rivals, the Golden Eagles are fortunate to host top challenger Central Florida late in the season for a pivotal game that will likely decide the division championship. If the ball bounces their way, this season could be very special for the Golden Eagles.
09/10/11 Marshall Huntington, WV
09/17/11 SE LA
Charlottesville, VA TBA
El Paso, TX
11/05/11 E. Carolina Greenville, NC
11/12/11 Central Fl Hattiesburg
11/26/11 Memphis Hattiesburg
C OMMENTARY MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
P ROVE ME WRONG B Y JOHN C. COX
It’s college football season again. I won’t lie. It’s my favorite time of year. Optimism runs rampant throughout the various team camps, as every team feels like it has a chance. Or at least their fans think they have a chance. I know enough college football coaches to know that not every coach really believes that they have a legitimate chance. But hey, in the world of preseason polls and August coachspeak, everyone is a winner. I’ve spent the last couple of columns on a particular topic and I’ve asked you, the reader, to prove me wrong. I think I’m going to change it up a little bit this time. I’m going to write some personal letters to individuals or groups. I am confident that our readership is wide enough to reach these folks; and I am extremely confident that they really care what I’m thinking. So with that, here we go. Dear Pete (Boone): Pete, Pete, Pete. What can I say? Last year was a total disaster. Your athletic program lost to Mississippi State in every contest until the last baseball game. Every contest. Dammit, Pete, under your tenure, girls from State are even winning Miss Mississippi now. Last year started with the Jeremiah Masoli public relations debacle and continued with your Colonel Rebel somehow becoming a Black Bear with some player arrests in between. And that was just the off the field stuff. The Rebels were actually worse on the field. I’m sure Mississippi State could even yell “Hotty Toddy” louder than Ole Miss at this point. So what could top last year’s mess? Maybe you can chop down the columns of the Lyceum or turn the Square into a circle? I’m sure that we can think of something, Pete. I’m going to be real with you. You’re in trouble. The fan base is not going to put up with the current downward direction of the program. College athletics is a brutal business. I know you have to kill or be killed. You have to lock in coaches
with long-term contracts when you can. But you might have contracted yourself right onto the chopping block. Let’s stop to think about this one– buying out Houston Nutt and Tyrone Nix would cost big bucks. Buying out basketball coach Andy Kennedy would do the same. So if there is one person who seems to be expendable, it would be ol’ athletic director. I would imagine that no one, and I do mean, no one is rooting harder for the Rebels (or Bears) than you are this year. Another bad year for your program and you might be watching the games with me and not from your box. There might be some young talent in the program, but you might not be around to enjoy it. Keeping the faith, John Dear Coach Dan (Mullen): Congratulations on the resurgence of school spirit in Starkvegas. Season ticket sales are through the roof. You’ve got billboards on the entrances of our state (yes, that’s our state) and every person who’s ever been picked up Edam cheese in Starkville is proclaiming that this is “our year.” Seriously, I haven’t seen enthusiasm this high since Sylvester Croom was SEC Coach of the Year after he beat Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl a couple years back. He was forced out a year later. What? Look, Coach Dan (I like calling you that because it reminds me of Lieutenant Dan on Forrest Gump, and well, I like the movie); you seem like a great football coach. Really. I have a degree from Ole Miss, but I don’t hate you. Hell, I try not to root against you except for one Saturday in November. But let’s talk for a second– you’ve beaten one team in the SEC West in your career. Sure, it is Ole Miss but you’re still finishing fifth in the West. Balls bounced your way last year and you manhandled a Michigan team who seemed to be trying to lose Rich Rodriguez’s job rather than trying to
save it. I wish you luck. I do. I have a niece who is a freshman at State and I want her to have a good college football experience. But the SEC is a brutal, brutal conference and I won’t lie to you when I say that I’m a little worried about your losing defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. But really, save the rah-rah crap. The “School Up North” jazz accomplishes your goal if your goal is simply to energize your fan base and to infuriate your in-state rival. Done. Now move past that point and accomplish another goal– finish higher than fifth. Spend some time bringing lots and lots of talent to State. Beat LSU and Alabama. Or Auburn. Or Arkansas. Prove you can coach on the field as well as you talk on the alumni caravan circuit. Wishing you luck this year. I am. John Dear Southern Mississippi Sports Information Department: Austin Davis is a baller – plain and simple. His rise from a walk-on to star quarterback has been phenomenal. His numbers are staggering. In the history of USM football, no one has thrown more touchdown passes. Not Reggie Collier. Not Brett Favre. My boy Austin sits alone at the top of that category. He’s only about 300 yards away from Favre’s career passing yardage record, too. He’s thrown 16 interceptions in his entire career. Trust me, 16 interceptions would be called October for Jevan Snead. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Austin’s personal story is even better. Walk-on to record-breaker. Unremarkable to unforgettable. They’ve made Disney movies about lesser things. But here’s the thing. He remains unknown to the world at large. I dare say that the average Mississippi sports fan would not be able to tell me the name of the starting quarterback at USM. Get that information out to the masses. Pump him up to ESPN and
let’s get a TV feature about him. Let Rick Cleveland live with him for a week to help spread the gospel. Take a cue from Brett and text a TV reporter or two. I don’t care. But get creative and kick the public relations machine into overdrive for this kid. He deserves it. Austin can play. To the top, John Dear NCAA: Amateur athletics have become a sham. I spend more time listening to university attorneys on ESPN than I do to college football coaches. The rules are so complicated and confusing that I’m sure that acknowledging you’ve read my column is a secondary violation. Simplify college athletics. Either you can pay players or you can’t. Either you can contact recruits at a certain time or you can’t. If I sound like I’m oversimplifying the system, then it’s because you have overcomplicated the system. Rules are made to be broken. But you’ve created a system wherein the rules are being bent so far backwards that they are decapitating folks when they spring back to their original position. So let’s get it fixed. ASAP. Listen to the coaches and athletic directors. Hell, just for kicks, listen to the players as well. But get it done before we’re all watching NASCAR on Saturdays. Your pal, John Enough with the correspondence. Let’s play football.
John C. Cox is a practicing attorney at Cox & Moore, PLLC in Cleveland, Mississippi, as well as a Municipal Court Judge. He has been a sideline reporter for CSS Sports football television broadcasts, and is a part-time color analyst for the Delta State Sports Network.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
S IGNAL C ALLER
Mississippi’s School for the Deaf Head Coach Kevin Cronin Calls Plays on the Field and in Life for his 25-man Roster
BY MIKE CHRISTENSEN | PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS
HIGH SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
The team isn’t long into its practice session on this hot August day before the coach sees something he wants to correct. Kevin Cronin takes over the quarterback position and runs an option play to the right, demonstrating to the young QB he has displaced how to pitch the ball to the trailing back. A few moments later, Cronin sprints over to a defensive back who has just made a helmet-tohelmet hit and shows him how to get low to make a tackle. This could be any football practice at any Mississippi high school — but something is noticeably different here. The only sounds a visitor hears are pads popping and an occasional grunt. There are no whistles. No coaches barking instructions. No words are spoken. This is football practice at Mississippi School for the Deaf in Jackson. Twenty-five sets of eyes are constantly trained on Cronin. He uses American Sign Language to communicate his points — when he’s not taking the hands-on approach — and a different set of signs, a unique set, to signal plays he wants the team to run. The practice runs smoothly. “They pick things up pretty quick,” Cronin says. The players come from all over the state, from Blue Mountain to the Coast. They are a diverse group, both racially and physically. There is a lineman who has Division I size and a mighty-mite running back with breakaway speed. The others fall somewhere in between. Most of the players are totally deaf, Cronin says, and only a few can speak at all. “They come here to be educated and to not be left out,” Cronin said. “They get to participate in activities that they want to be a part of.” Cronin, 34, from Clinton, is in his third year at MSD, but this is his first time coaching the football team. His enthusiasm is infectious. “Who doesn’t love football?” he asks with a broad grin. “The kids love it out here. We have 25 players out this year. That’s a miracle.” Cronin’s own story is inspirational. Deaf since birth, he is adept at reading lips and speaks quite clearly. He played football and baseball at Clinton High School, giving up football — he was a free safety — only after suffering a knee injury his sophomore year. He went on to play baseball at Hinds Community College. (His brother Brian, also deaf, played basketball at Holmes CC and Mississippi College and is now the coach of the high school team at St. Andrew’s.) Kevin Cronin received a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas at Arlington and coached at a small deaf school there for several years. He also served four church missions over a
DRILL SARGENT | Mississippi
FAST PACED | The Bulldogs
UNDER CENTER | Bulldog
‘SIGN’ ME UP | MSD was
School for the Deaf head coach
play eight-man football – a
players watch for the hike and
founded in 1854 as the state’s
Kevin Cronin runs his 25-man
quicker version of the traditional
use their peripheral vision to
official school for the deaf and
roster through drills at the
see when the play has started.
hearing impaired from ages four
(PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
(PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
(PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
(PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
HIGH SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
Twenty-five sets of eyes are constantly trained on (Kevin) Cronin. He uses American Sign Language to communicate his points — when he’s not taking the hands-on approach — and a different set of signs – a unique set – to signal plays he wants the team to run.
two-year period, working in the deaf community in several states. He earned a master’s degree in deaf education at the University of Pittsburgh. While at Pitt, Cronin played quarterback on a flag football team and became, he proudly states, a diehard Steelers fan. When an opportunity at MSD opened up, Cronin eagerly moved back to his home state. Married for 14 years, he and wife Kaci have six kids. “I love it here,” he said. “I hope to stay here.” MSD was founded in 1854 as the state’s official school for the deaf and hearing impaired from ages 4 and up. A member of the Mississippi High School perform very well … if no one gets hurt!” Activities Association, MSD offers five different He laughs and claps his hands. varsity sports and a larger number of intramural “Doesn’t every coach say that?” he asks. “Really, I activities. am anticipating a good year. We might lose one, but The Bulldogs play 8-man football –a scaled-down, I don’t plan on it.” fast-paced variation of the 11-man game. The team’s The Xs and Os of the game are important, but for 2011 schedule consists of other deaf schools deaf players, simple focus might be more vital. from nearby states, but Cronin hopes to add some “They watch for the hike,” Cronin said. “They use Mississippi Association of Independent Schools their peripheral vision to see when the play starts. 8-man teams to the schedule in the future. … They’re always using their eyes. They have to stay “MSD has won eight 8-man national championships,” focused. If they look away, they’ll miss something Cronin said. “But the last one was in 2004. We’ve got and then they’re lost. to bring back that tradition.” “They have to focus all the time out here, just like Cronin thinks this team could be a good one. they do in school. And that can be tiring.” “Based on my observations (of preseason drills),” But the biggest challenge of coaching deaf kids, he said, “and my understanding of athletic ability, I Cronin says, isn’t the on-field stuff. think we have a tremendous amount of potential to “The most difficult thing is getting them to realize
the potential they have, the potential to play football or to participate in life in general,” he said. “I’ve got good athletes here. What I want them to find out is who they are and what their potential is — and then explode with it. “That’s the challenge, convincing them that they can do it.” The rewards are something Cronin will see beyond the scoreboard. “The kids will have a moment when they say, ‘Oh, I got it.’ They know they can create anything after that moment,” he said. “If I can teach them that skill, I’ve done my job.”
BASEBALL MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
B ROOKHAVEN BROTHERS One was drafted by the Colorado Rockies, the other by the St. Louis Cardinals, but both are from the same town. Corey Dickerson and Kolby Byrd, two of Major League Baseball’s top rising young talents know a lot about each other. The two standouts hail from the same Southwest Mississippi city of Brookhaven, a rural town off Interstate 55, best known for the good food at Broma’s Deli and the boulevard on the weekends. The commonalities are not exclusive to zip codes, alone, though. Both are homerun hitters – lefties with rare power to all fields. Off the field both are friends, but on it, they are fearless competitors. “The main thing is to always stay
Rockies in the 8th Round of 2010 MLB Draft. He’s one of the Rockies’ jewels with bat speed and exceptional power. Dickerson broke Single-A records this season and made national headlines in May when he broke a 30-year old South Atlantic League mark by hitting three home runs and collecting 10 RBIs in a single game. Last week Dickerson added his second, three-home run game of the season. For the year he has 30 homeruns and 85 RBIs, with still a week left in the season. Byrd also has tremendous bat speed and power. The 6-1, 215-pound catcher was picked in the 13th round of the 2011 MLB Draft in June. Byrd has one of the best pop-times (the time a catcher's throw takes to arrive at second base)
It’s a great thing for them and for the program. We get pro scouts in here all the time now, just to check in on what we’ve got. I guess they don’t want to miss out on the next Kolby or Corey. Brookhaven Academy Head Coach Casey Edwards motivated and keep working hard,” said Dickerson. “Growing up in a small town and playing on a small team, we both figured that out pretty quick.” Both Byrd and Dickerson played together at Brookhaven Academy as All-State prep stars years ago, setting records and impressing MLB Scouts along the way. Dickerson, a 6-2, 210-pound outfielder was drafted by the Colorado
in all of baseball, recording a 1.78 during a Cardinals Pre-Draft showcase in early May. He’s also a durable catcher too, catching 15 innings in a 5-hour minor league game earlier this summer. “It’s an adjustment from college to pro ball, but I like it,” said Byrd. “Sometimes when I’ve got questions, I’ll just call Corey up. We both stay in contact with the other pretty good.”
High School teammates making the climb to Big Leagues
Byrd and Dickerson both took similar paths in getting drafted too. Dickerson was drafted out of Meridian Community College, twice by the Rockies. In 2009, Colorado picked him in the 29th round but Dickerson elected to return to school. In 2010, he earned All-American honors and the Rockies moved up 21 rounds and took him again, this time signing him. As for Byrd he signed with Mississippi State out of high school. After redshirting at MSU his first year, Byrd transferred to Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, where pro scouts quickly followed. Not too many players ever get drafted, but two from the same city, with the same high school roots, going backto-back in the Top 15 Rounds is basically unheard of. “It’s really amazing,” said Stephen Cooksey, who coached both Byrd and Dickerson in high school. “With the way the draft is set up, world-wide and all, you never hear about two from the same state get drafted that high, much less the same town.” Brookhaven is the home of one Hall of Famer already in former San Diego Chargers wide-out Lance Alworth. Known mostly for its football roots, the city has quickly turned into a baseball town with the emergence of Byrd and Dickerson on the pro level. “It’s a great thing for them and for the program,” said Brookhaven Academy
BY JAMES O. COVINGTON
Both Brookhaven natives, Corey Dickerson (left) and Kolby Byrd (right) are chasing the ultimate call-up to the big leagues (PHOTOS BY TONY FARLOW, TRACY PROFFIT)
head coach Casey Edwards. “We get pro scouts in here all the time now, just to check in on what we’ve got. I guess they don’t want to miss out on the next Kolby or Corey.” With that said, Byrd and Dickerson both know the sky is the limit for their future. Each plans to work hard and give it their best try in making it to the Show. “That’s the goal,” Dickerson said smiling. Likewise Byrd agreed, “We’re both cheering for the other. We both want it, maybe one or both of us will get there, one day.”
NEWS MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
AROUND THE STATE STATESMEN SKIPPER INDUCTED Delta State University Statesmen head baseball coach Mike Kinnison led a field of six that was officially inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame recently at the 49th annual BancorpSouth MS Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet. Kinnison joins an elite list of Mississippi's all-time greats, including his former coach and mentor Dave "Boo" Ferriss. "It's an honor to even be considered for the MS Sports Hall of Fame, but to be inducted is truly humbling," Kinnison stated. "This is a program award and without the support of my players, assistant coaches and family this would not have been possible." Kinnison is 654-201-1 in his 15 seasons at the helm of the Statesmen. He holds the distinction of being the only coach in Mississippi collegiate baseball history to guide a program to a national championship. The Benton native led the Statesmen to the 2004 NCAA Division II crown with a 12-8 victory over Grand Valley State in the title game. The other five inductees were former University of Southern Mississippi baseball coach Corky Palmer, former Mississippi State University and Major League pitcher Jeff Brantley, former Mississippi College women’s basketball star Rita Easterling, former USM and NFL punter Jerrel Wilson and former professional baseball owner and administrator Con Maloney. LEADING THE WAY Olive Branch native and NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. is leading the Nationwide Series standings with 867 points behind 421 laps led. The 23-yearold has driven his way to victory lane twice this season in his No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford. He has been a mainstay in the top 10 and he earned his first career win at Iowa Speedway — becoming the first non-Sprint Cup Series driver to win a Nationwide race since March 2010. In his first season as a full-time driver, Stenhouse was sporadic at the start of the campaign, but went on to record three top-five and seven top-
(PHOTOS BY HAYS COLLINS)
10 finishes in his final 20 races — a performance that boosted him to top rookie honors in NASCAR’s second-tier division. He earned his first Sprint Cup Series start this year in the Woods Brother Ford at the Coca-Cola 600 in May. He finished a respectable ninth. BURES BATS FOR AKRON Former Mississippi State softball standout Courtney Bures recently completed her fourth season in the National Professional Fastpitch league. A shortstop with the Akron Racers, the 25-year-old helped her team to an even 10-10 record – good enough for third in the overall standings. Bures was first drafted in 2008 by the Washington Glory, 16th overall. She was a member of the 2010 USA Softball Team and a member of the 2009 USA National Team that won the Japan Cup. While with the Bulldogs in Starkville, the Virginia native was a three-time First-Team All-SEC selection, twotime First-Team NFCA All-South region selection and the 2005 SEC Freshman of the Year. She holds career records at State for RBI/game, assists, total bases and slugging percentage. NPF runs a three-month season, June – August.
OUTDOOR RECREATION MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
SAFETY FIRST Don’t stop reading this article once you realize I wear Lycra clothing so tight that sometimes it makes my wife blush, I have bikes worth more than my car, and I have been known to shave my legs. I’m a cyclist. But, I’m also a driver. On my bike, I’ve been buzzed by an SUV wielded by a soccer mom talking on the cell phone, and in my car, I have groaned at a cyclist struggling up a hill blocking my pass. The roads of Mississippi can be chaotic for driver and cyclist, but luckily we are one of the few states to implement a number of laws attempting to regulate that chaos. It was in response to a fatal accident between a car and a young cyclist in 2009 that Mississippi adopted a “Three Foot Law.” In honor of the cyclist, it is known as the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act, or for the more legally inclined, Mississippi Code Section 633-1301 (et seq.). It’s most important provision is the enforcement of minimum passing requirement of three feet. Passing the law was important, the first pedal stroke if you will. However, Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee, an avid cyclist and proponent of the “Three Foot Law,” believes that the real fight is in increasing awareness. He will tell you that no matter how many laws you pass, you have to educate both drivers and cyclists on the rules of the road. That is why Ridgeland has been on the forefront of adopting the new “Three-Foot” Passing signs throughout the city, in addition to passing helmet ordinances and integrating cycling friendly routes into its city planning. Towns like Ridgeland have made great strides, but there is still much
Mississippi adopts “ThreeFoot” law to protect cyclist
B Y LOU FRASCOGNA
to be done on both sides of the road. A recent incident in Starkville between a motorist and a cyclist illustrated that the laws may not go far enough to protect or punish. Mississippi does not currently have distracted driving (cell phone) laws and any cyclist will tell you that all motorists are not friendly nor do they pass at a legal or safe distance. However, cyclists aren’t entirely blameless either. They run stop signs, they sometimes block entire lanes of traffic and they wear Lycra (which some consider to be an entirely different type of crime). So below is a condensed look at the laws regarding cyclists on the road, a sort of handbook of the road for both sides. Though, remember that these don’t supersede the laws of physics. Whether the cyclist or driver is at fault, if a driver in a two-ton vehicle hits a cyclist on a 20-pound bike the car always wins. Share the road. For the Cyclist - You shall obey the laws of the road as if you were driving a car. - You shall use appropriate hand signals. Left, right, stop. - You shall be as far to the right as is safely possible, but you can avoid road hazards. - You shall put a white light on the front of your bike, and a red light or reflector on the rear. - You may ride two riders wide on the road. feet when passing. You certainly may - And remember, throwing a bottle at a For the Motorist give more. cyclist or taunting is not a commonly - In addition to other motorist laws, - You may pass a cyclist where there is a accepted method of letting a cyclist drivers have a duty not to hit a cyclist or double yellow line if safe to do so. know you intend to pass him. It is also any pedestrian. - You shall not make a right turn in front illegal. - You shall give a cyclist at least three of a cyclist unless safe to do so.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
B EHIND THE LENS P HOTOGRAPHY BY HAYS COLLINS
CAPTURED: September EQUIPMENT:
04, 2010 Canon 7D 17-55mm
Hays Collins Publisher/Chief Photographer firstname.lastname@example.org When I was asked to comb through my library of photographs and deliver a shot for the inaugural inclusion in Mississippi Scoreboard’s “Behind the Lens” section, I knew instantly it was this photo of Ole Miss Head Coach Houston Nutt in the 2010
home opener. If this section hopes to give photographic emphasis to iconic moments and figures in Mississippi’s vast sports climate, this is it. As a photographer, you sometimes have specific images you want to capture; it's just a matter of making it happen. This shot is a perfect example of that. It was the first game so I had made a specific effort to get to the tunnel early to beat the crowd. I had to climb into a bush in
order to get the angle I wanted and still be behind the barricade the security guards had put up. The rest took a little luck, the team got there too early and stood there for a couple minutes allowing me to get Coach Nutt looking in the right direction. That was the only time that season that they stood there for more than 30 seconds.
COMMENTARY MISSISSIPPI SCOREBOARD
THE EXTRA POINT
B Y CHRISTIAN STECKEL
When it comes to the current state of college football, many things are a certainty as we head into the 2011 season. Scandals and corruption will continue to dominate headlines (see Miami, Ohio State and everyone else who hasn’t been caught yet), conference chaos has no end in sight thanks to individual schools wanting their own TV Network (see Texas and shockingly BYU), and the SEC will once again field a team in the BCS Title game (see the last five National Champions who hail from the league). The only question is – as the most powerful conference in sports history continues to pile up serious hardware – are all of the schools in the league on equal footing? I mean, Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU are the cream of the crop in the game, and nothing is ever going to change that, Right? So, could we really see Mississippi State or Ole Miss playing for it all in some warm-weather location in January one day? Do we really believe the table is set for a run to the title from two schools that have one combined trip to the conference championship game in its history? A Crystal Ball residing in Mississippi? Really? Most around the nation would say emphatically, “No.” But here inside the Magnolia State, those in charge say, “Yes.” And, I kind of believe them. At the annual SEC Media Days this summer in Birmingham, the man of the moment in Starkville, Dan Mullen, said his team is primed to take the next step. He speaks with conviction, like he actually believes it. Maybe Tim Tebow’s mentor learned something from his pupil. “I think we have the talent to do it," Mullen said. "The question is, are we that team that this year is going to come together, that is going to gel, work a little harder, believe in itself and believe in each other a little more than everybody else?” He took it a step further, fighting for every recruit with every word, by emphatically stating, “To me, we are the state university for Mississippi.
We're the people's university. It's really important for us and for me to get out there and make sure that we show that. I'd love nothing more than to win a championship for the people of Mississippi." So what about the other public school in the SEC in Mississippi? Well, Houston Nutt isn’t exactly beating around the bush when he says, “We won the state of Mississippi last year (recruiting), and I just feel like with the athletes we have here, and that’s where you start, we can very well fight for a championship.” I’m all for optimism, without it I’d have crawled in a hole somewhere and rolled up six-figure bills visiting a psychologist with all the rejection I’ve received in the world of journalism. But a BCS National Title coming home to Mississippi? In college football? It may not sound as crazy you think, if you examine just how close both teams have come in recent memory. Let’s start with MSU last season, where the Bulldogs finished the year 9-4, and 4-4 in the SEC. They had Auburn on the ropes at home in a three-point loss and should have won that game. Later in the year, they lost to Arkansas in double overtime at DavisWade Stadium. If they get those two wins, all they would have needed was one win on the road at either LSU or Alabama, to reach the magical 11-1 mark (7-1 in league play) which has proven to be the illusive benchmark for making it to Atlanta. Are they good enough to beat the Tigers or Crimson Tide in 2011 or find another way to climb to the 7 or 8 win plateau? Many think they are. What about Ole Miss three years ago? Recall its magical run to a Cotton Bowl title in a stunning turnaround of the program in Houston Nutt’s first year. Well, they finished the campaign 5-3 in league play, including a seven-point loss to South Carolina and a crushing four-point loss on the road at Alabama. If they don’t fail to show up against Vanderbilt in their league opener, and win one of the two against USC or Bama, that’s 7-1. When you break it down, even
STATE PRIDE | Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen believes it is possible for a team from the Magnolia State to vie for a national championship. He, of course, thinks that team is the Bulldogs. (PHOTO BY HAYS COLLINS)
I could see it as realistic, and I’ve never owned a condo in Oxford. Two teams, in one state, with one common goal. “This, to me, is the most important year maybe in the history of the program, because you're not just going to get to the SEC championship game on a one-year whim,” Mullen said in mid-August. “Teams that get to the SEC championship game are consistent winners and then have that breakout year." His intrastate rival would seem to
concur, “The formula is there. If you win that championship in Atlanta, you’re going to have a chance to play for a National Title,” Nutt said. Who knows? Maybe it isn’t so crazy to think that one day the entire nation will finally learn what a real MSU cowbell actually looks like, or for that matter, what in the world Hotty Toddy really means.