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2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 1


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TWO FOR TWO... Mississippi State pitcher Chris Stratton was the recipient of the ninth annual C Spire/ Ferriss Trophy, presented to the top collegiate baseball player in Mississippi. The award was presented on May 14 in a luncheon ceremony hosted by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Stratton, from Tupelo, bested two other finalists for the award, Delta State pitcher Colton Mitchell from Lake, MS and Ole Miss second baseman Alex Yarbrough of Allen, TX. Stratton makes it two in a row for the Bulldogs (in 2012) to bring home a C Spire award. MSU’s Arnett Moultrie won the 2012 Bailey Howell award in March. Stratton was also named SEC Pitcher of the Year.


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Photo by Bill Simmonds, Starkville, MS


TOURNEY CHAMPS... Playing six afternoon games in the SEC tournament’s new 10-team format, MSU won five tournament games for the first time in history. The Bulldogs won the tournament title for a fourth time at Hoover and by shut out for the first time. MSU’s tournament title was the first since a 4-1 win over Ole Miss to grab the 2005 championship. For the tournament, a total of 11 different MSU hurlers saw mound time. The Bulldogs posted a 1.96 earned run average by allowing 47 hits and 12 earned runs in 55 innings of work. Paced by four appearances from Caleb Reed, Ross Mitchell and Jonathan Holder, the Bulldogs struck out 41 and walked 16 in the tournament. Adam Frazier was named Tournament MVP.


>>> MSM | MISSISSIPPI SEEN Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine

WATERLOGGED... On June 2, 375 participants gathered at Madison Landing at the Ross Barnett Reservoir to take part in the 27th Annual Heatwave Classic Triathlon. Participants endured a 1/2 mile swim, a 24.5 mile bike ride and 10K run to complete the event. Participants came from all across Mississippi as well as Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas.

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2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 7


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Volume 5, Issue 1 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW Published by Pevey Publishing, LLC Publishers Greg & Mendy Pevey Featured Columnists Jake Adams, Bo Bounds, Brian Hadad, Make It Rain Sports Contributing Writers Jake Adams, John Davis, James Hill, Paul Jones, Rick Jones, Kenneth Minster, David Nichols, Kirk McDonnel, Wesley Peterson, Latoya Shields, Chuck Stinson, Mark Stowers, Jay Tidwell, Jay White Contributing Photographers Sports Information Offices: Miss. State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Miss. College, Belhaven University, Millsaps College, Alcorn State, MS Valley State, Jackson State, Univeristy of Arkanas, Bobby McDuffie, Mike Jones, Greg Pevey, James Pugh, Bill Simmonds, The Cirlot Agency, San Diego Chargers, Jacob Threadgill Advertising Sales Greg Pevey publisher@mssportsmagazine.com

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Mississippi Sports Magazine™ is published bimonthly by Pevey Publishing, LLC to promote Mississippi’s sportsmen and women, colleges, universities, high schools, communities and citizens in an informative and positive manner. We welcome contributions of articles and photos; however, they will be subject to editing and availability of space and subject matter. Photographs, comments, questions, subscription requests and ad placement inquiries are invited! Return envelopes and postage must accompany all labeled materials submitted if a return is requested. No portion of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher. The opinions expressed in Mississippi Sports Magazine are those of the authors or columnists and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, nor do they constitute an endorsement of products or services herein. We reserve the right to refuse any advertisement. Pevey Publishing, LLC is not affiliated with any institution, college, university, or other academic or athletic organization. Subscriptions are $24 (1 year, 6 issues) or $40 (2 years - 12 issues). Make checks payable to Pevey Publishing, LLC and mail to: 405 Knights Cove West, Brandon, MS 39047 or subscribe online at www.mssportsmagazine.com.

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MSM - JULY/AUGUST 2012

Contents...

12 JAKE’S TAKE: JAKE ADAMS

I got a fevah...

13 THE DAWGHOUSE: BRIAN HADAD

The Countdown has Started

The Crossroads at DavisWade Stadium

18 #OURGIRLS

Mississippi’s Girls of the NFL

22 THE EGG BOWL OF MARKETING One-on-One with Michael Thompson, Greg Thomas and Brent Jones

30 FAMILY GUY Family comes first as Ole Miss’ Dan Werner raises his children while coaching in the demanding world of college football

2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW The action starts on Page 40

26

MS LEGENDS

34 THE KING OF SMACK

82 2012 HIGH SCHOOL PREVIEW

98

HIGH SCHOOL

THEY CALLED HIM “BAMBI”

PLAYING THROUGH THE PAIN

NFL Hall of Famer Lance Alworth of Brookhaven was part of one of the greatest offenses of its time with the San Diego Chargers

Coach Ron Price of New Albany hits the sidelines less than a year after losing his wife in a tragic shooting

To Contact MSM > LETTERS, STORY IDEAS AND PHOTO SUBMISSIONS • Email MSM at publisher@mssportsmagazine.com or mail to Mississippi Sports Magazine, 405 Knights Cove West, Brandon, Mississippi 39047. Letters should include writer’s full name, address and home phone number and may be edited for clarity and space.

Former Bulldog Fred Smoot was not only known for his tough play, but getting in the head of his opponents

Jay White breaks down the upcoming season and shares his preseason Top 25

92 TOP 40 SENIORS

Our look at Mississippi’s top prospects for the Class of ‘13

94 SCOTT SAMSEL

Olive Branch head coach speaks out

104 MAKE IT RAIN SPORTS:

The Effect of MS’s High School Graduation Rates

2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 9


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JAKE’S TAKE Follow Jake Adams on Twitter® @adamsjaken

The Countdown has Started BY JAKE ADAMS Featured Columnist

T

he countdown to college football season is upon us. You’ve been waiting for it since last the last one ended under the harsh realization that nothing else could possibly fill the void. Not that you haven’t tried. After Alabama crushed LSU in the BCS Championship game you survived the remainder of January on a diet of NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. You tried to adopt college basketball as an object of your affection through the month of March, and in April you did your duty as an American and feigned genuine interest in baseball. But through all those playoff games and March Madness you’ve longed in your heart for September and the return of college football. It’s your one true love. Why? Let me help you count the ways: 1. Your Team. In the South everybody has a team. Even people that didn’t go to a major college have a team, and it’s usually featured prominently on a favorite t-shirt or automobile. Many Alabama, Florida and Tennessee fans I’ve met over the years adopted their team because they’re bandwagon jumpers who like to cheer for winners. For others it’s all about location. Everybody in Louisiana cheers for LSU. Everybody. As though its a requirement in the Napoleonic Code. Arkansas is the same way. In Mississippi being an Ole Miss or Mississippi State fan more often than not goes back to heritage. They cheer for the school their mommas and daddies and aunts and uncles and cousins attended. We all have a team, and no matter the year, no matter the reason, there’s something burning deep in our souls that yearns for our team to succeed. I’m not sure what that something is, but I have a feeling it’s the same something that inspired the ancient Romans to cheer for Gladiators, the Greeks to dream up the Olympics and kings to race thoroughbreds. Today, in SEC country, we have our college football

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team, and its colors run through our veins. 2. The Drama. College football season is a real-life novel with a plot that thickens each and every week for 13 weeks as it builds toward a crescendo that is the conference championships and ultimately the BCS title game. There’s only 12 games, but each one means so much. Unless you’re Alabama, there’s hardly any room for error. From Saturday to Saturday the story gets written before your very eyes. We’re captivated by 4th down conversions, last-minute game-winning drives, overtimes and underdogs. Players become heroes. Coaches rise and fall. Dreams come true and get dashed to smithereens. If college football season were a book, some production company would pay billions for the movie rights (or maybe ESPN and CBS already did?). Come to think of it football season is better than any book. Maybe that’s why we’ll spend our Saturday afternoons and nights watching it instead of reading. 3. The Coaches. We love them, and we love to hate them. If they win enough they are the heroes. If they do it on a yearly basis they become legends like Bear Bryant and like it or not - Nick Saban. If they lose they are failures and scapegoats and we take pleasure in loudly calling for their ouster. Just ask Houston Nutt. This year we’ll watch hot seats flaring up in Knoxville, Auburn, Gainesville and Lexington. Who will make it another season? Who won’t? “Survivor” has nothing on this competition. Coaches can play the antagonist (just ask any Ole Miss fan what he or she thinks about Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen), and provide the comedic relief (just think Les Miles, clock management, and any press conference featuring his amazing yet perplexing wordsmanship). They are villains (hat tip to you there, Bobby Petrino), and they’re usually good for a quote - like Steve Spurrier when he found out Georgia would be moved from South Caro-

lina’s SEC opener to later in the season. “I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.” Zing! Speaking of the Ol’ Ball Coach, did I mention the nicknames? Mad Hatter, Riverboat Gambler, and Fat Phil are just a few that come to mind. Yep, we love our coaches...until we don’t. 4. The Gatherings. From September to January, football is a way of life featuring festivities, scenery and pageantry that can only be found on football Saturdays in the South. We gather together to tailgate with friends over ice cold beverages, delicious meats, seven-layer dips and yummy cakes. The most splendid Thanksgiving meal has nothing on some of these spreads, unless it is actually Thanksgiving and that works pretty great, too. Whoever heard of Thanksgiving without football anyway? Football is way more than a game. It’s an occasion. There’s really no better excuse for a party. Football brings people together like nothing else can. Fathers and sons and mothers and daughters will spend entire days together on multiple weeks (how often does that really happen anymore) going to the game. It’s a connection. The most meaningful conversation some guys ever have takes place with a beer in their hand and a game on the television. And is there’s no better icebreaker than, “Did you see the game?” I always feel sorry for people who didn’t. 5. The Games. Of course this is the most crucial ingredient of all. Without the game you don’t have everything that comes with it. There’s so much to the games I can’t possibly fit it all in this column, but I’ll at least set the scene. It starts with two teams on opposite sides of the field, squaring off on a 100yard stretch of turf enclosed in a stadium set ablaze with seas of cheering fans bedazzled in vibrant school colors as eleven armored men working in symmetry with one another, each with his own unique job description, push against the other eleven men with all their might in successive physical groans, pushes and pulls under the weight of glorious expectations each trying to force an oblong ball their chosen direction, ratcheting the tension up, up and up until one player finally EXPLODES with an incredible throw, a leaping catch, a slashing run or a bone-crushing hit that breaks the game open to the roaring approval of 100,000 jubilant fans. In that moment all of life’s problems disappear into a celebration. That’s why we watch and why we can’t wait for football season 2012. - MSM


THE DAWGHOUSE Follow Brian Hadad on Twitter® @brianhadad

The Crossroads at Davis-Wade BY BRIAN HADAD Featured Columnist

T

he term “crossroads” holds a special place in the lore and history of the State of Mississippi. It conjures up images of the Delta, of blues music, of the supernatural. The famous crossroads in Clarksdale, where Tommy Johnson (yes Tommy Johnson, look it up) allegedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a guitar that could play any song he wanted, is one of Mississippi’s most famous attractions. The crossroads represents the choices we all make, and the path those choices take us down. In Mississippi, when a man says he is at a crossroads, it carries a little more weight than it would outside our state. In Starkville, there is no famous crossroads, no mythology connected to Highways 12 and 82 coming together, no story to tell at University and Old West Point. But this year, there is a crossroads for Mississippi State, and it will run right down the 50 yard line at DavisWade Stadium. Dan Mullen will stand at that crossroads, and the path he and the Bulldogs will take will be set in stone by the time the clock runs out on the Egg Bowl in November. This season will tell the tale of Mullen’s career, and either send the Bulldogs onto that next step they have talked about taking last season, or loop back around to the same old same old State fans have tread water in since time immemorial. You have to preface remarks like that. Dan Mullen certainly isn’t on any kind of hot seat, regardless of what “experts” on random web sites would have you believe. As long as Mullen keeps his teams in bowl games, he can coach in Starkville as long as he likes. Mississippi State won a total of 39 games in the 2000’s, the administration would never let go of a coach that averaged 6 wins or better, for however long that period may go. Only Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier enjoy better job security than Mullen, where only an NCAA investigation could push you out. Mullen is

safe, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t at a career crossroads. The facts are these. State entered 2011 with big expectations, and found themselves unable to meet them. The August dreams of contending in the SEC West were left on the field at Auburn, as the Bulldogs came up short against every ranked foe they played last season. They played those teams well in most cases, but simply weren’t able to make a play, or stop a play, when it really mattered. While the wins versus Ole Miss and Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl soothed the sting of disappointment, it wasn’t enough to remove the bad taste of losing a top 20 ranking and missing a New Year’s Day bowl. State will enter the 2012 campaign with lower expectations from the national media, but here in Mississippi, we know the Bulldogs are talented, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Josh Boyd, Cameron Lawrence, Johnthan Banks, Corey Broomfield, and Nickoe Whitley have All-SEC potential. Denico Autry was one of the most highly sought after players in the country. There’s depth along the lines and in the secondary. As LSU and Alabama showed us last year, the road to the SEC title is still paved by the defense. State isn’t quite to that level, but can certainly be a tier behind them. Offensively, State seems to have finally found some playmakers, albeit inexperienced ones. This will likely be Mullen’s fastest team at MSU. The offense has been tweaked to take advantage of Tyler Russell’s passing skills, and it’s likely State will at least attempt more passes than they have in recent years. The Bulldog’s schedule is also conducive to a quick start. All four non-conference games are against teams outside the BCS, and the first three SEC games are against teams likely to start the season outside the top 25. State may be favored in its first seven games. A Dan Mullen coached team has only lost once when it was favored, against Auburn last season. If that trend holds, the Bulldogs could

be undefeated and nationally ranked heading into Tuscaloosa, set up to finish the season with 9 wins or better for the first time since 1999. So that sounds good and all, but we were saying a lot of similar things last year, and that busted out on us. State may be a bit under the radar this year, but expectations within the fanbase remain high. Most MSU fans I have heard from think this team can win 8 or more games, and expect to do so. So the onus is now on Mullen to produce. The Bulldog nation wants to know if Dan Mullen can deliver a start to finish good, if not great season, in Starkville. Can he take the “hasn’t beaten anyone but Ole Miss” monkey off his back? Can he get State to a Cotton or Capital One Bowl? Can he finally put some passing numbers into the record book that look like they came from modern days? These are the questions he’ll have to answer this season, and I say if he can’t, if State muddles through another five loss or worse campaign, that Dan Mullen may just be what his record says he is. He may just be an slightly above average coach who can get teams to bowl games on the back of a weak non-conference schedule, but can’t get his teams to that proverbial next level. He may coach at State for many years, not because he chooses to, but because he doesn’t show enough to get bigger schools truly interested in him as their next head man. State will kick off the 2012 season against Jackson State. This game will not give us any clues into what we can expect going forward, but just as it has been the past three years, we will not have to wait long to know. The Auburn Tigers will roll into Starkville in Week Two. They will probably be coming off a loss to Clemson. They will be an underdog in all likelihood. Davis-Wade Stadium will be packed and loud, and Dan Mullen will lead his players onto the field and in doing so, he will take his spot at the crossroads. A win would be the proof that this season will be a different one in Starkville, that the hopes and dreams we all entertained in 2011 were only delayed in arriving. But another loss to Auburn, and the path is set that this season won’t be much different than last. - MSM 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 13


STATEWIDE

CrossFit Craze MS Trainer Places 16th at CrossFit Games South/Central Regionals

F

lowood CrossFit gym owner and trainer, Michael McElroy, placed 16th at the annual CrossFit Games South Central Regionals in San Antonio, Texas, held April 27 through 29, 2012. “I like competing, I like getting out there and testing my ability and my training program,” said McElroy, who does 90 percent of his training alone between teaching classes at his Flowood gym, CrossFit 27:17. “I feel like it motivates my clients and shows them that they can do the same thing. I want to serve as a good role model.” McElroy, one of only two male competitors from Mississippi, competed against 60 of the fittest men in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Going into the last workout, McElroy was the only Mississippi competitor to make it into the top 18 and compete. “It’s a huge honor,” said McElroy. “It’s fun to be able to represent the whole state of Mississippi in something that big.” The event, designed to test physical fitness, included three days of grueling CrossFit

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workouts. McElroy trained for several months before heading to Regionals. “My goal of reaching the CrossFit Games helps keep me disciplined, and keeps me focused on my training and my diet,” said McElroy. “I do it to push myself, but I also do it for my clients. “They see that I put what I learn about programming and diet to use and how it affects me, and it allows them to believe in me more when I program for them. It gives them more confidence in what I am doing for them.” Regionals competitions continue through the end of May. After Regionals, the top three men, the top three women and the top three teams will move on and are slated to compete in the CrossFit Games in California in July. McElroy offers several classes at CrossFit 27:17, including morning, afternoon and evening classes. For more information about CrossFit 27:17, please visit www.crossfit2717. com. - MSM


MSMLEGENDS

You Decide

Who is Mississippi’s best ever?

Mississippi is known for its amazing football players, but who is the greatest? Favre, Payton, and Rice may be considered the best ever at their positions, but who would you pick for your team if you could choose only one?

BRETT FAVRE

walter payton

jerry rice

HOMETOWN: KILN COllege: southern Miss PRO: ATL., GREEN BAY, MINN., n.y. jets

HOMETOWN: columbia COllege: jackson state PRO: chicago bears

HOMETOWN: crawford COllege: miss. valley state PRO: san francisco, denver, oakland

Favre was a 20-year veteran of the NFL, having played quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons (1991), Green Bay Packers (1992–2007), New York Jets (2008) and Minnesota Vikings (2009– 2010). Favre is the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 70,000 yards, over 500 touchdowns, over 300 interceptions, and over 10,000 pass attempts. He made an NFL record 297 consecutive starts (321 including playoffs). He is the only player to win the AP MVP three consecutive times (1995–97). He has led teams to eight division championships (1995, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009), five NFC Championship Games (1995, 1996, 1997, 2007, 2009), and two Super Bowl appearances (Super Bowl XXXI, Super Bowl XXXII), winning one (Super Bowl XXXI). He holds many NFL records, including most career touchdown passes, most career passing yards, most career pass completions, most career pass attempts, most career interceptions thrown, most consecutive starts by a player, most consecutive starts by a quarterback, most career victories as a starting quarterback, most sacked, and most fumbles.

Walter Payton, was the 4th overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft and played 13-seasons with the Chicago Bears. The records he held at the time of his retirement included 16,726 total yards, 10 seasons with 1,000 or more yards rushing, 275 yards rushing in one game against Minnesota (1977), 77 games with more than 100 yards rushing, and 110 rushing touchdowns. Payton had 4,368 combined net attempts and accounted for 21,803 combined net yards. He also scored an impressive 750 points on 125 touchdowns. Payton won the NFC rushing title five straight years from 1976 to 1980. He also led the NFC with 96 points in 1977 and won the NFL kickoff return championship in his rookie 1975 campaign. He was named both All-Pro and All-NFC seven times and played in nine Pro Bowl games. Payton was selected as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1977 and 1985, the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1977 and 1985 and the NFC MVP in 1977. An amazing runner, Walter rushed for more than 1,000 yards 10 of his 13 seasons. His best season came in 1977, when he ran for 1,852 yards, third best in history at that time. Payton’s 492 career pass receptions for 4,538 yards and 15 touchdowns contributed to his exceptional combined net yard totals. Payton missed one game in his rookie campaign and then played in 186 consecutive games.

Rice is widely considered to be the greatest wide receiver of all time and is considered by many to be the best NFL player to ever play football. On November 4, 2010, Rice was chosen by NFL Network’s NFL Films production The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players as the greatest player in NFL history. The all-time leader in most major statistical categories for wide receivers and the all-time NFL leader in touchdowns scored with 208, Rice was selected to the Pro Bowl 13 times (1986–1996, 1998, 2002) and named All-Pro 12 times in his 20 NFL seasons. He won three Super Bowl rings playing for the San Francisco 49ers and an AFC Championship with the Oakland Raiders. At MS Valley State, Rice had a recordsetting 1983 campaign, including NCAA marks for receptions (102) and receiving yards (1,450) and being named first-team Division I-AA All-America. He also set a single-game NCAA record by catching 24 passes against Southern University. As a senior in 1984, he broke his own Division I-AA records for receptions (112) and receiving yards (1,845). His 27 touchdown receptions in that 1984 season set the NCAA mark for all divisions. 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 15


MSMLEGENDS

MS ALL-PRO TEAM I’D WANT THESE GUYS ON MY TEAM: Mississippi sports fans have gotten to watch some great college football players over the years, many of those had very successful careers in the NFL to say the least. We decided to put together our list of past and present stars who are from (or played) at a Mississippi school for you to debate.

QB-BRETT FAVRE

RB-WALTER PAYTON

RB-DEUCE McALLISTER

WR-JERRY RICE

HOMETOWN: KILN COllege: southern Miss PRO: GREEN BAY, MINNESOTA

HOMETOWN: COLUMBIA COllege: JACKSON STATE PRO: CHICAGO

HOMETOWN: LENA COllege: OLE Miss PRO: NEW ORLEANS

HOMETOWN: CRAWFORD COllege: MISS. VALLEY STATE PRO: SAN FRANCISCO, DENVER

WR-LANCE ALWORTH

OL-KENT HULL

OL-RICHARD BYRD

OL-JACKIE SLATER

HOMETOWN: BROOKHAVEN COllege: ARKANSAS PRO: SAN DIEGO

HOMETOWN: GREENWOOD COllege: MISSISSIPPI STATE PRO: N.J. GENERALS (USFL), BUFFALO

HOMETOWN: NATCHEZ COllege: SOUTHERN MISS PRO: HOUSTON

HOMETOWN: JACKSON COllege: JACKSON STATE PRO: ST. LOUIS

OL-MICHAEL OHER

OL-GENE HICKERSON

TE-WILLIE RICHARDSON

P-RAY GUY

HOMETOWN: MEMPHIS, TN COllege: OLE MISS PRO: BALTIMORE (RAVENS)

HOMETOWN: GREENWOOD COllege: MISSISSIPPI STATE PRO: N.J. GENERALS (USFL), BUFFALO

HOMETOWN: JACKSON COllege: JACKSON STATE PRO: BALTIMORE (COLTS)

HOMETOWN: SWAINSBORO, GA COllege: SOUTHERN MISS PRO: OAKLAND

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MSMLEGENDS

MS ALL-PRO TEAM

DB-hanford dixon

DB-FRED SMOOT

DB-LEM BARNEY

DB-KEN LUCAS

HOMETOWN: mobile,al COllege: southern Miss PRO: cleveland

HOMETOWN: JACKSON COllege: mississippi state PRO: washington, minnesota

HOMETOWN: GULFPORT COllege: JACKSON STATE PRO: DETROIT

HOMETOWN: CLEVELAND COllege: OLE MISS PRO: SEATTLE, CAROLINA

DL-JOHNIE COOKS

DL-L.C. GREENWOOD

DL-TYRONE KEYES

DL-HUGH GREEN

HOMETOWN: LELAND COllege: MISSISSIPPI STATE PRO: BALTIMORE, N.Y. GIANTS, CLEVELAND

HOMETOWN: CANTON COllege: ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF PRO: PITTSBURGH

HOMETOWN: JACKSON COllege: MISSISSIPPI STATE PRO: CHICAGO, TAMPA BAY, SAN DIEGO

HOMETOWN: NATCHEZ COllege: PITTSBURGH PRO: TAMPA BAY

LB-PATRICK WILLIS

LB-D.D. LEWIS

LB-ROBERT BRAZILE

K-STEVEN GOSTKOWSKI

HOMETOWN: BRUCETON, TN COllege: OLE MISS PRO: SAN FRANCISCO

HOMETOWN: KNOXVILLE, TN COllege: MISSISSIPPI STATE PRO: DALLAS

HOMETOWN: MOBILE, AL COllege: JACKSON STATE PRO: HOUSTON (OILERS)

HOMETOWN: MADISON COllege: MEMPHIS PRO: NEW ENGLAND

2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 17


MSMSIDELINES

#OURGIRLS Mississippi has always been known for its beautiful women. These ladies carry on that tradition each Sunday in NFL stadiums across the South.

CLAIR

TENNESSEE TITANS College: Ole Miss Hometown: Clinton

Photo courtesy the Tennessee Titans

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BRITTANY DALLAS COWBOYS College: Ole Miss Hometown: Pearl

Photo courtesy the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders

2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 19


SAINTSATIONAL Photos courtesy the SaintSations

CHASTITY

College: Southern Miss/ William Carey Hometown:

Picayune

KRISTINA

College: Pearl River CC/ Southern Miss Hometown: Carriere 20 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


CHANCY College: Miss. State Hometown: Picayune

NICOLE JERAMI

College: Southern Miss Hometown: Long Beach

College: LSU Hometown: Ocean Springs

2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 21


PREGAME

The Egg Bowl of Marketing From hashtags, billboards, print ads, and game day atmosphere; marketing your school in one of the smallest states in the South is not just a battle between rivals, it’s becoming expected more and more from the fans BY CHUCK STINSON

Contributing Writer Headshots courtesy Miss. State, Ole Miss, and Southern Miss Sports Information Billboard and game day photos by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine

CHAD THOMAS Mississippi State

T

here is a recruiting war going on at Mississippi’s “Big 3.” But it is not the recruiting war you are accustomed to hearing about over and over again. This recruiting war is not just for the best athletes in the country or state---it’s also for your attention and the attention of future fans and potential students. Call it a marketing war. The old days of just throwing up a few posters decorated with a schedule and a number to the respective school’s ticket office are long gone. “It has moved from not only selling those tickets and marketing tickets, but also

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MICHAEL THOMPSON

BRENT JONES

to marketing the whole experience of coming to a football, baseball basketball game”, says Michael Thompson who is the Senior Associate Athletic Director at Ole Miss and in charge of Marketing and Communications. Or talk to Chad Thomas, Mississippi State’s Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing, who has been on staff for just over five years. He says his day to day duties have changed drastically because of the new demands on the marketing department. “It wasn’t too long ago where we had a very small budget and we did some grass roots marketing to get people to come out. We didn’t put much into the game atmosphere at any of our sporting events. People showed up,

we thanked them for coming and they went home. We figured out quickly that to compete and get some recruits here that could compete for championships, and get the fan base to come, we needed to do something different.” Your favorite school is no longer just about the traditional university colors. It is now a brand. MSU’s Thomas continues: “Our brand is very important. We use certain logos for certain things. There are a lot of MSU’s out there. There are a lot of ‘M’ States. We use that Mississippi State in our end zones and on the floor at the Hump on purpose---so that people watching on national television know who is playing in that game.”

Ole Miss

Southern Miss


Mississippi State kicked off the marketing wars with a season ticket billboard campaign as early as 2008 with a “Many Happy Returns” Egg Bowl board mocking Ole Miss after Derek Pegues’ now famous 2007 punt return that lifted MSU over Ed Orgerons’ Rebels. That board was soon followed by the “Our State” campaign (top) which prompted Ole Miss to counter with their Super Bowl and Pro Bowl boards featuring former Rebel stars. In return, USM put up a billboard proudly stating they are the best “BCS” team in Mississippi.

Brent Jones, the Associate Athletic Director of Communications at Southern Miss concurs. “What every school wants to do is grow their brand and grow their fan base. Every school is trying to do new creative and exciting, cutting edge things. You have to be revolutionary and you have to do things differently. We are trying to do three things: influence, inform and cultivate.” Jones also says that the biggest challenge is keeping up to date with all the different forms of media and communication available. “We try to reach our fans across different numerous mediums including social network and traditional forms such as print, billboards, radio and TV. We just added three apps a few months ago for the I Phone, Android and Blackberry. We need to make all that we are doing here at Southern Miss accessible to our fans.” It’s social media that is really having a major impact on the marketing of college athletics today. Now, marketing staffs at Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss are reaching the masses through Facebook, Twitter and other form of social media. It’s basically a free form of advertising through postings by staff members. Jones puts it this way, “Four years ago most college athletic departments did not have a Facebook page. Now most every college athletic department from Division One to NAIA has an athletic Facebook page---it’s the same thing with Twitter.” Jones says that USM understands how powerful Twitter can be, “It is a great way to get new fans and get a message out and stay relevant with the times.” Thomas of MSU says, “It has opened up a lot of things we haven’t done before. It is more direct and communicative with the fans than we have ever been.” Twitter has also opened new avenues of marketing and information. “It isn’t just a platform for us to say something and not get something in return,” says Thomas. “Anybody who follows us we answer questions, re-tweet people, giving them an idea of traffic problems at game time, and so forth. It also gives us a chance to educate our fans as well. Fans tweet in pictures or messages that we use on the video board.” Mississippi State was also brought into the national spotlight with its #hailstate Twitter campaign. “Our fans were excited about that and thrilled that Mississippi State was being discussed as a leader in social media across the country,” Thomas adds. Even the coaches are in on the social media act now. Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss and Ellis Johnson of Southern Miss, the Big 3 football coaches all tweet. It is almost as much of the job as recruiting and watching opponent’s game films says Thomas. “Scott Strickland (MSU Athletic Director) would tell you that in the process of inter2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 23


Mississippi State received tons of national buzz when they painted the “Hail State” hashtag in the endzone for the 2011 Egg Bowl. The photo, leaked out several days before kickoff by athletic director Scott Stricklin, even caught the eye of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as he tweeted about the bold move.

“It wasn’t too long ago where we had a very small budget and we did some grass roots marketing to get people to come out. We didn’t put much into the game atmosphere at any of our sporting events. People showed up, we thanked them for coming and they went home. We figured out quickly that to compete and get some recruits here that could compete for championships, and get the fan base to come, we needed to do something different.” - Chad Thomas

viewing coaches he would find out if they had a Twitter account and if they didn’t he would highly suggest they think about getting one. It is something that we have used to our advantage communicating to our fans. With over 30,000 people following Dan Mullen, if we need to get a message out to our fans, that means 30,000 people are going to see that message most likely.” Traditional media buys are still a big part of how the schools reach their fan bases and the ones they really want to appeal to---the undecided fan or student. It’s no longer just about getting your fans to the game but potential fans and maybe more importantly---potential students---there to make an impression. “It is a big canvas”, says Thompson. “Different audiences are consuming information in different ways. We have got to look at everything.” Jones says that the campaigns are planned out like a college football practice schedule, very deliberate and methodical. “We try to look at what is our biggest return on investment. We have to take each demographic and each city and see what would be the most successful use of our resources.” Game day in Hattiesburg, Oxford and Starkville has also undergone a drastic change. It is no longer just about the game

and the band at halftime. There is a lot of emphasis put on entertaining the masses before, during and after the game. Thompson says that with the technological advances along the lines of HDTV that we live in, it is a must to keep fans entertained. “The distractions are limitless. We are trying to keep people engaged in the game. Just because we have sold you tickets, that doesn’t mean that you are going to come to the game. We are trying to market the entire experience from start to finish.” Thomas agrees. “We are competing against ESPN whereby you can go watch that game from the comfort of your couch in your living room. We have got to find a way for you to spend money and come to the game and define what you’re getting for spending that money other than just being in the ballpark or stadium. That is why you see different things on the video board like a kid’s cam or a text to win contest.” Ole Miss, which has one of the nation’s most recognized game day experiences with the gathering at the Grove is now promoting that part of the game day experience with television spots. “The Grove is an incredible tool. It is pregame and tailgating at Ole Miss.

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It’s an incredible resource that we need to promote. If we can get a fan out of the Grove that means we can get them out of their living room and we are one step closer to getting them into the stadium,” says Thompson, who adds that in the future they will promote the Grove experience even more because they think it is a competitive edge when it comes to the fan experience. So what is the best marketing tool for a university? It is still the same as it has always been. Winning sells more than anything. “That doesn’t hurt things at all! We always want to do well on a playing surface” says Thomas. He adds, “When we win fans get excited and they want to be a part of something special.” Thompson can attest to that firsthand since his few years in Oxford have been tough on the football field. He now wants to experience the other side of marketing to see how good it can get. “If things aren’t going great on the field or the court it kind of makes my life doubly hard. It can be rough. When we are consistently winning it is going to make it a really fun job. It ought to be a good time.” And you can bet those good times will be shared socially and used as a marketing tool. @MSSportsMag - MSM


PREGAME

The Making of a Tradition Are you Ready? A look inside one of Ole Miss’ JUMBO-sized pregame traditions

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hile the Grove ranks as the tradition at Ole Miss, there is a new tradition that has quickly become a fan favorite. The celebrity “Hotty Toddy” intro that is played on the video board prior to every home game is all the talk during the pregame festivities in the Grove with fans wondering, ‘Who will it be?” And ironically it was an Ole Miss legend that got the tradition started. “I think it was 1997 maybe, and we were getting ready to play LSU and Connie Braseth, who is our marketing coordinator, thought it would be great to get coach Johnny Vaught to do our school cheer over the Jumbotron because it was going to be the most people in Mississippi to ever see a game on campus”, says J Stern, Assistant Athletic Director for Ole Miss Sports Production. Thus a tradition was born. Fast forward 15 years later and it is almost as highly anticipated as kickoff in Vaught Hemmingway Stadium on game day. “When we did our first in game experience survey it was the top rated item out of 60 different ones. People just love it,” says Michael Thompson who is the Senior Associate Athletic Director at Ole Miss and in charge of Marketing and Communications. The ‘cheerleaders’ have ranged from ‘A’ list stars like actors Russell Crowe and Dennis Quaid, to rapper Snoop Dogg and Playboy’s Hugh Hefner. Of course there are favorite Rebels and former Ole Miss greats, as well as Mississippians like Morgan Freeman and Kermit the Frog. Then there are the obscure ones like the cast of the cult television series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Regardless, fans love them no matter who they are since they are pumping up their team just before game time. So how do they get the stars to participate, especially if they don’t have a connection to Ole Miss football or the University? They make phone calls and lots of them. Stern has been in on the recruiting end of it from the time the idea was born. “It was a

Ole Miss has made a tradition over the past several years by having a celebrity lead the crowd in the pre-game “Hotty Toddy” cheer. “Harold and Kumar” star and comedian Kal Penn leads the cheer in this photo from 2011. The cheer has been led by notable stars and athletes such as Mississippi born Hip Hop artist “Snoop Dog”, NFL Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, movie star Russell Crowe and even Mississippi’s favorite amphibian “Kermit the Frog.”

“We just started making phone calls and knowing people that know people that know people helped. It’s kind of gotten to be a big deal.” hit. So, Connie and I just started racking our brains to see who we could get. We just started making phone calls and knowing people that know people that know people helped. It’s kind of gotten to be a big deal.” As a recruiting tool the staff has put together a reel of the stars that have participated in the tradition in hopes of swaying others in the future. Because the Rebel marketing staff roots out the stars through their connections, all those that have done it have done so free of charge. And the best way to get them is just like everything else, it’s all in who you know. “If you ask the star or at least someone close to them to look at the demo (reel), they will do

it in a heartbeat. A case in point is with Jack Black, his agent turned us down for two years. A friend of mine was a cameraman in Atlanta and was shooting something with Jack and asked him if he would mind and Jack did it.” So is there a wish list? Stern says of course. The top of that list would be Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri reprising their roles as the cheerleaders from Saturday Night Live but Ferrell could be a tough get. “Ferrell is a Southern Cal fan and a huge supporter and I’ve not had a whole lot of luck,“ says Stern. A few years back Tiger Woods, who had a connection to the school through a professional relationship, turned down his chance to do it and wrote Stern a nice letter explaining his reason for participating. He is a Stanford fan and stands by his team. So who is on the agenda for 2012? That, like all the others before are kept a secret to the best of the Ole Miss marketing staffs ability so Rebel fans will just have to see for themselves first hand when kickoff comes around in the fall. - MSM 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 25


MSMLEGENDS

A They called hIm “bambi” Lance Alworth of Brookhaven, was a huge part of one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history in San Diego, which in turn paved his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame by CHUCK STINSON Contributing Writer

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sk Lance “Bambi” Alworth why he was interested in sports growing up in Brookhaven, Miss. and the answer is simple. “It wasn’t hard to get interested in sports in Mississippi since that was about all we had when we were growing up. That and picking cotton”,  the NFL and College Football Hall of Famer said with a laugh.  A 1988 inductee into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, Alworth calls himself fortunate to have had a lot of options as a kid and he took advantage of every opportunity. “I played baseball, football, basketball and ran track, too. We had to. We didn’t have a lot of guys, but the guys we had were fabulous. Out of a class of 78 we had three guys that played pro ball. That is a helluva record.” You might think that a man who is a member of more Halls of Fame than you can count because of his football skills would say he couldn’t get enough of the game; but the truth is, early on, Alworth liked other sports better. “Football wasn’t always my favorite. I didn’t mind getting hit but I didn’t like hitting people. Football was not my favorite sport in high school. I learned to love it as I played more and found skill positions I could really enjoy and have fun with it,” he said. He had enough “fun with it” to get a scholarship to play at Arkansas, but just like football at one point that really wasn’t his first choice. Alworth wanted to go to Ole Miss but because he was a new husband, he was influenced to head for Fayetteville. “At that time Mississippi State wasn’t as big as it is today – Ole Miss was the place to be and that is where everybody went,” Alworth recalls. “When I went to Arkansas I didn’t know anybody. Our parents didn’t want us to go to Ole Miss. They wanted us to go somewhere and start anew together instead of me going to Ole Miss with all my friends. I think that had a lot to do with it. There is a still a warm place in my heart for all the guys, mainly because I played against all of them in high school and knew them all. I’m still an Ole Miss Rebel at heart.” In fact, it was one of those Ole Miss guys that gave Alworth his famous nickname, “Bambi,” during his early years with the Chargers. “Charlie Flowers gave it to me. I had a little short flat top and big brown eyes and I ran with my knees really high and he looked at me and said, ‘You run like a deer so we’re going to call you Bambi.’ I ignored it but it stuck.” He also noted with a laugh that as his tenure in the league grew, the name changed. “About


LANCE ALWORTH: n Alworth finished his 11 AFL/NFL seasons with 543 receptions for 10,266 yards. He also rushed for 129 yards, returned 29 punts for 309 yards, gained 216 yards on 10 kickoff returns, and scored 87 touchdowns (85 receiving and 2 rushing). n In 1972, he was inducted to the San Diego Hall of Champions. In 1977, he was inducted in the Chargers Hall of Fame. In 1978 he became the first San Diego Charger and the first player who had played in the AFL to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He chose to be presented at the Canton, Ohio ceremony by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, his former position coach at San Diego, who had much to do with the success of the AFL. n Alworth’s #19 is retired by the Chargers, only the second number ever retired by the team. (It was, however, issued to Johnny Unitas when he played his final NFL season with the Chargers in 1973.) In 1970, he was selected as a member of the AFL All-Time Team, and in 1994, he was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the only player to be named to both teams. n In 1988, he was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. n In 1999, he was ranked number 31 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, making him the highest-ranking Charger and the highestranking player to have spent more than one season in the AFL.

Photo courtesy University of Arkansas Sports Information

2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 27


Photo courtesy the San Diego Chargers

“At that time Mississippi State wasn’t as big as it is today – Ole Miss was the place to be and that is where everybody went,” Alworth recalls. “When I went to Arkansas I didn’t know anybody. Our parents didn’t want us to go to Ole Miss. They wanted us to go somewhere and start anew together instead of me going to Ole Miss with all my friends. I think that had a lot to do with it. There is a still a warm place in my heart for all the guys, mainly because I played against all of them in high school and knew them all. I’m still an Ole Miss Rebel at heart.” the third year it went from Bambi to Bam. I came into training camp about my seventh or eighth year and I hear this behind my back, ‘Hey there goes Mr. Alworth’ and I was like ‘Oh, no, I really am getting old.” Alworth has zero regrets about his college career at Arkansas. Without Arkansas, Alworth doesn’t know what his future would have been on or off the football field. “I love Arkansas and it is very special to me, especially Frank Broyles and the regime of that period and that time. I had a great career there and I love the people and I wouldn’t change it because it might mean I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have a wonderful life with my wife and family. “ Despite his record setting play at wide receiver, Alworth thought after his playing days in Arkansas were over so was his career. He figured 28 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Photo courtesy the San Diego Chargers


“As for football, he still watches the sport yet he does not like what the game he loves is becoming. ...Before long quarterbacks are going to have a flag on their butt and when they grab the flag the play is over. The game is rough and tough. I don’t know how you can take it away. The defensive guys are struggling and fighting and all of a sudden you get to the quarterback and you are not supposed to hit them?”

Photo courtesy the San Diego Chargers

Photo courtesy the San Diego Chargers

he would be going on to law school. At the time, the AFL was a start up league against the established NFL. San Francisco took him with the eighth overall pick in the 1962 draft and people from the team came to Mississippi to talk to Alworth about his future. “I met a representative in Jackson and he said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘The Chargers are going to give me a no cut contract for two years.’ He said, ‘Well we don’t do that in the NFL.’  I looked at him and I said, ‘Thank you very much sir. I will see you.’ I got up and walked out and never talked to him again. The Chargers drafted me for wide receiver which is the position I love playing. ” The decision paid off for Alworth. He played with quarterback John Hadl and for coach Sid Gillman, a tandem well ahead of their time when it came to offense. Alworth calls Gillman the true genius behind

the heralded West Coast offense and that the Chargers were a team ahead of the future. “Our 1963 team could have beaten anybody. I have never played on a team that was that talented. We won the AFL championship and Chicago won the NFL and we would have loved to have played them,” Alworth says. The AFL champion and NFL champion meeting didn’t happen until a few years later with the advent of the Super Bowl which led to the merger of the leagues. Alworth eventually made it to Pro Football’s pinnacle game but not as a Charger.  “I was traded to Dallas for my last two years. When it happened the coach told me he traded for me because I would block. He told me if I would block we would win the Super Bowl. So I was outside receiver and what they wanted me to do was block more than run patterns and catch the ball. So I ended my last two years at Dallas, not being very productive from a receiver standpoint but I loved playing with the guys I played with because we had a great team and it is always fun playing with a team that wins. I have a Super Bowl ring and a lot of people can’t say that”. That Super Bowl was the sixth one and ironically, since he was brought in to be a blocking receiver, Alworth scored a touchdown in the Cowboys 24-3 blowout over the Miami Dolphins. In 1972, Alworth ended his career after 11 seasons and with over 10,000 receiving yards and 85 touchdown catches. He has had his number 19 retired in San Diego, been named a member of the AFL All Time team and a member of the NFL’s 75 Year Anniversary Team.  In 1978, when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was the first player from the AFL to receive that honor. These days he continues to live in San Diego with Marilyn, his wife of 34 years, and run a management company. Despite having two hip surgeries and currently considering a knee replacement, Alworth still works out everyday and also plays a lot of golf. As for football, he still watches the sport yet he does not like what the game he loves is becoming. “I am really disappointed with what they have done to the game,” he admits. “ I think they have taken contact out of it. I just feel like they are destroying the game. They are going to have to be very careful about how they approach it. Before long quarterbacks are going to have a flag on their butt and when they grab the flag the play is over. The game is rough and tough. I don’t know how you can take it away. The defensive guys are struggling and fighting and all of a sudden you get to the quarterback and you are not supposed to hit them?” Alworth continues, “They talk about concussions. I am 72 and I am sure I have had some concussions and I am sure I have suffered a little bit from it. But hey, I had the talent to play and I loved the game and we played it the way it is suppose to be played. It’s a vicious game but it is a wonderful game. They are taking the heart out of it today, though.” An interesting point of view for a man that played on the offensive side of the ball and was also known as Bambi. - MSM 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 29


PREGAME

Family Comes First

Ole Miss’ Dan Werner talks about how his family is his top priority despite the day to day grind of being a coach in the Southeastern Conference BY JOHN DAVIS

Contributing Writer Photos courtesy Ole Miss Sports Information and The Panolian

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ith Ole Miss offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Werner, family is more important to him than football. For a man who is trying to help turn the Rebels around from a team that won just two games in 2011, the focus always remains on his two children, Maya and Ian. Werner returns to Ole Miss after spending the last three years at North Delta Academy where he led the Green Wave to back-toback district titles and a 27-7 overall record. Werner never left Oxford after not being retained by former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and after the death of his wife, Kim, in 2009; Werner knew he needed to stay close to home and in an environment best suited for his children. “It was everything that I needed in my life again for my family. I made the decision when I went there for however many years I’ve been coaching---27 or how many it had been---the most important thing to me was being the best coach I could be. Once all this happened in my personal life then it became how could I be the best parent I can be and going to North Delta allowed me to do that,” Werner said. “Not only was I able to spend more time with my kids and be there for them but I learned by being around my players. In college football you’re in the office all day. I see my players, but I don’t see what goes on in their life. You see them for a couple of hours

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“I loved it at North Delta. I had decided that I was going to stay there for the rest of my career and the only way I would have gotten back into college football was it being here at Ole Miss. I wanted to stay in Oxford. And it had to be somebody that I knew family was a big part of their life. It had to be a perfect fit. So when Hugh called me and said he had a shot at this my ears did sort of perk up because I was obviously interested.” and that’s about it. At North Delta you have all the way up from Pre-K up to high school and I would deal with them on a daily basis and the little issues they go through. I learned from that and it made me a better parent.” As much as Werner liked North Delta, he couldn’t pass up the chance to coach again at Ole Miss under Freeze, but the situation had to be right for his family. “I loved it at North Delta. I had decided that I was going to stay there for the rest of my career and the only way I would have gotten back into college football was by being here at Ole Miss. I wanted to stay in Oxford. And it had to be with a coach who shared my view of family---it had to be a perfect fit. So when Hugh called me and said he had a shot at this my ears did sort of perk up because I was obviously interested,” Werner said. “I still

wanted to talk with him and make sure that it was going to be a good fit for him and me. That is always the case but with the family situation, it’s a little bit more intense scrutiny. Once we had a discussion and realized that we could work it out, then really it was a nobrainer. “For a long time it was hard on him because he wanted somebody that could get out and recruit and do all the things that you have to do get this turned around. I can’t do as much as some of the younger guys can do so that was an issue,” Werner added. “The other thing on my side of it was the fact that at North Delta, the people took me in my time of need. They were like a family to me and it was a great situation for me and my kids. It was hard for me to leave that situation there.” The three years at North Delta taught Freeze how to be a better coach as well and

he has used that to his advantage so far at Ole Miss. “It’s funny because of the way Coach Freeze is, he wants you to become more involved in players’ lives and help them grow as men. While I was at North Delta that was also my philosophy. There is a reason I’m here. First, I’m going to learn from them, from our parents, from our head master John Howell, who I’ve grown immensely close to. I’m going to learn from them, not so much about football, but I wanted to be able to help all the students because obviously I’ve been through quite a few things in however many years I’ve been around young people. I felt like that was something I was going to give them,” Werner said. “Most head coaches in college will sort of say that the kids are important to them but often they really aren’t. With Hugh it’s not like that---he is concerned. It is a major thing. He wants us to make sure that they are a part of his life. He knows that we can help them and he talks about it everyday. Now that I’ve been used to it here for the last three years, it’s something I feel comfortable doing. When we start a meeting, it’s nothing to sit and talk, not about football, but about life or things that happen in life. Hopefully it will make them better young 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 31


men and as it goes we’ll all bond because of it and become a better team now.” Freeze has three children and is a family man first too, Werner said. He added that Ole Miss fans will realize that the man who was on the Ed Orgeron staff is a different person than the man who is leading the Rebels now. “When you’re not a coordinator or a head coach or something, it sounds bad, but you don’t have a whole lot of say in what goes on. The former head coach’s philosophy, those didn’t click in that regard. Really, you didn’t see the true Hugh Freeze the last time I was here. He had to do what his boss wanted,” said Werner, adding most head coaches think families are a distraction from work. Werner stayed close to Freeze after he left at Ole Miss and there is a strong bond dating back to the death of his wife. “Just to show you the type of guy Hugh is, the day my wife passed away, a couple of hours later he was at my door, he and Grant Heard. They took a couple of days off to come and be with me. He came that day and was there with whatever I needed. He is obviously a spiritual guy and he helped in that regard,” Werner said. “We had always talked that year football-wise. He would call and ask what about this and I want to try this what do you think about so and so? How did we game plan for this? We always bounced ideas back and forth, not only when he was at Lambuth, but when he was at Arkansas State. We had stayed in touch.” The amount of time Werner spends taking care of his family has been praised by some, but he doesn’t think he’s doing anything out of the ordinary. “People say that but it’s just something that you do. I’ve had people act like I’m going above and beyond the call of duty but, that is your call of duty. They’re your family. That’s what is most important to me and that’s why I took the job in the first place and when this job came open, I was a little leery of it because of the rigors of recruiting and all that we do it makes it tough. That’s why Hugh and I went back and forth for about a month before we made a decision to go ahead and do the deal,” Werner said. “I knew that Hugh was the type where if I couldn’t get a sitter for that day that the kids could come up here and sit around while I was in meetings. We talked several times on the phone but I came up here and talked with him and just sort of hash it out about how this would work. One time we were in a meeting and his kids came in and made a little noise – it didn’t faze him a bit and that just showed me his philosophy is the kids are a part of it. We said we were going to be a family, let’s be a family and that made me feel a lot better knowing that my kids are allowed to come up here. I’ve worked for a lot of head coaches where they would frown on that. They think it would detract from the 32 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

work that’s being done. I disagree with that and I always have disagreed with it.” As for the new offense, Werner said he’s familiar with the spread going back to his days at Louisiana Tech. “My years at Miami we were more run and play-action type team – for some reason people think that’s my only mentality. When I first went there, we were one-back, shotgun. They didn’t call it the spread back then. Back when I was the offensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech, we did shotgun runs and people didn’t even know that they weren’t all the same play. They thought we were running a

The spread also gives the Rebels more options at the line of scrimmage on top of still allowing the team to be powerful at the point of attack, Werner said. “We line up and run our power play exactly the same way we do with a tight end and two backs. It’s just now instead of the fullback being there to block the guy, he may be reading him. The blocking scheme is exactly the same. It’s not like because we’re running the spread we’re telling the guys they can be soft. We’re coaching the exact same way as when you line up in two backs and smash people. The difference is we try to get some guys out

Werner at North Delta

“It’s funny because of the way Coach Freeze is, he wants you to become more involved in players’ lives and help them grow as men. While I was at North Delta that was also my philosophy. There is a reason I’m here. First, I’m going to learn from them, from our parents, from our head master John Howell, who I’ve grown immensely close to. I’m going to learn from them, not so much about football, but I wanted to be able to help all the students because obviously I’ve been through quite a few things in however many years I’ve been around young people. I felt like that was something I was going to give them,” Werner said. “Most head coaches in college will sort of say that the kids are important to them but often they really aren’t.” draw play every play but it wasn’t. It was the zone and the counter and the draw. Now everybody does that,” Werner said. “I’ve been a quarterbacks coach all these years and obviously I love to throw the ball. The things that he and I did here the last time we were together are probably 90 percent the same. It’s the same routes, we just spread it out more,out of different formations and calling it more often. We would like to get between 90 and 100 plays a game if possible.”

of the box that they have to go cover down over these wide receivers,” Werner said. “If they don’t cover, then you throw it to them. In the spring game we had several times where the quarterbacks just lifted up and threw for a three to five yard gain. People think a pass is supposed to be a 20-yard gain but our philosophy is if they’re going to get everybody in the box, we’re going to throw. A lot of throws were runs called but if they don’t cover, we just take it and throw.” - MSM


2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 33


PREGAME

The King of

SMACK Former Provine Ram, Fred Smoot, talks about his playing days at Mississippi State, the NFL and encouraging Mississippi athletes to stay and play at home BY PAUL JONES Contributing Writer MSU Photos courtesy Miss. State Sports Information

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hether fans remember Fred Smoot for his football talents or his “Smoot Smack.” It is hard for Mississippi State fans not to smile when they think of the former Bulldog and NFL cornerback. As much as he loved playing the game, the Provine High School alumnus enjoyed talking on the field to his opponents For Smoot, that’s the only way he’s ever played the game---or known to play the game. “I was talking to my (Hinds Community College) coach the other day - Gene Murphy,” said Smoot, “and I asked him---like I’ve asked all my coaches in high school and college---what he thought about how I always loved to talk on the field. They all say the same thing. They just loved how I competed.” And competing is what Smoot did in every aspect of the game. “I competed against my own coaches if they were offensive-minded coaches,” said Smoot with a laugh. “And when I practiced, I practiced with the same intensity I played with in games. That is what I tell young players to do all the time. You gotta take advantage of playing this game each and every day. Don’t worry about the games on Saturday or Sunday. Take advantage of your blessing to just play and to just practice.” For those who knew Smoot growing up, they will be quick to tell you that his “Smoot smack” didn’t start in college nor even in his middle school days. It all started when he was a young kid playing those typical pickup games in the neighborhood. “It all began in my own neighborhood and with my family,” said Smoot. “I grew up in a real competitive atmosphere. There were a lot of older folks in my neighborhood that couldn’t play but loved to talk and my grandma was one of them. So I learned early the art of talking. Some people say I talked trash but those folks never played against me. I wanted to master both arts - playing and talking.” Of course, just keeping up with the talent - talk or not talk - was a challenge for Smoot and what ultimately drove him to his stardom on the gridiron. “We had a lot of Division I players growing up in Jackson, guys that went to Florida and LSU to play football and guys that went on to the NBA,” said Smoot. “We all played in the same neighborhoods. So when we played we talked and it got frisky out there and we didn’t know any


2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 35


Fred

SMOOT other way. But when you do it the whole time and come into a game emotionally attached to it, I was always going to speak my mind and let others know what I was feeling.” Through the many years of playing, he naturally has a few favorite moments concerning his college career. “I guess one of my favorites was saying water covers 75 percent of the world and I covered the rest!” laughs Smoot. “Then this one game we played at Kentucky got picked up a lot. One of their players asked me how I felt about playing on bluegrass and I told him I don’t know much about manicuring lawns but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. “Then, against Florida, I told Reche Caldwell that I wished he had pockets on his pants ‘cause that’s where he needed to put his hands and that he wasn’t going to need them against me. And of course, I loved playing against Vanderbilt and the scholars of the SEC. Their players were calling us a bunch of dumb jocks and juco guys. I told them I would give them one catch if they would do my homework that next week.” Naturally, Smoot would face some of those same players he faced in college at the next level. And yes, those same talks continued in the NFL and Smoot noted that several opponents that loved to talk back as well. “Man, Tyrone Calico from Middle Tennessee State really gave it back to me,” Smoot recalled. “I only gave up one touchdown in college and it was to him. Luckily I was able to get him back in the NFL. Then me and Chad Johnson really, really went at it in the Senior Bowl. I went against him all day in the Senior Bowl and got defensive MVP. But now we’re pretty close friends and got closer when we faced each other in the NFL. Also, Plaxico Burress and I went at it pretty good and talked on the field all the time. David Boston was another one in the NFL and he played at Ohio State. I remember how big he was and it was like a ‘David and Goliath’ matchup when I faced him. And he loved to talk, too.” Ironically, Smoot had some good battles with another former junior college star from the Magnolia State - former New Orleans Saints standout Joe Horn. “Man, Joe Horn,” said Smoot. “We used to couldn’t stand the sight of each other. I remember him playing with the Saints when Deuce McAllister was there, too. They both had Mississippi ties and used to look at me as a sellout. That was funny to me cause it ain’t like I had a choice of where I went in the NFL. But the funny thing now is I’m friends with Joe and we’re all cool with each other. But 36 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

“But the funny thing now is I’m friends with Joe (Horn) and we’re all cool with each other. But back then, man, if we even saw each other off the field it was bad. If we saw each other in a grocery store we’d probably break out and starting running routes. That’s how competitive we were.”


The King of

SMACK

back then, man, if we even saw each other off the field it was bad. If we saw each other in a grocery store we’d probably break out and starting running routes. That’s how competitive we were.” These days, Smoot still does a lot of talking with most of it in front of the cameras. “I’ve been working with Comcast sports doing pre-game and post-game shows for the (Washington) Redskins,” said Smoot. “I’ve been doing it for two and a half years now and you know me, I like to talk. So I love doing those shows and I spend most of my time going back and forth from my home in Atlanta to Washington D.C.” During his playing days at Mississippi State and later in the NFL, Smoot was a consistent playmaker who loved to let everyone on the field know how much he loved the game of football. Last July the former Bulldog AllAmerican cornerback got to hand down some of his experiences and advice to future stars on the gridiron. Later this summer, Smoot plans to again help out with the Big Dawg Camp, which is

MSU’s last camp of the summer and the program’s most significant camp of the summer. “I’m looking forward to getting down there again,” said Smoot. “Since I’m not playing now, I had more time to get back and help with camps and watch some games. I love being part of the Mississippi State family and loved it last year. It was a lot of fun being with

the fellows and seeing Coach Dan Mullen and helping them. It was great to share my knowledge of the game and to just be around the guys again. So I will definitely be back for Big Dawg Camp.” Being back at Mississippi State and instructing camp drills, Smoot said he felt like a kid again and plans to soak up all that excitement again in July. “Man, you know me and you know I was excited to be on that field again,” said Smoot. “My blood was flowing and I was ready to go. I felt like I was 20 years old again. I was just loving the fact Mississippi State gave me that chance and I never stop smiling when I’m on that field.” When Smoot spent his days shutting down SEC receivers, he often talked about that Magnolia State pride and playing for his home state. And that is one of the points he is trying to relay to current and future high school prospects in Mississippi. “We’re just trying to get the ‘glory years’ back and how it used to be when Mississippi State could compete and beat any team in the SEC,” Smoot said. “A lot of those guys I saw at camp last year ended up signing with Mississippi State. A lot of those guys are from this state, too. I just try to show players that know me that I came from the same place they did and that I did well at Mississippi State. They helped to get me to the league (NFL) and they can do the same. That’s been a problem sometimes in this state. I remember when I was in high school and playing in the MississippiAlabama All-Star game. A bunch of us in that game said we were playing for our state. We all did that and that is why we competed with LSU and Alabama and Florida. It was because we kept our guys at home and we gotta keep doing that.” Smoot said he is also returning to school (likely with on-line classes) to complete his degree from Mississippi State on top of his mentoring role. And down the road once his schedule clears up, Smoot said he plans to look at entering the coaching profession. “I’ve really thought about getting into coaching and I would not coach anywhere but Mississippi State,” Smoot said. “I’ve thought long and hard about it and when you coach you have to give it all your time and be dedicated to it. Right now I just can’t do that but I believe I will be able to down the road. It is something I really want to do, too. I would love to start as a G.A. (Graduate Assistant) and just move up the ladder at Mississippi State.” - MSM

2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 37


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FOOTBALL preview 40 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


2011 C-USA Conference Championship Game, Houston, TX

Southern Miss 49 - Houston 28 Photo by Bobby McDuffie, Ocean Springs, MS

WR’s Dominique Sullivan (18) and Ryan Balentine (80) celebrate after a touchdown during Southern Miss’ blow-out victory over Houston.

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#MSMFOOTBALL2012 Follow Bo Bounds on Twitter® @BoBounds

Thank You Garth Brooks, Steve Spurrier & Rick Pitino By BO BOUNDS Guest Columnist

seen in Steve Spurrier and Rick Pitino. Pitino & Spurrier along with Roy Kramer deserve a lot of credit for where we are today. In hindsight, Spurrier and Pitino were the capital needed to be raised to launch the new SEC, an Apple/Steve Jobs combo type company, during the beginning of the cable boom. The timing was perfect and SEC alums and fans were starving for something innovative and cutting edge. They ran exciting offenses, had flamboyant personalities and embraced the spotlight. From three yards and a cloud of dust to the Fun-N-Gun and fast break hoops - Spurrier

T

he SEC’s dream team continues to dominate college football on the field and in the board room. Mike Slive, Nick Saban and John Calipari have a winner’s take all mentality when building their programs and conference into a national brand in the 21st century. You can bet your season tickets the second most powerful individual in the SEC is Nick Saban, right behind Mike Slive. As I write this column, the SEC has won national championships in college football, basketball, softball & several other sports will continue to dominate the world of collegiate athletics. Don’t expect that championship caliber excellence on the field, court and track to stop anytime soon. In fact, the SEC coaches from around the league will extend their recruiting base from coast to coast over the next five years. The league’s 12 teams (soon to be 14) and the SEC corporate office split around $20.1 million per team in Sandestin in early June and more cash is on the way as Commissioner Slive and his team are in the process of negotiating a new television deal now that Texas A&M and Missouri will officially join the league for the 2012-2013 calendar year. The SEC lifestyle (we call it the Y’all Lifestyle) is a great lifestyle to be a part of, and the new television deal will only enhance the brand, while extending the SEC’s power into Texas and the Midwest. So what does this all mean? More money, more championships, and an even more lucrative television deal is on the way. Which team will take advantage of the new deal? SEC alums are addicted to pumping cash into their programs, and high school stars from football to softball beg to play in the Southeastern Conference on an annual basis. I’ve made this comparison on the show the last 3-4 years when discussing the explo42 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

BROOKS

SLIVE

sion in popularity of the SEC: with celebrity coaches (Saban & Calipari) and first round picks in the NFL, NBA and MLB, along with beautiful women and plenty of sunshine, and national championships trophies the norm throughout the conference – the SEC reminds me of country music. Both brands and entities have exploded on the scene within the last 25 years. Do you remember when country music wasn’t cool in the late 1970s and through most of the 1980s? Well, Garth Brooks came on the scene and made country music cool. How did Brooks do that? Garth Brooks entertained people, while singing great songs and relating to the audience. Brooks put a little Elvis Presley into country music, and dominated the world of music from 1989-1999. Brooks gave a dying business a shot of mojo and proved you could be a star in country music, again. Well right along that time two stars were hired in the Southeastern Conference. The three yards and a cloud of dust & motion offense conference welcomed in two of the most talented visionaries college sports has ever

and Pitino took us from country bumpkin to cool and hip. From mullets and white-washed jeans to the Black Crowes and “road trips”. And the SEC brand added another key element. Southern women started to feed off the exciting offenses Spurrier and Pitino incorporated and refined into their respective programs. Beautiful women inside college football stadiums and basketball arenas gave the SEC the “sex-appeal” while cable television execs started to devour college sports programming. Today, women not only dominate tailgating tents, they show up and show out inside college football stadiums in their beautiful sun-dresses and outfits. That’s the Y’all Lifestyle with a shot of Southern Swagger. Back to Spurrier and Pitino. Offense sells tickets in arenas and college football stadiums and the two Hall of Fame coaches generated plenty of it during their SEC careers. It didn’t hurt they were egotistical, flamboyant and smarter than everybody else.


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

SPURRIER

PITINO

SABAN

When you’re polarizing and brilliant – fans love to hate or celebrate you. Today, the SEC has two new coaches that have taken over for Spurrier and Pitino: Nick Saban and John Calipari. I love both of them, because they are great for sports talk radio. Egotistical, brilliant, polarizing and engaging, we can’t get enough of the two powerful entities in Saban and Calipari. Both are relentless recruiters, with the two most passionate fan bases in the country behind their multi-million dollar contracts and budgets. Whatever they want, Mal Moore (AD at Alabama) and Mitch Barnhart (AD at Kentucky) serve on a platter with a smile. Saban’s pursuit of excellence and the perfect “process” has resonated throughout the Alabama athletic department. When Alabama won the softball national championship in June, the program wrapped up their 4th national title in the 2012-2013 calendar year. That’s a Steve Jobs or Jack Welch type impact on the university. Calipari’s drive, personality and brand has helped the Kentucky Wildcat women’s team, too. The Lady Cats are a legitimate top-10 program today.

Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions Eli Manning – New York Giants Jay Cutler – Chicago Bears Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers That’s an impressive group of quarterbacks and several will be inducted into the Hall of Fame once their playing days are over. Cam Newton will be a great player and have a chance to win a championship in the next 5-7 years.

How cool is it to live, follow and enjoy the SEC brand? With a melting pot of great teams, coaches, venues and players - the league is as healthy today as ever. The Southeast is the place to be when it comes to great college football, beautiful women, live music and the best culinary flavor around. Sit back and enjoy my friends, because the only thing that could breakup this party is the NCAA or concussion lead lawsuits. Whoops! That’s for another column…. See under a tailgating tent in the fall. - MSM

SEC QB’s in the NFL Although Spurrier never produced a great NFL quarterback, his success on offense had a ripple effect throughout the SEC. SEC football coaches realized to win big in college football you need to spread the field and implement some kind of vertical passing game. Look at how many starting quarterbacks in the NFL are from the SEC, winning championships or leading their team to the playoffs. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos

The Future looks bright: Athletes, TV Money, Baby dolls & the Y’all Lifestyle As Mike Slive and the SEC suits are in the process of negotiating more money and an SEC network – the league’s coaches and alums will demand more wins and championships.

Bo Bounds is the host of The Out of Bounds show on ESPN 105.9 The Zone in Jackson, MS. The show is driven by college football and the Y’all Lifestyle (see http://yalllifestyle.com).

OUT OF BOUNDS

MONDAY - FRIDAY 7:00AM - 10:00AM Listen live online at thezone1059.com 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 43


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

Miss. STATE BULLDOGS Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

2011 RECORD: 7-6, SEC: 2-6 HOME: 3-3 ROAD: 3-3 NEUTRAL: 1-0

schedule DATE......OPPONENT ...................‘11 RESULT S.1.............JACKSON STATE S.8............AUBURN.................................L 34-41 S.15..........@ Troy S.22.........SOUTH ALABAMA O.6...........@ Kentucky........................W 28-16 O.13..........TENNESSEE O.20........MIDDLE TENNESSEE O.27.........@ Alabama.............................L 7-24 N.3............TEXAS A&M N.10..........@ LSU....................................... L 6-19 N.17..........ARKANSAS...........................L 17-44 N.24.........@ Ole Miss............................ W 31-3

PAST 5 YEARS

8

9 7

7 4

HEAD COACH - DAN MULLEN By Paul Jones Contributing Writer

‘07

‘08

‘09

‘10

‘11

COACH Dan Mullen: (4th Year) Career Record: 21-17

fast facts: Stadium: Davis-Wade Stadium Field: Scott Field Capacity: 55,082 / Natural Grass Tickets: 888-GO-DAWGS Official Website: www.hailstate.com 44 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

L

ast season Mississippi State accomplished something the program had not done in over a decade and that was winning bowl games in consecutive seasons. But as head coach Dan Mullen noted often this offseason, there were a lot of goals left on the table. A lot of that was due to the high expectations Mullen has installed into the program and those expectations remain entering his fourth year at the helm. Just as important, he saw this offseason that his player were nowhere near satisfied with last year’s 7-6 mark and Music City Bowl win over ACC foe Wake

MSM’S

SEASON NOTES • MSU could have one of the best defensive backfields in the country 2012. • Can Russell generate a consistent passing game? Something the Dawg’s have been missing the past few season. • Will WR Chad Bumphis improve his numbers in 2012? It’s time for him to become the deep threat fans thought he would be coming out of high school.

Forest. “I thought we played with a much bigger sense of urgency this spring, of trying to improve every single day of practice and worry about every play,” said Mullen. “There were a


Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

CONERLY FAVORITE

WIDE RECEIVER - CHAD BUMPHIS couple of different plays last year that could’ve turned our season around, and you never know when those plays are going to occur. I like the approach that our guys took...that every play was critical all spring.” The Bulldogs return several familiar names on both sides of the ball in 2012 but still have a couple of question marks that were also questions last fall. How those questions are answered this fall could well determine if Mississippi State plays in a New Year’s Day bowl for the second time in three years. OFFENSE Last fall the Bulldogs’ offensive numbers were a bit down from the year before as they averaged 25.3 points and 357 yards a game. Much of that had to do with inconsistent play under center and inconsistent play on the offensive line created by injuries and inexperience. For the past two years, Mullen has turned to a two-quarterback system and last year saw Chris Relf and Tyler Russell in that role. But this season it appears to be Russell’s show on offense and fans saw signs of that during spring practice. In his sophomore season of 2011, Russell completed 53.5 percent of his passes for 1,034 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Although he doesn’t provide the running threat of Relf, he does possess the

ability to throw the ball vertically down the field at a consistent pace. “I thought Tyler has really grown up and he made very few bad reads this spring,” MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “In the past when we told him to check down he would throw it deep every time. But now he understands the reads and the check downs and the blitzes. He moved the team a whole bunch this spring and took big steps in a leadership role. But his success will be determined by his health. He needs to be ready to take a physical pounding this fall in the SEC.” Behind Russell and getting his first taste of SEC football this fall will be redshirt freshman Dak Prescott. Known more for his running ability, Prescott experienced his second spring session this year (graduated high school a semester early) and like Russell was two years ago, is still in the learning process. But with just three quarterbacks on scholarship this fall, which includes 2012 signee and true freshman Nick Schuessler, Prescott must be prepared to take over the starting role. Concerning the guys behind Russell and Prescott, MSU must replace its leading rusher from the past two years now that Vick Ballard has moved on to the NFL. But there are plenty of options to choose from, including junior LaDarius Perkins. Perkins returns with the most experience and production among the Bulldog backs. He

JOHNTHAN BANKS Banks finished third in the SEC in 2011 with 14 passes defended and tied for fourth with five interceptions. He also had 71 total tackles, including eight for loss, and led the Bulldogs with three forced fumbles. He was the only cornerback in the SEC last season with at least 70 tackles and five interceptions. rushed for 422 yards and two scores in 2011 and again played a role in the passing game with a pair of receiving touchdowns. But Perkins will be one of several options for Mullen and company this fall. Sophomore Nick Griffin rushed for 108 yards and one touchdown last fall and it was a plus just to have him get reps. Griffin suffered an ACL tear in 2011 spring drills and it hampered him much of last season. Also joining the mix this fall will be a pair of redshirt freshman - Josh Robinson and Derrick Milton - and both showed promise in their first spring session. “The good thing we have that you must have in this league is quality depth at the position,” said running backs coach Greg Knox. “We have four guys capable of carrying the load for us but they just have to continue to grow as football players. Perkins is the veteran of the group and then Nick has a little experience. Then Josh and Derrick are the younger guys that really gained experience this spring.” Where MSU doesn’t lack experience is with the receivers’ position, a spot that features four seniors - Chris Smith, Arceto Clark, Chad Bumphis and Brandon Heavens. Smith and Clark combined for 65 catches, 772 re2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 45


2011 results

Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

DATE......OPPONENT .........................SCORE S.1.............@ Memphis........................ W 59-14 S.10..........@ Auburn...............................L 34-41 S.15..........LSU............................................ L 6-19 S.24.........LOUISIANA TECH....W 26-20(OT) O.1.............@ Georgia.............................L 10-24 O.8...........@ UAB.....................................W 21-3 O.15..........SOUTH CAROLINA..............L 12-14 O.29.........@ Kentucky........................W 28-16 N.5...........TENNESSEE-MARTIN........W 55-17 N.12..........ALABAMA...............................L 7-24 N.19..........@ Arkansas...........................L 17-44 N.26.........OLE MISS.............................. W 31-3 D.30.........WAKE FOREST..................W 23-17

15-0

Mississippi State is 15-0 under Dan Mullen when they force more turnovers than they commit.

ceiving yards and six touchdowns last year and will once again be two of Russell’s favorite targets. Bumphis and Heavens have also been familiar names in their career at the slot receiver position and both have played well at times since their true freshmen campaign. But both were pushed daily in the spring by sophomore Jameon Lewis, who actually had a more productive spring. Also a threat in the return game, Lewis led all receivers in the annual Maroon and White spring game. “Jameon has that quickness and ability to make people miss that others don’t have,” said receivers coach Angelo Mirando. “What people forget is he is still learning the position and didn’t play receiver in high school. Now he looks more comfortable on the field and that translates into us as coaches having more trust in him.” Fans will also get their first in-game look at redshirt freshman receiver Joe Morrow. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Morrow brings the size desparately missing from the receiving corps of late. Also expected to be heavily involved in the outside receiver rotation is junior Ricco Sanders, and he finished with 15 catches for 163 yards and one score last season. ìWeíre getting there,î Mullen said of his receivers. ìOne of the things weíre starting to 46 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

DEFENSIVE BACK - COREY BROOMFIELD see is some of our younger guys are really the more explosive potential playmakers and our older guys are kind of the steady guys.” As always in the SEC or in any other conference, how well the skill players do will depend greatly on the offensive line play. That was a sore spot last year for the Bulldogs as they entered the year with an inexperienced group and it got worse when veteran guard Tobias Smith suffered a season-ending injury in the third game of the year. For much of the spring, sophomore Blaine Clausell started at left tackle while sophomore Damien Robinson and juco transfer Charles Siddoway split first-team reps at right tackle. The spring also saw Clausell and Robinson play both tackle slots. Where MSU does exhibit experience is at guard with junior and All-SEC candidate Gabe Jackson at left guard. Smith, who missed spring drills due to rehabbing his knee injury, would give the right guard position a major boost if he returns to 100 percent this fall and MSU coaches do expect him back for training camp. At center, Dillon Day was thrown into the fire early last year as a redshirt freshman but came out better for it. Day secured his starting role this spring and learned more comfortable with his understanding and knowledge of the game.

MSM’S

KEY GAME • The Sept. 8 home game with Auburn will be an early test for Mullen and the Dawgs. Mullen’s lack of success in the SEC West (other than Ole Miss) is giving the national pundits enough ammo to question his coaching ability. Most feel he has benefited from a down SEC East. A win against the Tigers at home and State fans should start making bowl reservations for the third consecutive year.

“Without analyzing for the fall it is hard to say on some spots,” said offensive line coach John Hevesy. “I think the one thing is guys do have more experience and then we have some that don’t have experience. Some guys last year were thrown to the fire because of injuries. But this year it is different and they know they are going in there and it’s not an option.” DEFENSE Yes, there are a few holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball. After all, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox elected to begin his NFL career a year early and the Bulldogs also lost veteran safeties Charles Mitchell (also drafted by the NFL) and Wade Bonner to graduation. But outside of the safety position, the Bull-


dogs will exhibit more depth on defense than ever seen before under Mullen. And like normal, it all starts up front for the Bulldogs. Senior Josh Boyd is an All-SEC candidate and he finished right behind Cox last year with 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. But Boyd will have plenty of help with several candidates battling for their shot in the rotation. Sophomore Curtis Virges ended the 2011 season on a high note with a couple of sacks in the bowl game. As a true freshman last year, P.J. Jones was one of just three 2011 signees to not redshirt and he will look to make his push this fall. Seniors Dewayne Cherrington and Devin Jones were both consistent this offseason and with a loss of nearly 25 pounds since last August, Cherrington looks to be a force in goalline and short-yardage situations. Also added to the mix in the spring was highly-touted 2012 signee Quay Evans, who

mer Bulldog and current Baltimore Ravens defensive end) Pernell McPhee. Hopefully he makes us more efficient on third downs.” Experience and production are also evident at the linebacker position. Senior Cam Lawrence ranked third in the SEC in 2011 with 123 tackles and also had six tackles for loss. Joining Lawrence in the starting lineup at linebacker will be Deontae Skinner, who ranked fifth on the team with 69 tackles last year and ranked second with nine tackles for loss. The Bulldogs did lose a pair of middle linebackers due to graduation (Brandon Wilson and Brandon Maye) but they won’t be short on talent at that spot. Redshirt freshman Benardrick McKinney and sophomore Ferlando Bohanna both saw time with the first-team defense in the spring and both shared a good amount of success. MSU will also return the likes of junior Chris Hughes and sophomores Matt Wells

“In the secondary, the Bulldogs may exhibit the best group of cornerbacks in the SEC. Senior Johnthan Banks put the NFL on hold for another year and is one of the top corners in the country. Fellow classmate Corey Broomfield is also a proven performer at cornerback while senior Darius Slay may be the most athletic of the bunch and like Banks, should get his shot in the NFL”. graduated from Morton High School a semester early and made a good push late in spring drills. “We have a lot of candidates up front but Josh Boyd solidified himself as the start,” said defensive coordinator and D-line coach Chris Wilson. “But everything else is up for competition and we haven’t had that depth the past few years. It allows us to mix and match difference packages and we were not able to do that last year.” Depth is also evident on the edges with sophomore Kaleb Eulls and senor Shane McCardell. And like P.J Jones did last year, sophomore Preston Smith also experienced life in the SEC as a true freshman and ended the season very much in the defensive end rotation. But as a group, the Bulldog defensive ends only accounted for six total sacks in 2011. That number should rise this season with the addition of junior college All-American Denico Autry, who was on campus for spring drills. “As they say, Autry is what we thought he was when we recruited him,” Wilson said. “He is an exceptional athlete and he does things you can’t teach and has God-given talent. Our job is to increase his learning curve as quick as possible. The one thing about Denico is you don’t have to draw a map to the quarterback. That is something we haven’t had since (for-

and Christian Holmes at linebacker. Hughes and Wells both own starting experience while Holmes made strides last year and did most of his damage on special teams. “Our goal was to find six or seven guys this spring that could be starters for us at linebacker in the SEC,” said linebackers coach Geoff Collins. “That was the number we wanted and we felt confident coming out of spring that depth would not be an issue for us like it was last year. Everyone pushed each other and also encouraged each other and that was the most pleasing thing to see.” In the secondary, the Bulldogs may exhibit the best group of cornerbacks in the SEC. Senior Johnthan Banks put the NFL on hold for another year and is one of the top corners in the country. Fellow classmate Corey Broomfield is also a proven performer at cornerback while senior Darius Slay may be the most athletic of the bunch and like Banks, should get his shot in the NFL. Sophomore Jamerson Love and redshirt freshman Taveze Calhoun will also figure into the rotation at corner. Despite playing behind a trio of seniors, Love and Calhoun are also talented and will earn their reps in the fall. Where things get tricky are at safety with the loss of Mitchell and Bonner. Adding to the question marks at that position is the veteran of the group in Nickoe Whitley. Injuring

2011 TEAM STATS TEAM STATISTICS ............................MSU ............ OPP SCORING ........................................... 329 ..............256 Points Per Game .........................25.3 .............19.7 FIRST DOWNS ...................................241 ..............257 Rushing ...........................................123 ...............118 Passing ............................................101 ............... 123 Penalty .............................................17 .................16 RUSHING YARDAGE ........................2279 ............1995 Yards gained rushing .................2649 ...........2295 Yards lost rushing ........................370 ............. 300 Rushing Attempts ........................513 ..............536 Average Per Rush ..........................4.4 ...............3.7 Average Per Game ...................... 175.3 ............153.5 TDs Rushing ...................................19 ................ 15 PASSING YARDAGE .........................2364 ............2563 Comp-Att-Int .......................... 198-349-13 .280-434-12 Average Per Pass ..........................6.8 .............. 5.9 Average Per Catch ........................11.9 .............. 9.2 Average Per Game .......................181.8 ............197.2 TDs Passing ....................................19 .................12 TOTAL OFFENSE ..............................4643 ...........4558 Total Plays .................................... 862 ..............970 Average Per Play ...........................5.4 .............. 4.7 Average Per Game ......................357.2 ..........350.6 KICK RETURNS: #-Yards ............. 42-779 ........56-1120 PUNT RETURNS: #-Yards ............. 28-311 ..........24-119 INT RETURNS: #-Yards ................. 12-186 ..........13-103 KICK RETURN AVERAGE ................. 18.5 .............20.0 PUNT RETURN AVERAGE ................. 11.1 ...............5.0 INT RETURN AVERAGE .................... 15.5 ...............7.9 FUMBLES-LOST ................................21-7 .............25-8 PENALTIES-Yards ...........................71-567 ........ 81-698 Average Per Game .......................43.6 ............ 53.7 PUNTS-Yards .................................71-2970 ......72-3053 Average Per Punt ......................... 41.8 ............. 42.4 Net punt average .........................37.9 ............ 36.4 TIME OF POSSESSION/Game ...... 26:10 .......... 33:38 3RD-DOWN Conversions ..............72/186 .........77/211 3rd-Down Pct ...............................39% .............36% 4TH-DOWN Conversions ................9/18 ........... 13/25 4th-Down Pct ...............................50% .............52% SACKS BY-Yards .............................27-165 ........ 25-182 MISC YARDS .......................................15 ................-10 TOUCHDOWNS SCORED ................. 42 ................28 FIELD GOALS-ATTEMPTS ...............12-19 ...........20-28 ON-SIDE KICKS ................................ 0-0 ..............0-0 RED-ZONE SCORES ..................(33-38) 87% .(31-42) 74% RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS ..... (21-38) 55% .(19-42) 45% PAT-ATTEMPTS ..........................(39-40) 98% .(28-28) 100% ATTENDANCE .................................335695 .......356190 Games/Avg Per Game ............6/55949 .....6/59365 Neutral Site Games ........................ .............1/55208 Score by quarters 1st ......2nd ...3rd .....4th ....OT......Total Miss. State 110 .........71 .......58 .......84.......6 .........329 Opponents 58 ........ 74 .......49 .......75.......0 ........291 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 47


his Achilles’ heel late in the 2011 campaign, Whitley missed spring drills and the coaches are hoping - and expecting - his return in fall camp. Starting the spring at safety were sophomores Jay Hughes and Darion Arrington with senior Louis Watson and redshirt freshmen Kendrick Market and Zach Jackson providing depth. “The good thing is we are able to identify a lot of guys that can help us win, especially at linebacker,” said Wilson. “And we developed depth up front and found guys that can help us play multiple packages. Then I like our cornerbacks and that is probably our strongest area, defensively. “What we’ve got to do is keep pushing and keep developing guys at safety. Getting Nickoe will be critical at that position.” SPECIAL TEAMS On offense and defense, the Bulldogs have the luxury of not having to count on much help from newcomers. But that won’t be the case on special teams. The Bulldogs do return last year’s starting punter in junior Baker Swedenburg and he averaged 41.8 yards a punt last season. The Bulldogs must, however, find a replacement for two-year starter Derek DePasquale. Junior Brian Egan was 3-of-3 on extra points last year and missed his lone field-goal try. But Egan’s top responsibility was handling kickoffs last year and he could hold that same role in 2012. The Bulldogs signed all-state kicker Devon Bell in February and also added preferred walkon and Oak Grove all-state kicker Evan Sobiesk. Bell will challenge for the kickoff role and punting role while Sobiesk will make a strong push to be the starting placekicker. In the return game, Lewis and LaDarius Perkins are likely candidates on kickoffs but Robinson and Love also worked there in the spring. And on punt returns, those duties will again be handled by Banks and Bumphis, and both had a punt return for a touchdown in 2011. OVERVIEW Year-in and year-out the SEC schedule always presents a challenge for Mississippi State, especially since the Bulldogs play in the toughest division in American. But the schedule does set up nicely for the Bulldogs to get off to a good start. MSU opens the schedule against Jackson State and will face its other three non-conference foes (Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee State) before hitting the meat of their SEC schedule. The Bulldogs do travel to LSU and Alabama but in expected toss-up games, they get to play host to Auburn, Texas A&M and Tennessee. - MSM 48 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

201 2 ROSTER

*as of press time

NO NAME ..............................POS ............... HT ..............WT ...................CL .................EXP ..............................................HOMETOWN/LAST SCHOOL 1 Chad Bumphis ................... WR ..................5-11 ...............200 .......................Sr. ......................3L .........................................................................Tupelo, Miss. (Tupelo) 3 Brandon Heavens ............. WR ..................5-10 ................175 .......................Sr. ......................3L ............................................................. Bessemer, Ala. (Jess Lanier) 5 Nickoe Whitley ...................DB ....................6-1 ................ 205 .......................Jr. ......................2L .....................................................................Jackson, Miss. (Provine) 8 Chris Smith ......................... WR .................. 6-2 ................210 .......................Sr. ......................3L .................................................................Meridian, Miss. (Meridian) 10 Cameron Lawrence ........... LB ................... 6-3 ................ 230 .......................Sr. ......................3L ..............................................Coldwater, Miss. (Magnolia Heights) 11 Ricco Sanders .................... WR ..................5-11 ................185 .......................Jr. ......................2L ......................................................................... Duncan, S.C. (Byrnes) 12 Chris Hughes ....................... LB ....................6-1 ................ 225 .......................Jr. ......................1L .......................................................................Mobile, Ala. (Davidson) 13 Johnthan Banks .................DB ................... 6-2 ................185 .......................Sr. ......................3L ............................................................ Maben, Miss. (East Webster) 15 Dak Prescott ........................QB ................... 6-2 ............... 230 ..................... RFr...................... RS ...............................................................Haughton, La. (Haughton) 16 Jameon Lewis .................... WR .................. 5-9 ................185 ......................So. .....................1L ..............................................................Tylertown, Miss. (Tylertown) 17 Tyler Russell ........................QB ...................6-4 ............... 220 .......................Jr....................... 2L .................................................................Meridian, Miss. (Meridian) 18 Brandon Hill......................... TE ................... 6-2 ................235 ......................So. .....................1L .....................................................Columbus, Miss. (West Lowndes) 19 Arceto Clark ........................ WR ..................5-10 ................180 .......................Sr. ......................3L ....................................................................Verona, Miss. (Shannon) 20 Louis Watson ......................DB ...................5-11 ................185 .......................Sr. ......................3L ....................................................Mobile, Ala. (St. Paul’s Episcopal) 22 Matthew Wells ...................DB ................... 6-2 ................215 ......................So. .....................1L ............................................... Monticello, Miss. (Lawrence County) 23 Sylvester Hemphill ............ FB ...................5-11 ................235 .......................Sr. ......................3L ...................................................Olive Branch, Miss. (Olive Branch) 24 Jamerson Love ...................DB ...................5-10 ................175 ......................So. .....................1L ..............................................................Aberdeen, Miss. (Aberdeen) 25 Corey Broomfield ...............DB ...................5-10 ................180....................... Sr. .....................3L ....................................................................Palm Bay, Fla. (Bayside) 27 LaDarius Perkins ................RB ...................5-10 ................190 .......................Jr. ......................2L ............................................................Greenville, Miss. (St. Joseph) 29 Nick Griffin ...........................RB ...................6-0 ............... 225 ......................So...................... 1L ................................................New Augusta, Miss. (Perry Central) 30 Jay Hughes ..........................DB ...................5-11 ................190 ......................So. .....................1L ..........................................................Hattiesburg, Miss. (Oak Grove) 31 Charles Grandfield .............. K .....................6-1 .................180 .......................Sr .....................SQ .................................................Starkville, MS (Fork Union Military) 31 Sam Williams .................... WR .................. 6-2 ...............200 .......................Jr. ......................2L ................................................Brandon, Miss. (Northwest Rankin) 32 Jonathan Young ................ATH .................. 5-8 ............... 230 .......................Sr .....................SQ .............................................Starkville, MS (Williams-Sullivan HS) 34 Ivan Muniz ..........................ATH ...................6-1 .................210 ......................So. ....................SQ .......................................................Houston, Texas (Cypress Creek) 34 Josh Robinson ....................RB ................... 5-9 ................215 ..................... RFr. ....................RS ...........................................................Franklinton, La. (Franklinton) 35 Adrian Marcus .................... FB ...................5-10 ............... 225 .......................Jr....................... 2L ..............................................................Alabaster, Ala. (Thompson) 37 James Baldwin ..................ATH ..................5-10 ................195 ......................So. ....................SQ ................................................... Birmingham, Ala. (Vestavia Hills) 37 Taveze Calhoun ..................DB ....................6-1 .................180 ..................... RFr. ....................RS .......................................................................Morton, Miss. (Morton) 38 Dee Arrington .....................DB ....................6-1 .................215 ......................So. ....................SQ ......................................................... Wiggins, Miss. (Stone County) 39 Baker Swedenburg ............ P ....................6-0 ................185 .......................Jr. ......................1L .............................................Columbus, Miss. (Heritage Academy) 42 Derrick Milton .....................RB ...................6-0 ............... 205 ..................... RFr. ....................RS .........................Pineville, La. (Hargrave [Va.] Military Academy) 43 William Shumpert.............. FB ...................5-11 ............... 240 .......................Jr. ......................1L .............................................Fulton, Miss. (Itawamba Agricultural) 44 Christian Holmes ............... LB ....................6-1 ................ 225 ......................So. .....................1L .......................................................................Puckett, Miss. (Puckett) 45 Zachary Jackson ................DB ....................6-1 .................210 ..................... RFr. ....................RS ........................................................ Heidelberg, Miss. (Heidelberg) 46 Kendrick Market .................DB ...................5-10 ................190 ..................... RFr. ....................RS .......................................................Batesville, Miss. (South Panola) 47 Darius Slay ..........................DB ....................6-1 .................190 .......................Sr. ......................1L ............................................ Brunswick, Ga. (Itawamba [Miss.] CC) 48 Kasey Akins ........................ATH .................. 5-8 ................175 .......................Jr. .....................RS ........................................Starkville, Miss. (East Central [Miss.] CC) 50 Benardrick McKinney ........ LB ................... 6-5 ................235 ..................... RFr. ....................RS .................................................................... Tunica, Miss. (Rosa Fort) 51 Deontae Skinner ................ LB ................... 6-2 ................245 .......................Jr. ......................2L .......................................................Macon, Miss. (Noxubee County) 52 Ferlando Bohanna ............. LB.................... 6-0 ............... 225 ......................So. .....................1L ..........................................................Memphis, Tenn. (Whitehaven) 53 Brian Egan ............................ K ....................5-11 ................210 .......................Jr. ......................1L .......................................................Prattville, Ala. (Western Illinois) 54 Quay Evans .......................... DL ................... 6-3 ................300 .......................Fr. .....................HS .......................................................................Morton, Miss. (Morton) 55 Dylan Holley ........................ OL ................... 6-3 ................ 295 .......................Jr....................... TR .............................................D’Iberville, Miss. (Miss. Gulf Coast CC) 56 Corvell Harrison-Gay ........ DL ................... 6-3 ................ 270 .......................Jr. ......................1L .........................................................Laurel, Miss. (Northeast Jones) 57 Ethan McKee ......................ATH ..................6-0 ............... 225 ......................So. ....................SQ ..................................................Meridian, Miss. (West Lauderdale) 58 Justin Senior ....................... OL ................... 6-5 ...............300 .......................Fr. .....................HS ...............Montreal, Quebec (Hargrave [Va.] Military Academy) 59 Archie Muniz ....................... OL ................... 6-5 ...............290 ......................So. .....................1L ........................................................Houston, Texas (Cypress Creek) 60 Devin Jones ......................... DL ....................6-1 ................ 260 .......................Sr. ......................3L ...............................................Olive Branch, Miss. (DeSoto Central) 61 Gabe Jackson ...................... OL ...................6-4 ............... 320 .......................Jr. ......................2L ............................................................Liberty, Miss. (Amite County) 63 Dillon Day ............................ OL ...................6-4 ...............300 ......................So. .....................1L .....................................................West Monroe, La. (West Monroe) 64 Eric Lawson ......................... OL ................... 6-7 ................ 305 ......................So. .....................1L ....................................................Olive Branch, Miss. (Olive Branch) 65 Daniel Knox ......................... OL ...................6-6 ............... 285 ..................... RFr. ....................RS ..................Collinsville, Miss. (West Lauderdale Attend. Center) 66 Ben Beckwith .....................ATH .................. 6-3 ................300 ......................So. .....................1L .....................................................Benton, Miss. (Benton Academy) 67 Tobias Smith ....................... OL ................... 6-3 ................ 305 .......................Sr. ......................2L ............................................................ Columbus, Miss. (Columbus) 68 Templeton Hardy ............... OL ...................6-4 ...............300 .......................Sr. ......................2L .............................................................. Como, Miss. (North Panola) 69 Corbin Stewart ..................ATH .................. 6-3 ................ 285 ......................So. ....................SQ .........................................Birminham, Ala. (Briarwood Christian) 70 Justin Malone ..................... OL ................... 6-7 .................315 ..................... RFr. ....................RS .......................... Madison, Miss. (Madison-Ridgeland Academy) 72 Winston Chapman ...........ATH .................. 6-2 ............... 225 ..................... RFr. ....................RS ...................................................................Fairhope, Ala. (Fairhope) 72 Hunter Cunningham ........ATH ..................6-4 ...............300 ..................... RFr. ....................RS ............................................................ Maben, Miss. (East Webster) 73 Paul Thompson .................ATH .................. 6-3 .................275 ......................So. ....................SQ ........................Madison, N.J. (Hargrave [Va.] Military Academy) 74 Dewayne Cherrington .....ATH .................. 6-3 .................335 .......................Sr. ......................1L ....................................................Gwinnett, Ga. (Holmes [Miss.] CC) 75 Blaine Clausell .................... OL ................... 6-7 ................ 305 ......................So. .....................1L ..............................................................................Mobile, Ala. (Baker) 76 Joey Trapp ........................... OL ...................6-4 ...............300 .......................Sr. ......................1L ...................................Rolling Hills, Calif. (Los Angeles Harbor CC) 77 Charles Siddoway .............. OL ................... 6-7 ................300 .......................Jr. ..................... TR .......................................................Eugene, Ore. (Butte College CC) 78 Damien Robinson .............. OL ................... 6-7 .................315 ......................So. .....................1L ....................................................Olive Branch, Miss. (Olive Branch) 79 Nick Redmond .................... OL ...................6-6 ............... 305 ..................... RFr. ....................RS ....................................................Gulfport, Miss. (Harrison Central) 80 Malcolm Johnson .............. WR .................. 6-2 ............... 230 ......................So. .....................1L ............................................................Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Northridge) 81 Robert Johnson ................. WR ...................6-1 ................ 220 ......................So. .....................1L ..........................................................Hattiesburg, Miss. (Oak Grove) 82 Rufus Warren ......................TE ...................6-6 ............... 250 ..................... RFr. ....................RS ....................................................................Indianola, Miss. (Gentry) 83 Chris Cameron ...................ATH ..................5-10 ................180 .......................Jr. ......................1L ...................................................Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (Dwyer) 84 Reed Gordon .......................SN ...................6-4 ............... 220 ......................So. .....................1L .................................Vicksburg, Miss. (Porter’s Chapel Academy) 85 Joe Morrow ........................ WR ..................6-4 ............... 205 ..................... RFr. ....................RS ............................................ Ocean Springs, Miss. (Ocean Springs) 87 Devin Fosselman .............. WR ..................5-10 ................195 ..................... RFr. ....................RS ..............................................Woodville, Miss. (Wilkinson County) 88 William Berg ........................ P .................... 5-9 ...............200 .......................Sr. .....................SQ ....................................................................................Nashville, Tenn. 88 McKellar Proffitt ................ATH .................. 6-3 .................215 ......................So. ....................SQ ............................................Columbus, Miss. (Heritage Academy) 89 Allen Tolbert ......................ATH ..................6-0 ............... 230 .......................Sr. .....................SQ .....................................................................Duluth, Ga. (Northview) 90 John Harris .......................... DL ................... 6-5 ................235 ..................... RFr. ....................RS .....................Boynton Beach, Fla. (Boynton Beach Community) 91 Preston Smith ..................... DL ...................6-6 ................245 ......................So. .....................1L ..................................................Stone Mountain, Ga. (Stephenson) 92 Kaleb Eulls ........................... DL ...................6-4 ............... 280 ......................So. .....................1L .......................................................Yazoo City, Miss. (Yazoo County) 93 P.J. Jones .............................. DL ................... 6-3 ................ 280 ......................So. .....................1L ..........................................................................Tupelo, Miss. (Tupelo) 96 Shane McCardell ................ DL ................... 6-5 ............... 260 .......................Sr. ......................3L ....................................................... Beaumont, Texas (West Brook) 97 Josh Boyd ............................ DL ................... 6-3 ................300 .......................Sr. ......................3L ...................................................Philadelphia, Miss. (Philadelphia) 98 Curtis Virges ........................ DL ................... 6-3 ................ 305 ......................So. .....................1L ..........................................................West Point, Miss. (West Point) 99 Denico Autry ....................DL ................. 6-5 ..............255 .................... Jr. ...................TR ........................................ Albemarle, N.C. (East Mississippi CC)


2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 49


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

THE “LEADER” BY PAUL JONES Contributing Writer

TYLER RUSSELL QB/6-4/220/JR MERIDIAN, MS

T

here was no shortage of honors or headlines for Tyler Russell throughout his prep career at Meridian High School. The signal caller earned state-wide Player of the Year honors and was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. He was also named Parade All-American following his final prep campaign; and most remember his final high school game when he helped Meridian claim the state championship while snapping South Panola’s state-record winning streak. Yes, it is safe to say Russell created lofty expectations entering his college career at Mississippi State. But Russell held his own realistic expectations and fully understood the natural learning curve in the SEC. After all, for anyone not named Tim Tebow, the SEC can serve as a cruel introduction for underclassmen looking to find their way. “Anytime you have a quarterback coming out of high school that did good things everybody expects him to come on campus and be ‘the guy’ right away,” said Russell. “I didn’t expect that, though, and I know in real-life situations and normal circumstances that it’s not going to happen very often, especially not in the SEC. “So I knew I had to keep working and pushing myself. Finally, I feel like I have matured and I’ve had a lot of experience. So I am ready to step up and make some big-time plays and help get this team to where it needs to be.” The past two years Russell played behind starter Chris Relf for the most part. In his redshirt freshman season Russell got his feet wet and had a four-touchdown outing against Memphis in the 2010 season opener. But as the season progressed it was Relf getting the majority of the reps. Then last year Russell did earn a couple of starts, but in State’s Egg Bowl victory and Mu-

50 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine


sic City Bowl victory, he was hampered by a knee injury and spent most of those games on the sidelines. In the 2011 campaign Russell completed 53.5 percent of his passes for 1,034 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions and

That whole process really took hold this spring with Russell and his teammates. He displayed better leadership and command of the offense. He had a louder presence in the huddle and head coach Dan Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning often took

Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

“I knew I had to keep working and pushing myself. Finally, I feel like I have matured and I’ve had a lot of experience. So I am ready to step up and make some big-time plays and help get this team to where it needs to be.” also rushed for another score. With Relf now graduated, Russell enters his first season as the expected full-time starter. Now a redshirt junior that new title also brings a new mindset, he said. That mindset means more than just stepping his game up on the field and within the offensive attack. Much like when he received advice and leadership from Relf, he must now return the favor to the younger quarterbacks on the squad, which includes redshirt freshman and backup Dak Prescott along with 2012 signee Nick Schuessler. “Your whole mindset has to change,” said Russell. “Last year I was sharing time with Chris and now I haven’t been in this situation before being the first-string quarterback. I got Dak pushing me and stuff like that. But being a leader, I have to help Dak out just like Chris used to help me out. “I have to do all the right things on and off the field that coaches always talk about. And then having players ready to play for you.”

note of those improvements. For Russell, this spring was about tackling challenges on the daily schedule and going into the summer with a “to-do” list. “Spring went very well and as an offensive unit we did the things we wanted to do,” said Russell. “We found out the things we need to work on and improve on. That is what we want to do this summer---keep working on the areas we need to get better in.” And that included his own improvements, Russell added. “I think I accomplished the goals I intended to get done,” said Russell. “I wanted to come in and be that guy and be that leader that everyone expected me to be. As far as performance, I think I did really well and like the whole offense I found out some things I needed to work on and I started that process right after spring---things like footwork and stuff like that. With my knee not being 100 percent in the spring, it forced me to stay in the pocket more and make some throws. My

footwork got really good at times but I saw some things I need to work on.” Of course, that “work” also details countless hours of watching film of his own play and even grabbing tips from successful quarterbacks in the NFL. “I am pretty sure when I get home my dad will make me sit down and watch all the quarterbacks that just got taken in the NFL Draft,” said Russell. “And I do sit back and listen to what the TV commentators say what a quarterback did good or what they don’t do the right way. I pick up on their comments and I try to imitate what quarterbacks are doing well, especially those in the NFL.” Speaking of that knee injury that kept him completely out of MSU’s Bowl win over Wake Forest, Russell said the rare down time in May did wonders for the healing process. Once he got some rest for a couple of weeks and getting spring drills in his rear-view mirror, Russell said he returned to summer workouts in June feeling 100 percent again. “Not doing anything football-related in May really helped,” Russell noted. “It allowed me to be 100 percent when we returned for workouts in June. So the knee isn’t an issue anymore.” Looking towards this fall, Russell noted that in order to maintain his health, he must add a few more pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4 and 225-pound frame. “Just getting bigger and putting on some more weight is important,” said Russell. “Last year I really didn’t have those times in the game where I was seriously taking hits. The South Carolina game was really the first time where I played the whole game and I found out about the beating of the SEC. So I know I have to add a bit more weight to take that constant pounding but I don’t think it will be that hard to do. It is just something I have to focus on and be more aware of.” And what opposing defenses likely have to focus on more compared to previous MSU offenses is the real threat of a consistent passing game. Last season the Bulldogs averaged 175 rushing yards per game but averaged just six more yards - 181 - through the air. With Russell’s arm and a veteran group of receivers, many fans believe the Bulldogs could become more pass-friendly on offense in 2012. Russell also believes that could be the case. “Most of our receivers are seniors so they are hungry, ready to step up because they realize this is their last year,” said Russell. “And I’ve seen a tremendous different in their attitude and their work ethic. They are ready to play and we are ready to get after it and the offensive line came along well in the spring. Plus, we have a good group of running backs. So I feel the running game and passing game will really compliment each other more this year.” - MSM 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 51


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

OLE MISS REBELS Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

2011 RECORD: 2-10, SEC: 0-8 HOME: 1-6 ROAD: 1-4 NEUTRAL: 0-0

schedule DATE......OPPONENT ...................‘11 RESULT S.1.............CENTRAL ARKANSAS S.8............UTEP S.15..........TEXAS S.22.........@ Tulane S.29.........@ Alabama.............................L 7-52 O.6...........TEXAS A&M O.13..........AUBURN.................................L 23-41 O.27.........@ Arkansas......................... L 24-29 N.3............@ Georgia..............................L 13-27 N.10..........VANDERBILT..........................L 7-30 N.17..........@ LSU.....................................L 3 -52 N.24.........MISS. STATE............................ L 3-31

PAST 5 YEARS 9

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HEAD COACH - HUGH FREEZE

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‘11

COACH Hugh Freeze: (1st Year) Career Record: 30-7

fast facts: Stadium: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Field: Hollingsworth Field Capacity: 60,580 / Field Turf Tickets: 888-732-8587 Official Website: www.olemisssports.com 52 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

By Jake Adams Contributing Writer

T

he Hugh Freeze era begins in Oxford this season. Formerly just famous for being Michael Oher’s high school coach from the major motion picture “The Blind Side,” Freeze has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the college coaching ranks since making the jump from a Memphis high school to serve as a wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator under former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron. He coached at the NAIA level for two years, served one year as offensive coordinator at Arkansas State and another year as head coach before being chosen by Archie Manning and Mike Glenn to take over for the fired Hous-

MSM’S

SEASON NOTES • Almost every position is still a mystery. • A defense that disappeared in the 2nd half of games last season has got to play four quarters in 2012. • Can Jeff Scott carry the load as an every down back in the SEC? • Will incoming freshman have to step in early? • Will Freeze’s “basketball on turf” offensive scheme work against SEC defenses?

ton Nutt. With his inspirational speeches and soft southern drawl Freeze’s story has all the makings of it’s own movie, but for that to happen he’s got to have the storybook ending at a school that’s 1-15 in two seasons of SEC play and hit bottom last season - finishing 2-10


Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

CONERLY FAVORITE

Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

RUNNING BACK - JEFF SCOTT overall. Indeed, Freeze’s best friend this season will be low expectations. The Rebels face a treacherous SEC West schedule against all the usual suspects, including defending BCS Champion Alabama and previous BCS Champs Auburn and LSU. Add to that a non-conference tilt against another former BCS Champion in Texas, and you have the makings of what some are calling the nation’s most difficult schedule. After the disasters Ole Miss fans witnessed the last two years most know better than to expect a miracle in Freeze’s first season at the helm. In fact, most will tell you they’d be satisfied if the new coach can just deliver on that promise he made at his introduction last December to field a team that fights hard for 60 minutes. Such an effort would easily surpass the futility witnessed in Nutt’s final two years. Just how low are expectations? Well, the Orlando Sentinel has the Rebels ranked 98th out of 120 FBS level teams - just behind Rice and just ahead of the likes of Duke, Army and Idaho. That’s not the territory one would expect to find an SEC team most seasons, but this isn’t most seasons. The Rebels will be the first SEC team ever picked in the preseason to finish 13th or 14th in the conference - a rare if undesirable distinction thanks to new additions Texas A&M and Missouri. The common belief is that Nutt’s first few recruiting classes have caught up with the Rebels and the cup-

board is bare, leaving Ole Miss thinner than a Wheat Thin. If Freeze can turn this group, which notoriously mailed it in during the second part of the 2011 season, into winners in just one season then he might soon be the main character in his own movie. A porous defense plagued Ole Miss in 2011. The Rebels ranked last in the SEC in total defense and allowed opposing tailbacks career days in one game after another. Freeze brought defensive Dave Wommack with him from Arkansas State to resurrect a defense that at one point looked like it had lost all hope. Wommack is a college football journeyman who had led successful turnarounds in the past. When he took over at Arkansas State in February 2011 the Red Wolves defense was ranked 108th in the country. By the end of last season they were 15th. The Rebels finished 2011 ranked 90th in total defense. We’ll see if Wommack can pull it off two years in a row. OFFENSE One of Nutt’s downfalls as coach at Ole Miss was his inability to recruit and develop a high school quarterback. The Rebels haven’t developed a high school quarterback since the great Eli Manning, and since then have strapped their offensive hopes to college drifters and transfers. After the departure of Jevan Snead, Nutt was forced to take in a refugee from Oregon named Jeremiah Masoli. Last season Nutt

DONTE MONCRIEF As a freshman in 2011, Moncrief led Ole Miss with 31 catches for 454 yards and four touchdowns. At 6’4”, 220 pounds, Moncrief could have a break out season in 2012 and become one of the SEC top playmakers. His ability to make key catches will be huge as the Rebels need to gain momentum early on offense this season. turned to three more transfer quarterbacks, but he never could find the answer he was searching for and his offense crumbled. So it was no surprise when one of Freeze’s first recruiting moves was to seek a quarterback. The quarterback’s role is vital on any football team, but even more so in Freeze’s offensive system. Freeze sought out and landed junior college All-American Bo Wallace from East Mississippi Community College. Wallace is a hyperconfident gunslinger-type who had gaudy passing numbers at EMCC. He also had the advantage of a year of experience with Freeze at Arkansas State. In the spring the quarterback competition quickly became a two-horse race early between Wallace and returning quarterback Barry Brunetti. Brunetti started three games in 2011 for an offense that spent most of its season in disarray. He’s fleet afoot with a strong arm and has the ability to escape when the play breaks down, while Wallace looks more like the NFL prototype. He’s 6’5” with golden locks and a lot of confidence. Maybe too much confidence. His junior college coach said Wallace’s belief in himself sometimes results in interceptions. In the spring game Wallace had two of them, but he also had some touchdowns, one a game 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 53


2011 results DATE......OPPONENT .........................SCORE S.3............BYU..........................................L 13-14 S.10..........SOUTHERN ILLINOIS..... W 42-24 S.17...........@ Vanderbilt..........................L 7-30 S.24.........GEORGIA...............................L 13-27 O.1.............@ Fresno State................ W 38-28 O.15..........ALABAMA...............................L 7-52 O.22.........ARKANSAS......................... L 24-29 O.29.........@ Auburn...............................L 23-41 N.5...........@ Kentucky......................... L 13-30 N.12..........LOUISIANA TECH.................L 7-27 N.19..........LSU..........................................L 3-52 N.26.........@ Miss. State......................... L 3-31

15.6

The Rebels were not rated near the bottom in every statistical catergory in 2011, Ole Miss did lead the SEC in punt return yards avg. 15.6 yards per return. winner. Freeze said the two quarterbacks finished spring practice neck and neck, but Wallace definitely had the more impressive spring game and probably has the edge even if Freeze isn’t ready to say it. A definite starter won’t be named until August, but Freeze said the competition could possibly last into the first couple of games of the season. Jeff Scott is the only returning running back for Ole Miss and is the likely starter. At 5’8” 175, Scott is a speedster, who runs best to the outside. He had 529 yards in his sophomore campaign, and the Rebels need him to stay healthy, because as of right now he’s all they’ve got. Freeze is desperate for depth in his backfield, making this year the perfect situation for an incoming freshman to get some quick playing time. Two-time Tennessee Player of the Year I’Tavius Mathers will be given every opportunity. Look for redshirt freshman Nick Parker to get a hard look this summer as well. He’s bigger and stronger than Scott, but has struggled keeping his weight down. He lost several pounds in the offseason, but needs to lose a few more going into August for a shot at more playing time. If this Ole Miss team has a strength it’s at wide receiver, the one place on the field where depth doesn’t appear to be an issue. Sophomore wideout Donte Moncrief led the Rebels in receiving last year and seems set to make 54 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

LINEBACKER - MIKE MARRY that leap many players make from their freshman to sophomore seasons. He’s got all the tools - size, soft hands, speed, physicality, and that instinctive ability to create separation between himself and the defender. Look for Moncrief to have an All-SEC caliber season. In the Freeze system, there’s room for at least three receivers to get plenty of touches. The young coach showed at Arkansas State that he likes to spread the field. Junior Ja-Mes Logan looked like an all-star in his own right in the Grove Bowl and Freeze said Logan had the best spring of all the receivers. Logan’s very fast and looks ready for a breakout season after suffering a bit of a sophomore slump under Nutt. One time Mississippi high school player of the year Vincent Sanders had 11 catches in the spring game and was easily Wallace’s favorite target. He might be ready for a stellar season of his own. One deep threat Ole Miss won’t have is Nick Brassell who became academically ineligible in May and announced his intent to transfer. Offensively speaking at least Brassell’s transfer isn’t a total loss as Freeze had announced he

MSM’S

KEY GAME • In all honesty, every game is key for the Rebels this season. The opening game with Central Arkansas should be automatic, but with the Jacksonville St. loss two years ago we all know that’s not a guarantee. A week three match-up with Texas in Oxford will show the fans just how much they have improved from last season. Recruiting is the key this season. Improved play an five to six wins could help land some top recruits come February ‘13.

intended to use Brassell more as a cornerback than a receiver, but the Rebels need all the help they can get, so the loss of a playmaker like Brassell still hurts. Ole Miss is fortunate to have two seniors at tight end in Ferbia Allen and Jamal Mosely. They’re both 6’4” 250 pounds and fit the profile for being giant downfield receiving targets. The only question is how much will Freeze use the tight end in his offense. He has them if he needs them. The hopes of Ole Miss’ season could rise or


fall with this crew. The Rebels lost three starters off of a 2011 offensive line that struggled to get leverage most of the season. Gone are Bradley Sowell, Bobby Massie and Matt Hall. Emmanuel McCray, Aaron Morris, Evan Swindall, A.J. Hawkins and Pierce Burton were at the top of the depth chart post-spring. The offensive line struggled in spring practice more so than any other part of the team as they struggled to adjust to Freeze’s up tempo offense. They’ll need to gel quickly in the fall. Teams with weak offensive lines don’t have much success against the many ferocious defenses of the SEC. That’s why the offensive line is a big time concern for Hugh Freeze this summer. DEFENSE Ole Miss’ defense was a joke last year. There’s just not a kind way to say it. Time and time again the Rebels failed to stop the run or form any type of a pass rush. Hope for improving on that 2-10 record rests largely on fielding a defensive line that can own the trenches. The Rebels will depend on Byron Bennett, Gilbert Pena and Uriah Grant to clog the middle and hope for a pass rush from converted linebacker C.J. Johnson and Cameron Whigham

2011 TEAM STATS

PLACEKICKER - BRYSON ROSE defense for Ole Miss along with Marry. Tanner Burns and Chief Brown will also see plenty of playing time as will returning corner Senquez Golson. SPECIAL TEAMS The Rebels are well-equipped on special teams. Senior Bryson Rose is 25 of 29 for his career as a field goal kicker, and punter Tyler Campbell is one of the best in the country. Campbell led the NCAA with a 46.4 yards per

Freeze said the two quarterbacks finished spring practice neck and neck, but Wallace definitely had the more impressive spring game and probably has the edge even if Freeze isn’t ready to say it. A definite starter won’t be named until August, but Freeze said the competition could possibly last into the first couple of games of the season. at defensive end. Heralded high school signee Channing Ward may also contribute early. With the return of team leader D.T. Shackleford doubtful after undergoing a second knee surgery last winter, Mike Marry is set to lead the Ole Miss defense again at middle or “Mike” linebacker. Marry led the team with 81 tackles last year despite battling nagging foot and leg issues. Those injuries finally mended during the offseason and Marry is ready to assert himself as an SEC-caliber linebacker. He’ll be joined at linebacker by Aaron Garbut and Brishen Mathews, who is expected to start at the hybrid linebacker/safety position known as “Husky”. Look for Joel Kight and Denzel Nkemdiche to also contribute. Brassell will be sorely missed in the defensive backfield. Freeze referred to Brassell more than once as “an NFL corner” and Ole Miss usually desperately needs at least one of those. Charles Sawyer, who had four interceptions last year, will play free safety for the Rebels offering assistance to cornerbacks Dehendret Collins and Wesley Pendleton. Sawyer, a junior, was second on the team with 70 tackles last season and with his experience makes him an obvious candidate to be a team leader on

punt last season. If Freeze’s offense struggles early at least he’ll have the comfort of knowing he has a punter who can send the ball to the opposite end of the field. OUTLOOK At first glance it looks like the Rebels will enjoy a soft start in a home opener against Central Arkansas, but don’t get over confident. The Bears finished their FCS schedule 9-4 last season and took Louisiana Tech to overtime. A loss to La. Tech was one of last season’s biggest embarrassments for Ole Miss, and let’s not forget that the Rebels have lost two consecutive home openers. The opening game against feisty Central Arkansas is far from a guarantee, but it should be of some comfort that Freeze did beat the Bears 53-24 last year in Jonesboro. The Rebels get University of Texas - El Paso in week two. UTEP finished 5-7, 2-6 in Conference USA, and should present the Rebels with one of their best opportunities at a win, but from there the competition ratchets up very quickly as Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns make a rare visit to Oxford the following the week.

TEAM STATISTICS ................................ UM ...............OPP SCORING ............................................... 193 ................385 Points Per Game .......................... 16.1 ................32.1 FIRST DOWNS ...................................... 186 ............... 248 Rushing .............................................97 ................124 Passing ..............................................79 ................105 Penalty .............................................10 ..................19 RUSHING YARDAGE ............................1555 ............. 2699 Yards gained rushing ............. 2088 ............ 2984 Yards lost rushing ...................533 .............. 285 Rushing Attempts ...................... 460 ..............500 Average Per Rush ........................ 3.4 ................5.4 Average Per Game ......................129.6 ............224.9 TDs Rushing .................................... 12 ..................26 PASSING YARDAGE .............................1820 .............2333 Comp-Att-Int ............................ 155-313-13 ...187-306-10 Average Per Pass ......................... 5.8 ................ 7.6 Average Per Catch ...................... 11.7 ................12.5 Average Per Game ......................151.7 ............. 194.4 TDs Passing ......................................9 ................... 17 TOTAL OFFENSE ..................................3375 ............5032 Total Plays .....................................773 .............. 806 Average Per Play ......................... 4.4 ................6.2 Average Per Game ......................281.2 ............ 419.3 KICK RETURNS: #-Yards ...............56-1147 ........ 30-626 PUNT RETURNS: #-Yards ...............14-219 ..........24-219 INT RETURNS: #-Yards ...................10-153 ..........13-330 KICK RETURN AVERAGE ....................20.5 ..............20.9 PUNT RETURN AVERAGE ....................15.6 ................9.1 INT RETURN AVERAGE ........................15.3 ..............25.4 FUMBLES-LOST ...................................19-12 .............. 18-7 PENALTIES-Yards ............................80-692 ........60-460 Average Per Game ......................57.7 ..............38.3 PUNTS-Yards .................................. 72-3137 ........48-2104 Average Per Punt .......................43.6 ..............43.8 Net punt average ....................... 38.6 ..............36.4 TIME OF POSSESSION/Game ......... 28:52 ........... 31:07 3RD-DOWN Conversions ............57/173 ..........65/158 3rd-Down Pct ...............................33% ...............41% 4TH-DOWN Conversions ..............7/20 .............12/17 4th-Down Pct .............................. 35% ...............71% SACKS BY-Yards .............................. 13-95 ...........34-262 MISC YARDS ..........................................34 ..................0 TOUCHDOWNS SCORED .....................24 .................49 FIELD GOALS-ATTEMPTS ...................9-11 ..............13-24 ON-SIDE KICKS ....................................2-3 ................0-0 RED-ZONE SCORES ......................(19-25) 76% .(37-47) 79% RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS ............ (13-25) 52% ..(28-47) 60% PAT-ATTEMPTS .................................(20-22) 91% .. (48-49) 98% ATTENDANCE .....................................395413 .........264141 Games/Avg Per Game ............. 7/56488 ......5/52828 Neutral Site Games ....................... .................. 0/0 Score by quarters 1st .....2nd ..3rd ...4th .....Total Ole Miss 64 ......57 .....31 .......41 ..........193 Opponents 83 ..... 103 ...122 .....77 .........385 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 55


After Central Arkansas and UTEP the only other game on the Ole Miss schedule where the Rebels will be favored is at Tulane. In this rebuilding year, wins against Alabama, LSU, Arkansas or a highly-ranked Georgia would be nothing short of miraculous. Likewise, wins against Texas and Texas A&M are improbable at best. The key games for Ole Miss this season will be Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Auburn. The Rebels will most likely be underdogs in all three, but these are the only other opponents on the schedule Ole Miss has a legitimate chance at beating, but even those games will be very tough. The Commodores have beaten the Rebels three out of four seasons, but the perennial SEC cellar dweller is a must win every year if Ole Miss wants to give itself a chance at the six wins necessary to qualify for bowl eligibility. Wins are too hard to come by against the Western Division juggernauts not to take advantage of a game against Vanderbilt. Auburn had major turnover at assistant coach last year following the departure of Gus Malzahn. The Tigers are still in rebuild mode following the departures of Cam Newton and Nick Fairly two years ago. If Ole Miss has a chance at an upset, you’d have to think the best odds for it would be against Gene Chizik’s Auburn. No matter what happens in any of the above games, the tone of the Hugh Freeze era will be set on November 24 when the Rebels host Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State Bulldogs in the annual Battle for the Golden Egg. That game has been the most important date on Mullen’s calendar since the day he took over in Starkville three seasons ago, and Ole Miss hasn’t beaten the Bulldogs since. The Ole Miss faithful have tolerated their share of suffering the last two seasons, but losing to their in-state rival three times in a row for the first time since 1942 has Rebel fans smarting for retribution against Mullen, who famously refuses to call Ole Miss by name and has been captured on video declaring that his team would never lose to the Rebels again. Freeze’s win-loss record after surviving one of the country’s toughest schedules will be quickly forgotten if the first year coach can finally prove Mullen wrong. In the end look for a dramatic difference from the Rebels in style points. Though his college coaching career has been brief, Freeze has already built the reputation for being a powerful motivator. That inspiration should reduce the point spreads significantly, but keep in mind that Ole Miss will most likely be an underdog in at least nine of its 12 games. That means three wins are expected. Anything more should be viewed as a successful season. Six or more would be miraculous, but Hugh Freeze would be the first to tell you he believes in those, so you never know. - MSM 56 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

201 2 ROSTER

*as of press time

NO NAME ................................... POS .................. HT .................WT .......................CL ....................EXP ............................................................. HOMETOWN/LAST SCHOOL 1 Randall Mackey..........................WR....................... 5-11.....................95............................ SR...........................1L..........................................................Bastrop, La./Bastrop/East Mississippi CC 1 Dehendret Collins.......................DB....................... 5-11.....................175.............................JR.......................... JC.....................................Meadville, Miss./Franklin County/Copiah-Lincoln CC 3 Charles Sawyer...........................DB....................... 5-11.....................175.............................JR..........................2L...........................................................................................Miami, Fla./Coral Reef 3 Jeff Scott.......................................RB........................5-7......................175.............................JR..........................2L............................................................................Miami, Fla./Archbishop Carroll 4 Denzel Nkemdiche.....................LB........................5-10.....................197............................ FR..........................RS....................................................................................... Loganville, Ga./Grayson 4 Nicholas Parker...........................RB....................... 5-11....................235............................SO......................... Sq........................................................................... Batesville, Miss./South Panola 5 Frank Crawford...........................DB....................... 6-0.................... 180.............................JR..........................2L......................................................................................Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep 5 Jordan Holder.............................WR.......................5-10.....................178.............................JR..........................Sq........................................................... Bay Springs, Miss./Sylva Bay Academy 6 Wesley Pendleton......................DB....................... 5-11.................... 180............................ SR...........................1L......................................................Natchez, Miss./Natchez/Copiah-Lincoln CC 7 Tobias Singleton.........................RB....................... 6-0....................190............................SO...........................1L.........................................................................Madison, Miss./Madison Central 8 Chief Brown.................................DB....................... 6-0.................... 193............................ FR..........................RS.........................................................................................Winona, Miss./Winona 8 Zack Stoudt..................................QB....................... 6-4.....................217............................ SR...........................1L............................................Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman/Iowa Western CC 9 Ivan Nicholas................................S......................... 5-11.................... 201............................ SR...........................1L.................................................................... Jacksonville, Fla./Lee/ASA College 9 Maikhail Miller.............................QB........................6-3....................235............................ FR..........................HS............................................................... Fulton, Miss./Itawamba Agricultural 10 C.J. Johnson..................................DE.........................6-1......................231............................SO...........................1L........................................................................Philadelphia, Miss./Philadelphia 10 Vince Sanders............................WR........................6-1.....................190............................SO...........................1L........................................................................... Macon, Miss./Noxubee County 11 Barry Brunetti.............................QB....................... 6-0.................... 215.............................JR...........................1L.......................Memphis, Tenn./Memphis University School/West Virginia 12 Cliff Coleman...............................DB.......................5-10.................... 188............................SO...........................1L......................................................... Lauderale Lakes, Fla./Boyd H. Anderson 12 Donte Moncrief..........................WR........................6-2.................... 214............................SO...........................1L..........................................................................................Raleigh, Miss./Raleigh 13 Robert Ratliff...............................QB....................... 6-0.................... 215.............................JR......................... Sq...................................................................Fort Worth, Texas/Nolan/Sewanee 13 Brishen Mathews........................DB....................... 5-11....................202............................JR...........................1L..................................................................................Monticello, Ark./Monticello 14 Serderius Bryant.........................LB........................5-10....................223............................SO...........................1L.........................................................................................Sanford, Fla./Seminole 14 Bo Wallace..................................... QB.........................6-5......................210..............................SO...........................JC..................... Pulaski, Tenn./Giles County/Arkansas State/East Mississippi CC 15 Nathan Weston...........................RB....................... 5-11.................... 168............................ FR..........................RS..........................................................................................Hampton, Ga./Lovejoy 15 Joel Kight......................................LB.........................5-9....................226........................... SR..........................3L........................................................................Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King 16 Collins Moore..............................WR........................6-1......................187............................SO...........................1L......................................................................................Madison, Ala./Bob Jones 17 Jamal Mosley...............................TE........................ 6-4....................260........................... SR...........................1L..................................Memphis, Tenn./Kingsbury/Northwest Mississippi CC 17 Tanner Burns...............................DB........................6-1..................... 186............................ SR......................... Sq...................San Jose, Calif./Valley Christian/San Jose State/Kansas State 19 Evan Ingram................................QB........................6-1.....................220...........................SO......................... Sq............................................................................ Gray, La./John Curtis Christian 19 Justin Watts..................................K......................... 6-0.................... 180............................ FR..........................RS......................................................................... Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge 20 Aaron Garbutt.............................LB.........................6-2....................200........................... SR...........................1L...............................................Westminster, Calif./Westminster/Fullerton CC 20 Jeremy Reed...............................WR........................5-7..................... 150.............................JR.......................... JC..........................................Southaven, Miss./Southaven/East Mississippi CC 21 Senquez Golson..........................DB........................5-8.................... 182............................SO...........................1L............................................................................Pascagoula, Miss./Pascagoula 22 Philander Moore........................WR....................... 5-11....................190.............................JR...........................1L.............................................................................Austin, Texas/Bowie/Blinn CC 23 Jay Hay..........................................DB........................5-9.....................175............................ FR..........................RS.....................................................................Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington 24 Houston Keyes............................RB........................5-7..................... 158............................SO......................... Sq..................................................................Ridgeland, Miss./Jackson Academy 24 Keith Lewis...................................LB.........................6-2....................233............................SO...........................1L............................................................................................Tampa, Fla./Freedom 25 Eric Dietz.......................................RB........................5-8....................190............................ FR..........................RS............................................. Humboldt, Tenn./University School of Jackson 25 Cody Prewitt................................DB........................6-3.................... 210............................SO...........................1L........................................................... Bay Springs, Miss./Sylva Bay Academy 26 Jimmy Potepa.............................RB........................5-8....................202........................... FR..........................RS...................................................................Monrovia, Liberia/Campus Magnet 26 Ryan Nowicki................................K......................... 6-0.....................171............................ FR..........................RS.............................................................................Peachtree City, Ga./Starrs Mill 27 Sam Noblin..................................LB.........................6-2....................220...........................SO......................... Sq.................................................................Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs 27 Joshua Richardson.....................DB.......................5-10....................190.............................JR.......................... JC...............................Moss Point. Miss./Moss Point/Mississippi Gulf Coast CC 28 Korvic Neat.................................WR........................5-8....................160.............................JR..........................2L.................................................................................Hallandale, Fla./Hallandale 28 Lakedrick King.............................DB........................5-9.....................175............................SO..........................Sq......................................................................... Duncanville, Texas/Duncanville 29 Devin Thomas.............................RB........................5-9....................209........................... SR..........................3L...............................................................................San Antonio, Texas/Madison 29 Abdul Bangura............................DB........................5-8.....................177............................ FR..........................RS...............................................................Takoma Park, Md./Eleanor Roosevelt 30 D’Lyle Washington.....................RB........................5-7......................178............................ FR..........................RS................................................................................Carrollton, Texas/Plano East 30 Kyle Horine..................................DB........................5-9....................200........................... SR...........................1L...............................................................................Kingwood, Texas/Kingwood 31 Rudy Wilson................................LB........................ 5-11.................... 215............................ SR..........................3L.............................................................. Port Orange, Fla./Mainland/Hargrave 33 E.J. Epperson................................TE.........................6-2....................250........................... SR..........................3L............................................................................... Humboldt, Tenn./Humboldt 35 Ontario Berry...............................DB.......................5-10....................190.............................JR.......................... JC..........................Mendenhall. Miss./Mendenhall/Southwest Mississippi CC 36 John Peloza..................................TE........................ 6-4....................256...........................SO..........................Sq......................................................................................Plano, Texas/Plano West 36 Kameron Wood..........................DL........................ 6-4....................220........................... FR..........................HS..........................................................................Birmingham, Ala./John Carroll 37 Matt Tarpley................................WR........................5-9.....................175.............................JR......................... Sq.............................................................................. Minneapolis, Minn./Wayzata 38 Jason Jones..................................DE.........................6-2....................255........................... SR..........................2L...........................................................................................Albany, Ga./Westover 39 Josh Shipp....................................DB....................... 6-0....................190.............................JR..........................RS............................Batesville, Miss./South Panola/Northwest Mississippi CC 41 Billy Busch....................................RB....................... 5-11....................232............................SO..........................RS....................................................................St. Louis, Mo./Priory School/Butler 42 D.T. Shackelford...........................LB.........................6-1.....................250............................JR..........................2L.............................................................................................. Decatur, Ala./Austin 43 Taylor Rotenberry......................RB....................... 6-0....................235............................ FR..........................RS........................................................................... Batesville, Miss./South Panola 44 Charlie Scott.................................RB....................... 6-0....................220........................... FR..........................RS..............................................................Jackson, Miss./St. Andrew’s Episcopal 44 Ralph Williams............................LB........................ 6-0....................238............................SO...........................1L.........................................................................................Miami, Fla./Southridge 45 H.R. Greer.....................................RB....................... 5-11....................235............................ SR..........................3L..............................Olive Branch, Miss./Southern Baptist Education Center 45 Josh Lancaster.............................LB.........................5-8....................220........................... SR......................... Sq........................................................................ Mobile, Ala./St. Paul’s Episcopal 46 Tyriek Gracia................................LB.........................6-1.....................204...........................SO......................... Sq.........................................................................................Hialeah, Fla./American 48 Justin Bigham.............................RB....................... 6-4....................240............................JR...........................1L...................................................................................West Helena, Ark./DeWitt 49 Will Martin....................................LB........................ 6-0.................... 210.............................JR......................... Sq............................................ Madison, Miss./Madison Central/Southern Miss 50 Ethan Hutson...............................OL.........................6-3....................305........................... FR..........................RS....................................................................................Destrehan, La./Destrehan 52 Mike Marry...................................LB.........................6-2....................248............................JR..........................2L.......................................................................................... Clearwater, Fla./Largo 54 Walker Sturgeon........................DE.........................6-1.....................254...........................SO......................... Sq........................................................................Horn Lake, Miss./DeSoto Central 54 Carlos Thompson.......................DE........................ 6-4....................250............................JR..........................2L.................................................................................Hollandale, Miss./Simmons 55 Cameron Whigham...................DE.........................6-2....................255............................JR..........................2L.............................................................................................Snellville, Ga./Shiloh 56 Woodrow Hamilton...................DL.........................6-3....................295........................... FR..........................RS..........................................................................................Raleigh, Miss./Raleigh 56 Evan Swindall...............................C..........................6-2....................300............................JR..........................2L......................................................................................LaFayette, Ga./LaFayette 57 Terrell Brown...............................DT........................6-10.................... 377............................ SR...........................1L..............................................................Drew, Miss./Drew/Mississippi Delta CC 58 Corey Gaines................................OL.........................6-1......................312.............................JR..........................2L........................................................................................Tallahassee, Fla./Godby 59 Will Denny...................................LS........................5-10....................240...........................SO...........................1L.......................................................................Jackson, Miss./Jackson Academy 61 Derrick Wilson.............................OL.........................6-3....................305............................JR.......................... JC.............................................Greenville, Miss./Horn Lake/East Mississippi CC 62 Jimel Judon..................................OL........................ 6-4.....................315............................ FR..........................RS...........................................................Myrtle, Miss./Myrtle Attendance Center 63 Mitch Hall......................................OL........................ 6-6.....................315............................ FR..........................RS..............................................................................Russellville, Ark./Russellville 64 Jacob Hickman............................LS........................5-10....................248............................JR......................... Sq.......................................................................................Carriere, Miss./Picayune 65 Chase Hughes..............................C..........................6-2....................305...........................SO...........................1L................................................................................ Springville, Ala./Springville 67 Chris Gill........................................OL........................ 6-4....................295............................JR......................... Sq.........................................................................................Appleton, Wisc./Xavier 68 Justin Bell.....................................OL.........................6-2.................... 337............................ FR..........................RS....................................................................................... Jackson, Miss./Callaway 70 Emmanuel McCray.....................OL.........................6-5.................... 319.............................JR...........................1L......................................................................................Jackson, Miss./Forest Hill 71 Pierce Burton...............................................OL................................6-7............................290.....................................JR....................................JC......................Sacramento, Calif./Rio Americano/San Jose State/City College of San Francisco 72 Aaron Morris................................OL.........................6-5....................325............................SO...........................1L....................................................................................... Jackson, Miss./Callaway 73 Darone Bailey..............................OL........................ 6-6.....................315.............................JR.......................... JC...........................................................Cleveland, Miss./East Side/Coahoma CC 74 Jared Duke...................................OL.........................6-7....................335.............................JR..........................2L..........................................................................Cleveland, Tenn./Walker Valley 76 A.J. Hawkins.................................OL.........................6-3.....................315............................ SR..........................3L........................................................................Lithonia, Ga./Martin Luther King 77 Patrick Junen...............................OL........................ 6-6....................320............................JR..........................2L...................................................................................Huntsville, Ala./Huntsville 80 Josh Pinkston.............................WR........................6-2.................... 185............................SO......................... Sq................................................................................................Forest, Miss./Forest 81 Bryson Rose..................................K......................... 5-11....................202........................... SR..........................2L....................................................................................... Raleigh, N.C./Wakefield 81 Terrell Grant................................WR........................6-2.................... 210.............................JR..........................2L..................................................................................Cleveland, Miss./Cleveland 82 Dylan Dyer...................................TE........................ 6-4....................247.............................JR......................... Sq..........................................................Flora, Miss./Madison Central/Holmes CC 82 Jim Broadway..............................K......................... 6-0.................... 169............................ SR..........................Sq...................................................................Roswell, Ga./Roswell/Miami (Ohio) 83 Ferbia Allen..................................TE........................ 6-4....................250........................... SR..........................3L...................................................................................Pine Bluff, Ark./Dollarway 84 Jack Nuismer...............................TE.........................6-2....................234............................JR...........................1L...................................................................................Nashville, Tenn./Ensworth 85 Ja-Mes Logan.............................WR........................6-2....................190.............................JR..........................2L....................................................................................Houston, Texas/Westfield 86 Tyler Baker..................................WR........................5-9.................... 180............................ FR..........................RS.........................................................................Bullard, Texas/Brook Hill School 88 John Ratliff..................................WR....................... 6-0.....................181............................ FR..........................RS......................................................................Fort Worth, Texas/Nolan Catholic 90 Gerald Rivers...............................DE.........................6-5....................250........................... SR..........................3L............................................................................... Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove 92 Carlton Martin.............................DT.........................6-1.....................295...........................SO...........................1L.........................................................................Madison, Miss./Madison Central 93 Uriah Grant..................................DL........................ 6-0....................287............................ SR...........................1L............................................................. Miramar, Fla./Everglades/Fullerton CC 94 Chris Conley..................................P..........................5-8....................190.............................JR...........................1L.....................................................................................Bradenton, Fla./Manatee 95 Bryon Bennett.............................DT.........................6-2....................294...........................SO...........................1L.........................................................................Madison, Miss./Madison Central 96 Andrew Ritter.............................K/P........................6-3....................223............................ SR..........................3L.......................................................................Jackson, Miss./Jackson Academy 97 Josh Price.....................................DE.........................6-3....................290........................... FR..........................RS................................................................Columbia, Miss./Columbia Academy 97 Tyler Campbell.............................P..........................6-2....................220........................... SR..........................3L......................................................................................Little Rock, Ark./Catholic 98 Taurus Ward................................DT.........................6-2....................320........................... SR......................... Sq....................................................... Aberdeen, Miss./Aberdeen/Itawamba CC 99 Gilbert Pena.................................DT.........................6-2....................326........................... SR...........................1L.................................................................Yonkers, N.Y./Saunders/ASA College


2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 57


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

THE “GAME CHANGER” BY JOHN DAVIS The Oxford Eagle

JEFF SCOTT RB/5-7/175/JR MIAMI, FL

J

unior running back Jeff Scott said he is up to the task of leading the Ole Miss offense in 2012. After showing flashes of his talent, and his incredible speed as a change-of-pace back the first two years of his career, Scott said he’s ready to show his teammates, the new coaching staff, fans and the rest of the Southeastern Conference he can carry a full-time load at running back. “I’m ready. I’ve played behind Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis. We still have Devin Thomas coming back for his senior year. I feel pretty confident leading this offense and the backs into this new season,” said Scott, who finished with 529 yards and six touchdowns last year, two figures that led the Rebels. “I definitely feel like I have something to prove. Every time I’m not out (on the field), I’m in the weight room, I’m on the football field. I have to go out there with a chip on my shoulder. You know everybody is saying he’s only 170 pounds and they don’t think I can run between the tackles. I have to go and prove I can do that and that I can handle that.” Scott said that in order to take the punishment of being an every-down running back in the SEC, he had to be even better and more committed in the weight room. That’s saying a lot considering how strong and ripped up Scott already is. “It starts off in the weight room. (Head strength) Coach (Paul) Jackson is real tough and I’m trying my best not to miss any sets. If I come up short in one of my sets then I add an extra set to it,” Scott said. “I’m going out there on weekends, there are no days off. I’m working hard to keep my body in shape and when my body is sore and everything, I go into the training room and get treatment to keep my body up to date.” The transition from high school to Ole Miss has been gradual for Scott, who admitted that 58 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine


the offense he was a part of in high school didn’t prepare him as well as he would have liked. “I’m much smarter and I think I have a better understanding of the game. This level of training, the SEC, it’s a big difference from high school. The speed is up, everybody is much smarter. You got linebackers that are taking good angles on the running backs. You just got to go out there, I try to play smart, me an my o-linemen and the other players and I do what I can,” Scott said. “The one big thing I had to adjust to coming from high school is I played in a Wing-T offense. We didn’t really

caught me up to speed. I don’t have any problems with that any more, the pass protection and who is coming to blitz with the audibles. I think I’ll be fine.” Nix was a member of Houston Nutt’s staff and it was unclear if he would be retained by first-year coach Hugh Freeze until after Scott left for the holidays. “That was a blessing. I think I was back home in Miami and my dad said he sent out an application to try and come back and coach at Ole Miss and I was like ‘really?’ It was funny because me and my dad were talking about how it would be a blessing if he came

now we get to finish together. I think that is what important.” Nix was also glad that he gets to keep coaching Scott and seeing how much better he can be. “Jeff ’s been our best guy. He’s become a better person as well as a better player. He’s taking care of his life off the field now, and that has reflected in his play on the field,” Nix said. “He’s becoming more of a leader by example and he’s starting to grasp this offense and what it can do for his production. He’s just got to keep coming with his knowledge and improve his pass protection a little.”

Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

“The atmosphere is a lot different. The coaches now, it’s not all about football. It’s all about responsibility. They’re hard on us in the classroom and making sure we go to class. They send us text messages throughout the day, from early in the morning, to little scriptures out of the Bible and everything. They’re teaching us about life and how to be a better person in life.” have any pass blocking. It was just running and grinding out (plays). When I got here I had a few problems identifying the linebackers and where they’re lined up at on my pass protection. I’m going to be a junior this year and I’ve worked with (running backs) Coach (Derrick) Nix and watched more film and he

back and Coach Freeze hired him,” Scott said. “As soon as I got back (to Oxford), I heard the news and then we had our team meeting and I saw Coach Nix in there and I couldn’t do anything but smile. He was happy about coming back. We started something together. I’ve gotten to play with him for two years and

Scott talked highly about the new coaching staff and how they’ve helped him become a more responsible player and leader. “The atmosphere is a lot different. The coaches now, it’s not all about football. It’s all about responsibility. They’re hard on us in the classroom and making sure we go to class. They send us text messages throughout the day, from early in the morning, to little scriptures out of the Bible and everything. They’re teaching us about life and how to be a better person in life,” Scott said. “I definitely think we needed it. We have players that wanted to go out there and do their own thing and now they’ve split us up into about 10 groups. Accountability groups is what they call it. You’re mixed in with other players and it doesn’t matter what position you play, you’ll be in a group with linemen, linebackers, running backs, quarterbacks. You get to know you’re teammates and basically if one person messes up, the whole group is paying for it. We’re waking up at five or six o’clock in the morning and we’re getting punished for it. I think we needed that for each other.” - MSM 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 59


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

SOUTHERN MISS GOLDEN EAGLES 2011 - RECORD 12-2, CUSA 6-2 HOME: 6-0 ROAD: 5-2 NEUTRAL: 1-0

Photo by Bobby McDuffie

schedule DATE......OPPONENT ...................‘11 RESULT S.1.............@Nebraska S.15..........EAST CAROLINA............. W 48-28 S.22.........@Western Kentucky S.29.........LOUISVILLE O.6...........BOISE STATE O.13..........@Central Florida.............W 30-29 O.20........MARSHALL.........................L 20-26 O.27.........@Rice.................................. W 48-24 N.3............UAB.........................................L 31-34 N.10..........@Southern Methodist......W 27-3 N.17..........UTEP......................................W 31-13 N.24.........@Memphis...........................W 44-7

PAST 5 YEARS 12 7

7

7

8

RB - TRACEYJOHNSON LAMPLEY DESMOND By Rick Jones Contributing Writer

‘07

‘08

‘09

‘10

‘11

COACH Ellis Johnson: (1st Year) Career Record: 17-28

fast facts: Stadium: M.M. Roberts Stadium Field: Carlisle-Faulkner Field Capacity: 36,000 / Field Turf Tickets: 1-800-844-TICK Official Website: www.southernmiss.com 60 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

S

outhern Miss enters the 2012 season with several questions marks on both sides of the football. One season away from winning the Conference USA championship, setting a school record for wins and earning a national ranking, the Golden Eagles have the talent to repeat under first year coach Ellis Johnson. If a quarterback emerges to replace Austin Davis and the defense reloads after losing six senior starters off the 12-2 team that whipped Houston 49-28 in the title game last December. Southern Miss also looks to extend its streak of 11 consecutive bowl games intact.

MSM’S

SEASON NOTES • The quarterback position will be under the microscope with the absence of Austin Davis. • Johnson has a reputation of putting a strong defense on the field. Will “Nasty Bunch” return? • Too many unknowns this season to assume the Eagles will contend for the CUSA crown ‘12

The Golden Eagles have not finished below .500 since the 1993 season. “I can’t put it into measurements,’’ Johnson said. ‘’My expectations is that we will be a good football team and be competitive and will be in the race for the conference championship.


Photo Mississippi Sports Magazine

Photo by Bobby McDuffie

CONERLY FAVORITE JAMIE COLLINS Jamie Collins averaged 1.5 tackles for loss per game, which was 10th best in the country last season. He lead the team in tackles and was second in sacks.

RB - DESMOND JOHNSON DESMOND JOHNSON “That is a tall order when you consider the number of players we lost and we have a question mark at quarterback. Players at Southern Miss have always stepped up and we have several who will do that this year. I really believe we will be in the thick of the conference race. Do we have enough to pull it off? I don’t know. But we want the conference championship and that’s what we expect.’’ OFFENSE Offensively, the Golden Eagles will use redshirt freshman Ricky Floyd or Chris Campbell or even true freshman Anthony Alford at quarterback to fill the void left by Davis. Davis, a Meridian native, threw for 3,496 yards with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season under then coach Larry Fedora’s spread offense. Johnson, who arrives at Southern Miss after a successful tenure as defensive coordinator at South Carolina, said Campbell came out of spring drills ahead of Lloyd. Alford, one of the top recruits in Mississippi last season at Petal, announced at the end of May that he will enroll and play football at Southern Miss despite being considered a solid MLB prospect. Campbell (6-4, 215) looks to be a good runner while Lloyd (6-2, 200) has a stronger throwing arm. Alford, who had offers from Alabama, LSU

and Clemson is the best overall athlete. But none of the three took a snap last season. Regardless of who is at quarterback for the season-opener at Nebraska, the key in determining a repeat title runs begins with protecting the football. Remarkably, the Golden Eagles won their first conference championship since 2003 despite turning the ball over 30 times, including a C-USA worst 18 fumbles. Had it not been for key turnovers against UAB late in the season, Southern Miss may have played its way into a BCS game. ‘’Whoever takes the first snap at Nebraska will be a young man who has never thrown a pass in a college football game.’’ Johnson said. And that is a concern. “Chris (Campbell) is steady and Ricky (Lloyd) is hot and cold and up-and-down. Both of them are still in the hunt. If we had to play tomorrow, he (Campbell) would give us a little more experience and give us the least bad plays.’’ Last season, Southern Miss set the tone on offense with a spread look that often featured no running back and more than 85 snaps a game. This season, Johnson said the offense will stay with the spread but in a slightly toned down version. Especially with Alford who can break down defenses with his ability to run when the pass-

ing game protection breaks down. ‘’I think he can earn (starter role) it,’’ Johnson said. ‘’I am not sure if he will. We are not going to be extremely complicated in the passing game. He can run and he is a threat. Anthony is the best athlete of the group. ‘’I tried to recruit him to South Carolina because he is such a great athlete. He will be the best athlete, but he may not be the best quarterback. I can see using two quarterbacks early on.’’ The strength of the offense will be upfront where three linemen return, including Austin Quattrochi (6-3, 205). Other linemen back are Joe Duhon (6-2, 306) and Jason Weaver (6-5, 305) Lamar Holmes has taken his talents to the NFL after being selected by Atlanta in the second-round. In terms of skilled players, the new quarterback will have the luxury of getting the ball in the hands of wide receiver/running back Tracey Lampley, who rushed for 463 yards last season to go with 578 receiving yards and four scores. Lampley, arguably the best skilled played in C-USA, will be joined by Quentin Pierce and Ryan Balentine to give the Golden Eagles depth at the receiver slot. Lampley averaged nearly 130 All-Purpose yards last season. “We have to look at the best way to use (Lampley),” Johnson said. “I don’t know if he is touching the ball enough. We may have to 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 61


2011 results DATE......OPPONENT .........................SCORE S.3............LOUISIANA TECH...............W 19-17 S.10..........@ Marshall...........................L 20-26 S.17...........SOUTHEASTERN LA..........W 52-6 S.24.........@ Virginia..........................W 30-24 O.1.............RICE.................................... W 48-24 O.8...........@ Navy................................W 63-35 O.22.........SMU.......................................W 27-3 O.29.........@ UTEP.................................W 31-13 N.5...........@ East Carolina............... W 48-28 N.12..........UCF.....................................W 30-29 N.17..........@ UAB.....................................L 31-34 N.26.........MEMPHIS..............................W 44-7 D.6............@ Houston........................ W 49-28 D.24.........NEVADA...............................W 24-17

73%

Since the opening of M.M. Roberts Stadium in 1976, Southern Miss has accumulated a winning percentage of 73 percent at home. work him in the backfield and out of the backfield. He has to get involved more often. “I am not sure how may times he will touch it in a game.But we can’t get the the end of the game and he touched the ball 10 times. That would not be very smart.’’ In the backfield, Desmond Johnson and Kendrick Hardy return to give Southern Miss added speed and power in the running game.

HEAD COACH - ELLIS JOHNSON DESMOND JOHNSON

DEFENSE Outside of replacing Davis, another challenge will be finding six new starters on the 4-2-5 look defense. The good news is senior hybrid end Jamie Collins has developed into a 2012 NFL draft pick and will be one of the most-feared defenders in C-USA this season. As a junior, Collins, a converted linebacker, recorded 98 tackles. Outside of Collins, Southern Miss will enter the season thin at linebacker after the graduation of Ronnie Thornton (111 tackles). But Johnson, one of the top defensive minds in the college game, said Alan Howze has emerged in the middle after a strong showing in the spring. “I think we have a chance to be one of the better defenses, if not the best, in the league,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of speed and players who can make plays. Jamie Collins has caught the attention of the (NFL) scouts and rightfully so. He has the ability to make

game-changing plays.’’ Upfront, defensive tackle Khyri Thornton, 6-3, 300, will cause problems for opponents with his ability to require double teams in the running game. Also factoring in upront will be nose tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches. With inexperience at linebacker, Thornton and Nunez-Roches must stop the run and put pressure on the opponents quarterback in the passing games. “On paper, our needs going into spring was at defensive tackles and at linebacker,’’ Johnson said. “We come out of spring and I feel good about our interior tackles and our linebacker. I now we are going to be more physical upfront this year even though we lost three or the four starters there. “Alan Howze is our quarterback on defense, I know we are very athletic at linebacker and that’s what you need in this league. Going into to spring, I was worried about the defense. Now, I am not worried about the defense.’’

62 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Photo by James Pugh

MSM’S

KEY GAME • On Oct. 6 the Golden Eagles will host Boise St. This will be a huge litmus test for USM not only on the field but in the stands as well. Boise St. is one of the premier teams in the country and a huge showing by the fans could make “The Rock” a tough place to handle for the Broncos. Defense will be the key in this one as Jamie Collins and his friends will have to slow down an offense that avg. 481 yards. and 44 pts. a game in 2011.

Deron Wilson, who scored two touchdowns last season off interceptions and Jacoris Cotton (98 tackles) give the Golden Eagles one of the top secondaries in the conference. “We we have to create turnovers and limit big plays,’’ Johnson said. “We call explosive plays in the running game of 12 yards or longer. In the passing game, an explosive play is 18 yards or longer. “If you give up five, six or seven explosive


DEFENSIVE LINEMANJOHNSON - ADAM WILLIAMS DESMOND

“That is a tall order when you consider the number of players we lost and we have a question mark at quarterback. Players at Southern Miss have always stepped up and we have several who will do that this year. I really believe we will be in the thick of the conference race. Do we have enough to pull it off? I don’t know. But we want the conference championship and that’s what we expect.’’ plays, you better create turnovers. We want to minimize explosive plays and if we do that, we will be fine.’’ Southern Miss’ biggest threat in repeating will be a Oct. 13 showdown at Central Florida. The Golden Eagles have won six of seven meetings with the Knights. “We are going to win (games), it’s just a matter of how many can we win,’’ Johnson said “Our goal is to win the Conference USA championship.” SPECIAL TEAMS Southern Miss bid to repeat as C-USA champions will be determined with the quarterback play and how fast the defense matures. But the wild card could be replacing placekicker Danny Hrapmann, one of the best in the nation over the last two years. As a junior, he was a perfect 55-for-55 on PATs and had a career-long 54-yard field goal. Hrapmann has graduated and the place

kicking duties will fall in the hands of redshirt sophomore Corey Acosta. Acosta only played in the season-opener last season while Hrapmann recovered from a injury. He responded with field goals of 25 and 4 yards. Punting duties will be handled by senior Peter Boehmn, who has averaged nearly 40 yards the last two seasons and is highly respected through the conference for his ability to place the ball inside the 20 yard line. In terms of kickoff return, Lampley is a potential game-changer. “I like Peter,’’ Johnson said. ‘’We need Acosta to step up. He did have a good spring and will go into fall drills No. 1 on the depth chart. Special teams is a huge part of the game. We have to win all three phases to be successful.’’ THE SCHEDULE Southern Miss will be a favorite to repeat in 2012 based on standout players like Collins

on defense and Lampley on offense. But the road to defending the 2011 title will come down to games against East Carolina at home o Sept. 15 and a road battle at Central Florida on Oct. 13. The non-conference schedule isn’t as favorable as last year considering the Golden Eagles open the season at Nebraska on Sept. 1. Other tough non-conference dates include home games with Louisville on Sept. 29 and Noise State on Oct. 6. Following the game with Boise State, the Golden Eagles close out the season with six C-USA games, including the showdown at Central Florida. One positive on the schedule is an open date following the Nebraska game and before East Carolina. With 22 returning letterman back on offense and 18 on defense, the Golden Eagles have the talent to win 10 games for the second consecutive year. But the Black and Gold must defend their home turf and beat Central Florida. “Our goal, and it will be every year, is to win the conference championship,’’ Johnson said. ‘’After talking to some of the coaches who have been in the league, like (defensive coordinator and former Memphis coach) Tommy West , we have the talent. “Now, we have to go out and earn it. At Southern Miss, it’s not if we are going to win. It’s how many are we going to win? I think we have a chance to be really good.’’ - MSM 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 63


201 2 ROSTER

*as of press time

NO NAME ..............................POS ............... HT ..............WT ...................CL .................EXP ..............................................HOMETOWN/LAST SCHOOL 1 Tracey Lampley ................. WR .................. 5-9 ................168 .......................Sr. ......................3L ...........................................Waynesboro, Miss./Wayne County HS 1 DaQuinton Dean ................DB ...................6-0 ................180 .....................r-Fr. ...................SQ ..............................................................Laurel, Miss./West Jones HS 3 Donald Hall .........................DB ...................5-10 ................187 .......................Jr. .....................SQ ...............................................................Gardena, Calif./Gardena HS 5 Jerrion Johnson ..................DB ....................6-1 .................195 ......................r-Jr. .....................2L ..................................................Beaumont, Miss./Perry Central HS 6 Arsenio Favor .....................QB ................... 6-3 ................ 239 .................... r-So. ...................SQ ....................................... Montgomery, Ala./Stanhope Elmore HS 6 Martez Thompson .............DB ...................6-0 ................201 .......................Sr. ......................1L ..............................................Pascagoula, Miss./Miss. Gulf Coast CC 7 Desmond Johnson ............RB ...................5-11 ...............200 .....................r-Sr. ....................2L ........................................................ Yazoo City, Miss./Yazoo City HS 7 Laurice Lawrence ...............DB ....................5-7 .................176 ......................r-Jr. ....................SQ ............................................................. Memphis, Tenn./Melrose HS 8 Jamie Collins ....................... LB ................... 6-3 ................ 239 .......................Sr. ......................3L ..........................................McCall Creek, Miss./Franklin County HS 8 Ricky Lloyd ..........................QB ................... 6-2 ................191 ......................r-Fr. ...................RS ................................................................ Concord, Calif./Concord HS 9 Chris Briggs ........................ WR ..................6-4 ............... 202 ......................So. .....................1L .........................................................Franklinton, La./Franklinton HS 9 Major Williams ...................DB ...................5-10 ................175 .....................r-Fr. ...................SQ .....................................................Moss Point, Miss./Pascagoula HS 12 Emmanuel Johnson ..........DB ...................5-11 ................175 ......................So. .....................1L ..............................................................McKenzie, Ala./McKenzie HS 13 Chris Campbell ...................QB ...................6-4 ............. º208 ....................r-Jr. ....................SQ .......................................Collierville, Tenn./Briarcrest Christian HS 13 Tray Becton-Martin ........... WR ..................5-10 ................166 ......................So. .....................1L ..................................................Eads, Tenn./Briarcrest Christian HS 14 Cole Weeks ..........................QB ...................6-0 ...............200 .....................r-Fr. ...................SQ .................................................................Freeport, Fla./Freeport HS 14 Terrick Wright ..................... LB ................... 6-2 ............... 208 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS .......................................................Gadsden, Ala./Gadsden City HS 15 Marcal Robinson ................DB ...................6-0 ................174 ......................r-Sr. ....................3L ...................................................................... Prichard, Ala./Vigor HS 16 Michael Means ................... WR ..................6-0 ................190 .....................r-Fr. ...................SQ ...........................................................................Petal, Miss./Petal HS 16 Alex Smith ...........................DB ...................5-11 ................193 ......................r-Jr. .....................2L ..........................................McCall Creek, Miss./Franklin County HS 18 Dominique Sullivan ......... WR ..................6-4 ............... 208 .......................Jr. ......................1L ......................................................Taylorsville, Miss./Taylorsville HS 18 Brandon Francesconi ........ LB ................... 6-3 .................243 .......................Sr. ......................1L ...........................Burlingame, Calif./College of San Mateo (Calif.) 19 Clifford Johnson .................DB ...................5-11 ............... 204 .....................r-Sr. ...................SQ ................................................................Jacksonville, Fla./Pierce CC 20 Reggie Hunt ........................DB ................... 5-8 ................182 .......................Sr ......................2L .............................................. Robertsdale, Ala./Copiah-Lincoln CC 20 Ed Wilkins ............................DB ...................5-10 ................167 .....................r-Fr. ...................SQ ....................................................McDonough, Ga./Union Grove HS 21 Jeremy Hester ....................RB ................... 5-6 ................180 .......................Jr. ......................2L .............................................................Panama City, Fla./Arnold HS 21 Dylan Reda .......................... LB ................... 6-3 .................235 .......................Jr. ......................JC ......................................................... Santa Ana, Calif./Santa Ana CC 22 Deron Wilson ......................DB ...................5-10 ................175 ......................r-Jr. .....................2L .............................................New Orleans, La./O. Perry Walker HS 23 Markese Triplett ................ WR ..................6-4 ................ 211 ........................Jr. ......................1L .............................................................Louisville, Miss./Louisville HS 24 Chauncey Smith ................. LB ...................5-11 ................232 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS ..............................................................LaGrange, Ga./LaGrange HS 24 Dimitri Smith ..................... WR .................. 5-9 ................160 .......................Jr. ..................... TR ...................................................Long Beach, Miss./Long Beach HS 25 Corey Acosta .......................PK ...................5-10 ................186 .................... r-So. ....................1L ......................................... Memphis, Tenn./Christian Brothers HS 25 Justin Sims ......................... WR ...................5-7..................165 ......................r-Jr. ....................SQ .......................................................................Decatur, Ga./Redan HS 26 Jamal Woodyard ...............RB ................... 5-8 ............... 202 .................... r-So. ....................1L ................................................................Fairhope, Ala./Fairhope HS 27 Thomas Meier .................... WR ..................5-10 ................180 ......................r-Fr .................... TR ...............................................................Cincinnati, Ohio/Texas Tech 28 Jacorius Cotton ...................DB ................... 5-9 ................190 .......................Jr. ......................1L ........................................................LaGrange, Ga./Troup County HS 29 Kendrick Hardy ..................RB ...................6-0 ................219 ......................r-Jr. .....................2L .........................................................Monticello, Miss./Lawrence HS 29 David Bertucci ....................DB ...................6-0 ................185 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS................................................................ Gulfport, Miss./Gulfport HS 30 Michael Brinson ................. DL ...................6-4 ............... 263 .....................r-Fr. ................... Rs ..................................Flowood, Miss./University Christian School 30 Matthew Moseley ............... P ....................5-11 ................170 ......................So. .................... TR ......................................................Franklin, Tenn./Tennessee State 31 Alexander Walters ............DB ...................5-10 ................166 .......................Jr. ......................1L ............................................Northport, Ala./Tuscaloosa County HS 31 Darrell Sanders ..................RB ................... 5-8 ................177 .................... r-So. ...................SQ ..................................................................Midfield, Ala./Midfield HS 32 Cortez Bowen ..................... LB ................... 6-2 ................218 .....................r-So ...................SQ ..........................................................Memphis, Tenn./Trezevant HS 33 Jordan Parker .....................PK ...................6-0 ................175 .....................r-Fr..................... HS ..................................................................Corinth, Miss./Corinth HS 34 Casey Hunt ..........................RB ................... 5-8 ................190 ......................r-Jr .................... TR ............................................................... Mendenhall, Miss./Millsaps 35 Justin Penn .......................... LB ....................6-1 ................200 .................... r-So. ....................1L ............................................................. Bassfield, Miss./Bassfield HS 36 Bruce Johnson ....................RB ................... 5-9 ................231 ......................r-Jr...................... 1L ..................................................Alpharetta, Ga./Blessed Trinity HS 37 Alan Howze ......................... LB ................... 6-2 ................219 .......................Jr. ......................2L .........................................Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs HS 39 Peter Boehme ..................... P ....................5-11 ...............206 .......................Sr. ......................3L .............................................. Birmingham, Ala./Oak Mountain HS 43 Darrion Goudy .................... LB ...................5-10 ............... 202 .................... r-So. ...................SQ .....................................Meridian, Miss./Southeast Lauderdale HS 45 Dasman McCullum ............ DL ................... 6-3 .................238 .................... r-So. ...................RS .....................................................Taylorsville, Miss./Taylorsville HS 46 Austin Shelton .................... DL ................... 6-3 ................ 225 .....................r-Fr..................... RS .......................................................... Orlando, Fla./Winter Park HS 47 Nic Bekkers .......................... DL ................... 6-5 ............... 230 .................... r-So. ...................SQ ......................................................................Perry, Ga./Westfield HS 48 Trent Johnson ..................... LB ................... 6-2 ................210 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS ...........................................Memphis, Tenn./Christian Brothers HS 49 Adam Williams .................. DL ................... 6-3 .................255 .......................Jr. ......................JC ...........................................................Clarksdale, Miss./Coahoma CC 50 Jamil Murray ....................... LB ....................6-1 .................191 ......................r-Fr. ...................RS ............................................................... Jacksonville, Fla./Bolles HS 51 Darius Barnes ..................... OL ...................6-4 ............... 329 .....................r-Sr. ....................2L ........................................................Memphis, Tenn./Westwood HS 52 Jason Weaver ..................... OL ................... 6-5 ............... 302 .....................r-Sr. ....................2L ............................................New Orleans, La./Arizona Western CC 53 Ta’Dren Kennedy ............... LB ................... 5-8 ................216 .................... r-So. ...................SQ ..................................................Hattiesburg, Miss./Hattiesburg HS 57 Garrett Clark ........................ OL ...................6-4 ............... 284 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS ...................................................Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett HS 60 Chaz Cavignac .................... OL ................... 6-2 ................275 .....................r-Fr. ...................SQ ..................................................................Slidell, La./Northshore HS 61 Bradley Nugent .................. OL ...................6-0 ............... 260 .....................r-Fr. ...................SQ ...............................................................Pell Lake, Wisc./Badger HS 62 Austin Quattrochi .............. OL ................... 6-3 ................ 292 .....................r-Sr. ....................3L ......................................................Marietta, Ga./George Walton HS 63 Lance Schuffert ..................DS ................... 6-2 ................245 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS ...............................................................Prattville, Ala./Prattville HS 66 Jordan Greene .................... OL ................... 6-3 ................ 264 .....................r-Fr..................... SQ ..............................................New Orleans, La./Brother Martin HS 67 Dyron White ........................ OL ................... 6-5 ................314 .....................r-Sr. ....................1L .............................................................................Slidell, La./Slidell HS 68 Joe Duhon ........................... OL ................... 6-2 ............... 292 .....................r-Sr. ....................2L .....................................Lake Charles, La./Washington-Marion HS 70 Vincent Brown .................... OL ...................6-6 ................314 .......................Jr. ......................1L .................................................................... Miami, Fla./ASA Institute 71 Randall Agee ...................... OL ................... 6-3 ................ 270 .....................r-Fr. ...................SQ ................................................................New Orleans, La./Jesuit HS 76 David Fowler ....................... OL ................... 6-3 .................291 .................... r-So. ...................SQ ...................................................................Daphne, Ala./Daphne HS 77 Ed Preston ........................... OL ...................6-4 ................307 ......................r-Jr. .....................1L .................................................................Bacliff, Texas/Dickinson HS 78 Jonathan Guerry ................ OL ...................6-4 ............... 294 ......................r-Jr. .....................2L ........................................................Columbus, Miss./New Hope HS 79 Taylor Peterson .................. OL ...................6-4 ...............290 .................... r-So. ....................1L .....................................................................Auburn, Ala./Auburn HS 80 Collin Jarbo ...........................TE ................... 6-3 .................232 ......................So. .....................1L ....................................................................Gadsden, Ala./Gaston HS 81 Ryan Hanks ..........................TE ................... 6-5 ............... 246 .......................Sr. ......................3L ............................................................................... Pace, Fla./Pace HS 82 Keller Davis ........................ WR .................. 6-2 ................185 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS ................................................. Spanish Fort, Ala./Spanish Fort HS 83 Cooper Harrington ........... WR ..................6-0 ................189 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS ...................................Birmingham, Ala./Briarwood Christian HS 84 Max Mason ...........................TE ................... 6-7 ................ 207 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS .........................................................Kennesaw, Ga./North Cobb HS 85 Quentin Pierce ................... WR ..................5-11 ................193 .....................r-Sr. ....................3L ..................................................................Mobile, Ala./Davidson HS 86 Zack Gregory ..................... WR ..................5-11 ...............175 ....................r-Fr. ...................SQ .........................................Bay Springs, Miss./Sylva Bay Academy 87 Francisco Llanos ................ WR .................. 5-8 ................ 171 .......................r-Jr. .....................2L ............................................................Tampa, Fla./Chamberlain HS 88 Rashun Prince ................... WR ..................6-0 ................178 .......................Sr. .....................SQ .....................................................Toms River, N.J./Georgia Military 89 Joel Ross .............................. DL ....................6-1 .................317 .....................r-Sr. ....................1L .........................................................Gray, La./Vandebilt Catholic HS 91 Michael Smith ..................... DL ................... 6-5 ............... 234 .....................r-Fr. ...................RS ......................................................Birmingham, Ala./Wenonah HS 92 Casey D’Angelo .................. DL ...................5-11 ................267 .................... r-So. ...................SQ ..............................................Madisonville, La./Mississippi College 95 Khalid Wilson ..................... DL ....................6-1 ................300 .......................Sr. ......................1L ......................................................New Orleans, La./East Central CC 96 Layton Holcomb ................. DL ................... 6-2 ................210 .....................r-Fr. ...................SQ .....................................................Hattiesburg, Miss./Oak Grove HS 97 Rakeem Nunez ................... DL ................... 6-3 .................312 ......................So. .....................1L ............................................................... Phenix City, Ala./Central HS 98 Khyri Thornton ................... DL ................... 6-3 .................283 ......................r-Jr. .....................2L .................................................................. Panama City, Fla./Bay HS 99 Octavius Thomas ............... DL ................... 6-3 ................ 239 ......................r-Jr. .....................2L ................................................................Carrollton, Ga./Mt. Zion HS 64 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

2011 TEAM STATS TEAM STATISTICS ............................USM ............ OPP SCORING ............................................516 .............. 291 Points Per Game .........................36.9 ............20.8 FIRST DOWNS .................................. 328 ..............268 Rushing ...........................................152 ...............96 Passing ............................................149 .............. 155 Penalty .............................................27 .................17 RUSHING YARDAGE ........................2872 ............1660 Yards gained rushing ..................3142 ............2067 Yards lost rushing ........................270 .............407 Rushing Attempts ....................... 553 ..............506 Average Per Rush ..........................5.2 ...............3.3 Average Per Game ......................205.1 ........... 118.6 TDs Rushing ...................................17 .................16 PASSING YARDAGE .........................3587 ............3142 Comp-Att-Int ..........................292-489-12 .308-535-19 Average Per Pass ..........................7.3 .............. 5.9 Average Per Catch ....................... 12.3 ..............10.2 Average Per Game ......................256.2 ..........224.4 TDs Passing ....................................32 ................ 14 TOTAL OFFENSE ..............................6459 .......... 4802 Total Plays ................................... 1042 .............1041 Average Per Play ...........................6.2 .............. 4.6 Average Per Game ......................461.4 ..........343.0 KICK RETURNS: #-Yards .............52-1174 .......85-1826 PUNT RETURNS: #-Yards ............ 35-448 ..........16-98 INT RETURNS: #-Yards ................. 19-519 ..........12-126 KICK RETURN AVERAGE .................22.6 .............21.5 PUNT RETURN AVERAGE ................ 12.8 ...............6.1 INT RETURN AVERAGE ....................27.3 .............10.5 FUMBLES-LOST ...............................25-18 ............16-9 PENALTIES-Yards ..........................109-894 .......89-755 Average Per Game .......................63.9 ............ 53.9 PUNTS-Yards ................................56-2443 .....89-3675 Average Per Punt .........................43.6 .............41.3 Net punt average .........................39.0 ............ 34.7 TIME OF POSSESSION/Game ...... 28:52 ......... 31:08 3RD-DOWN Conversions ..............89/213 ........82/231 3rd-Down Pct ...............................42% .............35% 4TH-DOWN Conversions ................11/18 ........... 14/29 4th-Down Pct ................................61% ..............48% SACKS BY-Yards .............................27-201 .........17-128 MISC YARDS ...................................... 88 ................49 TOUCHDOWNS SCORED ..................63 ................35 FIELD GOALS-ATTEMPTS ..............25-36 ...........15-19 ON-SIDE KICKS ..................................1-1 ................0-1 RED-ZONE SCORES .................. (47-58) 81% .(36-50) 72% RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS .....(32-58) 55% .(25-50) 50% PAT-ATTEMPTS .......................... (61-62) 98% .(32-32) 100% ATTENDANCE .................................170402 ...... 222696 Games/Avg Per Game ............6/28400 ......7/31814 Neutral Site Games ........................ .............1/32630 Score by quarters 1st .....2nd ..3rd ...4th .....Total Southern Miss 134 ..... 158 ....98 .....126 ........ 516 Opponents 61 .......77 ....78 ......75 ......... 291


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THE “HEADHUNTER” BY RICK JONES, Contributing Writer Photo by Bobby McDuffie

Always around the ball, Collins (#22) blocked this field goal attempt by Middle Tennessee State during the 2009 R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

JAMIE COLLINS LB/6-3/239/SR McCALL CREEK, MS

I

t was nearly four years ago that Jamie Collins arrived on campus at Southern Miss not knowing what the future might hold. Collins became a Golden Eagle when he signed a scholarship as a top defensive back under then coach Larry Fedora. Like many freshmen, the first year wasn’t anything to write home about.

66 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Fast forward three years and the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Collins is preparing for his senior season as one of the most-feared defenders in Conference USA. And he’s a step away from the NFL – as a linebacker. Collins, one of the top linebackers in the nation according to several NFL publications, made the switch from defensive back two years ago. That’s when Southern Miss switched to a 4-2-5 defensive look to slow down the highpowered, uptempo offenses that were taking over the college game. Fedora wanted to use Collins’ physical play against the run and his 4.5 speed against the pass.

“Jamie Collins is going to be special when he leaves Southern Miss,’’ Fedora said at the time of the move. With that defensive transition as a team, Collins began to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of playing in the NFL, which has been his dream since childhood. “I am happy with the move,’’ Collins said. “When the coaches told me about the move, I was ready. I want to do what’s best for the team. I never thought once about not making the move. “The move gives me a chance to make more plays. I think it (move) was best for me.’’ Suddenly, Collins saw his brand of play change from covering wide receivers to putting pressure on the quarterback as a hybrid


Photo by Bobby McDuffie

Collins (#8) clearing the way for LB Ronnie Thornton as he returned this interception 26 yards for a score during the Golden Eagles 49-28 victory over Houston in the CUSA Championship game

“Jamie Collins makes plays,’’ first year Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson said. “He can disrupt an offense against the run and get back and cover, too. “The thing I like about Jamie is his work habit. He comes to work every day and that carries over to Saturday. Jamie Collins, for what I am being told, will play at the next level on Sundays.’’ end. A hybrid end in the 4-2-5 look always Collins to play a more traditional end position against the run. When an offense spreads out, Collins may be called on to cover a tight end or even a running back in the passing game as a drop back linebacker. Either way, Collins feels right at home. “I went from covering people to hitting people,’’ Collins said. ‘’That was pretty cool. I can play with my hand on the ground or stand-up. “When I see the lineman, I feel like I can use my speed to beat them and make a play.’’ At first, the move was a challenge considering Collins saw his role shift from a Nickle Back or safety to lining up against 300-pound offensive linemen. During his first spring following the move

under Fedora, he was impressive from his first workout. Collins, then took on the role of a leader. “Like I said, I like to use my speed, but I don’t mind getting physical either,’’ Collins said. ‘’I really don’t make a lot of it. I just want to win and I love playing football. I was willing to do what the coaches felt was best for the team. “Personally, I feel like I am more like a (strong) safety. I can walk up on the line or back off. If I need to get physical, I can.’’ The move paid off as Southern Miss rolled to a 12-2 record last season that was capped off with the Conference USA championship. Now, Collins has established himself as a potential NFL draft pick. “Jamie Collins makes plays,’’ first year Southern Miss coach Ellis Johnson said. ‘’He

can disrupt an offense against the run and get back and cover, too. “The thing I like about Jamie is his work habit. He comes to work every day and that carries over to Saturday. Jamie Collins, for what I am being told, will play at the next level on Sundays.’’ As a sophomore, Collins played in all 12 games for the Golden Eagles and started six of the final seven games. He finished the season with 71 tackles and had five or more stops in 10 games. Collins recorded 98 tackles last season and enters his final season with 169 tackles while starting 18 of the last 19 games. “Now, in his final season at Southern Miss, Collins has both eyes on repeating as C-USA champs. Thoughts about the NFL will begin late December. “Winning a championship this year is my only goal,’’ he said. ‘’I feel like we have a lot of playmakers on defense, not just me. “When it’s over, I would be thankful for the opportunity to play in the NFL. Who wouldn’t? But for now, it’s all about making our defense at Southern Miss the best it can be. If you stay focused and worked hard, god things will come.’’ Just like Collins himself. - MSM

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JACKSON STATE TIGERS 2011 - RECORD 9-2, SWAC 7-2 HOME: 4-2 ROAD: 3-0 NEUTRAL: 2-0

schedule DATE......OPPONENT S.1.............@Miss. State S.8............@Tennessee State S.15..........@Texas Southern S.22.........SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY S.29.........PRAIRIE VIEW A&M O.6...........@Arkansas Pine Bluff O.13..........@Alabama State O.20........MISS. VALLEY STATE N.3............@Grambling State N.10..........ALABAMA A&M N.17..........ALCORN STATE BY WESLEY PETERSON Jackson State Sports Information

T

he Jackson State University celebrated its 100th year of football last season and the Tigers did not give their fans many disappointments. Head Coach Rick Comegy led the team to a 9-2 record, giving the program its fifth winning season during his six year tenure. JSU finished the 2011 season with a 7-2 conference finish and earned a share of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Eastern Division title. At the conclusion of the season, JSU was ranked in the following NCAA (FCS) polls: 15 (FCS Now), 18 (NCAA Coaches), 22 (Sports Network/Fathead) and 24 (Fox Sports Network). In addition to the polls, JSU was also ranked highly in NCAA statistical rankings. The Tigers led the nation in total offense (5,400 yds), third in passing offense (3,829) and ninth in scoring (35.8 ppg). On the defensive side of the ball the Tigers were first in the nation in pass efficiency defense, third down efficiency and red zone efficiency. The JSU defense was also second in tackles for loss, fifth in sacks

68 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

LINEBACKER - MILTON PATTERSON DESMOND JOHNSON and third in scoring defense. Expectations were high for the Tigers, going into the season. JSU returned an experienced team with a rock solid defense and one of the most exciting offenses in the nation. Heading into fall camp, JSU will have to replace key members on the offensive side of the ball. Record setting signal caller Casey Therriualt will not be under center for the Tigers. JSU also lost All-SWAC pass catchers in Marcellos Wilder and Renty Rollins. The Tigers will also be without the services of Roderick Gladney, an all-conference performer on the offensive line. On the defensive side of the ball, JSU lost All-SWAC defensive end Donavan Robinson. Despite the loss of Robinson, the Tigers bring back eight defensive starters and should have one of the better units in the

league. Offensively, JSU will return five regular starters. OFFENSE JSU will have only two quarterbacks with any significant collegiate playing experience. Redshirt senior QB Dedric McDonald (65, 220) and Tevin Chapman (6-1, 195, R-Jr.) both played sparingly last season. McDonald has the most experience of the two. McDonald saw action in seven games last season, but completed only two of his eight attempts for 12 yards. In 2010 he saw action in only three games and completed one of five pass attempts for six yards. However, he was hobbled with a broken foot near the end of the season. As a red-shirt freshman he completed 41 percent of his passes for 539 yards


to balance and set up our passing attack.” JSU’s offensive line will be one of the most important units on the team this season. The Tigers will not have a proven signal caller, so this group’s ability to open holes for running backs and protect the quarterback will be paramount. Seniors Zion Pyatt (6-3, 285), Stephen Capler (6-2, 270) and Maurice Brooks (6-3, 290) are projected to be the leaders of the unit. Junior Derrick Jean (6-3, 270) will also compete for a starting position. Sophomores Danny Williams (6-3, 350), Jeffery Travillion (6-3, 285) and Jonathan Smith (6-3, 280) should also be stabilizing forces on the line. A wild card member of the line will be red-shirt junior Darius Mitchell (6-3, 320), who has be kept out of the lineup due to a recurring foot injury.

WIDE RECEIVER - RICO RICHARDSON DESMOND JOHNSON and two touchdowns. Chapman played in three games last season. He completed two pass attempts (2-2) for nine yards with a touchdown. Red-shirt sophomore Mark Thigpen (6-3, 220) did not play a single down of football last season, but was thrown into the fire as a true freshman when Therriault was injured during the 2010 Capital City Classic. He completed two passes for 12 yards, but did enough as a running QB to help JSU hold on to the win. Another contender for the starting QB battle will be freshman LaMontiez Ivy (6-3, 225). Ivy is a three-star dual threat quarterback prospect according to Max Preps and Rivals. As a senior he completed 50.2 percent of his passes (119-237) for 1,836 yards, with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 349 yards and six rushing touchdowns. He led the East St. Louis Flyers to a 9-3 record and a share of the Southwestern Conference championship. As a junior he passed for 1,770 yards with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions, to go along with eight rushing touchdowns. “I would really love for Dedric to earn the starting position,” said JSU head coach Rick Comegy. “But, we will have a competition and we will go with the quarterback that gives us the best chance to win.” The wider receiver corps will be led by Rico Richardson (6-1, 195, Sr.). Richardson is one of the fastest players in the Southwestern Ath-

letic Conference. He has the ability to blow by most defenders in the league. Last season his 23 yards per catch average led the FCS. As a junior, Richardson recorded seven touchdown receptions of 20-yards or more. E.J. Drewrey (6-6, 230, Sr.) will make the move from receiver to tight end this season. Drewery provided a large target for Therriault last season. He caught 26 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Perkins (6-1, 190, R-So.) caught 24 passes for 325 yards last season. Perkins also served as a punter for JSU. “We have a very good group of play makers at the wide receivers and tight end positions. We have size, speed and players with the ability to pick up yardage after the catch.” JSU will have a stable of seasoned running backs and full backs. Senior B.J. Lee (5-7, 185) and junior Tommy Gooden (6-0, 215) return as JSU’s most productive backs. The duo combined for 981 rush yards and five touchdowns on only 155 attempts and 54 receptions for 445 yards and two touchdowns. Lee will also see time as a receiver. Gooden is a prototypical, every down back – with size and speed. Junior fullback Marquese Dunn (6-3, 230) had 13 carries for 118 yard and two touchdowns. He led the team with a 9.1 per attempt average. Dunn should get more time as a running back and could see action as a tight end. “We will have to be able to run the ball next season. We will need a strong ground attack

DEFENSE The JSU defense has consistently performed at a high level in coach Comegy’s six seasons at Jackson State. Last season the “Dark Side” defense led the nation in pass efficiency defense, third down efficiency and red zone efficiency. The unit was also second in the nation in tackles for loss and fifth in sacks. JSU will arguably have one of the better defensive lines in the SWAC. Senior defensive end Joseph LeBeau (6-1, 245) will look end his JSU career with another dominant season. LeBeau was named an All-American and an All-SWAC first team member. He recorded 16 sacks (tied a JSU single season record), 24.5 tackles for loss and 75 tackles. LeBeau is expected to be named to the 2012 Buck Buchanan Award watch list. He was also named to the pre-season College Football Performance Awards Defensive End and Defensive Tackle watch list. Senior Jonathan Billups (6-1, 320) is projected to be an anchor of the line at his tackle position. Last season he finished with 47 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Redshirt senior Luis McLeod (6-4, 330) should be a run stopper for JSU. He had 39 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and half a sack last season. Senior defensive end Javarius Conner (6-3, 250) was hampered by injuries last season, but should add depth to the unit for JSU. He played in 10 games and had 16 tackles last season. Corey Brown (6-3, 230, R-So.), Mark Webster (6-2, 280, So.), Armon Carter (6-3, 285, R-Jr.), Johnny Conner (6-0, 305, Sr.) and Brandon Siggers (6-3, 245, Sr.) will all compete for significant playing time. The linebacker corps could be a key special group for the Tigers defense this season. Senior Milton Patterson (6-1, 235) will look to continue his solid play this season. Last season he was third on the team in tackles with 56. He also had 12 tackles for a loss, three sacks and an interception.

SEE JACKSON STATE on Page 83 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 69


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ALCORN STATE BRAVES 2011 - RECORD 2-8, SWAC 1-8 HOME: 2-2 ROAD: 0-5 NEUTRAL: 0-1

Photo courtesy Alcorn State

schedule DATE......OPPONENT S.1.............@Grambling State S8.............@James Madison S.15..........ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF S.22.........@Arkansas State S.29.........ALABAMA STATE (HC) O.6...........SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY O.13..........@Alabama A&M O.20........@Prairie View N.3............@Miss. Valley State N.10..........TEXAS SOUTHERN N.17..........@Jackson State BY LATOYA SHIELDS Alcorn State Sports Information

A

lcorn State is excited to begin its 2012 football campaign on the Academic Resort. Adjustments to the personnel surrounding the football program were made during the offseason to ensure that the focus of rebuilding the program was headed into the right direction. Armed with a new staff, the Braves look to put the bleak 2-8 record of the 2011 season behind them and capitalize upon a renewed, revitalized vision. After dropping their first two games to Grambling State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, respectively Alcorn captured a 39-14 victory over in-state opponent Mississippi Valley. The team suffered defeats from conference opponents, Texas Southern and Alabama State before securing a 58-16 win over Concordia (Selma) for Alcorn State’s homecoming. Southern, Alabama A&M and Prairie View A&M each handed the team blows as the team attempted to find their footing during the season. Alcorn State ended the season with a 51-7 70 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

HEAD COACH - JAY HOPSON shocking loss against Jackson State in the Capital City Classic. While the 2-8 record does not depict a great 2011 campaign, the Braves were ranked in the top 5 in the following categories in the SWAC: field goals, kick-off returns, interceptions, and punt return average. Offense Junior Darius Smith had a great spring showing to provide the team with a steady signal caller. Last season, Smith saw action in all 10 contests and produced a 91.33 efficiency rating

while completing 69 passes of 180 attempts. The Mansfield, Texas native also recorded five touchdowns and ran in one touchdown. Freshman Brandon Vessel (Baton Rouge, LA) showed steady improvement while learning in the wings and taking reps during Spring Training. Signees John Gibbs (Houston, TX) and Jordan Payne (Racine, WI) are also looking to make their mark in the Alcorn State Football Program. With the offensive schematics being installed, fans can anticipate a quarterback battle in two-a-days as Coach Hopson looks


tackles capturing 66 total tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss with 7 yards. Brandon Thompson (Tylertown, MS), Jacques Caldwell (Dallas, TX) and Jamison Knox (Memphis, TN) will also provide the secondary with veteran leadership. Jermaine Turner (Magnolia, MS), Tim Turner (Los Angeles, CA), Mauola Malaga (Maleimi, American Samoa) and Rickey Joseph (Miami, FL) will look to contribute to rebuilding the Braves defense.

Photo by Mike Jones

SPECIAL TEAMS Arturo Tamayo’s void will leave huge shoes to fill as Alcorn State searches for a kicker and punter to help out orchestrate a sound and effective game plan. Terrance Lewis will continue to be a force as a kickoff and punt return specialist for the Braves. Lewis produced outstanding numbers as a member of the special teams crew recording 12 punt returns for 157 yards and 1 touchdown while capturing 21 kick returns for 492 yards and 2 touchdowns. For his tremendous effort, Lewis was named to the 2011 Beyond Sports College Network All-American (3rd Team).

WIDE RECEIVER - Terrance Lewis for his go to guy to anchor the offense this upcoming season. Senior Terrance Lewis (Fort Myers, FL) looks to complete his collegiate career on a high note. During the 2011 season, Lewis garnered 28 receptions for 489 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Braves in receiving. Returning to join Lewis at the receiver corp with additional speed and quick hands will be Rodney Whitmore (Mansfield, TX), Marti’ Shelby (Clinton, MS), Tollette George (New Orleans, LA), Tavoris Doss (Memphis, TN) who combined for 20 catches for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Arnold Walker (Atlanta, GA) and Sophomore Anthony Williams (Jeanerette, LA) proved to put up solid numbers last season and have high expectations on building on their momentum. The duo collectively produced 931 yards on the ground off 193 attempts and four touchdowns. With the departure of veterans, Isaac Williams, Avis Shelton and Keyun Swinney on the O-Line Alcorn State will rely heavily on the talents of Jacody Rose (New Orleans, LA), Brandon McDowell (McComb, MS), Johna-

than Scott (Woodville, MS), David Henderson (Vicksburg, MS), Cornelius Brown (Greenville, SC) and Iskeli Ongosia (Olosega Manu’a, American Samoa) to help create stability on the front line. Joining the vets will be incoming freshmen Michael Minton (Cantonment, FL), Jeffrey Reno (Port Arthur, TX), Gunnar Gazar (Lumberton, MS) Willie Wells, Jr. (Memphis, TN) and Isaac Sampson (Mobile, AL). DEFENSE Junior William Thomas (Thomasville, GA) enjoyed a sophomore season in which he recorded 66 total tackles (39 unassisted, 27 assisted), 9.0 tackles for loss for 55 yards, 3 sacks for 25 yards and 1 interception for 45 yards. Senior Robert Gainwell (Yazoo City, MS) is seeking to close out his final year at Alcorn State on a high note. Gainwell posted 44 tackles, 8 tackles for loss with 29 yards and 2 sacks for 14 yards last season. Sophomore Casey Freeman (Milton, FL) is seeking to capitalize on a freshman season. Freeman led the team in interceptions with 3 picks for 48 yards. He also was ranked third in

THE SCHEDULE The 2012 schedule will feature two new opponents, James Madison and Arkansas State. The Braves will open the season against Grambling State in the Port City Classic.  On September 8th, the team will travel to Harrisonburg, Virginia to face the Dukes of James Madison University.  Alcorn State will open their home season against the Arkansas-Pine Bluff on September 15.  The Braves will face the Red Wolves of Arkansas State on September 22 in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  Homecoming will feature division rival Alabama State on September 29. On October 6, the Braves will face Southern University. Alcorn State will go play back to back road contests against  Southwestern Athletic opponents Alabama A&M (Oct. 13) and Prairie View A&M (Oct 20).  Alcorn State will wrap up the month of November with a trip to Itta Bena, Mississippi to face rival, Mississippi Valley. The Braves will host their final home game on November 10 as they host the Tigers of Texas Southern. Alcorn State will face archrival Jackson State University on November 17 in the Capital City Classic.  THE COACH On May 28, 2012 Jay Hopson was introduced as the 18th Head Football Coach at Alcorn State University. With Hopson taking the helm at the Braves football program, he became the first non-black coach to hold this title in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and Alcorn State University. Dr.

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MS VALLEY STATE DELTA DEVILS 2011 - RECORD 1-9, SWAC 1-7 HOME: 1-4 ROAD: 0-5 NEUTRAL: 0-0

schedule DATE......OPPONENT S.1.............CONCORDIA COLLEGE S.8............@Alabama State S.15..........@Southern University S.22.........@Northwestern State O.6...........ALABAMA A&M O.13..........GRAMBLING STATE O.20........@Jackson State O.27.........@Arkansas Pine Bluff N.3............ALCORN STATE N.10..........PRAIRIE VIEW N.17..........@Texas Southern BY KENNETH MINSTER Miss. Valley Sports Information

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etting over the hump will be the key for Mississippi Valley State in 2012. Last season, four of the Delta Devils’ 10 losses were by less than 10 points – including a 17-16 defeat against rival Jackson State. This go around, returning MVSU players – along with a crop of newcomers – hope to lead the Delta Devils to the promise land. But they’ll have to do it without their go-to target Paul Cox, who graduated and landed a free agent deal with the San Diego Chargers. Valley won’t have its 6-foot-5 receiver, but what it does boast is a two-headed running game which combined for nearly 1,000 yards in 2011. OFFENSE Valley fans can expect to see a heavy dose of the run game this season. Brandon Stansell (396 yards) and Trey Bateaste (543 yards) return with a year of experience under their belt and a desire to end their collegiate careers with a bang. MVSU’s roster includes three experienced quarterbacks, including last year’s starter Gar72 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

RUNNING BACK - BRANDON STANSELL rick Jones – a Coahoma Community College transfer who threw for 811 yards and seven touchdowns to go with five interceptions. Carl Davis, who began the 2010 season as the starter, and Eddie Ivory, who played sparingly in 2011, are both competing for the starting job alongside Greenwood native Jeremy Collins and Marcus Randle of Cruger. Randle (62, 218, Sr.) caught head coach Karl Morgan’s eye during the spring game. He connected on a 42-yard pass and a 25-yard strike during the game. “I think (Randle) was a bright spot,” Morgan said following the game. MVSU’s offensive identity will likely revolve

Photo Mississippi Valley State

around two key players: Brandon Stansell (5-9, 180 Sr.) and Trey Bateaste (5-9, 230, Sr.). The two skilled running backs combined for nearly 1,000 yards last season, led by Bateaste’s 543 and three touchdowns. Stansell carried the ball for 396 and the tandem averaged 4 yards per carry. Stansell looks to not only help the Delta Devils on the ground but also through the air. Last season, he was third on the team in receptions (23) and receiving yards (122). Joining the two standouts in the backfield are Joshua Nelson (5-10, 180, So.) and fullbacks Jonathan Davis (5-8, 240, Soph.) and Dytanyl Greer (6-2, 240, Sr.).


play a huge role for the Delta Devils. Marcus Thompson (6-0, 210, Jr.) is the voice of the MVSU linebacker corps. The junior standout from Houston, Texas was second on the team in tackles in 2011 with 57 and third on team in sacks (2). Helping out will be Keven Woods, who played in six games last season, and Rico Mazique (6-1, 220 Sr.). Mazique, a Canton native, is coming off a season with 15 tackles in six games. he Delta Devils will be without Michael Boykins, who led MVSU with three interceptions last season, but they do have leaders Carlos Hollis (5-11, 180, Sr.) and Marquez Floyd (5-11, 170, Sr.), who was second on the team in 2011 in interceptions with two. Jeremy Langston (5-10, 190, Sr.), who finished with 21 tackles and two pass deflections last season, and Jeremy Johnson (5-9, 170, Soph.) also look to play a significant role for the Delta Devils. SPECIAL TEAMS Like last season, Carlos Sanchez returns to take over both the kicking and punting duties for the Delta Devils. The senior from San Diego, Calif. connected on 7-of-13 fields in 2011 with a long of 43 yards. He also averaged 38.8 yards per punt.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN - JARVIS FRITZ MVSU’s crop of receivers is led by Kenneth Dabney (5-7, 170, Jr.), who ranked second on the team in receptions (29) and receiving yards (286) in 2011. The speedy receiver from New Orleans had only one touchdown but averaged 9.9 yards per catch. Dabney will need to get some assistance from some other players such as Julian Stafford (5-10, 180, Soph.), Donta Reed (5-10, 175, Sr.) and Roshon Morris (511, 180, Sr.). Without Paul Cox, the Delta Devils will need one – or some – of its receivers to pick of the slack. Other than Dabney, the only other returning MVSU receiver who caught a pass in 2011 was Stafford, who caught one pass for 33 yards. The Delta Devils also brought in Jacksonville State transfer Keondrick Daniels (5-7, 160, Jr.), who was highly recruited out of Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Fla. Two tight ends return for the 2012 season for the Delta Devils: Johnny Thurman and Dytanyl Greer, who also spends time at fullback. Greer contributed four catches for 32 yards and a touchdown last season while Thurman finished the year with two catches for 25 yards – both went for touchdowns. The two players are likely to split time at the position again this season.

Photo Mississippi Valley State

There will be a mix of newcomers and familiar faces this season working to help keeping the quarterback upright. Returning are Wesley Steele (6-2, 300, Jr.), Martin Davis (6-3, 290, Jr.), Antonio Griggs (6-1, 280, Jr.) and Kevin James (6-2, 330 Jr.). Junior college transfer Paul Holliday (6-3, 320, Jr.) could also find his way into the offensive line rotation. DEFENSE The most experienced and talented group of MVSU’s defense is arguably the ones on the front line. MVSU returns its sack leaders Leployer Franklin and Javaris Fritz, who missed the final three games of the season due to an injury but still led the team with 3.5 sacks. Franklin (6-3, 240, Jr.) led the team with 65 tackles in 2011 and looks to make an ever larger impact in 2012. Franklin also paced the Delta Devils in quarterback hurries (5), forced fumbles (2) and pass breakups (6). And in only seven games, Fritz terrorized opposing offensive lines with 28 tackles (five for loss), a team-high 3.5 sacks and a blocked kick. Robert Simpson (6-3, 275, Jr.), Rico Shaw (6-2, 320, Sr.), Chamarko Goldsberry (5-10, 270, Sr.) and Jamar Cook (6-3, 245, Sr.) also look to

SCHEDULE The 2012 football schedule is a competitive one that features 11 games – four in the confines of home at Rice-Totten Stadium. MVSU opens the season against Concordia College, a NAIA squad based in Selma, Ala., on Sept. 1 “Having a non-conference game (as the season-opener),” said Morgan, allows you the chance to work out some kinks and not cost you in conference play.” Afterwards, it’ll be more than a month before the Delta Devils return home. MVSU will be on the road for the next three games and will have an open date on Sept. 29. During a three-week span the Delta Devils will travel to Alabama State (Sept. 8), Southern (Sept. 15) and Northwestern State (Sept. 22). The month of October features two home games, with the first against Alabama A&M on Oct. 6 when the Delta Devils will have homecoming festivities. The following week, Valley will host Grambling State before traveling to rival Jackson State on Oct. 20 and Arkansas Pine Bluff on Oct. 27. Then in November, the Delta Devils will host Alcorn State (Nov. 3) and Prairie View (1 p.m.) before taking a trip to Prairie View A&M in the season finale. Morgan said he hopes this season will create a positive buzz surrounding the MVSU campus and beyond. “I think it’s a good schedule,” the third year coach said. “I think everyone needs to get their money together and get some tickets as soon as possible.” - MSM 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 73


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DELTA STATE STATESMEN 2011 - RECORD 11-3, GSC 3-1 HOME: 7-0 ROAD: 4-3 NEUTRAL: 0-1

schedule DATE......OPPONENT S.1.............FORT VALLEY STATE S.8............@Elizabeth City State S.22.........NORTH ALABAMA S.27.........ABILENE CHRISTIAN O.6...........@Tarleton State O.13..........WEST GEORGIA O.20........@Valdosta State O.27.........WEST ALABAMA N.3............@University of Indianapolis N.10..........@Shorter College (Ga.) BY MARK H. STOWERS Contributing Writer

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ast December, Coach Jamey Chadwell came to Delta State and witnessed first hand the excellence of Statesmen football as his North Greenville University from South Carolina lost 27-23 in the Division II playoffs. By January, Chadwell was back in Cleveland – as the 18th head coach in the team’s history as former head coach Ron Roberts left for Southeastern Louisiana. “I didn’t like that last trip to the Delta, that’s for sure,” Coach Chadwell explained. “It’s been good, the people are great and I’m enjoying being around an athletic department that is passionate about winning and passionate about doing things the right way.” That “right way” includes former Coach Roberts’s five-year tenure with 47 wins, two NCAA Super Region II titles that included an appearance in the 2010 NCAA Division II national championship game and the 2011 semifinals. Roberts was also the AFCA Division II 74 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

RUNNING BACK - RICHARD FREELON Region Coach of the year. Prior to Roberts, Coach Rick Rhoads took the Statesmen to the Division II National Semifinals. Oh, and before Rhoads, Coach Steve Campbell brought home the team’s only Division II National Championship. But all of that was not intimidating to Roberts. It only made him want to coach there even more. “The opportunity. In Division II, you hear Delta State, in your mind arguably, that’s a Top Five program. And to have the opportunity to be head coach there and with the tradition the school has and the fan base and the passion for the University – that’s something my family wanted to be a part of,” Chadwell said. There are big shoes to fill on the DSU sidelines. But Chadwell brings an impressive resume of his own to Cleveland that’s filled with

high-octane success. After only three seasons directing the North Greenville University football team, Chadwell built a winner. Of his 22-14-career record, 20 of those wins came in his last two seasons including last year’s 11-3 effort that took them to the NCAA quarterfinals loss against his new team. And Chadwell’s former team averaged more than 40 points a game last season, the Statesmen averaged just over 33. On the defensive side, Chadwell’s former team only allowed 19.1 points per game but DSU allowed 26.1. So if the 35-year-old coach implements his offensive and defensive philosophies successfully, the Statesmen should be playing beyond the regular season. Graduation hit the Statesmen pretty hard with more than 30 seniors moving on but


OFFENSIVE LINEMAND - KENDAL HUNTER the team has 57 returning players and added 29 signees and mid-year transfers for Coach Chadwell to sculpt his team. OFFENSE Chadwell brings his spread option attack to the Gulf South Conference that is predicated on rushing success. But graduation took a toll on the Statesmen offensive line and will have to be rebuilt for the spread option attack to be effective. “The team that was here the last few years was phenomenal,” he said. “We lost 35 seniors and 20 of those guys were heavy contributors. It’s going to be hard just to replace that experience. We’ve got a lot of guys that are hungry and have contributed a little bit. It’s there time and we’ve got to mesh some young guys in.” Probably the biggest hole to fill will be at quarterback where record setting Micah Davis graduated. Davis completed nearly 61 percent of his passes last season and put 23 touchdowns on the board while racking up 3,788 yards passing. Senior Kevin Vye and redshirt sophomore Zach Hutcheson are both in the running. The QB’s each stand 6-foot, three-inches and both weigh in at 205 pounds. Vye saw action in five games last season completing 6-10 passes for 108 yards. “That’s the $64,000 question. We haven’t decided on one yet,” he said. “We left spring practice with a couple of guys in the mix.” But with his spread option attack, Chadwell

is looking for “a guy that can move around. He can’t be a statue. I’m not looking for a straight drop-back guy.” The backfield has three returning players – junior Richard Freelon (125 rushes for 700 yards), senior Bryce McBride (30 rushes 172 yards) and senior Avery Horn (38 rushes for 139 yards). “We’ll have a couple more competing for playing time but those three will be at the top competing to ‘be the guy’,” he said. “We’re going to try to run the football some different ways and some option football and spread the ball around on the perimeter with some play action passes and some deep balls,” Coach Chadwell said. According to Chadwell, McBride picked up the offense the best during spring practice and newcomer sophomore Michael Johnson was voted Most Improved. Chadwell’s system relies on a “dive” back and “pitch” back. “You need one guy who can run through an arm tackle. There’s a lot of zone reads with what we do and he’s going to have to be a physical back.” The pitch back will need to be able to “put that foot in the ground and stretch the field. As we say ‘take the ball from point A to point B in a hurry. All of our backs currently are those run through a tackle type guys.” The receiving corps also features some experience with seniors Erick Clayton (29 receptions – 427 yards, 1 TD) and Lavon Downs

(27 receptions – 433 yards, 3 TDs). “They both have good speed and can stretch the field and can do a lot of things with the football,” he said. “(Sophomore) D.J. Holley (3 receptions – 24 yards) had a good spring and will be substituting with these guys for some playing time.” Chadwell’s system doesn’t rely on the Tight End to be a target but “is very important to set the fronts and try to get the defense into a look that we want. We try to play with the Tight End quite a bit and use them in our running game. We use them as an H-back more than a true Tight End” Senior Dewayne Hopson and sophomore Reed Falkner are competing for the starting nod. The offensive line will need the most attention this season as starters and back-ups were lost to graduation. With only one returning starter – senior Kendall Hunter – Chadwell will be putting some young talent into the “fire” early. “We’ll have four new guys who’ve never played before and we’ve got three junior college transfers and we’ll have to count on some young freshmen.” Chadwell is “worried because we’re a little thin and that’s an area of concern where we’re going to have to get good in a hurry.” The Statesmen will have more of a 60/40 run/pass mix of offense and “our lineman will have to do both but we’re going to play to what are strengths are.” And look for Chadwell to “have something up his sleeve” offensively. “I guess we have a little bit of a ‘gambling’ reputation. We’ll go for it on fourth down and things like that. Anybody wants to have some of those things in there and it helps keeps the guys excited and it keeps the defense on their toes.” DEFENSE There will be a new look on the defensive side as well, as the players move from a 4-2-5 scheme and into a linebacker savvy 3-4 defensive alignment. But the new look will be an “aggressive, attack style. We’re going to try and come and get you. Do some different things blitzing. Do some things where we put pressure on the quarterback and put some pressure on the offensive coordinator and do some things to get some turnovers.” Chadwell’s most experienced linebackers include two-year starter and All GSC First Team junior Ixavier Triplett (82 tackles/34 solo, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery and 2.5 sacks) as well as, sophomores Caleb Smith and Rory Island and TJ West. “Our linebackers are the most experienced we’ve got coming back,” he said. “Our defense is a big change from last year.” The defensive line will see a lot of fresh fac-

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MISS. COLLEGE CHOCTAWS 2011 - RECORD 3-7, ASC 2-6 HOME: 3-2 ROAD: 0-5 NEUTRAL: 0-0

schedule DATE......OPPONENT A.30.........MILLSAPS (Mem. Stadium) S.8............WEBBER STATE S.15..........@West Alabama S.29.........@Hardin-Simmons O.6...........SUL ROSS STATE O.13..........@Howard Payne O.20........@Texas Lutheran O.27.........EAST TEXAS BAPTIST N.3............LOUISIANA COLLEGE N.10..........@Mary-Hardin Baylor By David Nichols Miss. College Sports Information

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he 2011 football season, while disappointing in record (3-7), saw flashes of brilliance as the Choctaws opened the year with a 3327 overtime victory over Millsaps in the annual “Backyard Brawl� played between the cross-town rivals. After a tough loss to Belhaven, MC answered with their most impressive game of the season in a 45-28 victory over ASC power Hardin-Simmons, which was ranked #8 in the nation at the time. Injuries took their toll as the season progressed, and the Choctaws won just one of their final seven games with losses coming to nationally-ranked opponents in Louisiana College, Mary Hardin-Baylor, and McMurry. In the season finale against the Division IIbound War Hawks, a glimpse at the future was on display as MC held a 24-21 advantage midway through the second quarter on the road. Coming into the 2012 season, the Choc76 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

HEAD COACH - NORMAN JOSEPH taws have several questions to answer as they will have to find replacements at several positions on both sides of the ball. With a young nucleus returning and a talented recruiting class coming in, MC could be poised for a much-improved year. OFFENSE One position that MC will have to fill right away is the signal caller as they lost three-year starter Tommy Reyer after a stellar career. The Athens, AL native finished his career as the only quarterback in MC history to pass for over 5,000 (5,327) and rush for over 1,000 (1,081) yards. The dual-threat QB was responsible for 58 touchdowns, which ranks 3rd in MC history since moving to Division III. Returning for the Choctaws under center

are three rising sophomores that saw some action last season. Jonathon Redd (5-11, 195) saw the most playing time, going 2-6 for 33 yards in a loss to Texas Lutheran. Beaux Gipson (5-9, 170) is another dual-threat quarterback that could step in for Reyer and fill that same role. Tyler Kirkindoll (5-11, 165), out of Frisco, TX, has been impressive in spring workouts and could push for early playing time. Northern Illinois transer Casey Weston comes in with an impressive junior college history from Northwest MS Community College. Weston set school records at NWMCC for passing yards (4,943), completions (394), and attempts (695). The Prattville, AL native has already joined the team in the spring and will look to compete for the starting spot.


DL - JOSH WILLIAMS MC will also have to replace a mainstay at the running back position with the departure of All-American Steven Knight. The Pearl, MS native rushed for 2,374 yards and an MC Division III record 23 touchdowns over his two seasons. Rising junior Josh Johnson (5-6, 170) appears to be the leading candidate to take over. Johnson is similar to Knight with speed and quickness and knows the offense after two years in the program. The Plaquemine, LA native rushed for 88 yards on 41 carries last season and spent most of the year as the team’s top kick returner. Jacob Becker (6-2, 190), a rising sophomore, impressed coaches at the end of last season and continues to improve mentally and physically. The Tyler, TX native has good size and saw action last season as a kick returner as the year progressed. At wide receiver, MC will return just two players with more than 10 receptions in 2011 in Randal Pharr and Stephen Smith. Pharr (6-1, 185) was plagued by injuries last year, but still managed to catch 21 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns. In his sophomore season, the Memphis, TN native led the team with 47 catches for 660 yards and seven scores. Smith (6-2, 195) made strides as a deep threat last season, catching 16 passes for 207 yards and a score. On the offensive line, MC has several play-

ers returning with playing experience, but will have to replace the likes of four-year starter Cory York and three-year starter Justin Cardwell, a Second Team All-ASC selection last season. Those two losses leave holes in the most important positions on the line, center and left tackle. However, the Choctaws do return junior Sylvain Alarcon (6-0, 250), who has started the last 16 games of his two-year career. Seniors Brennan Herrmann (6-3, 275) and Cody Saxton (6-2, 305) return after starting on the line last season. Herrmann returned from a knee injury in 2010 to played a steady right tackle. Saxton earned Second Team AllASC honors after leading the Choctaws at the left guard position. Also returning with playing experience are juniors Eric Madere (6-0, 275) and Matt Casanova (6-0, 265) and sophomore Travis Williams (6-3, 280). Madere started two games last season and has shown an ability to pick up the offense. Casanova saw action at tight end and guard at the end of last season. Williams is a young player that the coaching staff feels is the future of the offensive line. DEFENSE The Choctaw defense underwent a major transition period last season as they made the move to a three-man front in 2011 under the instruction of first-year coordinator Chad

Walker. As the season progressed, the intricate style began to take shape and the defensive side of the ball steadily improved. Two players were selected to compete in the D3 Senior Classic in linebacker Blake Rowell and defensive back Jarrad Craine. Both were First Team All-ASC selections and will have to be replaced in the upcoming season. How well the Choctaws fill those holes will indicate the success of the season in 2012. Along the defensive line, the coaching staff will have to find someone to step in for AllASC selection Jeremy Horton, who had his best season as Choctaw. Horton made great strides from his junior to senior season and was the anchor of a young, inexperienced front line. Sophomore John Bertucci (6-1, 270) will have an opportunity to step in and take over after seeing significant playing time in his freshman season. His wrestling background and non-stop motor give him the opportunity to be another stopper in the middle for Coach Walker and the Choctaws. At defensive end, sophomore Josh Williams (6-3, 250) returns after starting nine of 10 games in his rookie season. The Tyler, TX native tallied 12 tackles and blocked a kick as a freshman. Sophomore Melvin Dunn (6-2, 220) will make the move from linebacker to defense line after a stellar freshman season on defense and special teams. At linebacker, MC will have to replace two seniors in the middle that were the quarterbacks of the defense. Jeremy Bertrand started for two years and was nominated for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which honors the top scholar-athlete football players in the country. The future med-school enrollee was also an All-ASC selection in his senior season. The Choctaws will also have to replace Sam Maze, who moved from defensive line to linebacker last season and flourished under his new role. Maze was a smart player that always seemed to be in the right position. MC will look to two transfers, who are already on campus, to fill those holes. Jake Weddle, from Liberty High School in Frisco, TX will look to make an immediate impact. The Hillsdale College transfer was selected as the 2010 Texas High School All-Star Game MVP. Also coming in is Oliver Williams of Hinds Community College to fill a need at the position. Some returners that will look to step in are junior Baylor Blanchard (6-0, 230) and sophomore Garrett Horst (6-2, 185). Blanchard missed a lot of last season with injury, but has the size and speed to play in the system. Horst played a lot of safety in 2011 and will work hard in the weight room to make the move to the middle. Also looking to make a move is sophomore

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MILLSAPS COLLEGE MAJORS 2011 - RECORD 4-6, SCAC 3-3 HOME: 2-2 ROAD: 2-4 NEUTRAL: 0-0

schedule DATE......OPPONENT A.30.........MISS. COLLEGE (Mem. Stadium) S.8............@LaGrange (Ga.) S.15..........@Point University (Al.) S.29.........@Center College (Ky.) O.6...........HUNTINGDON COLLEGE O.13..........SEWANEE: UNIV. of the SOUTH O.20........@Rhodes O.27.........@Trinity Univ. (Tx.) N.3............AUSTIN COLLEGE N.10..........BIRMINGHAM SOUTHERN By James Hill Millsaps Sports Information

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hen the 2011 season came to a close, the Millsaps Majors were in a position they were not used to. After an already young team suffered numerous injuries, the Majors finished the season 4-6, under .500 for the first time since 2005. The Majors showed signs of greatness throughout the season, losing three games by six points or less, but knew they had to do more to back to where they have been the last five seasons. The Majors started the year with a heartbreaking loss to Mississippi College in overtime, 33-27 in the annual “Backyard Brawl” before taking their home opener over LaGrange, 24-7. The Majors then fell to Louisiana College on the road and followed that up with a crushing 10-3 loss to the eventual SCAC Champion Trinity. Millsaps then went on a three game winning streak defeating Sewanee on the road, Rhodes at home, and Austin College on the road to bring themselves into a fighting posi78 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Jeb White (11) and Marvis O’Sirio (30) tion for the SCAC Title. However, something else that hasn’t happened in five years, happened to the Majors as they ended the year on a three game losing streak with a crushing loss to SCAC runner up Centre, 24-22 and losses to Tarleton State and Birmingham-Southern. Millsaps enters the 2012 in a new conference as they and six other schools from the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference broke off and formed the Southern Athletic Association with the addition of one other school. Head Coach Aaron Pelch enters his third year at the helm and brings back a great amount of talent as Millsaps look to set the tone in the new SAA. They welcome back 17 starters and a handful of key contributors for the 2012 year. They

open the season at home with Backyard Brawl XIII against Mississippi College before a three game road trip where they travel to Georgia to take on LaGrange, Alabama to take on Point University, and Kentucky to take on Centre College in their first SAA conference game after a bye week. They return home to start the month of October against Huntingdon followed by their second conference game of the year and first at home against Sewanee. They are then back on the road to take on Rhodes in SAA action followed by a road trip to reigning SCAC Champion Trintiy. The Majors finish the year at home to start November with their Homecoming against Austin College followed by Senior Day and their final SAA game against Birmingham-


The offensive line will not only be the strongest part of the Major squad, but will be key for Millsaps as their entire two deep offensive line returns for the 2012 season. They are led by senior two time First Team All-SCAC selection right tackle Nathan Quick and junior All-SCAC Honorable Mention center Kyle Skene. Senior Kyle MacDonald, Junior Charlie Sagan, and sophomore Greyson Smothers round out the starting line, as they were a group that had to grow up fast a season ago. Millsaps’ entire second team also returns as four freshman from a year ago all return in Cody Page, Anderson Waxler, Harrison Olinger, and Kyle McKeough. They also welcome back senior JT Patterson. New offensive coordinator Andy Follett out of Western Carolina, who takes the rains of what could be a potent offense with so many starters and contributors returning.

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN - NATHAN QUICK Southern. OFFENSE The Majors were in the Top Three of almost all offensive categories in the SCAC for the last four seasons coming into 2011, but had their share of struggles this past season, as they were in the bottom half of most offensive categories. It all starts at quarterback where the Majors could be looking at a slight controversy going into Fall Camp as seniors Garrett Pinciotti and Konner Joplin both return under center. Pinciotti was a Second Team All-SCAC selection two years ago after having a breakout sophomore season, throwing for 2,206 yards with 23 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. However, injuries plagued Pinciotti all season long as he threw for 1,561 yards including 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Joplin on the other hand, played in seven games, throwing for 720 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions as both quarterbacks led the Majors the second overall passing attack in the SCAC. Pinciotti is set to start going into Fall Camp, but Joplin will give him a run thanks to how well he played a year ago. Both quarterbacks show good arms and have about the same mobility and can lead this offense a long way. At running back, the Majors welcome back Mike Barthelemy after a stellar rookie season

where he racked up 823 All-Purpose yards and two touchdowns on the year. Barthelemy had his share of injuries all year, but showed flashes of greatness as he picked up 151 AllPurpose yards and a touchdown in a Week Two win over LaGrange. A healthy Barthelemy looks to carry the load this season in the backfield. The Majors also welcome back powerful fullback Jett Williams as he played in 10 games last season as well as junior Taylor Morris and sophomore Donald Cane. Millsaps does lose talent at wide receiver as the All-Time leader in touchdown receptions and First Team All-SCAC recipient Jason O’Rear graduated early. O’Rear hauled in 775 yards on 46 catches for seven touchdowns to lead Millsaps. The next leading receiver returning is senior Kegan Joplin. Despite injuries throughout the year, he was third on the team with 24 catches and 194 yards and one touchdown. Byron Johnson and Trevor King both return for their sophomore years as they made numerous contributions throughout the season and juniors Charlie Strauss and Maurice Reese return from injury to help the receiving corp. At tight end, Millsaps loses Second Team All-SCAC Tony Bellan and will look to senior Abe Hutcheon and sophomore Matt Wahl to carry the load for Millsaps.

DEFENSE Millsaps returns seven starters on the defensive end including five All-SCAC selections for a year ago and the Newcomer of the Year. Defensive Coordinator Brandon Lechtenberg enters his second season and he brings in one of the most talented defenses in the SAA this season. In his 4-2-5 defense On the defensive line, the Majors welcome back the Stewart twins in Alex and Joiner as they enter their junior year. Joiner finished the season with 35 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and interception, and two fumble recoveries at the defensive tackle position, while earning First Team All-SCAC selection. His brother Alex had 38 total tackles, six tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery at defensive end. The two are the definition of power and finesse as Joiner does a terrific job clogging up holes and making plays, which does not happen often at defensive tackle. Alex shows more speed, but also has a ton of power coming around the corner as they both wreck havoc on the quarterback. Millsaps also welcomes back the SCAC Newcomer of the Year from a season ago in Jeff Milner, who finished with five tackles for loss, a team leading four sacks, and two forced fumbles in his first year. Milner was explosive in his first season as he made numerous big plays throughout the season, especially when Millsaps needed it the most. They also welcome back great athletes in sophomore Zach Bell, sophomore Leland Elchos and junior Blake Price who look to contribute on what could be a deep defensive line. The Majors bring back two of the best linebackers in the conference in seniors Jeb White and Marvis O’Sirio. White became the third

SEE MAJORS on Page 82 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 79


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

BELHAVEN UNIV. BLAZERS 2011 - RECORD 5-6, MSC 3-3 HOME: 5-1 ROAD: 0-5 NEUTRAL: 0-0

schedule DATE......OPPONENT S.1.............@Univ. of the Cumberlands (Ky.) S.8............LOUISIANA COLLEGE S.15..........@Cumberland Univ. (Tn.) S.22.........CAMPBELLSVILLE UNIV. (Ky.) S.29.........@Univ. of Virginia College (Va.) O.6...........KENTUCKY CHRISTIAN O.13..........BLUEFIELD COLLEGE O.20........@Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.) O.27.........@Faulkner University (Al.) N.3............UNIVERSITY OF PIKEVILLE N.10..........BETHEL UNIVERSITY (Tn.) By Kirk McDonnell Belhaven Sports Information

F

or the Belhaven football program, the 2012 campaign could be the year everything falls into place. The Blazers are coming off a 5-6 season in 2011 and were a play or two away from possible wins in at least three other contests. Belhaven made a two game improvement in regards to league play finishing 3-3 in the Mid-South Conference in 2011. The Blazers managed only one win in the MSC in 2010. Belhaven Head Coach Joe Thrasher is entering his fourth season and has now been able to fully implement his system and style of play. The 2011 season was one of the steps in that process. “Our record was certainly not where we wanted it to be in 2011, but I feel good about the direction of the program and believe that it was a year we can definitely build on,” says Thrasher. “We were competitive in almost every game we played, with five of our opponents being ranked in the top 25. Had we made some plays in a couple of other

80 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

RUNNING BACK - JUSTIN GAINES games we could be talking about a 7-4 or 8-3 season.” OFFENSE Belhaven’s offense will have a new look in 2012 as the team transitions to more of a balanced attack. Traditionally the Blazers have been a pass first offense, but in 2012 the run will be used more to setup the pass. The team took steps in that direction in 2011 by churning out 1,516 yards on the ground. Belhaven’s aerial attack covered 2,112 yards a year ago. “You look at the teams that do well and the two things you notice are that they run the ball well and they stop the run,” says Thrasher. “That’s the model I want the program to have and it has taken some time for us to transition, but we are making a full swing to

it and I believe we have the athletes to succeed in this new system.” Running back Justin Gaines was a big reason for Belhaven’s success on the ground in 2011. Gaines, who hails from Montrose, MS, is returning for his senior season after making the MSC All-Conference Team a year ago. Gaines accumulated 977 total yards on the ground, which was fourth most in the MSC. He also rushed for a season high and school record of 250 yards against Faulkner on October 18th. Gaines also scored 13 touchdowns, averaged 88.8 yards per game on the ground, and went for 5.3 yards per carry in 2011. One of Belhaven’s top recruits on offense is running back Aaron Spikes who is transferring in from the University of LouisianaLafayette. Spikes, a native of Dallas, TX, had


DEFENSIVE BACK - CRAIG McDONALD three carries in the spring game and reeled off 89 yards in his limited time on the field. Spikes has great speed and will be an explosive player in the backfield. Kylan Pollard will be the featured receiver heading into the season after landing on the MSC Honorable Mention All-Conference team last year. Pollard, a native of Laurel, MS, led the team in receiving with 52 catches for 742 yards and four touchdowns. Pollard will get some help in the receiving game from senior Reese Unger who moves from the defense to the offense to become a tight end. The Blazers also brought in freshman tight end Lawrence Brown from New Hope High School in Columbus, MS to add some depth as the team transitions to an offense with a true tight end position for 2012. The stage could be set for a good battle at the quarterback position during training camp. Senior Alex Williams heads into the season with 5,052 career passing yards for Belhaven (Third most in school history) and has completed over 55 percent of his passes. Williams recorded 1,404 yards through the air in 2011. The Blazers signed quarterback Raymond Cotton during the off season and are excited about what he could bring to the table. Cotton, a native of Mobile, AL, transfers to Belhaven after spending last season at Gulf Coast Community College. Cotton played in 10 games and completed 74 passes for 806 yards and six touchdowns. Cotton can hurt opposing defenses on the ground as well, as evidenced by 437 rushing yards and six touchdowns a season ago. DEFENSE Belhaven’s defense is hoping that 2012 will be the year that it becomes a dominating force week in and week out. With the transition to a more run based offense, that should take some of the pressure off the defense and

take them off the field for longer stretches in the game. Heading into camp, coach Thrasher feels that his defensive backs hold the key to a good year. “In the 4-2-5 and in the way we run it the safeties and cornerbacks have to be able to do a lot of things. They have to be able to tackle and come up in run support along with covering opposing receivers. It’s definitely something that we are getting better at and I expect us to be solid on defense this season.” Defensive back Craig McDonald is the centerpiece and top returner for the Blazers coming into the year. McDonald, a junior from Collinsville, MS, finished 2011 with 106 tackles, which included eight for a loss leading to a spot on the MSC All-Conference First Team. Defensive back Dewayne Whitten, a senior from Cottonwood, AL, was an MSC Honorable Mention All-Conference pick on the

KICKER - JAMES BRYAN

strength of 57 tackles and two interceptions in 2011 and is back for 2012. Junior defensive back Justin Mims also had a solid 2011 campaign, coming up with 54 tackles and a team high four interceptions, including one that he returned 74 yards for a touchdown. Mims, who is from Albany, GA, was an Honorable Mention All-Conference selection in 2011. Senior Jared McCarthy will be the key returner on the defensive line after making 27 stops last season. He had eight tackles for a loss including a sack and a forced fumble. Newcomers on the defensive front are freshman Josh Alldren and Adam Nelson. Donnell Williams, who originally signed at Oklahoma State, will be a name for Blazer fans to look for at the linebacker position along with Montrell Connor. Connor is transferring in from Troy University and will see time at the linebacker position and/or defensive end. SPECIAL TEAMS The Blazers are happy to have placekicker James “Bo” Bryan back for another season and expect him to anchor the specials teams. Bryan was an MSC First Team All-Conference selection last season and Belhaven believes he can reach those heights again 2012. Bryan, a senior from Saucier, MS, was 8 for 11 in field goal attempts and was perfect in extra points placing 34 of 34 attempts through the uprights. Bryan ranked second in the league in total field goals. Bryan was also responsible for kickoffs in 2011 and ended the year averaging 62.3 yards per attempt. He sent six kicks into the end zone for touchbacks. Bryan will also do the punting this season and will have to fill the shoes of Robby Robinson who was an MSC All-Conference selection after averaging 40.3 yards per punt in 2011. Bryan does have experience in the punting game at the college level from his playing days at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. In the return game, Rashad Wynes will be key to Belhaven’s success in that facet of special teams. Wynes, a junior from Macon, GA, returned 14 punts last season for 203 yards and averaged 14.5 yards per return. Wynes brought back one kick for 95 yards and a touchdown. He was also one of the top kickoff returners on the team in 2011, securing 11 kicks for 243 yards with an average of 22.1 yards per return. Joshua Hawkins also had a strong year returning kickoffs in 2011 and will factor in to the return game again in 2012. Hawkins, a senior from Waveland, MS, led Belhaven with 307 return yards on 15 attempts. He averaged 20.5 yards per return and his longest return of the year covered 33 yards. “Our special teams are led by Bryan,” says Thrasher. “His leg strength and accu-

SEE BLAZERS on Page 82 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 81


CHOCTAWS from Page 77 Hunter Farrior (6-1, 196), who reported to preseason camp in 2011 as a wide receiver and made the move to defensive back. Farrior showed marked improvement on the defensive side of the ball and will look to impress the coaches at the linebacker position. In the defensive backfield, MC has just one starter returning in junior Darren Watts (6-0, 162). The New Orleans native broke up three passes and had a highlight reel interception against Louisiana College. Watts will have to be a leader in the secondary with the departure of Jarrad Craine, MC’s C Spire Wireless Conerly Trophy nominee. Joining Watts at safety will be a familiar face in former quarterback, junior Austin Gray (5-11, 185). The Choctaws’ utility man moved from signal-caller to wide receiver last season and caught six passes for 84 yards and one score. His intelligence and athletic ability should translate well to the other side of the ball. At corner, MC will have two more familiar

BLAZERS from Page 81 racy makes him one of the top kickers in the country.” Thrasher is also excited about having Wynes and Hawkins back as returners in 2012. “Having Wynes back is big for us and Hawkins has great speed and was a weapon in the return game for us last year so we expect those guys to make some things happen.” OVERVIEW Belhaven will have a 10 game Mid-South Conference slate in 2012 with only one team scheduled that is not in either the MSC West or East Divisions. The Blazers will open the year on the road at the University of the

MAJORS from Page 79 straight Major to lead the conference in tackles in a season with 97 total including 54 solo, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble as he earned First Team All-SCAC honors. White was everywhere all season last year as he was a brick wall. His partner, O’Sirio, was second on the team in tackles with 72 total tackles including a team leading 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. However, surprisingly, O’Sirio picked up no postseason awards and looks to change that in 2012. O’Sirio always seemed to find a way in the opponent’s backfield as he made huge plays all season long. Junior Dustin Harscher and sophomore Garrett Coble will also look for some playing time behind the duo at linebacker. 82 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

faces moving from the offensive side of the ball. Junior Keith Villafranco (5-7, 165) saw action early in the season as a kick returner and will provide great speed on the outside. Sophomore Alandas Hardy (5-7, 174) emerged as the top kick returner for MC and has been a pleasant surprise for the Choctaws. The two speedsters will have to acclimate themselves quickly if MC wants to have a successful passing defense. SPECIAL TEAMS Senior placekicker Chris Campbell (6-1, 190) was an All-ASC selection in his first full year for the Choctaws. The Hattiesburg, MS native moved from the MC soccer team to the football team in the middle of his sophomore season. The results have been unexpected as he went 7-11 on field goals with a long of 52 last season. Campbell also averaged 62.1 yards per kickoff and tallied four touchbacks in 2011. The Choctaws will have to replace AllAmerican punter Jacob Chancellor after a stellar senior season for MC. Chancellor was selected to participate in the D3 Senior Clas-

sic after averaging 41.5 yards per punt with 17 landing inside the 20-yard line and 12 going over 50 yards. The early candidate to fill his shoes is Craig McCraney, a transfer from Hinds Community College that has already made his way to Clinton. OVERVIEW While the Choctaws have several holes to fill in 2012, the future looks bright after so many young players had huge impacts on last season. The most important position on the team is quarterback, therefore, someone will have to step forward and take hold of the position heading into preseason practice. MC has returners at the skill positions and along the offensive line to make the transition easier. On defense, MC will have to find players to fit into their system and produce the tenacious defense that coach Walker is looking for. If the young players can get a grasp of the offense and defense in spring practice, success could come quickly for MC in the fall. - MSM

Cumberlands (KY) on September 1st. Cumberlands is ranked 22nd in the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Spring Poll and that meeting will be an MSC cross division contest. Belhaven will then entertain Louisiana College in the home opener on September 8 at H.T. Newell Field beginning at 7:00 PM. Cumberland University (TN), ranked 23rd in the spring poll, is the next road opponent for Belhaven the following week and will be the first West Division matchup of the year. The Blazers then come back home the next week to battle Campbellsville University (KY), who is receiving votes in the spring poll, on September 22. Two of Belhaven’s first four games are against MSC West Division teams and three of the four are represented in the NAIA

Coaches’ Top 25 Spring Poll, so the early part of the schedule could set the tone for the rest of the year. New to the schedule in 2012 is the University of Virginia-Wise and Belhaven will pay a visit there on September 29. The Blazers will then play back to back home games against Kentucky Christian University on October 6 and Bluefield College (VA) on October 13. Belhaven will have a two game road swing at number 25 Lindsey Wilson College (KY) on October 20 followed by a trip to Faulkner University (AL) on October 27 before coming home for the final two contests of the season. The home dates feature the University of Pikeville on November 3 and 12 ranked Bethel University (TN) on November 10.- MSM

The Majors lose two great defensive backs in First Team All-SCAC selection Jordan Nolan as well as Kenny Reeves and Brent Jerrell, but return a deep portion of talent beginning with junior safety Jonathan Moore, a two time All-SCAC selection. Moore led the team with three interceptions last season, while adding 53 tackles, one tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. He shows tremendous speed and playmaking ability, but also has a knack for the ball as he has picked up 50+ tackles in his first two seasons. The Majors also return senior Greg Blasiar who stepped up at cornerback a season ago with two interceptions, 22 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and two fumble recoveries. Blasiar made huge plays throughout the season when needed most including a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 44-36 win over Rhodes in Week Six.

Millsaps will look for contributions from senior Russell Pellichino, junior Mitchell Keeton, sophomore Nick Arnold, sophomore Alex Jackson, and sophomore Telvin Keys. SPECIAL TEAMS Millsaps welcomes back both their kicker and punter this season in Second Team AllSCAC selection Stephen Gates and sophomore Beau Brady. Gates averaged 34.4 yards per punt, but the number could be deceiving as Gates put 13 punts inside the 20 last season to lead the SCAC. He also had two punts of 50+ yards in 47 attempts. He was key last year during a downpour at Mississippi College as he saved several bad snaps and got each punt away safely with pressure coming. Brady showed promise last season as he had a powerful leg, but struggled at time with ac-


curacy, only going 11-for-20 last season with a long of 42. Brady looks to improve upon that this season and also will continue his role in kickoff, where he led the No. 2 team in kickoff coverage a year ago in the SCAC. The Majors do lose long snapper Tony Bellan to graduation and will have to find a replacement for the 2012 season. - MSM

JACKSON STATE from Page 69 Red-shirt junior Todd Wilcher (6-2, 230) led the team with 78 tackles last season. He was named as an All-SWAC second team member. Senior Mike Hill (6-1, 190) will also look to keep up his good play. Last season he recorded 41 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Taurice King (6-2, 230, R-So.) will look to crack the starting lineup after sitting out last season due to injury. Another potential stand-out who suffered through injuries last season was Chais Pinesett (6-2, 245, Sr.). Pinesett saw action in six games and finished with six tackles. The Tigers return an experienced group to the secondary next season. Qua Cox (60, 185, R-Jr.) is projected to be one of the top corner backs in the SWAC. Last season the All-SWAC selection recorded 34 tackles, three interceptions and nine pass breakups. Richard Hughes (6-0, 205, Sr.) will also be a leader in the defensive secondary. He had 43 tackles, an interception and five pass breakups last season. Antonio Sutton (5-11, 195, So.) will look to break into the starting lineup. Last season he made his first career interception as a freshman. Darreon Atkins (6-1, 188, So.), Ronnal Boyd (5-9, 170, So.), Rashad Davis (59, 185, So.), Desmond Dixon (6-1, 190, R-So.), D’Ron Jones (5-8, 170, Sr.), Melvin Lattimore (5-10, 180, Sr.) and Joseph Perry (5-11, 190, So.) will all look to make significant contributions. SPECIAL TEAMS JSU will have voids to fill on special teams. Kicker Jabril Smith (6-1, 180) returns for his senior season. Last season he had 28 kickoffs for 1,548 yards (55.3 avg). The Jackson, MS native made seven of his 12 field goal attempts. JSU lost last season’s punter in Kris Selita. Michael Perkins may have a portion of the punting duties this season. Last season he punted 10 times for 349 yards with five fair catches and three landing inside the 20-yard line. B.J. Lee is projected to handle kick off duties and Rico Richardson has game experience at handling punt return duties. Both Qua Cox and Antonio Sutton have return experience. THE SCHEDULE JSU, which finished the 2011 season with a 9-2 record, opens the season with a trip to

Starkville, MS to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in only the second ever meeting on the gridiron on Sept. 1. The Tigers will remain on the road for the next two weeks. On Sept. 8 JSU will take on the Tennessee State Tigers in Memphis, TN for the Southern Heritage Classic. JSU will then travel to Houston, TX to face the Texas Southern Tigers in their brand new stadium. JSU will open its home schedule on Sept. 22 for the Battle of the Big Cats game against the Southern Jaguars. The Tigers will round out the first month of the season against the Prairie View A&M Panthers on Sept. 29 at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Tigers will open the month of October with a two game road trip. On Oct. 6, JSU will travel to Pine Bluff, AK to face the Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions. The Tigers will then make their way to Montgomery, AL to face the Alabama State Hornets on Oct. 13. The 2012 homecoming football game is set for Oct. 20 when the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils visit Memorial Stadium. The Tigers will have an open week before traveling to Grambling, LA to face the Grambling State Tigers on Nov. 3. JSU’s final home game is set for Nov. 10 when the Alabama A&M Bulldogs come to Jackson for senior day and military appreciation day. The Tigers and the Alcorn State Braves will square off in the regular season finale (Capital City Classic) on Nov. 17 at Memorial Stadium. - MSM

DSU from Page 75 es as well as graduation deplinished the talent. “We lost everybody,” he said. “Everybody will be brand new. Very young, very inexperienced. So we’re hoping we can find some guys quickly that can find a way to contribute. That’s a big area of concern but I feel like we have some good players there but we play in a league is a great league and we don’t have a lot of time to teach them how to play.” Senior Eric Williams will be counted on in the secondary at cornerback as well as, senior Montavius Hill at safety. “Besides that, all brand new. Not a lot of guys who played much last year.” SPECIAL TEAMS Senior Andrew “Chipper” Jones will see double-duty as both the punter and placekicker for the Statesmen this season. Jones had 43 punts for a 41.9 average last season. His longest was 78 yards and none were blocked. He also had 27 kickoffs that averaged 58.6 yards with three touchbacks. He did not attempt any field goals last season. “He was outstanding last year and right now he’ll handle all of our (kicking) duties until we can find somebody else to help out. He’s more of a punter and the other stuff he just dabbles in. We’ll see if anybody can beat him out.”

THE SCHEDULE The season kicks off at home on September 8 when Fort Valley State University out of Georgia visits Travis Parker Field at McCool Stadium. The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference member only posted two wins last season with nine defeats and lost last year in Cleveland, 27-7. It should be a good game for Chadwell to get his feet wet, get legs under his linemen and further fine-tune his players before more serious action hits the schedule. Week two finds the Statesmen on the road with a rematch from last season as well against Elizabeth City State University from North Carolina. DSU won last year’s contest 27-21. The rest of the schedule brings in tough GSC action as the Statesmen host University of North Alabama, University of West Georgia, University of West Alabama and will travel to Valdosta State University and to the newest GSC member, Shorter College in Rome, Georgia. The ten-game schedule is split with five home and five away games before hopefully making another run in the Division II playoffs. THE STATESMEN WILL BE SUCCESSFUL IF... Every coach will tell you that the game is won in the “trenches” and that’s where the Statesmen biggest battle will be this season. With so many young and unproven players on both the offensive and defensive line, they will have to get good in a hurry to keep the streak of Division II playoffs appearances going. If either side of the line fails to play up to par, Chadwell will have a difficult time implementing his run-oriented spread option offense or his aggressive 3-4 defense. But he has worked miracles before and has a proven track record with young players while at North Greenville. DSU’s past success has brought the team a bevvy of talented players each signing day, so if that tradition holds true, Chadwell will keep the winning tradition alive in the Delta. - MSM

ALCORN STATE from Page 71 Brown said “The future for Alcorn football is bright and I am excited that Coach Hopson will lead us forward.” Coach Hopson stated that “He believes in Dr. Brown’s vision for this university.” The newly appointed football coach’s first order of business is putting together his staff and getting acquainted with the team. Hopson is a native of Vicksburg, Mississippi and was a four year letter winner as a defensive back at the University of Mississippi 1988-91. During his matriculation at Ole Miss, he was named to the Academic All-SEC four times, and was also a member of the CoSIDA District VI Academic All-America team in 1991.  - MSM 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 83


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

2012-13 BOWL SCHEDULE Gildan New Mexico

Belk

Franklin Amer. Music City

Albuquerque, NM Saturday, December 15, 1:00PM (ET) Pac-12 No. 7 vs. MWC No. 4/5 ESPN

Charlotte, NC Thursday, December 27, 6:30PM (ET) ACC No. 5 vs. Big East No. 3 ESPN

Nashville, TN Monday, December 31, 12:00PM (ET) SEC No. 7 vs. ACC No. 6 ESPN

Famous Idaho Potato

Bridgepoint Holiday

Insight.com

Boise, ID Saturday, December 15, 4:30PM (ET) WAC vs. MAC No. 3 ESPN

San Diego, CA Thursday, December 27, 9:45PM (ET) Pac-12 No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 5 ESPN

Tempe, AZ TBA Big 12 No. 4 vs. Big Ten No. 4-5 ESPN

San Diego Poinsettia

Champs Sports

Hyundai Sun

San Diego, CA Thursday, December 20, 8:00PM (ET) BYU vs. MWC No. 2 ESPN

Orlando, FL TBA Big East No. 2/ND vs. ACC No. 3 ESPN

El Paso, TX TBA ACC No. 4 vs. Pac-12 No. 4 ESPN

Beef O’Brady’s

AdvoCare Independence

Autozone Liberty

St. Petersburg, FL Friday, December 21, 7:30PM (ET) CUSA No. 2-6 vs. Big East No. 6 ESPN

Shreveport, LA Friday, December 28, 2:00PM (ET) ACC No. 7 vs. SEC ESPN

Memphis, TN Monday, December, 31, 3:30PM (ET) CUSA No. 1 vs. Big East 5/SEC 8-9 ESPN

R+L Carriers New Orleans

Meineke Care Care Texas

Chick-fil-A

New Orleans, LA Saturday, December 22, 12:00PM (ET) CUSA No. 2-6 vs. Sun Belt No. 1 ESPN

Houston, TX Friday, December 28, 9:00PM (ET) Big 12 No. 6 vs. Big Ten No. 6 ESPN

Atlanta, GA Monday, December 31, 7:30PM (ET) ACC No. 2 vs. SEC No. 5 ESPN

MAACO Las Vegas

Bell Armed Forces

TicketCity

Las Vegas, NV Saturday, December 22, 3:30PM (ET) Pac-12 No. 5 vs. MWC No. 1 ESPN

Dallas, TX Saturday, December 29, 11:45AM (ET) CUSA No. 2-6 vs. MWC ESPN

Dallas, TX Tuesday, January 1, TIME TBA CUSA No. 2-6 vs. Big Ten No. 7 ESPNU

Sheraton Hawaii

Kraft Fight Hunger

Capital One

Honolulu, HI Monday, December 24, 8:00PM (ET) CUSA No. 2-6 vs. WAC No. 2 ESPN

San Francisco, CA Saturday, December 29, 3:15PM (ET) Navy vs. Pac-12 No. 6 ESPN

Orlando, FL Tuesday, January 1, TIME TBA SEC No. 2 vs. Big Ten No. 2 ESPN

Little Caesars Pizza

Valero Alamo

Outback

Detroit, MI Wed., December 26, 8:00PM (ET) Big Ten No. 8 vs. MAC No. 2 ESPN

San Antonio, TX Saturday, December 29, 6:45PM (ET) Pac-12 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3 ESPN

Tampa, FL Tuesday, January 1, 1:00PM (ET) Big Ten No. 3 vs. SEC No. 3 ABC

Military

New Era Pinstripe

TaxSlayer.com

Washington, D.C. Thursday, December 27, 3:00PM (ET) Army vs. ACC No. 8 ESPN

Bronx, NY TBA Big 12 No. 7 vs. Big East No. 4 ESPN

Jacksonville,FL Tuesday, January 1, TIME TBA Big Ten No. 4-5 vs. SEC No. 6 ESPN2

84 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


Rose Bowl Game

Tostitos Fiesta

GoDaddy.com

Pasadena, CA Tuesday, January 1, 4:30PM (ET) BCS-Big 10 No. 1 vs. BCS/Pac-12 ESPN

Glendale, AZ Thursday, January 3, TIME TBA BCS-Big 12 No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large ESPN

Mobile, AL Sunday, January 6, 9:00PM (ET) Sun Belt No. 2 vs. MAC No. 1 ESPN

Discover Orange

AT&T Cotton

Miami, FL Tuesday, January 1, TIME TBA BCS-ACC No. 1 vs. BSC At-Large ESPN

Arlington, TX Friday, January 4, 8:00PM (ET) Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3-4 FOX

All-State Sugar

BBVA Compass

New Orleans, LA Wednesday, January 2, TIME TBA BCS-SEC No. 1 vs. BCS At-Large ESPN

Birmingham, AL Saturday, January 5, 1:00PM (ET) SEC No. 8-9 vs. Big East No. 5/CUSA ESPN

2012 SEC Schedules ALABAMA

9.1 .......................... MICHIGAN 9.8.....................W. KENTUCKY 9.15........................ @ Arkansas 9.22..........FLORIDA ATLANTIC 9.29............................OLE MISS 10.6...................................OPEN 10.13........................ @Missouri 10. 20................... @ Tennessee 10.27.....................MISS. STATE 1 1 .03...............................@ LSU 1 1 .10....................TEXAS A&M 1 1 .17................. W. CAROLINA 1 1 .24..........................AUBURN

ARKANSAS

9.1 ............. JACKSONVILLE ST. 9.8........................ LA-MONROE 9.15.......................... ALABAMA 9.22............................RUTGERS 9.29..................... @ Texas A&M 10.6........................... @ Auburn 10.13...................... KENTUCKY 10. 20................................OPEN 10.27..........................OLE MISS 1 1 .03............................. TULSA 1 1 .10.............@South Carolina 1 1 .17................... @ Miss. State 1 1 .24.................................. LSU

AUBURN

9.1 .......................... CLEMSON* 9.8....................... @ Miss. State 9.15......................LA-MONROE 9.22..................................... LSU 9.29.................................. OPEN 10.6........................ARKANSAS 10.13....................... @ Ole Miss 10. 20...................@ Vanderbilt 10.27.................... TEXAS A&M 1 1 .03...........NEW MEXICO ST. 1 1 .10.........................GEORGIA 1 1 .17............. ALABAMA A&M 1 1 .24..................... @ Alabama * Georgia Dome

FLORIDA

9.1 ............BOWLING GREEN 9.8....................@ Texas A&M 9.15................... @ Tennessee 9.22..................... KENTUCKY

9.29............................... OPEN 10.6.................................. LSU 10.13................. @ Vanderbilt 10. 20......SOUTH CAROLINA 10.27....................... GEORGIA 1 1 .03.................... MISSOURI 1 1 .10............LA-LAFAYETTE 1 1 .17...... JACKSONVILLE ST. 1 1 .24.................@ Florida St.

GEORGIA

9.1 .......................... BUFFALO 9.8........................ @ Missouri 9.15.............. FLA. ATLANTIC 9.22...................VANDERBILT 9.29.................... TENNESSEE 10.6........... @ South Carolina 10.13............................. OPEN 10. 20..................@ Kentucky 10.27........................FLORIDA 1 1 .03......................OLE MISS 1 1 .10..................... @ Auburn 1 1 .17............... GEORGIA SO. 1 1 .24........... GEORGIA TECH

KENTUCKY

9.2 ..................... @ Louisville 9.8..................... KENT STATE 9.15................W. KENTUCKY 9.22......................... @ Florida 9.29.........SOUTH CAROLINA 10.6....................MISS. STATE 10.13................... @ Arkansas 10. 20...................... GEORGIA 10.27.................... @ Missouri 1 1 .03................VANDERBILT 1 1 .10............................ OPEN 1 1 .17.................... SAMFORD 1 1 .24................ @ Tennessee

LSU

9.1 .................NORTH TEXAS 9.8................. WASHINGTON 9.15............................. IDAHO 9.22........................ @ Auburn 9.29.........................TOWSON 10.6......................... @ Florida 10.13.......SOUTH CAROLINA 10. 20...............@ Texas A&M 10.27............................. OPEN 1 1 .03.................... ALABAMA

BCS Championship Miami, FL Monday, January 7, TIME TBA BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2 ESPN

1 1 .10.................MISS. STATE 1 1 .17......................OLE MISS 1 1 .24.................. @ Arkansas

MISS. STATE

9.1 ....................JACKSON ST. 9.8............................AUBURN 9.15..............................@ Troy 9.22.................SO. ALABAMA 9.29............................... OPEN 10.6.....................@ Kentucky 10.13.................. TENNESSEE 10. 20.........MID. TENNESSEE 10.27....................@ Alabama 1 1 .03.................TEXAS A&M 1 1 .10........................... @ LSU 1 1 .17.................. ARKANSAS 1 1 .24................... @ Ole Miss

MISSOURI

9.1 .................SE LOUISIANA 9.8........................... GEORGIA 9.15.................. ARIZONA ST. 9.22........... @ South Carolina 9.29........... @ Central Florida 10.6...................VANDERBILT 10.13....................@ Alabama 10. 20............................ OPEN 10.27................... KENTUCKY 1 1 .03...................... @ Florida 1 1 .10................ @ Tennessee 1 1 .17................... SYRACUSE 1 1 .24...............@ Texas A&M

OLE MISS

9.1 ..............CEN. ARKANSAS 9.8.................................. UTEP 9.15..............................TEXAS 9.22..........................@ Tulane 9.29......................@ Alabama 10.6....................TEXAS A&M 10.13........................AUBURN 10. 20............................ OPEN 10.27................... @ Arkansas 1 1 .03..................... @ Georgia 1 1 .10................ VANDERBILT 1 1 .17........................... @ LSU 1 1 .24................ MISS. STATE

SOUTH CAROLINA 8.30 .................. @ Vanderbilt 9.8.............. EAST CAROLINA 9.15..................................UAB 9.22....................... MISSOURI 9.29.....................@ Kentucky

10.6......................... GEORGIA 10.13............................ @ LSU 10. 20...................... @ Florida 10.27.................. TENNESSEE 1 1 .03............................ OPEN 1 1 .10.................. ARKANSAS 1 1 .17....................WOFFORD 1 1 .24...................@ Clemson

TENNESSEE

8.31 ....................N.C. STATE* 9.8..................... GEORGIA ST. 9.15..........................FLORIDA 9.22............................ AKRON 9.29........................@ Georgia 10.6............................... OPEN 10.13................ @ Miss. State 10. 20.................... ALABAMA 10.27......... @ South Carolina 1 1 .03............................ TROY 1 1 .10.................... MISSOURI 1 1 .17................ @ Vanderbilt 1 1 .24.................. KENTUCKY * Georgia Dome

TEXAS A&M

8.30 .......... @ Louisiana Tech 9.8............................FLORIDA 9.15............................. @ SMU 9.22.........SOUTH CAROLINA 9.29..................... ARKANSAS 10.6...................... @ Ole Miss 10.13............................. OPEN 10. 20............................... LSU 10.27...................... @ Auburn 1 1 .03............... @ Miss. State 1 1 .10...................@ Alabama 1 1 .17.....SAM HOUSTON ST. 1 1 .24................... MISSOURI

VANDERBILT

8.30 ........SOUTH CAROLINA 9.8............... @ Northwestern 9.15.............. PRESBYTERIAN 9.22........................ @ Georgia 9.29............................... OPEN 10.6...................... @ Missouri 10.13........................FLORIDA 10. 20.......................AUBURN 10.27.......................... UMASS 1 1 .03.................. @ Kentucky 1 1 .10....................@ Ole Miss 1 1 .17..................TENNESSEE 1 1 .24............. @ Wake Forest 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 85


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

2012 HIGH SCHOOL PREVIEW By Jay White Contributing Writer

TOP 25 2012 PRESEASON TOP 25 1. Meridian 2. South Panola 3. Starkville AHS 4. Biloxi 5. Olive Branch 6. Wayne County 7. Picayune 8. Noxubee County 9. Northwest Rankin 10. Lafayette County 11. Madison Central 12. West Point 13. Jackson Prep 14. Tylertown 15. Charleston 16. Jackson Academy 18. Pascagoula 19. Gulfport 20. Brandon 21. Petal 22. Ocean Springs 23. Louisville 24. Mendenhall 25. Forrest County

N

ational pundits will say that this is a down year in Mississippi. That may appear to be the case if looking at the scene from 30,000 feet. However, there is as much intrigue as ever. A handful of Mississippi’s cornerstone programs will have new, if not unfamiliar faces leading them into battle. A crop of the most dominant players in Mississippi history leave massive shoes behind to be filled. DeSoto County claims its first football championship; and does so at the state’s highest level. Could this open the flood gates for what is now Mississippi’s largest school district? There are plenty of great story lines to follow in Mississippi for 2012. Let’s hope this season’s most memorable moment won’t be an offside penalty.

86 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Who will unseat Olive Branch as the best in Class 6A in 2012?

CLASS 6A

In Class 6A, an all-time classic and controversial championship game finally quenched Olive Branch’s thirst for a title, while intensifying Petal’s drive for the top of the mountain even more. Both of the championship participants graduated major contributors, including both quarterbacks in OB’s Todd Mays (Arkansas State) and Petal’s Anthony Alford (Southern Miss). While replacing the signal callers won’t wreck the season for the Panthers or Conquistadors, it will cause just enough regression to allow other big names through the door. In the north look for South Panola to ascend back to where they’ve been so many times before. The Tigers will be anchored by a national consensus top 5 safety in Antonio Connor. The Tigers will have to tackle another mammoth schedule including home dates with West Point, Hoover (AL), Gulfport, and Southaven. They’ll also travel to Bentonville (AR), Olive Branch, and Tupelo. Panola will also deal with a lot of coaching movement. After losing OC Trey Dickerson to Hattiesburg last year, Dickerson returned to Batesville after only one season leading HHS. However, South Panola had 3 coaches on staff accept head coaching positions elsewhere this offseason. The most notable of the departures is D-line coach Eddie Maxon, who beat 24 other applicants for the job at fellow 6A school Green-

ville-Weston. North 6A will include feature roles for many of the usual suspects. While Olive Branch may lack experience in 2012, they will certainly remain talented. Southaven and Tupelo will continue to push for access into the upper echelon in Region 1. In Region 2, this could finally be Northwest Rankin’s year. The Cougars continue to steadily improve under Pete Hurt and have the offensive weapons to potentially jump Madison Central, in QB Reid Humphreys and RB Ramone Nash. Humphreys has guided NWR to a 22-4 record over the past 2 seasons and owns 2 of the school’s 7 all-time playoff wins. In Region 3, Meridian will lean on a quarterback named Russell. No, you didn’t time warp back to 2008. This year Kyle Russell, younger brother of Mississippi State and former Meridian QB Tyler, has the Wildcats poised to sit on the throne of Mississippi high school football. Coach Larry Weems will rely on Russell to connect with talented WR Isaac Johnson to fend off a slew of rising region challengers. Of those challengers expect Brandon to continue to come on strong under second year coach Brad Peterson. Petal made possibly the biggest coaching splash with their hiring of Wayne County’s Marcus Boyles, and Terry hired Wade Henderson after spent one season rebuilding Brookhaven. The resurgence of Biloxi and Gulfport has


Will this be the year a Jackson/Metro area team makes a run through the playoffs? Brandon seems to think it will have a say in who takes the 6A title.

given fans from across the state reason to focus on Region 4. Last season Mike Justice and his Admirals began the season with a national ranking and lofty expectations, but ultimately it was John Shannon and the Indians who shocked the coast with a region title. Biloxi WR Scott Austin will be a player to watch. The big 3, plus Alabama, Georgia Tech and LSU have shown interest in Austin. CHAMPION: MERIDIAN RUNNER-UP: SOUTH PANOLA DARKHORSE: BRANDON TRENDING UP: BILOXI

CLASS 5A

Class 5A should prove to be the most topheavy of the bigger classifications, much like last season. Picayune will attempt to be the first repeat 5A champion from the south since Moss Point captured the flag in 1996 and again in ‘97. There will be huge holes for the Maroon tide to fill. Dereonte Magee’s near 2,000 yards rushing and Ken Breland’s 7 picks will have to be replaced. In Region 4, expect Coach Lewis Simms to continue to lead Pascagoula back to relevance. They’ll tangle with last year’s Cinderella story, Pearl River Central, who made a shocking run to the South State title game. Also, keep an eye on Gautier. While only 2-9 last year, the Gators made a huge splash when they plucked Chris Peterson from Mendenhall. Wayne County should have their way in Region 3 versus a group of what is largely rebuilding programs. The War Eagles selected Todd Mangum from his role as Madison Central’s DC to be their next head coach. Mangum had a successful run as a head coach at Ocean Springs,

going 45-16 from 2006 to 2010. Starkville’s Yellow Jackets benefitted from a reclassification in 2011 and took advantage. This year the Jackets plan to take the extra elusive step to a 5A championship. Safety Gabe Miles has “Dandy Dozen” buzz and leads a talented and experienced defense. Junior RB Devonte Davis will lead Starkville offensively. He’s been labeled by some as a Top 10 junior in the state. Starkville will certainly have the motivation of playing for the honor of a fallen teammate. TE Devin Mitchell, who led the team in catches in 2011, was shot and killed in the early hours of New Year’s Day. In 5A North, Starkville’s toughest assignment will be fending off rival West Point. The Green Wave will be looking to assert themselves after last year’s rebuilding effort coming on the heels of back-to-back titles. Delintez Lane will lead a talented group of West Point tailbacks. West Point will be trying to recapture the Region 1 crown from surprise winner Center Hill. “The Hill” is yet another of the newer DeSoto County schools making an impact, much like Lake Cormorant did in 2010. Clarksdale will look to continue recapturing their past glory and Oxford tries to rebound from a disappointing 5-6 campaign. CHAMPION: STARKVILLE RUNNER-UP: WAYNE COUNTY DARKHORSE: PASCAGOULA TRENDING UP: PEARL RIVER CENTRAL

CLASS 4A

4A will have an interesting story to tell this

year. 4A has the reigning top-ranked team that also is on an incredible winning streak. But, the biggest stories for Lafayette County are not if they can repeat or how long their streak can continue, but instead, the tremendous leaders they’ll have to replace and the new face of the program. Anthony Hart left Mississippi High School Football behind while at the top of the mountain. While Hart ascends to Lafayette’s AD position, Eric Robertson makes the jump from DC to the head coach. Robertson’s biggest job will be replacing super-QB Jeremy Liggins (LSU) and tailback Demarkus Dennis. North 4A will offer plenty of challengers for the 2-time defending champion Commodores. Louisville carries as much hardware as anyone in the class and will be a contender. New Albany has become a serious contender in recent years. Amory has to somehow find a way to replace the 5,100 yards and 55 touchdowns of Forest Williams. RB/LB Ashton Shumpert has all the folks in Fulton thinking that the title could may the long trek up to Itawamba County and Itawamba AHS. Noxubee County looks to get back to the top for the first time since 2008. The Tigers will be paced, as always, by a mean defense. D-Lineman Dylan Bradley anchors the defense, but also lookout for the hard-to-miss 6’6” 340 pound, Dtackle Deshawn Hopkins. Noxubee has won 35 games and 6 playoff games in the last 3 years. Is this the year they get back to the top? South 4A will be paced by Laurel, Forrest County AHS and Tylertown. The Chiefs will be paced receiver Ty Holmes and tailback Chris Jones. After a dominate decade in 3A, Tylertown had an impressive inaugural run in 4A, going 11-2 and winning a pair of playoff games. Coach Walter Denton left Tylertown for the Columbia job. He was replaced in-house by Jason Johnson. Last year Forrest County AHS had an impressive, if not under the radar, 10-1 season before being surprisingly bounced in the 2nd round by a surging South Pike squad. This year the Aggies look to capture their 3rd consecutive Region 8 crown. CHAMPION: NOXUBEE COUNTY RUNNER-UP: TYLERTOWN DARKHORSE: NEW ALBANY TRENDING UP: ITAWAMBA AHS

CLASS 3A

Charleston was dominant last year. Charleston should be a dominant team again in 2012. 6’4” receiver Kareem Vance will be counted on to lead a Tiger squad that averaged 39 points per game last year on their way to gobbling up 14 wins and an impressive 26-point win in the title game. 13 seniors and 20 total upperclassmen should ensure Coach Tony Vance will have another deep run this year. Can East Side continue to be the pride of Bolivar County? An amazing 14-0 run was cut short only by a shootout loss to Charleston in North 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 87


State. QB Jonathan Clerk-Beamon returns to lead the Trojans. However East Side will have to replace Co-captain wide receivers that also started in the secondary, punted and returned kicks. Head Coach Tavares Johnson took the Vicksburg job and was replaced by Roger Burton who comes in from (Hollandale) Simmons. South 3A is a monster with Philadelphia, Forest, and Hazlehurst. The 3 have racked up 36, 35, and 30 wins in the last 3 seasons. Forest Coach Jud Boswell departed for Clinton and was replaced in-house by Hamer Morgan. CHAMPION: CHARLESTON RUNNER-UP: HAZLEHURST DARKHORSE: WATER VALLEY TRENDING UP: WEST MARION

CLASS 2A

through a 1-10 mark. The Pirates struggles seemed to have left the door open for Durant, losers of two straight title games to the Mount, to sweep in…didn’t work out that way. In 2012, Shaw tries to capitalize on one of the most surprising campaigns in all of Mississippi high school football last year. The Hawks swooped in and landed the Region 2 crown and continued through the playoffs capturing the North 1A crown. (Natchez) Cathedral, Durant, Noxapater, Stringer and Shaw all lost a ton of big time contributors. All will continue to compete because of good coaching and good athletes. However, look for Nanih Waiya in the north and Pelahatchie in the south to elbow their way onto the 1A scene in 2012. Finally, when you see Hartfield Academy in the 1A scores this year, you’ll probably do a double take. Hartfield is the reincarnation University Christian School. UCS merged with Pinelake Christian School/Church and renamed the school. CHAMPION: DURANT RUNNER-UP: STRINGER DARKHORSE: NANIH WAIYA TRENDING UP: PELAHATCHIE

Class 2A features what could possibly the most talked about player in the state for 2012. West Bolivar tailback Kailo Moore has racked up multiple offers from SEC schools and not only stars on the football field. He’s devoured the state sprinting record book as well. After the Eagles from Rosedale caught a huge scare in the 2nd round of the playoffs versus Bruce, they outscored their opponents 92-24 the rest of the way to cruise to the 2A state title. Calhoun City and Ackerman will try to stand in the way of a repeat in the north. In South 2A, Taylorsville hopes to rebound from being shocked in the 2nd round by North Forrest. Ironically, Taylorsville hired North Forrest Head Coach Matt Caldwell to be the new face of the Tartars when Bud Blackledge, somewhat surprisingly, took the OC position at Wayne County. Bassfield will be competing for their 5th consecutive region 8 title. In the last 4 years the Yellow Jackets have amassed a 47-12 record with 13 playoff wins. East Marion will be looking to repeat in the south. After graduating blazing tailback Xavier Grindle, could the Eagles throw more this season? 4 senior offensive linemen, 3 senior receivers and senior QB Deandrey Johnson might convince Coach Anthony Dillon to go to the air, although, their offense was more balanced that you’d think in 2011. Coach Flip Godfrey and (Madison) Saint Joseph have to replace QB Peyton Willoughby and a ton of experienced receivers from a team that won the Bruins’ first region title and first playoff game in the playoff era (since 1981). CHAMPION: WEST BOLIVAR RUNNER-UP: BASSFIELD DARKHORSE: ACKERMAN TRENDING UP: BRUCE

The lead story line for MAIS in 2012 won’t be any different from any other year. Prep vs. JA. The sidebars to what will lead up to these great rivals clashing for the title will be most interesting. Jackson Academy is the king of the mountain. The Raiders have won 3 titles in a row under David Sykes, who is 37-2 while in charge of the squad. Jackson Prep has the big gun. QB Ryan Buchanan is poised to lead the Patriots back to the top under Coach Ricky Black. The wild-cards are Forrest Williams at MRA and Joey Hawkins at Presbyterian Christian. Hawkins’ track record at JA showed that it would only be a matter of time before he got PCS on the right track. The Bobcats are coming off 9-3 and 8-4 seasons and will be ready to challenge Prep for the District 2 crown. Williams has installed at MRA the frantic and exciting offense that he won a title with at St. Stanislaus. These four schools will make up the AAA D-1 playoffs for the 3rd year in a row. CHAMPION: JACKSON PREP RUNNER-UP: JACKSON ACADEMY DARKHORSE: PCS TRENDING UP: MRA

CLASS 1A

CLASS AAA D2

1A was surprisingly the most competitive and unpredictable of the public school races in 2011. 2-time defending state champion Mount Olive fell off a cliff. After posting seven consecutive double-digit win seasons, the Pirates struggled 88 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

ACADEMIES CLASS AAA D1

AAA D-2 will go very similarly to 2011. Washington School is clearly the team to beat. Starkville will win District 2, and barring a major upset, these two will clash for the title once again.

East Rankin has one of the fastest growing enrollments among the MAIS schools and it’s beginning to show up on the football field. ERA is hoping to make their 4th straight playoff appearance. The Patriots have lost very competitive games to the eventual state champion 2 years in a row. Look for another gang of Patriots, these from Heritage Academy, to push Washington in District 1. CHAMPION: WASHINGTON RUNNER-UP: STARKVILLE DARKHORSE: EAST RANKIN TRENDING UP: HERITAGE

CLASS AA

MAIS AA is always fun to follow because, unlike AAA, there’s enough elbow room for a handful of teams to make an honest run at a title. This year all the usual suspects will be back again. Look for Simpson and Brookhaven to cross paths in the South. This has become one of the best rivalries in Mississippi. Always talented Trinity Episcopal will make another run. Can the Saints claim a AA title to add to their A titles in 2009 and 2010? In the North, look for River Oaks out of Louisiana to be talented again. They’ll be challenged by North Delta. Who will separate themselves from the crowd of Marshall, Carroll, Leake, and Manchester? CHAMPION: SIMPSON RUNNER-UP: NORTH DELTA DARKHORSE: LEAKE TRENDING UP: MANCHESTER

CLASS A

MAIS A is home to possibly the biggest steamroller in Mississippi high school football. Tri-County Academy captured the title in 2011, without being pushed at all really. The Rebels reeled off 7 shutouts and held opponents to single-digits in 10 of their 13 games. Only one opponent played TCA to within a touchdown. They outscored their playoff foes 136-20. Talk about dominance… Things should be much the same in 2012. Winona Christian is that team that is certainly not afraid of Tri-County. Winona is the team that pushed TCA to a 25-22 game in Flora during the regular season and a 14-0 defensive struggle in the North State Championship. In the South, look for CENLA from just outside of Alexandria, LA to have a strong showing. Riverfield (LA), Newton County, and Wilkinson County will also push for the south title. CHAMPION: TRI-COUNTY RUNNER-UP: CENLA (LA) DARKHORSE: BAYOU TRENDING UP: WILKINSON CTY. Jay White co-hosts “Friday Night Under The Lights” with Russ Robinson, statewide on MPB Think Radio. He also co-hosts “Mississippi Sports this Morning” with Doug Colson on AM-620 WJDX in Jackson.


2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 89


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

Air Attack

2011 Mississippi 7 on 7 Champions, Starkville High School

With the development of ‘pass happy’ offenses in college and pro football, 7 on 7 competitions are becoming a top priority to help develop skill players at the high school level in Mississippi

by JAKE ADAMS

Contributing Writer

A

few years ago Otis Riddley looked around and saw that high school football players in Mississippi were at a competitive disadvantage. More and more players from across the nation were competing in 7 on 7 competitions in the summer, giving young high school quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs invaluable off-season time to work on their offensive and defensive skill sets. As a result those players were improving while Mississippi players weren’t. Riddley saw a lot of natural talent was getting wasted by simple lack of development. Riddley, who serves as offensive coordinator at Callaway High School in Jackson, tasked himself with narrowing that gap. He saw 7 on 7 as an opportunity to provide a way to help kids stay out of trouble during the summer and develop their game at the same time. “I grew up in the same situation a lot these kids are in.” Riddley said. “I just want them to have every advantage possible to give them the best possible chance in life.” Riddley, in collaboration with a friend, started Mississippi 7on7, a league promoting 7 on 7 competitions between high schools from around the state. They compete in a season that lasts from a week after school lets out until the end of June and hold tournaments. “Not only is 7on7 great for the kids, it’s good for the coaches, too,” Riddley said. “This is a sport that needs to continue to grow in Mississippi to help develop our kids and elevate our level of football.” Seven-man football is the football-equivalent of Top Gun. It disposes with the trenches and the ground games and goes straight to the air. If you like passing, you’ll love 7 on 7. In this abbreviated version of football the quarterback lines up with any combination of running backs and receivers - typically with four receivers and two running backs. Across from them are seven defensive backs tasked with stopping them. Noticeably absent are helmets, linemen and hitting. While the quar90 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

terback doesn’t get physically sacked, he is battling a 4-second clock. If he doesn’t get rid of the ball in four seconds the play is whistled dead. It’s the perfect game for skill developments. Quarterbacks throw lots of passes allowing them to work on their timing. Receivers get the opportunity to perfect their route running, and defensive backs get just as many chances to develop their ball-hawking prowess. The advent of 7 on 7 is the natural result of a shift in offensive philosophy that can be traced back 20 years to Steve Spurrier’s Fun n’ Gun up through Kentucky’s Hal Mumme and on to Texas Tech’s Mike Leach all the way up to today when the spread offense is no longer an exotic offensive scheme, but one that can be found all around the country. Football’s no longer three yards and a cloud

of dust. It’s more like three seconds to launch. Now more than ever, football is an air show created by quarterbacks flinging tight spirals to crafty receivers who know how to find or create space, catch and run. Every year they get better, bigger, flashier. The aerial explosion has amped up the competition to new levels and it’s also created the need for better defensive backs. It’s no accident that the most valuable players in the NFL are often safeties and corners. Or that LSU always has one of the SEC’s top defenses and that defense features lockdown corners who convert to wideouts the second the ball is the air. Even the NFL is a passing league. Just look at Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Each leads his offensive predominantly with a passing attack. The air. That’s where the game is played now, and that’s why 7 on 7 has become an integral part of high school football. Former St. Stanislaus and current MadisonRidgeland Academy head coach Forrest Williams has been coaching spread offenses since he starting out as an assistant at a tiny Texas high school about eight years ago, and he quickly saw the benefits of 7 on 7. “Texas had some enormous 7 on 7 tournaments,” Williams said. “In Texas, they really develop their high school athletes, and 7 on 7 is part of that. It’s due in large part to parenting and the year-round development of high school athletes. You’ll hear a lot of college coaches say that Texas produces the most polished high school athletes skill wise, but that


they have less upside, whereas in Mississippi a lot of time the talent is more raw, but with a much greater upside.” Williams brought the spread offense back from Texas with him when he returned to coach St. Stanislaus in 2008, and a quick look his teams stats shows that Williams really likes to air it out. Last year MRA lined up five wide receivers on nearly every play. His teams have broken offensive records and been at or near the top statistically in passing since he returned to Mississippi. He firmly believes in the value 7 on 7 for his program at MRA, and not just for skill development, but to build team camaraderie, stay in contact with players in the summer, and even to teach his offensive system. “We run our playbook in 7 on 7,” Williams said. “Me and my offensive coordinator John Weaver call it our laboratory. It’s a chance for us to try out new concepts and see if our quarterbacks and receivers can make it work and get a look at how defenses will cover it.” Which means players are more prepared than ever, come August. “There is no offensive installation anymore,” Williams said. “We run our offense in the spring, in 7 on 7 drills in the summer and then transition all of that straight into fall camp.” - MSM 2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 91


MSMRECRUITING

YOUNG GUNS

top 2012 PLAYER OF THE YEAR

ANTONIO CONNER

40 Mississippi’s top Seniors for the Class of 2013

South Panola DB • 6’2” • 192 lbs.

RANK.......NAME ......................... POS. ......... HOMETWON

RANK.......NAME ......................... POS. ......... HOMETWON

1..................Antonio Conner..................DB............ South Panola 2.................Kailo Moore....................... ATH........... West Bolivar 3..................Deon Mix............................. OL............. South Panola 4.................Ashton Shumpert ............ ATH.........Itawamba AHS 5..................Samuel Craft...................... ATH.............Olive Branch 6.................Jake Thomas...................... OL...................Columbus 7..................Ryan Buchanan..................QB.............Jackson Prep 8.................Brandon Wells................... WR.............Bogue Chitto 9.................Montreal Jordan.................DB..............Philadelphia 10................Scott Austin....................... WR..........................Biloxi 11.................Dylan Bradley..................... DT...............Noxubee Co. 12................Gabe Myles........................ ATH..................Starkville 13................Deronte Bouldin................. OL........................Canton 14................Jamarcus Revies............... WR......................... Petall 15...................Kent Flowers..............................OL..... Hollandale-Simmons 16................Jamaal Clayborn................ OL......Jackson Academy 17.................Thamez Taylor.................... RB........................ Purvis 18................Khadarel Hodge.................QB.................Mendehall 19................Devin Farrior...................... OL...........Wayne County 20...............Davion Johnson................. OL...................... Bahayia

21................Xavier Pegues.................... DL.........................Oxford 22...............David Mahaffey.................. OL..................... Brandon 23................Derrick Jones..................... WR.......................Eupora 24................William Lloyd..................... RB............. West Boliver 25................Dontrell Nelson..................DB..............Olive Branch 26...............Chase DeLee....................... OL.....Centreville Academy 27................Stacey Garner..................... LB... Forrest County AHS 28................Tanner Bryan.......................TE.................... Picayune 29. .............Brandon Acker.................. WR...............Hattiesburg 30...............Chris Jones......................... RB..................Tylertown 31................Trae McKenzie......................TE........ Trinity Episcopal 32. ..............Tavaris McCormick............. WR..........................Biloxi 33................Brian Ballard...................... LB.........Madison Central 34...............Jamil Collins.......................DB..............Olive Branch 35................Jonathan Wilson................ DE........................ Salem 36...............Dillon Batia......................... OL............Ocean Springs 37. ..............Parker Adamson................QB........................Oxford 38................Kendrick Patterson............DB..........................Biloxi 39................Trae Collins.........................DB................. New Hope 40...............Reid Humphreys................QB................NW Rankin

92 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


PUTTING THE SPOTLIGHT ON HIGH SCHOOL RIVALRIES LAFAYETTE

VS.

OXFORD

AUGUST 30

JACKSON PREP

VS.

PEARL

SEPTEMBER 13

OAK GROVE

VS.

PETAL

SEPTEMBER 27

PICAYUNE

VS.

PASCAGOULA

OCTOBER 4

cspire.com/brightlights

2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 93 © 2012 C Spire Wireless. All rights reserved.


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

Scott Samsel

The outspoken Olive Branch football coach opens up about some hot topics and sets the record straight on how he handles his players on and off the field BY JOHN DAVIS

Contributing Writer Photos courtesy Desoto Times Tribune

O

live Branch coach Scott Samsel has never been one to play the role of politician. Instead of always pleasing parents or the media that covers his standout Class 6A program, Samsel is more worried about his players and making them better, both on and off the field. A little less than a year after leading the Conquistadors to a 15-0 mark and the school’s first state title, Samsel said he is still the same coach he was when he first came back to lead his alma mater in 2006. “It certainly didn’t make me any better or worse than what I am. I think in a lot of people’s eyes they only want to assign credibility to you when you get a win,” Samsel said when asked if winning a title made him a better coach or not. “The year before we won it all we were 8-5. We lost to Cocoa, Florida, which had the longest winning streak in the state of Florida. We lost to Brentwood Academy. We lost in a blowout to South Panola which was the No. 1 team in the nation and then we turn around and play them at the end of the season and with a 1:26 left to go, we’re down by five points with a chance (to win). “To me, I think I did a better job coaching that year when we had five losses. We made a defensive coordinator change a week or two before the start of the season and the other thing is, with that senior class, when those kids were ninth graders, there were 17 athletes that I put off the team because of disci-

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“Everybody wants to say that the fella up at Olive Branch all he wants to do is win. I like to win, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s not win at all costs...” plinary reasons. “Everybody wants to say ‘that fella up at Olive Branch---all he wants to do is win.’ I like to win, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s not win at all costs,” Samsel added. “If I would have had, say, half of those 17 kids, we might not have been down by five points with a minute and 26 seconds against South Panola. It might have been a different story. For the program, taking that action was the right thing to do. That kind of stuff and making those kind of decisions and running the kind of program that we can take pride in running,--to me that’s what coaching is and that’s what credibility is, not the wins and losses.” Samsel has always won games — he enters the 2012 season with 181 total wins and is 66-16 at Olive Branch — but he’s done it the

right way in his estimation. Leslie Pool, Samsel’s former coach at Olive Branch, is someone Samsel learned a lot from at the start of his career while other administrators from Lafayette, to Aberdeen, to Henry County (Tenn.) and other stops, showed him how to build a program and then maintain it. “I had some very good administrators when I first started coaching who were great school people .I worked for Leslie Pool, who was my old high school coach, and then went back to coach for them. That foundation that I got right there gave me a great perspective of what high school sports was all about. Again, do we like to win? Absolutely. But we take great pride here in running a total program that is going to produce a solid citizen and help the kid get the best education he can

possibly can get and then try to develop them to the maximum as an athlete,” Samsel said. “I guess after 27 years of coaching with 20 of them as a head coach---including 181 wins--the wins and losses don’t mean as much to me as looking back and seeing that the kids have a successful life and a family. You know then that the kid got what he was supposed to out of football. Most people, all they care about is did you win? And how many kids did you have sign? That’s probably the least of the things that I value.” The players Samsel has coached have stayed tremendously loyal to him after graduating. One of his former players at Olive Branch, offensive lineman Shon Coleman, is now at Auburn. Samsel has remained close to Coleman, who was diagnosed with the cancer acute lymphoblastic leukemia shortly after graduation. Coleman is back practicing with the Tigers and Samsel couldn’t be more proud of that fact. “Shon Coleman probably did more to help everybody around him, when he was going through that, than anybody helped him. From the very start of it he had such a great atti2012 FOOTBALL PREVIEW - 95


#MSMFOOTBALL2012

Shon Coleman was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia shortly after graduating from High School. Samsel has kept a close relationship with Shon throughout his illness. Shon is pictured wearing his jersey from the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. (Photo courtesy of St. Jude Biomedical Communications.)

tude. We kind of felt bad because he was the one that was uplifting us. The rest of us were just down in the dumps about it and upset and he did more to comfort everybody else around him than anybody did for him. He’s a great kid. Every chance they get those kids get they come home,” Samsel said. “This time of year if you come up to our weight room, it looks like SEC Media Day. If you were a sorry person, I doubt very many of these kids would come around and keep calling you. I still talk to a lot of the players I coached at Independence and a lot of the kids I coached at Henry County or Aberdeen or Lafayette. If you haven’t played, you probably don’t really know what it’s like. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of great kids around me. “But I care just as much for the guys that can never play at the next level,” Samsel continued. “I like for every guy to get the most out what they can playing high school sports. If all they can play is high school ball, I at least want them to get the best experience as close as they could.” Despite being loved by his former players, Samsel was given a reputation by a former college staff that he was difficult to deal with and 96 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

that he steered his players to certain schools. Samsel doesn’t agree with assessment and offered a few reasons for that mis-perception. “It’s not surprising. I guess I’ve got kind of a gruff demeanor, if that’s a way to describe it. I don’t mean to, that’s just my personality. After 27 years of coaching, I’m somewhat cynical about some things, too. I’ve seen some of the more unpleasant things in dealing with issues that you have to deal with as a coach. You deal with unreasonable parents. You deal with unreasonable expectations and after a period of time you just grow callous to it,” Samsel said. “I have never been one to try to win a popularity contest. I could care less about that. I’m an ‘A’ personality guy. It’s either one way or it’s the other way. I don’t believe in a whole lot of gray area and, because of that, it’s caused me problems. There again I’m not going to try and re-invent myself to make somebody else happy either. “On top of that it’s a situation to where you’re not going to be all things to all people,” Samsel added. “You just got to draw the line. I’ve been lucky. Twenty seven years I’ve never gotten up and dreaded going to work. I’ve really only had two years out of those that I re-

ally had some issues of who I was working for. But never in that time did I have issue with who I was coaching.” Ole Miss has a new head coach in Hugh Freeze, someone Samsel has dealt with in the past, and he notes that he has a good relationship with all college recruiters in the state and nation. “They keep coming by. We get everybody from California to Florida and in between. I’ve got a long relationship with Coach Freeze and his family and I’ve developed a good relationship with Coach (Dan) Mullen and the guys down at Southern Miss and the other smaller schools in the state,” Samsel said. “The out-of-state guys, I’m not going tell anybody that has an opportunity for one of my players that they can’t come to my school unless they have proven to be someone that does not have the best interest of my players in mind. If you mess over one of my guys the first time, shame on you. If I allow you to come back a second time and mess over another player, I view that as my fault. Fortunately that hasn’t happened too many times. This fall I’ll have 16 or 17 guys playing D-I football somewhere. Just about every channel you can turn to it will have somebody from Olive Branch High School playing.” Looking back at the title, Samsel said he was very proud of how his team played overall last year and in the title game. “At the end of the game, the first emotion that you feel---well, I felt like we were real fortunate. Not anything to do with the last play of the game, but during the course of the game we had so many bad things happen. Some of it was our fault and some of it maybe wasn’t our fault. Usually when you have that many bad things happen in a game of that magnitude it usually doesn’t come out your way,” Samsel recalled. “We had one touchdown run called back. We caught another ball in the end zone that was ruled not a catch. We missed a field goal. We had missed a first-and-goal opportunity and missed an extra point. We had to play the entire game without my starting inside linebacker. We just felt, on top of being down at halftime, like we missed a lot of opportunities. Even right after halftime we tried an onside kick and didn’t get it. Then we recover a fumble and get great field position but don’t get any points out of it. “With that many bad things, usually you don’t win. I think that says a lot for our kids to not get discouraged and to keep battling and to come back from a deficit like that. They had overcome so many bad things I think it speaks well about their character.” - MSM


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Ron price:

playing through the pain When Ron Price takes the field in August to begin his fifth year as head football coach at New Albany, it will have been less than nine months since the loss of his wife. By JAY TIDWELL Contributing Writer

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he tragic events that transpired on December 5, 2011, were immediately front page news: Amanda Price, 31, died from a gunshot wound to the chest by an intruder at their home on Murrah Road on the eastern edge of the Union County seat. Ron, responding to the disturbance, was shot in the right shoulder. Their young daughter, Molly Addison, age three and a half at the time, was in the home that evening, but was unhurt. Their home was decorated for Christmas when she died. Holiday wreaths were displayed in the windows. She was buried on Thursday, December 8.     A suspect is in custody and the case is working its way through the legal system. In the mean time, Ron, 33, has healed from his physical wounds. Now he tries to move on. After the heartrending night, he took the rest of the semester off. When it came time to return to school after Christmas break, he made a significant choice. “On January 3rd, 2012, was our first day back to school,” Ron said, recalling his thought process about returning to school

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– and football. “On January 2nd, I had a decision to make. We preach to our kids that you’re going to face battles in life, and that it’s how you respond to those battles that will determine what kind of football team we have and what kind of person you’re going to be. I felt like, if I’m going to preach that, I need to live that to my kids.” He was also moved by the bond he had with Amanda and the connection they shared through football. “I’m a football coach and that’s all I know how to do, and a lot of folks say I’m not very good at that,” he said, smiling. “I don’t fish or hunt or play golf, but I knew how much these kids knew how much Amanda loved them. And I knew how Amanda would be cheering them on, and would want me to keep going with what we’ve started here.” Ron related this during an interview in late May. His office adjoins the Bulldogs’ football locker room. He oversaw its refurbishing in 2009. He was wearing a purple t-shirt and a purple wrist band. The Bulldogs had the day off from their 7-on-7 drills. He mentioned later that Amanda’s favorite color was purple.  What will make this season more compli-

ON THE SIDELINES cated for Ron is he lost not only his spouse, but his biggest fan.  Ron and Amanda attended Alcorn Central High School near Corinth. He was a standout for the Golden Bears football team. During his senior year in 1996, he left the field only for extra points and field goals. Amanda was in the band and performed during halftime as a dancer.  “My little sister was a chief fan of Ron Price when he was a player and has been his chief fan through his whole coaching career,” said Jay Cossey, Amanda’s older brother who is also an assistant on the New Albany football staff.  “The funniest thing is she would get frustrated with him,” he continued, recalling how they teased one another during high school. “She’d tell him, ‘You’ve never even seen what I do, and I watch everything you do.’ That was a running joke for them.”   After graduation in 1997, Ron played football at Northeast Mississippi Community College for two years, then went to Delta State. Amanda started at Delta State, too, and was a member of the Delta Belles. It was his turn to watch her during halftime.  After college, Ron was the wide receivers coach at Cleveland High in 2001. Ron and Amanda married on July 6, 2002. Amanda’s father, Bobby Cossey, a Baptist minister, performed the ceremony. Shortly after that, Ron started at New Albany as head coach of the middle school football team. Meanwhile, Amanda commuted to Oxford and continued working on her master’s degree in speech pathology at Ole Miss.  “She was there with me from the get go,” Ron said. “My first two years in New Albany, I was a junior high coach and she was a graduate student at Ole Miss. She would leave Oxford every afternoon as soon as she would get through with school. Wherever we were playing, whether it would be in New Albany or wherever we were playing, she would leave Oxford and do everything she could to be at those junior high games. She wanted me to know and she wanted those kids to know that she believed in them. That’s the kind of wife she was.”  Ron coached defensive backs for New Albany’s high school squad in 2006. In 2007, he became head coach of the ninth grade team. Amanda worked as the speech pathologist for the school.  When the head coaching slot


Ron, Amanda and Molly Addision Price after their first “Meet the Bulldogs” night in August 2008, just before Ron’s first season as head coach of New Albany’s high school football team. - Photo by Jay Tidwell

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#MSMFOOTBALL2012 for the high school team opened up again in 2008, Ron was the man. The first season, they went 3-7. The low point of that campaign included four consecutive division losses by at least three touchdowns.   “I’ve told everybody, no matter how bad things got on Friday night, I knew there was one person in the stands cheering for me,” Ron said, his voice trembling. “That makes me very proud. And now it scares me to death.”   The Bulldogs went 6-6 in 2009. In 2010, they went 13-1. Among the posters and pictures on the wall in Ron’s office is a handwritten note from that season. It says, “Division 1-4A champs – We’re proud of you – Amanda and Molly Addison.”     Ron explained that every Friday night after he became head coach, win or lose, Amanda decorated the back door to their home for him. “When I got home, there would be a card or a note, and she did that all four years,” he said. As Molly Addison got a bit older, Amanda let her help.   They finished 9-4 last season, ending the year in the playoffs with a road loss on Nov. 11 at Cleveland – where their coaching life began.  The sign that Amanda left him that night still hangs on the back door to their home.  “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to take that one down,” he said.  Ron described the outpouring of support since the events last December, like the banner signed by the Bruce football team. Ron and Bruce head coach James Ray had only met a couple of times prior to that. Ron also appreciated the frequent notes of encouragement, like the weekly messages from North Pontotoc head coach Brian Sutton. The Vikings play in Ecru, a few miles south of town on Highway 15.  Ron said his assistant coaches at the time: Jay Cossey, Bob Monroe, Cody Stubblefield, Josh Davis, Micheal Kelly, Rolandus Cox, Jalon Bullock and Jamie Coleman, held things together – and held him together – in the aftermath.   The support has extended statewide. The Mississippi Association of Coaches has instituted the Amanda Price Award to be given to a coach’s wife in her memory.  “On Friday nights, we like to go head to head with each other, but when it comes to real life situations, those guys are there for you and have got your back,” Ron said. “It means even more to know it’s not just about the battles we face on Friday nights, that when you need guys like that the most that they are there and will be your support and encouragement through a very difficult situation.”  The community responded quickly to the tragedy. Within a matter of weeks, a 5K race 100 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

was organized – the Amanda Price Memorial 5K. It was fitting, because a few months earlier she started participating in a Couch to 5K program at their church, Hillcrest Baptist Church in New Albany. Amanda had played the role of a divorced woman trying to get her life together in a Christmas program there the day before she died.   The city of New Albany is planning an Amanda Price Memorial Park.   “It’s been unbelievable,” Ron said. “As a football coach, a lot of times you don’t know where you stand with people. You hope it’s good, but you let something go bad (on the field) and a lot of times people’s true colors show. Through all this time, the city of New Albany, and North Mississippi, has been un-

that have happened, both negative and positive,” Ron said. “She would want us to move forward and to move forward with a smile on our face and to continue to do the best we can and to continue to try to bring honor and glory to our Lord and Savior. I feel like the Lord has placed me in this field, and He has given me the opportunity to do what I do each day.” Ron takes care of Molly Addison, who turned 4 in March. Before the interview was finished, she awoke from a nap in an adjoining room and sat in her father’s lap. “You might want to ask her some questions, too,” Ron said, smiling again. “She is so much like Amanda.” This fall, the football team will wear purple ribbon emblems on their helmets. There will be other small reminders of the tremendous

believable in wrapping their arms around us and supporting us, loving us through this very difficult time.    “I can’t every thank the city of New Albany and the people of New Albany enough, because they have loved me and loved my family, and loved my little girl and taken care of us,” he said, wiping tears from his cheek. “From day one, my fear was that as time passed, people would kind of forget what happened and forget about us, but that’s not been the case whatsoever.” The spiritual component of Ron and Amanda’s life has been a key part of his coping with what has happened. Over the last few months, he has been a frequent speaker at worship services in local churches. “I know without a shadow of a doubt that she cared about me and she cared about the kids and this football program, and she was the kind of person that would not want us to sit around and kind of look back at the things

loss. And that’s what has kept Ron going. “Each day, you face little battles, and when I’ve needed some encouragement the most, somebody will call or I’ll get a letter in the mail or I’ll get an email from someone that maybe I’ve never met before,” he said. “It comes just when I need it the most. God has always given me just what I needed to get through each and every day since December 5th. I’m so thankful for that.” New Albany will host a jamboree on August 10. On August 17, it faces Ripley in its classic game at Kitchens Field. “That’s a big game,” Ron said. “People know what kind of person Amanda was and Ron is, and it baffles the mind that this would happen to someone who is that above normal,” said Jay Cossey, who is also a licensed Baptist minister. “God has given Ron a platform to say, ‘But for the grace of God, I wouldn’t be standing here and able to coach football, and raise my daughter.’” - MSM


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MSMGOLF

The PGA is back in MS with True South Classic The former Viking Classic has a new name, new leadership and new corporate sponsors PREVIEW by Chuck Stinson Contributing Writer

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hen the PGA Tour rolls into Madison and Annandale Golf Club in mid-July, golf fans will be watching a revamped version of the tradition rich tournament that is heading into its 45th year of existence, all in Mississippi. Gone after a four year stint as title sponsor is Viking, the Greenwood based high end kitchen appliance company that gave up the title sponsor rights in 2011. That means that Mississippi’s PGA Tour event, which is entering its 19th season as an official event on the schedule, will have a new name. The True South Classic, as it is now know, will be played under its fifth sponsor’s title. The new title comes from the Mississippi Development Authorities ‘Find your True South’ theme used to push tourism in the state. That name also has a touch of irony to it as this might be the truest test the tournament has had in terms of its survival and we are talking about a tournament that survived a complete wash out in 2009. “There are struggles and hurdles still to come’, say John Marovich the new tournament director for Mississippi’s only PGA Tour event. The biggest hurdle that this tournament faces, or any tournament for that matter, is sponsorships. That is a big issue in a state where no Fortune 500 companies can be found and the economy has taken its toll on companies spending huge amounts of money on events like a golf tournament. Stepping in to underwrite the event for this year is a consortium of Mississippi based companies, mainly from the medical field. Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Clinic, Jackson Heart Clinic, G.I. Associates, NewSouth NeuroSpine, Trustmark and the MDA have come to the forefront as sponsors. Not only to save the tournament this year but also to test their interest in hosting future events. “It is the first time they have ever hosted a tournament so hopefully they will have a great experience and

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go from there”, says Marovich. Marovich may be new tournament director but he is not a complete stranger to the event. He replaces Randy Watkins, who left after six years as the tournament director to focus his attention on his own company, the Randy Watkins Golf Group. Marovich is a ten year veteran with the Bruno Event Team, a well known Alabama based sports marketing company, which managed the tourney from 2004-2006 prior to Watkins taking over the reins. So Marovich is familiar with the inner workings of the area and the event. Still, this might be a much tougher challenge that any Bruno Event Team manager has ever faced because he and his full staff weren’t put in place until April. Three months before tee times. “The biggest problem or challenge is just reaching out to all the people that were involved with the tournament. Getting all the companies to support it and from a sponsorship side of things. You have a very short window,” says Marovich who states that, because of the current lack of stability in the economy, selling to businesses on short notice can create issues. “People don’t make the quick decision anymore. They have to analyze and make sure they are getting a return on their investment.” Despite the condensed preparation time and financial challenges the event faces, fans will see golf come the week of July 16th-22nd. The question is what will be different? Obviously with Viking gone it will have a much different feel than the last four years. Instead of filling their bellies with tasty treats, golf fans will now get a chance to see how healthy they with the collection of health providers stepping in to fund the tournament. “They realize how important this is to the state, says Marovich. “They want to use it as an opportunity to show the benefits of living in Jackson as a recruiting tool to get the best doctors for their practices and they are going to have a big tent and they are going to have various screenings for the public. Like cholesterol,


The Clubhouse at Annandale

blood pressure, flexibility and body mass.” So what about the future of the True South Classic? There is an option for two more years with the PGA Tour and there is a sense from the sport’s governing body that the tournament will be around for those years and years to follow. “We are excited about the future of the tournament”, says Andy Pazder, PGA Tour Executive Vice President and Chief of Operations. He also says that there is definitely a place on the schedule for this event and the Tour is taking an active role in making sure the event survives. “We have been very involved. We have a group in Ponte Vedra, Florida (tour office location) that is working closely with the leadership of the tournament board to secure a title sponsor. ” Pazder also says that there is not a definite deadline for finding that sponsor. “We don’t like to put deadlines on finding title sponsors. That is something that puts pressure on all the parties and these things are fluid.” Pazder adds that the Tour office has completely confident

that the tournament will continue. “It does have tremendous staying power. It has been won by a lot of great champions over the years. We want to see it not only survive but thrive and that is what we see for the future of the tournament.” Tico Hoffman, the president of Century Club Charities the governing body of the tournament, is confident this event will continue. “I’m almost 99% sure we are going to have it next year. I think the community is going to pull together and support this tournament,” says Hoffman, who bases his opinion on community leaders realizing what the event means to local charities and specifically the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital. The tournament has raised nearly around 6.8 million dollars for local charities since its inception. “Mississippi is a very giving state. We are one of the highest giving states per capita. I think when people realize that it is going to continue to grow”, says Hoffman. Marovich adds to that, “There are a lot of different charities that benefit from this event. It is the opportunity to raise funds and awareness for their organizations and a lot of charities rely on (the tournament) for a big portion of their funding. The keys for a successful future are easy says Marovich. The people and the business communities of Mississippi need to show their support for the event which reportedly has a 22 million dollar impact on the local economy each year. “We have an option for two more years but this is a critical year. We have seen a lot of people step up and get involved that haven’t been involved in years past and we are trying to find new sponsors.” He is also optimistic that the tournament, with the support of the PGA Tour, will find those sponsors that give Mississippi a PGA event for years to come and those hurdles and obstacles will be overcome. “I truly think that this is important to the area. There are only 45 of these events each year. It does a great job for the local economy and for the state of Mississippi and charity and people want to see it succeed. We have been around for 45 years and we want to be around for 45 more.” - MSM

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MAKIN’ IT RAIN Follow Make It Rain Sports on Twitter® @MakeItRainSport

The Effects of Mississippi’s High School Graduation Rates

By Make It Rain Sports Featured Columnist

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ach year, high school football recruiting web sites perform endless analysis on the choices of athletically gifted high school seniors. Rivals.com’s Dallas Jackson issued his article titled, “Talent Pool: Where The Division 1 Signees Came From,” and we at Make It Rain Sports continued to break his numbers down on a follow up article we published on SECJams.com later that week titled “SEC States Are Big Producers. (2/10/12)” The end results were not earth shattering, all of us sports fans in the South are keenly aware of the quality and the sheer number of Division One players that hail from the southern states. We enjoyed breaking down the recruits from each state and providing some results on which state in the nation produces the most Division One players every year (Alabama), as well as looking at per capita ratios, to see which state produced the most D-1 players per capita (Mississippi). Through this exercise we were a little surprised to find that the best states per capita were not all in the South, as Texas, Iowa and Nebraska followed Mississippi, but as you would expect the states that produced the most total athletes behind Alabama were Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Texas. Big time programs are built on big time talent. The talent pool in the SEC is so good and basically within a 500 mile radius and often times much closer. Ole Miss has long enjoyed the pipeline that is Highway 6 to South Panola High School, or as it is ironically referred to as “The University of South Panola.” South Panola is a throwback to how high school football was played 30 to 40 years ago. A town that is totally committed to supporting its local high school. A home life for students that revolves around backyard football played on Sundays after church. Kids as young as 12 years of age are playing against high school seniors in a way that may not be uncommon across the south, but these high school seniors are not going half speed. These are year in and year out, 104 - MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

the best high school players in the Nation. Coming off a eighty-nine game winning streak (that may never be topped), you get a feeling that iron sharpens iron in the backyards of South Panola. These Sunday pick-up games are so savage, the actual Friday night matchups with division rivals is almost laughable. So why does this amazing strength and speed not translate to wins as the kids shuffle 30 minutes down the road to Oxford, MS? There are truthfully many issues that play into answering this question, especially when looking at available data. Graduation rates over the current six year period available from the NCAA paints a dire educational picture in the state of Mississippi. Granted, we know that there are many struggling public schools in Mississippi, and that has an impact on the depth chart at Mississippi D1 programs, but also the last six years have been a tumultuous period for the head coaching offices and that will skew the graduation numbers as well. For the most recent six year period, Mississippi is the third lowest state in NCAA graduation rates. Fellow SEC state Georgia is dead last but has greater numbers of total players to recruit in the region around Athens. Now the plot thickens even more for the class of college athletes who will enroll in 2016. These students will start high school in a few months. The changes are, indeed, significant. Current initial-eligibility standards require entering freshmen to graduate high school with 16 core courses passed and a minimum 2.0 GPA, matched with an ACT or SAT score on a sliding scale. The 2016 standards mandate the same 16 core courses but stipulate that 10 must be completed by the start of the student’s senior year of high school and that all 16 are finished in four years. So effectively say goodbye to the practice, popular in basketball, of reclassifying to enjoy a fifth year of high school. So as we puff out our chests on signing day and support the local phenom that has his choice of any hat in the country to wear, we have

to look at the steps we must take in Mississippi to reverse this awful trend of kids not making it to campus or not surviving once there. The players and their families must take responsibility in the classroom. It is incredibly hard to train and develop your talents as a player to become a SEC starter but the problem in the South and more notably Mississippi, is staying in school once you get there. What small chance you have to get to the NFL is made even more difficult by the lack of effort off the field. The responsibility for this somewhat lies with coaches, and the schools in retaining kids, and providing the guidance they need to succeed; but the ultimate responsibility is at home with the parents. You have to put in the class work and stay eligible before any of your abilities can be realized on Saturday. Education has to become a priority. High school coaches must become more involved off the field. No doubt high school coaches have a lot on their plates daily with planning, weight programs and keeping kids out of trouble but often these coaches live in a bubble and live for the now. They are worried about their teams winning and not so much the future of these kids after high school. These coaches need to establish and set academic precedence from junior high school on, and help these young men to realize the academic pitfalls, and that success occurs both on the field and in the class room. Stop with the “Prima Donna” Entitlement As sports fans we, now more than ever, worship these kids as the next best thing. The savior to our sports teams and communities, and this must stop. From Facebook® and Twitter® stalking, to giving these kids everything they desire (this is a practice that must stop but probably will not). From the time these young men are in eighth grade and up, if they can play ball they are told how great they are, how wonderful they will become and in many cases receive gifts, cash and other monetary things (even grades in some circles.) These kids need to understand they are no different than any other student and they must work for their achievements. Athletic ability alone will only take you so far and it is an injustice to these young men when they are brainwashed into thinking they are great before achieving great things. This is not just a Mississippi problem, but if Mississippi wants to improve it lot, it has to be better than average, and certainly better than the worst. Improving the graduation rates now, could help put our D1 programs at the top of the college football world, but at the least it will help give our young men a better chance to succeed in life. - MSM


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