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A FACE FOR TV... Bully got up close and personal with an ESPN cameraman before the match-up between Miss. State and Ole Miss back on February 9th in Starkville. A crowd of 10,364 joined Bully as the Bulldogs won Game 2 of the series 70-60. 2 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine

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Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine 4 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


LEAD THE WAY... Freshman Auston Bousfield (9) leads the way to home plate for Alex Yarbrough (2) as Ole Miss opened it’s home baseball schedule against UNC-Wilmington on February 25th. The Rebels won the game 6-4 and swept the series from the Diamondhawks. Ole Miss kicked off the season with a weekend attendance of 24,281. The Rebels are already ranked 3rd nationally in home attendance (at press time) with 65,323. Miss. State is currently 5th nationally in home attendance at 54,022.

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Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine 6 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


PERFECT SEASON... Head Coach Shayne Linzy and the Oxford Lady Chargers capped off a perfect season with a win 62-54 win over South Jones in the MHSAA Class 5A title game on March 3 at the Mississippi Coliseum. The Lady Chargers’ win not only gave the program a fourth title in the sport, but it also cemented the team as the best one to ever wear the gold and blue by finishing with a 33-0 mark and No. 1 ranking in the State.

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#OURTROPHY... Arnett Moultrie joined an elite group of Mississippi State players to win the Howell Trophy on March 5, an annual award presented by C Spire and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame to the top male collegiate basketball player in the state of Mississippi and named after former MSU great, Bailey Howell. Moultrie is the first Bulldog to win the prestigious award since Jarvis Varnado won in both 2009 and 2010. Other former MSU winners include Lawrence Roberts (2005) and Jamont Gordon (2008). Arnett is pictured with his former high school coach Brian Brooks. Photo by Bobby McDuffie, Ocean Springs 8 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine


Photo by Greg Pevey, Mississippi Sports Magazine

TWO-TIMER... Delta State University All-American forward Veronica Walker became just the second player in trophy history to receive the C Spire Gillom Trophy twice, as presented by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame to the state’s top collegiate women’s basketball player. Walker, a senior from Indianola, Miss. beat out Mississippi State’s Diamber Johnson and Ole Miss’ Valencia McFarland for the award. Walker, the 2010-2011 Gillom Trophy winner, was the only finalist from a year ago.

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Mini Ticket Plans on Sale Now! #2

TYLER PASTORNICKY

www.mssportsmagazine.com

Volume 4, Issue 5 2012 College Signing Day Recap

Published by Pevey Publishing, LLC Publishers Greg & Mendy Pevey Featured Columnists Jake Adams, Nathan Crace, Brian Hadad, Make It Rain Sports Contributing Writers Jake Adams, Nathan Crace, John Davis, Paul Jones, Lanny Mixon, Chuck Stinson Contributing Photographers Stan Beall, Robert Burgess, Jones County Junior College, LSU Sports Information, Greg Pevey, Brandon Speck, 247Sports.com, Rivals.com, BigGoldNation.com Advertising Sales Greg Pevey publisher@mssportsmagazine.com

Catch all the excitement of a Mississippi Braves game today by purchasing a Mini Ticket Plan for the 2012 Season. From the popular Weekend Plan to the multiple Flex Plans offered you can enjoy your Braves when it’s convenient for you. Simply visit or call the M-Braves ticket office to purchase your tickets today at 601-932-8788 or 888-BRAVES4!

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To subscribe by credit card you can visit our website at www.mssportsmagazine.com. Or mail ($24) check or money order to: Mississippi Sports Magazine, 405 Knights Cove West, Brandon, MS 39047 *Please include mailing address. Subscription begins with following issue.

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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). Make checks payable to Pevey Publishing, LLC and mail to: 405 Knights Cove West, Brandon, MS 39047 or subscribe online at www.mssportsmagazine.com.

Pevey Publishing, LLC Mississippi Sports Magazine 405 Knights Cove West • Brandon, MS 39047 Phone: 601-503-7205 • Fax: 601-992-2885 email: publisher@mssportsmagazine.com www.mssportsmagazine.com


MSM - MARCH/APRIL 2012

Contents...

Inside... 14 JAKE’S TAKE:

JAKE ADAMS

Has Eli surpassed Archie as Ole Miss’ favorite son?

15 THE DAWGHOUSE:

BRIAN HADAD It’s Tyler Time

30 Tiger 2.0:

SOUTHERN MISS SIGNS PETAL SENSATION ANTHONY ALFORD

The age of instant information and media overkill - Nathan Crace

32 TOP GOLF GEAR

FOR 2012

33 PRACTICE MAKES

PERFECT

EnviroTurf of Madison introduces new niche with backyard golf

34 JR. GOLF AT THE REFUGE

40 IS DAN MULLEN Photo by Robert Burgess/ PineBeltSPORTS.com

16

36

SIGNING CLASS RECAPS

MAKING THE TOUR

RECRUITING

Our beat writers give you the hits and misses for each of the Big 3’s 2012 signing classes and tell you who will make an impact on each team in 2012.

RAISING THE STAKES IN MISSISSIPPI? Commentary by Make It Rain Sports

What’s Next in MSM?

GOLF

We interview three of Mississippi’s top golfers who tell us the ups and downs of trying to make the “Tour.”

- By Chuck Stinson

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.

SPRING FOOTBALL! The eyes of every football junky from across the state will be shifting their focus on spring football practice on campuses across Mississippi. Get the lowdown on how your team “won the day” during spring drills as our writers fill you in on everything that happened and what to expect once twoa-days begin this summer.

MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 13


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

Is Eli Ole Miss’ new favorite son?

By JAKE ADAMS

Featured Columnist

I

n this Twitter universe of ours (that’s @ adamsjaken if you care to follow), it was mere seconds after the Giants beat the Patriots behind the latest 4th quarter heroics of Oxford’s own Eli Manning when the the debate was finally and resoundly resolved in Eli Manning’s favor: his status as an elite NFL quarterback. A second dramatic 4th quarter win over the New England Patriots dynasty and their own elite Tom Brady will do that.  Eli now has more Super Bowl Trophies than his older brother and fellow future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning. There’s now even some debate as to whether Eli or Peyton is the better quarterback. We won’t get into that here, but the fact that Eli can be compared to Peyton, who many deem the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, is a testament to just how much Eli has grown in his eight years under center for the New York the Giants. One thing that hasn’t been debated (and perhaps after Eli’s latest historic season it should) is whether Eli has eclipsed his father Archie Manning’s legend as the greatest player ever to play for Ole Miss? Undoubtedly, Archie is the most famous of all Rebels. The 18 mph speed limit on campus was posted in his honor. His popularity and status as the figurehead of Ole Miss athletics was solidified more than ever just this year when he was handselected by Chancellor Dan Jones to be both the mastermind and the public persona behind the search for the school’s newest football coach and athletic director. It’s a testament to the faith and love Jones new Ole Miss fans have for Archie Manning that he charged Archie with such an incredibly important decision for the University. Archie Manning is indeed a living legend in the eyes of the Ole Miss faithful. If Ole Miss had a Rushmore, he’d be on it, but after Eli’s second Super Bowl MVP it might be time for him to move over and make some room for his son. Before you throw your magazine down in disgust read on. Did you know that Eli had as 14 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

“Perhaps among younger fans, Eli has eclipsed Archie,” Cleveland said, “but among the older Ole Miss fans I know, nobody will ever eclipse Archie’s popularity during his time in Oxford and in the ensuing years. You had to experience it to believe it. In fact, I would say that Eli, for all he has accomplished on his own, is considered part of Archie’s legacy.” many touchdown passes in his first year as a starter (31) as Archie Manning had his entire career at Ole Miss? Eli threw 84 touchdowns to Archie’s 31. Eli and Archie were both threeyear starters for the Rebels, and in that time Eli passed for 10,286 yards. Archie? Just 4,753. Archie’s first year as a starter he threw 17 interceptions to only 8 touchdowns. A performance like that might have landed Eli on the bench and subjected him to ridicule considering the high expectations he played under as son of Archie, brother of Peyton. Fortunately interceptions weren’t much of a problem for Eli. He had only 36 of them in his career to Archie’s 40. And that’s with twice as many pass attempts as Archie. In fact, Eli completed more passes in his career (841) than Archie even attempted (761). The only statistical category Archie owns over his son is rushing touchdowns and yards. Eli never has been much of a runner. Archie took Ole Miss to three bowls in three years. Eli only went to two. But Archie did it back when Ole Miss was a football dynasty. Ole Miss had been to a record 12-straight bowl games when Archie & Co. beat Virginia Tech 34-17 in the Liberty Bowl in his first season. The same can’t be said for

Ole Miss when Eli was quarterback. Ole Miss was a fringe bowl team and had to scratch and claw just to stay relevant in Eli’s days, and Eli was the one doing most of the scratching and clawing. When Archie was quarterback Sugar Bowls were the routine. When Eli played the Sugar Bowl was mostly just a dream, which is why that 2003 season, when Ole Miss came as close as it ever has to an SEC title in my lifetime, still means so much. Maybe all that winning and those accolades are what make Archie such a legend in the eyes of Ole Miss fans. After all Archie won 20 regular season games in his three years. Eli only won...23! This who is the greatest Ole Miss legend thing is getting hard to figure out.... Eli owns his old man when it comes to his statistics at Ole Miss. And we haven’t even begun to compare their NFL careers. Archie toiled most of his career as the only bright spot for the beleaguered New Orleans Saints, back in the days when fans wore paper bags on their heads. In fact, it’s been said that Archie’s own jokester son Cooper donned the paper bag while watching his dad play. Eli’s NFL career is just the opposite. With two Super Bowl MVP Trophies he’s established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in a league full of good quarterbacks and is at the very pinnacle of his profession. The only way to be more successful now is to do what he’s already done twice all over again. And so it’s a fair question: Has Eli  eclipsed his father’s legend at Ole Miss? He’s done everything his father ever did and better. Isn’t it time to pass the legend torch? Not according to longtime Mississippi sports writer Rick Cleveland: “Perhaps among younger fans, Eli has eclipsed Archie,” Cleveland said, “but among the older Ole Miss fans I know, nobody will ever eclipse Archie’s popularity during his time in Oxford and in the ensuing years. You had to experience it to believe it. In fact, I would say that Eli, for all he has accomplished on his own, is considered part of Archie’s legacy.” But what about all those statistics, Rick? “No, it’s not really about statistics,” Rick said.  “It was a different game then. The Archie fever that hit Ole Miss during his time there - and the way he has been exalted since - stands alone.” And I suspect that’s the same answer you’ll get from many who witnessed Archie’s days in Oxford. My own father graduated from Ole Miss in the early 1970’s and lived through Archie’s career. If I only had a nickel for every

SEE ELI on Page 39


THE DAWGHOUSE Follow Brian Hadad on Twitter® @brianhadad

It’s Tyler Time By BRIAN HADAD

Featured Columnist

M

ississippi State has an unfortunate streak going. It’s not about losing seasons or games, it’s not about players running afoul of the law. It’s a streak that dates back to the mid 1980’s that has spanned now five coaches, nearly 20 teams, and hundreds of games. It is a streak which defies explanation, a streak that I am hard pressed to find an equal to at any other Southeastern Conference school, possibly even the entire Football Bowl Subdivision. Mississippi State will enter the 2012 season with this streak intact, and that streak is we will be looking for our first truly great, heck, even really good, quarterback since Don Smith’s eligibility ran out. Don Smith is a guy I’d like to see in Dan Mullen’s offense. A true dual threat quarterback in an offense specifically designed to his style of play would be something to see in maroon and white. But since the end of the 1986 season, Mississippi State has lacked any star power at the most important position on the field. Every other SEC team has had a quarterback play in at least one NFL game in that time. In fact only one Mississippi State quarterback has ever been listed on a NFL roster, Joe Reed, last in the league in 1979. I can rattle off the names since Smith easily: Underwood, Shell, Robinson, Plump, Jordan, Taite, Wyatt, Madkin, Fant, York, Conner, Henig, Riddell, Carroll, Lee and Relf. That is not exactly a murderer’s row there. Oh sure, there are guys like Sleepy Robinson who might have had a shot before an injury. Wayne Madkin won plenty of games playing with a great defense and offensive line. Chris Relf left his share of memories on Ole Miss defenders in three Egg Bowl wins, but there’s not one guy on that list who can be considered an all time great in the SEC. I doubt the average fan outside of Mississippi would recognize any of those names. The conference that has produced so many NFL stars under center has done so without any support from the Starkville branch.

I can rattle off the names since Smith easily: Underwood, Shell, Robinson, Plump, Jordan, Taite, Wyatt, Madkin, Fant, York, Conner, Henig, Riddell, Carroll, Lee and Relf...I doubt the average fan outside of Mississippi would recognize any of those names. The conference that has produced so many NFL stars under center has done so without any support from the Starkville branch. Quarterbacks, and specifically great quarterbacks, are the spark that gets programs moving. Elite players want to play with elite quarterbacks. Chris Spencer, Tre Stallings, and Doug Buckles, in my opinion, didn’t choose the Ole Miss program as much as they chose Eli Manning and the chance to block for a potiential all-American. Elite quarterbacks are the difference between the 6 PM kickoff on CSS versus ESPN, between front page of the Clarion Ledger and front page of Sports Illustrated. You can produce all the great cornerbacks and guards you want to, you never get as much attention as when you have the golden boy under center. Mississippi State has never enjoyed that kind of publicity, that kind of recruiting rub. So all that said, it seems obvious to me the number one question for Mississippi State fans as we enter spring practice is what does Tyler Russell bring to our program? He showed flashes in the 2011 season. He threw some of the prettiest balls I’ve seen a quarterback throw at Davis Wade Stadium, at least one for the home team. He showed that he has decent mobility for a guy who’s really a

true pocket passer. He showed toughness, taking some hits and getting back up. I think with the right tweaks to Mullen’s spread, he can be successful. I think Russell could have been more successful elsewhere. He purported to have an Alabama offer coming out of high school. Had he taken it, he might have been quarterbacking a national title team. I think in Bama’s pro system, with the wall of future of NFL offensive linemen they would have put in front of him, I think Russell could have thrived. He strikes me as a guy who would be very successful as a game manager; the kind of QB Nick Saban has won three national titles with. Given time, he can make the right reads and make the tough throws. In an offense that requires him to carry the ball 10-15 times a game, he’s less likely to be successful. I’m going to make a prediction about Russell, and I will base my prediction on two premises. My first is that Dan Mullen is not an idiot. He knows that Russell is not Chris Relf, he cannot be subjected to the kind of pounding in the running game Relf took, that the offense has to be modified to fit Russell’s strengths, to be a little more Texas Tech and a little less Georgia Tech. Russell can make all the throws if State’s offense protects him with the gameplan. He’s going to take hits as it is, there’s no need to give the defense free shots running a counter play out of a no back set, a play we saw Relf run numerous times last season. Further, Mullen will have to either figure out a way to quell his obsession for a two quarterback system. I’m not saying that if Russell completes 6 passes in a row and then gets pulled for Dak Prescott would make me uneasy, I’m saying it would make my head explode. It’s got to be either Russell or Prescott gets 90 percent of the snaps and the other is purely a situational quarterback, or Russell or Prescott gets 100 percent of the snaps. State has the tools to be successful offensively in 2012, but uncertainty at the quarterback position will undermine that. My second premise is that the flashes Russell has shown in his time on the field are the rule and not the exception, which has been the curse of every Mississippi State backup during this streak. Everybody wanted Taite over Jordan, Wyatt over Taite, Madkin over Wyatt, Fant over Madkin and so on, up until the backup became the starter and you realized the reason they were successful was the same reason submarine pitchers are great one trip to the order. Coming in off the bench,

SEE TYLER TIME on Page 27 MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 15


2012 SIGNING DAY REPORT CARD

BY PAUL JONES,

mississippistate.247sports.com

MISSISSIPPI STATE

BULLDOGS Bulldogs fill pressing needs with ‘12 signing class

Photo courtesy Paul Jones mississippistate.247sports.com

CLASS GRADE:

B+

A

nother signing class has come and gone for Mississippi State’s program and the Class of 2012 received some high marks from the national media. On paper, it was a class that addressed the Bulldogs’ most pressing needs and some of those needs are already enrolled on campus and awaiting spring drills. And it was a class that had MSU head coach Dan Mullen feeling good on National Signing Day. “I know four years ago we said we wanted to make an emphasis on the state of Mississippi and again I think we signed more players from Mississippi than any other Division 1 school in the state,” said Mullen. “Over the last four years I think we’ve signed more than all the other Division I schools combined in the state of Mississippi players. We have 13 more from the state joining our program and we can keep that foundation alive. Then you also look at the quality of players from the surrounding states that are coming here now. “It is a tribute to what we’ve been able to build and what our fans have been able to build and the excitement they’ve created around this program and that we are becoming more important on the national stage by 16 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

TOP PICKUP - RICHIE BROWN winning back-to-back bowl games. And our staff did a great job recruiting these guys and some recruited them two or three years.” Cream of the Crop This group is a little larger than last season and naturally that is a good thing. But some guys I put on this list may not be the highestrated players via the stars and rankings yet I trust what I have seen with my own eyes. Leading this group off are the likes of Will Redmond and Nick James. Some say Red-

mond was MSU’s top recruit on the overall board and I can’t disagree with that. The kid is a game-changer and has a humble attitude that will produce great work ethic. One of the things you want to see, and Will is a great example, when you turn on the high school film or go watch them play, it shouldn’t take you very long to show who you are there to see to play in the Southeastern Conference,” said Mullen. “Will is one of those players that is going to jump off immediately and does so all over the field whether it be at quar-


as seeing the field early on special teams. I close out this group with quarterback Nick Schuessler and receiver Artimas Samuel. Schuessler has something you can’t teach, as Mullen said on Wednesday, and that’s a winning attitude and leadership ability. He could very well turn out to be a leader in college, too, and only time will tell. And Samuel is similar to Ricco Sanders, imo, in the fact a lot of BCS schools offered early but dropped off late in the process due to academics. But MSU feels there is a good chance he makes it or else they wouldn’t have signed him on Wednesday.

WILL REDMOND terback, receiver, running back, safety, corner and everywhere on the field. “He is a guy that has the physicality to play safety, the athletic ability to play corner and the skill set to move over to the offensive side of the ball.” Meanwhile, James is also a freak of nature and his size and quickness are rarely seen on the defensive line. He will have no problem shedding 20 or 30 pounds as he did last summer and his mean streak up front is a welcomed addition. “We have guys leaving early now to go to the NFL and it is a good problem to have,” said Mullen. “It means we have some really good football players and we’re doing a great job of developing them with our coaches. With Fletcher (Cox) leaving early, it’s going to open up more opportunities for guys to step in and play right away on that defensive line. We are excited about that group and I think as a whole is the strength of this class. Also within this group is a pair of talented linebackers in Richie Brown and Beniquez Brown. To me, Richie Brown is a prototypical middle linebacker and all you look for in a middle backer with talent, speed and leadership. Beniquez Brown is also blessed with athleticism and a guy that reminds me of a bigger Chris Hughes coming out of high school. And three more guys I confidently put in this category are offensive lineman Devon Desper, defensive back Quadry Antoine and kicker Devon Bell. Forget the rankings and stars cause Desper was the best offensive lineman in the state this year. He is strong and mean and nasty and what you want in the SEC. Few have hit harder than Antoine in high school and under a college weight program, that won’t change and may increase at MSU. Antoine also brings a great attitude into the locker room and you can’t put a price tag on that. Rounding out the group but just as important is Bell, who may be the first true fresh-

BENIQUEZ BROWN man to hit the field for MSU in 2012. I say the first cause if MSU kicks off in their 2012 season opener, Bell should be that guy kicking off. It is not often kickers get scholarships but Bell will easily show MSU fans why he did. Best of the Rest This group could just as easily be called ‘Best of the Best’ cause there are some solid players in this class as well. And to me, we often forget quickly about the talented guys that commit so early to MSU and that’s the case with athlete Deonte Evans and Cedric Jiles. Evans is that team-first guy that will likely find a spot in the secondary as will Jiles. And Jiles could easily be considered the top cover corner in the Magnolia State this year. Another secondary member I include in this group is Kivon Coman, another highcharacter kid possessing great leadership and pride for the Bulldogs. I’ve said it before that he reminds me a lot of former Dawg Eugene Clinton and he could have a better career than Clinton did. A trio of South Mississippi guys within this group are athlete Adarrius Perkins, defensive end A.J. Jefferson and athlete Xavier Grindle. Perkins could end up at tight end, linebacker or safety and his work ethic and versatility will suit him well in college. Like Redmond, he is one of those do-everything players for his high school team. Grindle was the same as Perkins in high school and late in his senior season he grew into a solid cornerback. He could be in the offensive backfield in college but I could also see him as a cornerback. And with Jefferson, I love this kid’s work ethic and he is similar to MSU rising senior Devin Jones, imo. The kid has put on 25 pounds or so since his junior season and that lets you know of his efforts to want to get better. MSU definitely added speed to this class ala Grindle as well as Brandon Holloway. Also a track star, Holloway could also join Bell as far

Sleepers Some of the guys I put in this group I could just as easily place in the list above and that is the case with defensive ends Torrey Bell and Jordan Washington. Bell had 21 tackle for loss and 16 sacks for one of the best defenses in the state and you don’t do that by accident. He is also quick and athletic enough to play outside back or stand-up defensive end. And Washington, listed as 270 pounds by MSU, has the frame to possibly play inside or out, ala Kaleb Eulls and P.J. Jones currently at MSU. The same could be said for another 2012 defensive end signee Ryan Brown who like Bell comes from the talent-rich state of Louisiana. Another defensive linemen to keep an eye on once he gets a full year or two under Matt Balis is Nelson Adams. His athleticism from playing hoops and also mlb in high school will aid him well on the defensive line and likely that spot will be defensive tackle. Another athletic big guy in this class is offensive lineman Cole Carter along with tight end Gus Walley. Carter also has something you can’t teach and that is size. Playing tight end in high school shows his athleticism, too. A guy who intrigues me the most is Frederick Brown. He comes from a lowly high school program from a talent standpoint and is raw. But the kid can run and can jump out of the gym as they say. And Walley, much like Coman, came to MSU camps last summer with a goal to earn an MSU offer. He had to gain 10 or 15 pounds in a month or so to earn that offer and he did just that. He will also be another locker room guy that leads by example. Overall Grade: B+ The Bulldogs met most of their needs by snagging several defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive backs and a quarterback. Missing within the group, especially with four senior receivers on the 2012 roster, was a need for bigger receivers. If they had pulled one or two of those 6-4 types at wideout, then this class would have taken home an A on the report card. - MSM

MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 17


2012 SIGNING DAY RECAP

BY PAUL JONES,

mississippistate.247sports.com

Q&A with

RICHIE BROWN

HIGH SCHOOL: LONG BEACH HIGH SCHOOL (MS) • POS: LINEBACKER • HT: 6’2” • WT: 222 Q: Did you think you would amass over 500 tackles in prep career? Brown: No, I didn’t think I would do that. I always had dreams of doing something big and I expected of myself to go out and give it all I had and to be the best I can be. But I didn’t think I would get that many. I felt I would do well but I didn’t know how well. I was just trying to give it all I have and it worked out for me. Q: When did it first click to you that you would have opportunity to play in SEC? Brown: I would probably say after my sophomore year and that year was my breakthrough year where I saw the ability I had. As the years went on I saw I could play college ball. Once I got my first college offer that was a confirmation of that. My sophomore year I led the state in tackles and I said ‘hey, I need to work even harder and I will have the chance to play college ball’. Q: What is your favorite thing about playing defense? Brown: I just love making tackles and that is something I’ve always liked to do. I like having the opportunity to go out and make plays. On defense, you can benefit the team on every single play as opposed to offense where you may not figure into the play and you may just be running a decoy route and not touch the ball. But on defense, you have to be doing something on every play and defense is more of a team effort overall in the game. On defense everybody has to do their job and contribute on every play. There are a lot more opportunities on defense and it is just fun being the hitter. Q: What are your favorite things to do outside of football? Brown: Well, I go fishing a lot and hang out with friends and family and I do a lot of that. Me and my best friend Richie Clark do a lot of crazy stuff all the time. 18 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

“People are crazy about their teams and I saw that a lot online with web sites all the time. Some people rank you low because you didn’t pick their team or they talk bad about you. People expect 18-year olds to do everything perfectly and they don’t understand the whole recruiting process.” Q: Well, what is the biggest fish you’ve ever caught? Brown: Unfortunately I haven’t caught that many big fish and nothing over 20 pounds. My cousin Robbie catches a lot of big fish and he caught a 60-pound blackdrum the other day. I haven’t been deep-sea fishing yet, either, and I want to do that. Q: You got any fishing spots staked out yet in Starkville? Brown: Yeah, I’ve actually been to a couple of spots and there are some others I’ve heard about around Starkville. People say they’ve got some nice fishing spots so I will definitely be looking around for those when I get up there. Q: Back to football, why did you sign with MSU? Brown: I just fell in love with the school and program about the last month of my recruitment. Everything just pointed towards Mississippi State from the players to the coaches to the school. It is just a great situation for me. I had 20 offers and I didn’t have a favorite school growing up. Then Mississippi State just appealed to me more than any other school. I felt the most comfortable with them and I fall in love with Mississippi State more and more every day. Q: What was the craziest thing you heard in recruiting?

Brown: (laughing) Man, there were so many and people say all kinds of things. When I committed there were people from Ole Miss and LSU starting rumors and there were just so many. I heard one rumor that I was going to a school that paid me a million dollars. Then another rumor was that my nephew was really my kid and not my brother’s kid. But I can assure you that is my brother’s kid (laughing). Q: So what was your favorite part of recruiting? Brown: My favorite part was probably the end of it (laughing). The last couple of weeks were the best because I knew where I was going. It was a burden off my shoulders and it was the most relaxing part of it. Things were much calmer then for me, mentally, cause I was happy with my decision. Q: And the worst part of recruiting? Brown: Well, there are more pros than cons with the whole process. But when someone is successful there are always people that hate on you for it. They don’t know the whole situation and they get mad at you cause you didn’t pick their favorite school. But if you had picked their school then they would think you are the best in the world. People are crazy about their teams and

SEE BROWN on Page 39


Photo courtesy Paul Jones mississippistate.247sports.com MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 19


2012 SIGNING DAY REPORT CARD

BY JAKE ADAMS,

jakesolemissblog.com

OLE MISS

REBELS Freeze signs solid class with little time

Photo courtesy Brnadon Speck, Monroe Journal

CLASS GRADE:

C H

ugh Freeze said at his opening press conference he likes to have 12 months to recruit a player. This year, he only had two. That’s why for Freeze, Signing Day 2012 seemed more like a hurdle to maneuver so he could get on with the signing class of 2013, a class on which Freeze was already hard at work even as this National Signing Day came to a close. Not that he and his abbreviated staff didn’t bust it from December 5 on, but they had less than 60 days to pull the 2012 class together and even that time span included a dead period. Add to the tight deadline the fact that Freeze is a relative unknown as a head coach with just one year at the helm of Arkansas State and the fact that he is tasked with leading 2011’s 2-10 Rebels from the deep dark bottom of the SEC West, with the seemingly insurmountable Goliaths of Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Arkansas awaiting on a yearly basis, and it’s easy to see that 60 days or less might not have been enough for Freeze to sell either himself or the program to anxious 12th graders with other offers. For his recruiting pitch, Freeze had the unenviable task of making kids forget those 50-point thrashings to Alabama and LSU, that knee the Tigers took with five-minutes on the clock and two straight humiliations to in-state rival Mississippi State, all while selling himself and his one year as a head coach in the Sun Belt Conference as the right person to lead Ole Miss out of it. From that perspective, it wouldn’t be a

20 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

TOP PICKUP - CHANNING WARD stretch to say Freeze did pretty well for his first SEC recruiting class, all things considered. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a C+ class in a conference full of Top 20’s and a division loaded with 5-stars, but Freeze got the players at the positions the Rebels needed the most and in so doing managed to land a couple big names and win a couple battles along the way. If Freeze could be measured against other coaches in his same circumstances it might have been a B+ or even an A-, but alas, the SEC shows no mercy, even to new coaches with tough circumstances. The best recruiting job Freeze can do from here is demonstrate on the field in 2012 that

he can do something Houston Nutt couldn’t the last two seasons - field a competitive football team. Fortunately for Freeze, after successive 4-8 and 2-10 seasons, expectations should be low enough that the definition of success may actually be attainable in 2012. If he can do what he said he would at that opening press conference, and field a team that will fight hard for 60 minutes, “knock the stink” out of opponents and all the rest, the sell for Signing Day 2013 should get somewhat easier. BIGGEST GET The biggest get for Freeze was none other than the highly coveted five-star defensive end


Photo by Stan Beall, JUCOWeekly.com

BO WALLACE from Aberdeen, MS, with the All-Pro-sounding name, Channing Ward. Not only was he a big get on the recruiting boards, but he also should fill a tremendous need. Ole Miss desperately lacked a pass rush last year. Another signee who should quickly be available to help Ward generate pressure from the inside is South Panola Defensive Lineman Isaac Gross. A porous defensive front could use early and steady contributions from Ward and Strong. BIGGEST LOSS The most controversial if not the most dramatic loss of the recruiting season was Jeremy Liggins, the giant quarterback from Lafayette County High School, located squarely in the middle of Freeze’s new backyard. Speaking of squares, that’s where Liggins announced for LSU, from a restaurant on the Oxford Square. Aside from the embarrassing spectacle, the critical factor in the loss of Liggins was that it left Ole Miss without a high school quarterback signee, again. Of course only time will tell just how big a loss Liggins really was. What looks like a devastating blow now, might not be all that big a deal three years later if Liggins disappears into obscurity (or the defensive line) as 290-pound quarterbacks are want to do. BEST OF THE REST But the quarterback position wasn’t a complete loss. Perhaps the most valuable member of class was on campus even before signing day happened. Record-setting JUCO quarterback Bo Wallace, whose 4000-plus yards and 50-plus touchdowns eclipsed the numbers of the entire Ole Miss offense in 2011 is already widely speculated to be the leading candidate for starting quarterback in 2012, this due to a disastrous offensive year in 2011 led by three quarterbacks who spent their shared time on the field running for their lives and due to the fact that of all the quarterbacks on campus, Wallace is the only one familiar with Freeze’s system. Wallace spent a year as a redshirt

TRAE ELSTON under Freeze when he was the offensive coordinator for Arkansas State. With stats like Wallace’s and a year with his nose in Freeze’s playbook, one would have to think Wallace has the edge going into spring practice. Speaking of that offensive line, Freeze did pick up a couple bigs you’ll probably see on the field in early September. Darone Bailey (6-6, 315) from Coahoma C.C., and Pierce Burton (6-7, 290) all the way from City College of San Francisco, weren’t signed to ride the bench. Expect Ole Miss legacy and new offensive line coach Matt Luke to plug these two guys in early on while he looks to fill holes left by Bradley Sowell and Bobbie Massey. With the graduation of senior tailback Brandon Bolden, Bailey and Burton will be blocking for a fleet of new running backs. The slight but quick Jeff Scott is the only returning ball carrier of significance, making running back a big need, and Freeze filled it. The class headliner was I’Tavius Mathers. He’s a twotime Tennessee Player of the Year from Murfreesboro, and was a commitment of Houston Nutt’s. After Nutt got canned Mathers was viewed as a later opportunity by the likes of Vanderbilt’s James Franklin and the great Urban Meyer who is busy trying to resurrect Ohio State. If losing Liggins to LSU was a big loss, keeping Mathers from the likes of Franklin and Meyer, two very strong recruiters, shows that Freeze has promise in the years to come. Accomanying Mathers in the backfield will be 5-10, 234-pound bruiser Kenny Loyal from Decatur, Georgia. AWARD FOR DRAMA The award of most dramatic signing goes to defensive back Trae Elston. Elston, from Oxford, Alabama, had offers from Oklahoma State and LSU and held out until signing day to announce his intent to wear the Red and Blue, changing states, but not city names. Elston had the Ole Miss coaching staff, Freeze included, on the edge of their seats all the way up until he put the school’s cap on his head.

Landing Elston offered another glimmer of hope of the types of recruiting battles Freeze could win with a full-year to recruit. SLEEPER While the significant newsworthy signings were few in comparison to Ole Miss’ counterparts in the SEC, Rebel fans would do well to remember that not all five stars in high school ever make a name for themselves, and some two-stars blossom into what five-stars can only dream to be. The most famous example would have to be Patrick Willis. Willis was once an unheralded two-star before growing into the unquestioned leader of the Ole Miss defense, a 1st round draft pick and is simply the best linebacker in the NFL. Hugh Freeze’s signing class is full of players who could be the next Willis. Which one will emerge as an All-SEC or NFL talent is anyone’s guess, but just for fun I’ll give it a try. Defensive end John Youngblood was recruited by Freeze at Arkansas State. As signing day approached and Freeze realized he had offers to give he approached Youngblood and the lanky kid from Trussville didn’t waste any time in choosing to take his chances on an SEC offer. Youngblood just has a look about him. It could be his flowing locks, but more than likely it’s his 6-5 frame and 230 pounds.   He reminds me of what NFL greats Jared Allen or Clay Matthews might’ve looked like coming out of high school. I’m picking Youngblood for the sleeper from the Class of 2012. OVERALL GRADE: C While the 2012 class was underwhelming it was not unexpected. Freeze did the best he could in a limited span, and despite the handicap of time, managed to land a few big names and fill team needs. For now, graded against the competition you have to give this class a C, but grades are subject to change. It’ll be three years before we can really grade this class. Today’s C could very well be tomorrow’s B+. You know that’s Freeze’s hope. - MSM MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 21


2012 SIGNING DAY RECAP

BY JOHN DAVIS, The Oxford Eagle

Q&A with

CHANNING WARD

HIGH SCHOOL: ABERDEEN HIGH SCHOOL (MS) • POS: DEFENSIVE END • HT: 6’4” • WT: 265 Q: You had a highly publicized recruiting year and really it goes back a couple of years. Do you feel like it’s been a couple of years type thing because you were so good as a sophomore? Ward: I feel like it was a couple of years thing. By the time I was a senior, I was used to all the hype so I just went on with it. Q: Did you like recruiting, the attention you got from the media and being selected to play in the different All-Star games? Ward: I liked all the attention. There was some bad attention, some fans that wanted to know why I didn’t pick State or what not. I love recruiting, just all the stuff you get to do and have fun and go to new places. Q: What was your first camp to go to in the attempt to make yourself a better player? Ward: Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Q: When was that? Ward: My sophomore year. Q: Did you feel after that standout year as a sophomore that you could play in the SEC? Ward: I felt like that because I was going up against seniors and juniors and if I could play with them, then I knew I could play with anybody.

got to know Hugh Freeze and have the chance to play with your brother, did you just want to get that opportunity for your family so your mother wouldn’t have the expense of college? Ward: I wanted to help out and make things better for my mom and so that she could come watch me play and my brother insted of going to see me in another state. Just make it easier on her. Q: All the schools that recruited you for defense even though you played some offense as a senior. Why do you like defense and what makes you a good defensive end? Ward: I have a knack for finding the ball. I figured why have somebody hit on me when I can hit on them. Q: Do you feel like it’s second nature to go attack a ball carrier or quarterback? Ward: You’ve got that feeling where you can’t be stopped. I’m just out there having fun, just out there playing. Q: Why did you ultimate decide to sign with Ole Miss on National Signing Day? Ward: I know a lot of the players and I have family that goes to school there. I just went on with it.

Q: What has been your goal, was it to play in the SEC or to just a scholarship offer as one of your first goals in the attempt to get to the next level? Ward: It was to try and get to the next level and get a scholarship. Mainly it was about trying to help your team get a championship. Then I was trying to get a scholarship so my mom wouldn’t have to pay for me going to school.

Q: A lot has been made about you playing with your brother, but just how close are you with your brother? Ward: Me and him are close but he didn’t really have anything to do with me picking Ole Miss. I was going to pick where I wanted to go and they were happy with where I wanted to be at so I went with it. That’s about it. (Taurus) never did much pressure me about what school I was going to pick. You knew he was going to throw in his thoughts on his school.

Q: Before you chose Ole Miss and

Q: Do you think about this next year,

22 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

your freshman year, a lot now that you have made the final decision and playing with your brother? Ward: It feels good to play with your brother. We only played a couple of games with each other when he was in high school. You got that bond with each other and if you got a bond with one of them on the field, you get a better bond with the rest of (players) out there on the field. Q: Are you still going to have to live on campus your first year or do you get to live with your brother? Ward: I’m going to stay on campus my first year. Q: When you’re not playing football, what are you doing? Ward: Sitting around with my girlfriend, sitting around with friends and just talking. Q: Do you have hobbies? Do you fish or hunt or anything like that? Ward: I like to fish and just hanging around town. Q: You mentioned your girlfriend, is she going to be coming to Ole Miss? Ward: Yes she’s going to Ole Miss. It’s pretty serious. We’ve been dating for two years. Q: You played basketball early in your high school career. Was there a reason you stopped playing? Ward: I decided to stop so I didn’t get hurt out there playing basketball. Q: What else attracted you to the SEC in general? Is there just something different about being in the SEC compared to other places? Ward: There is something about the SEC. The SEC has now won six national championships. It’s about winning championships. They’re on a roll right now.

SEE WARD on Page 39


Photo by Brandon Speck, Monroe Journal

MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 23


2012 SIGNING DAY REPORT CARD

BY LANNY MIXON,

BIGGOLDNATION.com

SOUTHERN MISS

GOLDEN EAGLES Ellis Johnson keeps class together and finishes strong

Photo courtesy Robert Burgess, Pinebeltsports.com

CLASS GRADE:

B+ O

ne of the most exciting recruiting seasons in recent memory is in the books for Southern Miss. In many ways it was two recruiting classes rolled into one. With a coaching change sandwiched smack in the middle of the frenetic two months that led up to signing day 2012. The previous staff hit the ground running and began picking up commitments last spring. By the time Ellis Johnson and his staff landed in Hattiesburg there were about 20 commitments on the board. Johnson arrived in Hattiesburg with a skeleton crew of three coaches to start the process of evaluating the players who were committed, getting in touch with them and holding the core of the class together. They worked through de-commitments, re-commitments and database issues that left them scrambling for the contact information on players that had been committed under the previous staff. They also battled the previous staff who worked to try to pull some of the Eagles top commitments to Tobacco Road. At the end of the day the new coach was pleased with his class. “If I would have known about 35 days ago when I took this job that we would have been able to put together this type of class, I would 24 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

TOP PICKUP - ANTHONY ALFORD have slept a lot easier,” Johnson said at the post signing day media conference. Johnson was quick to give credit to his staff for the Eagle’s strong finish on the recruiting trail. “I’m very proud of the staff. I think they’ve done an exceptional job under the circumstances. (Director of Internal Operations) Pat Magee did an outstanding job of keeping a good compilation of all the prospects they had recruited. That was extremely important as we worked into trying to get them on

campus. (Assistant Head Coach) and (Offensive Line Coach) Tucker Peavey were on the ground ready to go within three days of me taking the job and getting on the phone and holding together a pretty good class. I can’t say enough about this coaching staff and the job they did.” Every coach has a specific criteria and a set of objectives when they hit the recruiting trail and Johnson is certainly no different. “At this stage you measure a class in three ways,” Johnson said. “How you measure this


JALEN RICHARD class is who else wanted them and how did you get them. The second thing is, did we meet our needs? The third thing, are the players we took good enough players that they are going to make an impact on this program? I think we can answer ‘Yes,’ affirmatively to all three of those. Some of these guys got some phone calls over the last two or three nights to try to change their mind and we were able to hold onto them. We beat some people we have to be able to beat on Saturdays, and when you beat those kinds of people you’ve got a chance. We’re very pleased.” Offensive Signees The offensive side of the ball is where we find what may be Johnson’s biggest coup of the class. Petal (Miss.) dual-threat quarterback Anthony Alford. The U.S. Army AllAmerican and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year put an exclamation point on the class for Johnson. Alford led Petal to the MHSAA Class 6A Championship Game falling to Olive Branch in a controversial finish. “Well, I can’t say enough about the young man. I tried to recruit him at South Carolina because of his baseball/football interest, but as the process wore on, I knew distance was going to kill it.” Johnson said of recruiting Alford. “We developed a good relationship through the recruiting process and I think that helped us convince him to stay home. He is a great football player. He is a great baseball player, but more important than that, he’s an even better person.” Alford isn’t the only quarter-back in the signing class he’ll be joined by Kyle Sloter (6foot-5, 210-pounds) from Mt. Pisgah Christian (Atlanta, Ga.). If either of these talented prospects earns the starting nod under center in the future they’ll have a quality supporting cast from this class including a duo of talented Louisiana running backs. Jalen Richard (Alexandria, Lou.) was one

ANTHONY WILSON of the fastest rising prospects in the South after his junior year, but an injury at a camp at Mississippi ended his senior year before it began. Now fully healed he’s running track this spring and seeing no ill effects from his injury. The second member of this dynamic duo is White Castle (Lou.) running back Tyree Bracken who had been a long time Southern Miss pledge. In the spread offense wide receivers are a key part of the class and the Eagles added several quality pass catchers including former Tennessee commitment Keithon Redding (Atlanta, Ga.), Pearl (Miss.) stand-out D.J. Thompson and Poplarville (Miss.) supersleeper Jerrel Aaron. An added bonus to the WR corp may be Justin Burdett (Clay, Ala.), who has confirmed to BigGoldNation.com that he will attend Southern Miss as an invited walk-on. Burdett opened eyes with a stellar performance in the MS/AL All-Star Classic. They also addressed a need at TE by signing Stanley Tart (Pensacola, Fla.). The class also includes three offensive line prospects including two South Mississippi products – Oliver Bates (Tylertown, Miss.) and Brandon Farmer (Gulfport, Miss.). The third is an all-league JUCO prospect Cedric Chisolm (Columbia, SC). Chisolm will have four years to play three after spending a single year at Louisburg (NC) College. Johnson pointed to Bates as a sleeper that he feels has a high up-side. “I don’t feel like we were working Oliver really hard when we got here. Just watching him on film and having met that young man, his upside, physically, just a tremendous family. What a wonderful young man. He got some calls late last week from people who would like him to reconsider and go on a visit.” DEFENSIVE Signees Johnson long considered a defensive mastermind no doubt focused a special emphasis on the defensive side of the ball. Everything starts up front and the 2012

class added some quality depth on the defensive line. Two players are expected to contribute early, defensive end prospects Adam Williams (Coahoma CC) and Anthony Wilson (Jones JC). Both, will have the opportunity to earn playing time early for the Eagles. Johnson and his staff also inked four high school defensive prospects. Defensive tackles Dalvin Craft (Atmore, Ala.) and Roderick Hendreson (Montgomery, Ala.) should add depth in the middle. Wil Freeman (Brandon, Miss.) and Jerry McCovery (Vancleave, Miss.) will sure up the defensive end position. If Southern Miss had one position where there was an immediate need it’s linebacker. Johnson recognized that early on with the departure of several quality players at that position. “Linebacker was a big need for us, not in numbers, but in guys we felt like could come in with a shot to play some for us,” he said. “I think we signed two linebackers than can do that. That was my main concern on the defensive side.” One of those linebackers is likely JUCO transfer Dylan Reda (Santa Ana, Calif.) who has the size, strength and experience to contribute early. Two young backers also look to earn early playing time North Forrest (Hattiesburg, Miss.) Lleand Ducksworth and C.J. Perry (Bessemer, Ala.) were two of the most heavily recruited backers in the southeast. Southern Miss plays in a high flying league that loves to air out the ball and put points on the board. This puts a special emphasis on defensive backs to hold speedy and physical pass catchers in check. The Eagles signed some quality defensive backs. Prattville (Ala.) defensive back D’Ante Lawrence possesses a unique combination of size and strength. He’s joined by Debarrius Miller (Peach County, Ga.) and Kalen Reed (Birmingham, Ala.) are solid corner backs will add quality depth early in their careers in the black and gold and could push for starting positions in the future. Hard hitting safety prospects Antonio Thomas (Memphis, Tenn.) and Marcus Turner (McAdory, Ala.) are physical defenders who have a knacks for getting tot he ball in the run and pass game. Overall Grade: B+ Considering the circumstances that Johnson and his staff faced over the month or so they had to ink the 2012 class, it was a solid effort. The Eagles addressed needs at linebacker, receiver and along both lines. They also got a foot hold back into Mississippi that had faltered the previous two years inking nine Magnolia State prospects. - MSM

MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 25


18 straight winning seasons 10 straight bowl games 5 ConferenCe Usa Championships

8 straight halbrook awards for having the highest grade point average of mississippi pUbliC Universities ranked 8th in the “aCademiC bCs� by higher ed watCh

Join us as we celebrate a century of championships and commencements.

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TYLER continued from Page 13 teams didn’t prepare or gameplan for them. When their opponents had film, their weaknesses were far more easily exploited because of the fact they weren’t great players. I have to bank on Russell actually being good, and not just successful because our opponents spent their week thinking Relf was playing. I’m willing to make that bet. I like Tyler Russell. He looks the part, he looks like an actual quarterback instead of an athlete playing quarterback. He can throw, he can move well enough in the pocket. I think if State can protect him both literally along the line and figuratively with the offensive philosophy, Tyler Russell can break the streak. So this spring, I’m interested to see if Dan Mullen will give him the opportunity to be the man, to lead this team, to break the streak. - MSM

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2012 SIGNING DAY RECAP MISS. STATE. - SIGNING CLASS POS....................... Ht.......................WT...................................................................Hometwon/High School Nelson Adams................................DT............................6-3..........................289.....................................................................Brandon, Miss. (Brandon HS) Quadry Antoine.............................. S.............................5-9........................... 211......................................................... Belle Chasse, LA (Belle Chasse HS) Devon Bell.........................................K.............................6-2.......................... 185........................................................Vicksburg, MS (Warren Central HS) Torrey Bell....................................... DE............................6-5..........................230.................................................. Kenner, LA (John Curtis Christian HS) Beniquez Brown............................LB............................ 6-1..........................209....................................................................... Florence, AL (Florence HS) Frederick Brown...........................WR.......................... 6-0..........................175............................................................................Jackson, MS (Jim Hill HS) Richie Brown...................................LB............................6-2.......................... 225.......................................................... Long Beach, MS (Long Beach HS) Ryan Brown.................................... DE........................... 6-4..........................240.............................................New Orleans, LA (Archbishop Shaw HS) Cole Carter..................................... OL............................6-5..........................280................................................................. Caledonia, MS (Caledonia HS) Kivon Coman................................. DB............................5-11.......................... 185........................................................................Sheffield, AL (Florence HS) Devon Desper................................ OL............................6-3......................... 300........................................................ Madison, MS (Madison Central HS) Deonte Evans................................. RB...........................5-10......................... 190.......................................................................McComb, MS (McComb HS) Xavier Grindle................................ RB...........................5-10......................... 185................................................................Columbia, MS (East Marion HS) Brandon Holloway.......................WR...........................5-7.......................... 165................................................................................ Tampa, FL (Alonso HS) Nick James......................................DT........................... 6-4..........................330......................................................... Long Beach, MS (Long Beach HS) A.J. Jefferson................................. DE............................6-2..........................245......................................................................Summit, MS (North Pike HS) Cedric Jiles..................................... CB...........................5-10......................... 170.............................................................................. Clinton, MS (Clinton HS) Adarrius Perkins............................TE............................ 6-1..........................207................................................. Hattiesburg, MS (Forrest County AHS) Will Redmond.................................. S.............................5-11.......................... 170................................................................................ Memphis, TN (East HS) Artimas Samuel..............................TE............................6-2.......................... 212.........................................................................Columbus, GA (Carver HS) Nick Schuessler............................. QB........................... 6-4.......................... 190..................................................................... Loganville, GA (Grayson HS) Gus Walley.......................................TE............................6-3..........................224.............................................................Richton, MS (Greene County HS) Jordan Washington......................DT........................... 6-0.........................270........................................................Sugar Hill, GA (North Gwinnett HS)

OLE MISS - SIGNING CLASS POS....................... Ht.......................WT...................................................................Hometwon/High School Trae Elston...................................... DB........................... 6-0......................... 183....................................................................................Oxford, Ala. (Oxford) Kenno Loyal.................................... RB...........................5-10.........................234.............................................................................. Decatur, Ga. (Columbia) Issac Gross...................................... DL............................6-3..........................270................................................................ Batesville, Miss. (South Panola) Temario Strong............................. DL............................ 6-1.......................... 210................................................................ Batesville, Miss. (South Panola) Mike Hilton..................................... ATH..........................5-9...........................175................................................................ Fayetteville, Ga. (Sandy Creek) Cody Core.......................................WR...........................6-3.......................... 173..................................................................................Auburn, Ala. (Auburn) Quintavius Burdette................... ATH.........................5-10......................... 180......................................................................Senatobia, Miss. (Senatobia) I’Tavius Mathers............................. RB........................... 6-0......................... 195................................................................Mufreesboro, Tenn. (Blackman) Jaylen Walton................................ RB............................5-8.......................... 164....................................................................... Memphis, Tenn. (Ridgeway) Ben Still............................................ OL........................... 6-4..........................295.................................... Memphis, Tenn. (Memphis University School) Channing Ward............................. DL........................... 6-4..........................250..................................................................... Aberdeen, Miss. (Aberdeen) John Youngblood......................... DL............................6-5..........................230.......................................................... Trussville, Ala. (Hewitt-Trussvilee) Robert Conyers............................. OL............................6-5.......................... 277................................................................................. Miami, Fla. (Braddock) Darone Bailey................................ OL............................6-6.......................... 315.............................................................. Cleveland, Miss. (Coahoma C.C.) Pierce Burton................................. OL............................6-7..........................290..........................Sacramento, Calif. (City College of San Francisco) Dehendret Collins......................... DB............................5-11...........................175....................................................Meadville, Miss. (Copiah-Lincoln C.C.) Bo Wallace...................................... QB............................6-5.......................... 210.......................................................Pulaski, Tenn. (East Mississippi C.C.)

SOUTHERN MISS - SIGNING CLASS POS....................... Ht.......................WT...................................................................Hometwon/High School Kyle Sloter....................................... 6’5...........................200......................... QB.................................. Mount Pisgah Christian (GA)/Johns Creek, GA Kalan Reed...................................... 6’0...........................180...........................CB......................................... Briarwood Christian (AL)/Birmingham, AL Dalvin Craft..................................... 6’3........................... 290..........................DL.......................................................... Escambia Co. HS (AL)/Atmore, AL Jalen Richard................................ 5’10..........................200..........................RB............................................Peabody Magnet HS (LA)/Alexandria, LA Wil Freeman................................... 6’7........................... 260..........................DL............................................North West Rankin HS (MS)/Flowood, MS Oliver Bates.................................... 6’3........................... 274..........................OL.......................................................... Tylertown HS (MS)/Tylertown, MS Brandon Farmer........................... 6’3........................... 325..........................OL.................................................Harrison Central HS (MS)/Gulfport, MS Lelland Ducksworth.................... 6’3............................215...........................LB................................................ North Forrest HS (MS)/Hattiesburg, MS D.J. Thompson............................... 6’4........................... 190..........................WR.............................................................................. Pearl HS (MS)/Pearl, MS Stanley Tart..................................... 6’4........................... 240.......................... TE............................................................. Escambia HS (FL)/Pensacola, FL Cedric Chisolm.............................. 6’5........................... 270..........................OL............................................... Louisburg College (NC)/Charleston, SC De’Ante Lawrence........................ 6’2........................... 220........................... S................................................................. Prattville HS (AL)/Prattville, AL Tyre Bracken.................................. 5’8............................185...........................RB................................................White Castle HS (LA)/White Castle, LA DeBarrius Miller..............................6’1............................170...........................CB.........................................................Peach Co. HS (GA)/Fort Valley, GA C.J. Perry, Jr.................................... 6’2........................... 225..........................LB................................................Bessemer Academy (AL)/Bessemer, AL Keithon Redding........................... 6’2...........................200.........................WR............................................................... Columbia HS (GA)/Decatur, GA Anthony Alford............................. 6’0..........................200......................... QB.............................................................................. Petal HS (MS)/Petal, MS Jerry McCorvey............................. 6’4........................... 230..........................DL...........................................................Vancleave HS (MS)/Vancleave, MS Antonio Thomas, Jr..................... 6’0...........................195...........................CB.........................................................Whitehaven HS (TN)/Memphis, TN Roderick Henderson................... 6’2........................... 327..........................DL............................................ Carver-Montgomery HS/Montgomery, AL Jarell Aaron.................................... 6’6............................185..........................WR........................................................ Poplarville HS (MS)/Poplarville, MS Marcus Turner................................ 5’11............................210...........................DB................................................................. McAdory HS (AL)/McCalla, AL Anthony Wilson............................ 6’5........................... 230..........................DL.................................................................Jones Co. JC (MS)/Midfield, AL 28 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE


Fallen Oak Golf Club, Saucier, Mississippi MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 29


THE 19TH HOLE - Commentary

Tiger 2.0: The Age of Instant Information and Media Overkill By NATHAN CRACE Featured Golf Columnist

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et me begin by stating that I understand Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers of all time and I understand that he literally changed professional golf when he exploded onto the scene winning the 1997 Masters in record fashion. People who never watched golf on TV or even thought about watching golf were tuning in when Tiger held or was near the lead on the weekends. More juniors took up the game than ever before and golf suddenly became “cool” to an entire new generation. He forced other professional golfers to step up their games, get in better shape, and perform at a higher level to compete. Audiences began to swell and purses at PGA Tour events exploded with new TV contracts and sponsors fighting over each other to grab prime advertising spots. He won the “Tiger Slam” when he held all four major titles at once (even though it did roll over a year-and-a-quarter span) and is still in the hunt for Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors—Tiger has 14 as of this writing. And the fact that I even feel compelled to state “as of this writing” because he might win the 2012 Masters before the next issue of this magazine goes to print is telling enough of his ability…. That being said, we all know the problems Tiger has had to deal with in his personal life and, because it is his personal life, I’m not going to delve into that here. That’s his personal life and none of my business. Then he split with Hank Haney and started working with Sean Foley as a swing coach and began re-tooling his game yet again in pursuit of perfection. I think it is the 406th time he has re-worked his swing from scratch since 1997, but I lose count. It’s my personal opinion that he needs to give Butch Harmon a call and get back to where he started, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt since he’s won 71 times on the PGA Tour (again, as of this writing) to my zero. With his injuries, swing changes, and personal life issues no doubt dragging on him, the sports world was as gid30 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

I don’t think people really dislike Tiger the person/player as much as they are just tired of being beat over the head with Tiger the persona in print, on television, and everywhere else you look. And it hasn’t let up while he’s been away. dy as a child at Christmas when he came back early from knee surgery at the end of the 2011 season to play in a few events in preparation for a “full” schedule in 2012. I too was happy to see him back with his issues behind him and back to work on the course. Now let me get to the point of this column: enough with the onslaught of Tigermania in the media already! I’m surprised anyone on Tour even speaks to the guy because of the over saturation in the media and by the Tour itself. I don’t blame Tiger—he’s probably tired of it too. I don’t think people really dislike Tiger the person/player as much as they are just tired of being beat over the head with Tiger the persona in print, on television, and everywhere else you look. And it hasn’t let up while he’s been away. Think I’m making much ado

about nothing? Pay attention to ESPN, Golf Channel, Golf World, or any other outlet the next time Tiger plays in an event and you’ll soon see what I mean. They are so desperate to get Tiger’s face on everything possible for what I assume are reasons of advertising revenue. The Tour itself even had a promo on television last year featuring Woods in the lead role with some other players…when he was out indefinitely for knee surgery. Man, these guys are good! One of the more serial offenders may be ESPN’s SMS Text Alert service. I signed up for it to keep track of football and basketball for my alama mater (Mississippi State) and my childhood favorite (Indiana University). It’s handy because you can log into your ESPN account and set which alerts you want for cer-


Rory McIlroy has become the new crowd favorite on the PGA Tour since winning the U.S. Open in 2011. tain sports and teams and even when you want to receive them (i.e. start of the game, halftime, end of the game, scoring drives in football, etc.). The service is great and it comes to my phone automatically so I don’t have to remember to keep checking in. If you don’t use it, check it out. But I also have ESPN’s text alerts set to send me PGA Tour News— they send me breaking news from the Tour and who the leader is at the end of each day and the end of each tournament. And lately, they let me know if Tiger so much as makes a cut, birdies a hole, and what he had for lunch. Okay, I made up the last one. I understand that Tiger is still a huge draw for advertisers and when he’s at or near the top of the leaderboard ratings go up. I get it. In fact, during last year’s Masters, I packed up my kids and left the batting cage to go back home when a friend sent me a text that he had just made an eagle on Sunday and looked as if he might challenge Rory McIlory (before Rory spontaneously combusted on Augusta National’s back nine). But lately, ESPN seems desperate to get Tiger into its text alert service, not to mention on SportsCenter. Two weeks ago, if you were getting all of your golf news from only SportsCenter, you would have thought the only people playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am were Tiger and Tony Romo. GolfWorld did the same in their Dubai coverage earlier when Robert Rock won the event and the story featured a spread of Tiger and two more Tiger photos before you saw a picture of Rock on the third page of the story—in a Titleist ad! To prove my point, here’s a sampling (verbatim) of some recent ESPN text alerts I’ve received below in quotes to demonstrate my point. You be the judge: “ESPN PGA – Tiger Woods (11-under) finished tied for 3rd at Abu Dhabi, 2 shots behind winner Robert Rock” Never mind sending out a text about who won and who was runner up—oh wait, they did do that….43 minutes later! “ESPN PGA – Tiger Woods paired with Tony Romo in AT-T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (begins Thursday)” “ESPN PGA – Tiger Woods (6-under) is 5 shots off lead midway through 2nd rd of AT-T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am” Of course, there were about a dozen people ahead of him, but you wouldn’t know it from this text alert. “ESPN PGA – Tiger Woods (-11) shot 4-under 67 in 3rd rd at AT-T Pebble Beach; 4 shots behind leader Charlie Wii” Again, what about Charlie Wii or the players between him and Woods? “ESPN News – Phil Mickelson (-17) wins ATT Pebble Beach ProAm; Tiger Woods (-8) finishes tied for 15th place.” And by the way,

Lefty played circles around him in the final round and I think Woods’s pro-am partner (the aforementioned Romo) even beat Tiger on Sunday. Don’t worry about who finished 2nd through 14th because they don’t really matter. And lastly, this morning as I was wrapping up this story: “ESPN PGA - Tiger Woods will play Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano Wed. at 12:35 pm ET in WGC-Accenture Match Play” I don’t even know who Fernandez-Castrano is and I’m more interested in who Mickelson is playing, given his recent showings on the Tour. Before you start burning up my inbox, no I do not hate Tiger Woods and I’m not jealous of him (well, maybe just a little of the private jet). This particular rant is actually meant to help him. When the media focuses so much attention on one player just because of what he’s done in the past regardless of how he’s playing now and they overlook all of the other talent around him as a result, the unintended consequences are fans getting burned out on the incessant onslaught of Tiger news. I’d be willing to bet you know someone in that boat. I don’t think Tiger’s own web site updates are as continual and punctual as ESPN’s. And don’t get me started on the SportsCenter coverage…. So give us all a break and let us know about the up and coming young guys out there and if Tiger makes a charge on Sunday, let us know. But to keep beating it into our heads every time Tiger so much as makes a 30-footer to salvage a par is typical media overkill in this day and age of instant information and the sports media is going way overboard. Why, it’s enough to drive a person “Linsane.” - MSM Nathan Crace is a member of the Golf Writers’ Association of America and a Mississippi resident. He appears in Mississippi Sports Magazine by special arrangement. His book “Lipouts…the best I could do from the first two years” is now available in paperback as well as for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks from Moonbay Media. Visit amazon.com or moonbaymedia. com for information.

We find our work to be very “a-warding,” and apparently so do the judges...

“The Refuge is the best affordable public golf course in Mississippi!” -- Mississippi Sports Magazine

The Refuge. Beautiful...naturally...

Tee Times: 601.664.1414 | refugegolf.com On Airport Rd/Hwy 475 in Flowood, 1.5 Miles S. of Lakeland MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 31


MISSISSIPPI GOLF - TOP GEAR FOR 2012

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or the golfer that hibernates during the winter there is nothing like the start of spring. It is the time of the grass growing, the sun shining and the start of golf season. It is also the time that the new golf equipment hits the retail stores. Carey Wiegand, the manager of Edwin Watts Golf Shop in Ridgeland, gives the readers of Mississippi Sports Magazine some insight as to what golfers are looking for this season and also offers some tips on buying new gear.

TOP DRIVERS FOR 2012

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MSM: What are some of the things that golfers are looking forward to this year? Wiegand: You have new drivers with moveable heads that you can close the face or open it, depending on your preference. You can raise the loft or lower the loft. If you are uncomfortable with the loft at say 9.5 you can get it to a 10 or a 9. They are really giving you a lot of options off the tee now. MSM: More companies are going to that type of driver too right? Wiegand: Yes. Just about every company out there has that type of driver. Some even have where you can move the 3 wood. MSM: A lot of golfers are brand loyal but they can now be fitted for the club or clubs that give them the maximum out of their golf swing and games. Wiegand: That is correct. We can put you in the hitting area and tell electronically whether you are hitting a draw or a fade, hit high or low and we can adjust that club to fit your needs a little bit better than in the past. 32 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

Callaway RAZR-FIT

TaylorMade R9-460 trying to make the game easier and more fun for the average golfer.

MSM: When people are out this time of year looking for new equipment what do you tell them to look for in a driver or in a set of clubs? Wiegand: The one thing is that the club has to look comfortable to you when you set it down in front of you. After that, you have to make sure you have the right shaft. If you have that and the club looks comfortable, we can fit you with the club or clubs you need. MSM: What are some of the other things golfers are looking for this year? Wiegand: Manufacturers are always coming out with new things. Golf balls that spin a little more. Or go a little further, or a little higher. You’ve got putters with different shapes or different feels. They get the ball rolling faster instead of skidding. They are always

MSM: What do people need to know when they go into a golf shop and are shopping for new equipment? Wiegand: The first thing I would need to know is what type of shaft you are interested in. Are you interested in steel or graphite shaft? Then you would want to pick out a vendor. A type of club you have had success in the past and also hit something that feels comfortable to you. There is so much availability on the internet now that you can see what the clubs look like and see how they are rated. So you can have a general idea of what you are looking for when you start shopping around for new equipment. MSM: What else would you suggest? Wiegand: Don’t be afraid to try different things or change brands. There is so much parity out there from top to bottom. All of it is good quality. You owe it to yourself to know what is best for your game.


MISSISSIPPI GOLF

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT EnviroTurf in Madison has made a niche for themselves installing practice golf greens in the privacy of your own backyard or even your office

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company that has been widely known as one of the top football field turf installers in the Southeast, EnviroTurf in Madison has found a new niche to showcase its abilities other than on the gridiron. There’s the old saying “practice makes perfect” and with any golfer that statement couldn’t be more true. Not everyone can find the time these days to head out to the nearest golf course and practice their putting. So what does this have to do with EnviroTurf? The installation of putting greens in your own backyard. “EnviroTurf (which is owned and operated by Jim Bateman) started out working with high schools and colleges with installing stateof-the-art field turf in their football stadiums. Since then we have moved into installing turf on baseball fields as well. We had a call from a local insurance company and they asked us if we could install a putting green in the backyard of their office building (which we did) and things just sort of took off from there.” says Brooks Buchanan, COO of EnviroTurf.

Golf has always been a popular sport with more and more people picking up the game every year. Artificial synthetic putting greens for your home are becoming more popular too. Thanks to that popularity the installation of artificial synthetic putting greens have become more common and affordable for homes, especially in the backyards. For people who play golf, an artificial synthetic putting green is a must to practice anytime at home and help perfect your golf game. For people who aren’t golfers themselves, a backyard putting green is still the perfect way to entertain themselves playing on a mini-golf surface with family and friends. All the artificial synthetic putting greens installed by EnviroTurf are custom designed. They can install a backyard putting green in any shape, any size, any quantity of holes, with fringe finish, and with contours in the surface to make the game more challenging. Artificial synthetic putting greens can be installed either indoors or outdoors. These backyard putting greens require very low maintenance, and help save lots of money in regular main-

tenance service, fertilizers and water bills over the years. EnviroTurf offers artificial synthetic grass products that are clean, lead-free, nonflammable, non-toxic, safe and low maintenance for backyard putting greens and mini golf applications. “By getting into the practice green installation niche business has really boomed for us with high schools, colleges and public and private golf courses having hired us in the past to install these practice greens for their athletes and club members,” says Buchanan. “Now days the trend is really taking off with people wanting these greens installed in their backyards.” Installation of these greens is not a long drawn out process either. EnviroTurf can come out to your home, survey your yard, and meet with you to discuss exactly what your are looking for and have your putting green installed in less than a week. These greens can last up to 15 years or more with proper care. - MSM For more information you can call Jim Bateman or Brooks Buchanan at 601.856.7400. MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 33


MISSISSIPPI JUNIOR GOLF

JR. GOLF IS NO “SMALL THING” AT THE REFUGE in flowood

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veryone hears how important it is to grow the game of golf and get more juniors involved in the game. When Tiger Woods exploded onto the professional golf scene by winning the 1997 Masters, the resulting spike in junior golf participation exceeded the expectations of even industry insiders. With programs like the First Tee and the PGA of America’s ongoing efforts to foster the game at a younger age, there are definitely more points of access than I ever had when I was a young boy first getting into the game – especially considering that no one in my family played golf. However, some of the same problems that kept juniors out of the game back then are some of the same problems that still keep today’s juniors from immersing themselves in golf the way they do in basketball, football, baseball, and – ever increasingly – soccer. Golf is played on a couple hundred acres of expertly-sculpted and specially-maintained turf. Basketball can be played in your driveway. Football, baseball, and soccer can be played in any vacant lot or field (so long as the owners don’t know you’re there). Then there is the equipment. The implements required for golf can be expensive with even the

34 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

least costly junior sets running a minimum of $150 to $200. Any variety of fairly nice basketballs, football, and soccer balls cost about $15 at your local mass merchant retailer and a decent glove and a couple of baseballs will run you about $30 at said store. So just as it was ten, twenty and fifty years ago, access and cost are the two main factors prohibiting juniors from being introduced to the game. The First Tee has made great strides, but not every community has a chapter. The PGA of America does admirable work, but not every course has a PGA member on staff. However, one public course in the Greater Jackson area has picked up the gauntlet to challenge the barriers that keep kids from getting started. The Refuge in Flowood first opened its doors in 1998 and was soon known as the “Best Purely Public Course in Mississippi.” But what may go unnoticed by the tens of thousands of adult golfers who enjoy the course each year is the three-hole course between the first tee and the parking lot. The “Wee Links” as it is called is a par-three course designed and built specifically for junior golfers to play the game on a course that mimics the regulation course—just on a smaller scale. The course has the look and feel of a regula-

tion course and the first hole even features a bunker flanking the left side of the green. The cost to play the Wee Links is a very reasonable FREE. That’s right, there’s no charge to play the Wee Links, although – to reduce wear and tear on the short course and keep it available for play – older teens and adults are prohibited from playing the course without a junior golfer playing with them. As the management likes to say “Adults are not permitted without CHILD supervision.” But this upscale daily fee course a stone’s throw from the Jackson International Airport is not resting on its laurels with the Wee Links. In late 2011, The Refuge stepped up its commitment to junior golf with the introduction of the first US Kids Golf course in the Jackson area! The Refuge and US Kids Golf partnered for a great new program that The Refuge calls the “Family Fun Five.” With the Family Fun Five, an adult can bring their junior golfer to the course in the afternoon (starting 30 minutes after Sunset Rates begin) and play the first five holes (because they return back to the clubhouse) with cart for a ridiculously inexpensive fee. In fact, most people will spend more on some drinks and snacks in the grill before they head out than they will on the Family Fun Five fee. And the best part is each of the first five holes features two US Kids Golf plaques in the fairway that serve as teeing grounds for the juniors! No more playing from the forward tee for an 8 year-old or (as I used to do) teeing it up in some random spot in the fairway for the juniors to start each hole. Each of the first five holes at The Refuge now features two US Kids Golf tees (gold and blue) based on the junior golfer’s age and ability and you can even pick up a Family Fun Five scorecard to teach your junior golfer how to keep his or her score. Now you can play your course and they can play their course together! What a great idea! So if you have a junior golfer or a junior golfer wannabe, or you want to introduce your child or grandchild to golf, or maybe you just need an excuse to spend more quality time on the course with your little ones, head to The Refuge on Airport Road in Flowood. Here’s my recommendation: once you register in the golf shop, start out on the Wee Links for a warm-up, then load up and take a shot at the Family Fun Five. I can’t guarantee your score, but I can guarantee you’ll both have the time of your life playing golf. And you’ll be sowing the seeds for a game they can enjoy for a lifetime! - MSM For more information, visit www.refugegolf. com or call 601-664-1414.


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MISSISSIPPI GOLF

MAKING THE TOUR Trying to make the PGA Tour can be a lifelong endeavor. We talked to three Mississippi hopefuls about what it takes to make the cut.

Story by Chuck Stinson Photos courtesy TREY DENTON, LSU Sports Information Office, AND THE MS GOLF ASSOCIATION

CHAD GINN

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linton native Chad Ginn has a dream. One that most people would have given up on by now. Still, 20 years into it, Ginn pursues his passion of playing on the PGA Tour. “You grind it out and never give up. You never know what that next shot is going to produce,” said the former Mississippi State golfer. After winning two State Amateur titles (‘92&94), Ginn has been playing on mini tours most of the time since he graduated in 1993. He has reached the finals of the Tour’s Q school three times and has had varying levels of success on most of the tours he has played, racking up, in the neighborhood of, ten wins on the different tours. “I’ve been able to provide a living for myself without many sponsors and just to see the successes year in and year out and the positive results and the consistency. I’m just hoping I can reach the next level with it.” Madison’s Trey Denton has the same dream as Ginn. Denton, who played collegiality at Arizona and won the State Am in 2008 just before turning pro will be on the Canadian Tour for the fourth straight year in 2012. He too is doing what he loves. “The saying on our tour is ‘You’re about three weeks away from playing on the PGA Tour.’ You win two tournaments and you get a sponsor’s exemption and you play well, then anything can happen.” Rett Crowder tried professional golf twice. The former

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“Our coach at Arizona used to tell us that the leading money winners hit more greens than anyone else. If you are hitting a lot of greens and you’ve got your putter working well for a couple of weeks that is all it takes.” - Trey Denton

Trey Denton

“At the mini tour level you are basically furnishing the pot. With $1,200 entry fees, you better make a check. If you win 15, 20 or 25 thousand, that might as well been a million dollars to me.” - Chad Ginn LSU Tiger won the state am in 1993 and then, after getting his amateur status back, went on a tear winning 5 of six state crowns between 1998 and 2003, including a state am record 16 stroke win at Dancing Rabbit in 1998. That string of successes helped his decision to give it another try from 2003-2007. “From about 1997 to 2003 I was getting the opportunity to play a lot of amateur golf and I was playing well. I had won several state amateur titles and competed in national tournaments like the Mid-Am. In the summer of 2003 I wasn’t

having a whole lot of fun at work and was afforded the opportunity and said let’s give it a shot. If I do make it great, if I don’t I could always go back to work. “ These three golfers are some of the best that Mississippi has seen in recent years and their struggles to make it to the top of the golf world prove just how hard it is to make it. Each has his own philosophy on what makes the difference between a guy on the tour and a guy trying to get to the tour. “My theory is you take the top 50 guys off the PGA tour

and they are there year in and year out generally speaking. You take the next 75 or 100 tour players, the Nationwide Tour guys and the top 20% off these mini tours and there is not a lot of difference. You see the same faces back at Tour school every year jockeying for those jobs. You say what is the difference, and it probably comes down to less than a shot a day really. They are better drivers of the ball and generally speaking the best putters are the ones making the most money in golf. It really is a fine line”, says Crowder who had to give up on making the tour after an auto accident. “I felt as long as I was improving and moving forwards I was going to stay after it. Then I got hurt in August of 2007. I had a wreck and I certainly couldn’t go to tour school that year and decided it was going to be too hard to get back”. Denton takes a page out of the book from his days at Arizona. “Our coach at Arizona used to tell us that the leading money winners hit more greens than anyone else. If you are hitting a lot of greens and you’ve got your putter working well for a couple of weeks that is all it takes.” Denton, who has always liked the creative aspect of shot making, says that you don’t make the PGA Tour these days by just being a good player. You have to work at all aspects of yourself as well as your game. “It is practice, working out and playing. You have to do all three these days for sure. Over the past couple of months, I have been playing around here. Usually about 7am I work out for about an hour three days a week. Go home and shower and go home and practice for a few hours and then play. You’re done around MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 37


Photo courtesy LSU Sports Information

“I thought I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go play. I made some good friends along the way from coast to coast. I enjoyed all aspects of it, working on the game, practicing, and certainly competing” - Rett Crowder five.” Ginn sees it as three things that carry guys to the next level. Three things that he tries to keep in mind every round. “It is 100 yards and in, the attitude (confidence) and the course management. These young kids today can hit it so much farther. You’ve got a lot of guys that can only stay in the round so long with their mind and they are done. That is just one thing I try to rely on is keeping a positive attitude and hanging in there every round. Just grinding it out and knowing that is going to keep me in it. Ginn grew up the son of club pro and PGA rules official Arvin Ginn. So he is well versed in what is needed to succeed. Especially now since he is one of the older guys trying to compete day in and day out with the young guns with the same aspirations of PGA Tour fame and fortune that fill out a tournament pairing’s sheet these days. “Age is creeping up on me”, he says with a laugh. “I will be 42 this year. Staying physically fit and keeping that mental focus are important. Trying to stay mentally tough. If I am not physically ready I’m not going to have the confidence to go play.” The mental part of the game might be the toughest, especially playing on the mini tours where you are in charge of everything that has to do with your game on and off the course and most of the time playing to keep your own money. “At the mini tour level you are basically furnishing the pot. With $1,200 entry fees, you better make a check. If you win 15, 20 or 25 thousand, that might as well been a million dollars to me. The hardest pressure I have felt, and I tell people this all the time,

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RETT CROWDER

is on Friday’s just trying to make a cut. That is the hardest golf to play in my opinion. I say it is the fairest thing in the world because it is just you and the score. You can’t come in and blame it on a teammate or a co-worker at the end of the week it is just you and the score. The low guys get paid and the other ones don’t. ” says Crowder who estimates he made 80% of the cuts at tournaments he played in during his second venture into pro golf. Ginn too looks at it with from ‘the bottom line’,” If I can make a profit every week. You are going to miss cuts here or there and it just makes you play harder the next week. “ All admit that the grind of playing on the mini tours can wear you down mentally and physically. Still none of the three would give up the experience because while being on Tour is the ultimate goal, the pursuit is not just about the Tour it is also about the journey. “I thought I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go play. I made some good friends

along the way from coast to coast. I enjoyed all aspects of it, working on the game, practicing, and certainly competing”, says Crowder who does not second guess himself when it comes to trying to make it professionally. Denton carries that same philosophy. “I’m just going to do it as long as and hard as I can. I don’t want to have any regrets.” As for the veteran that continues to grind it out, Ginn says he’s not yet thought of giving it up because he simply is still living a dream of playing golf professionally even though he’s not at the top just yet. “It is the love of the game and the competition. It is all that I ever wanted to do. I am still enjoying it and I love it and I’m making money so I’ll keep doing it. You just have that belief of the good days you have had and just one good round turns everything around attitude wise and excitement. It is just trying to pursue that ultimate dream of getting on tour.“ - MSM


BROWN continued from Page 16 I saw that a lot online with web sites all the time. Some people rank you low because you didn’t pick their team or they talk bad about you. People expect 18-year olds to do everything perfectly and they don’t understand the whole recruiting process. Q: What are your expectations for yourself as a rookie in the SEC in 2012? Brown: I am busting my tail right now and I started workouts right when I committed to Mississippi State and I am go hard and the workouts are very intense. I have a trainer now and I am working on learning all the plays. I really want to play my freshman year and that is what I am working towards doing next year. The coaches want me to play at middle linebacker and I am aiming to get on the field. I want to jump right into the program and fit in as easy as I can. So that is why I am going so hard right now and why I will be going even harder when I get to school. Q: What is the toughest adjustment you think you will face in the SEC? Brown: I expect it to be hard and I know it will be hard but I am going to try to handle it the best I can. I know it will be a whole new world and a lot will be different and every player will be the best of the best. You will go from having super highlight games where you have 30 tackles and five touchdowns to college where you may have just 10 or 12 tackles in a game. So I hope to get stronger and faster before I get there so I can adjust to the game and still have good games my freshman year. Q: Who did you pattern your game after? Brown: Well, there are some linebackers that I like and also some offensive players I like. As far as my attitude and my personality and the way I try to handle the game mentally, I would say Tim Tebow. Then on defense my favorite linebacker is Clay Mathews. Q: What would you say was your best game at Long Beach High School? Brown: Well, most people would say it was our game against Biloxi where I had four touchdowns and 20 tackles. But I would probably say it was that game or my last game where I had 30 tackles and a touchdown. I felt like that was my most aggressive game and I played my best game on defense that day, for sure. Q: How much help were your parents throughout the recruiting process?

Brown: My whole family was awesome and they were a hughe help and I am very thankful for that. They were very supportive and left the decision up to me. They gave me advice and I let it sink into my head and they knew I would make the right decision for myself. My cousin Robbie and brother were also a huge help, too, and I had very supportive friends. My friends did tell me who their favorite school was but I knew they would support me wherever I decided to go. - MSM

WARD continued from Page 20 Q: Did some of the other players you played with in the All-Star games talk to you about playing in the SEC? Is it a big deal for some of the other guys that may be going to Texas? Ward: People from Texas don’t look at it like that, that the SEC is just dominant because Texas is a dominant school. Q: Did you learn a lot playing in these All-Star games? Did you feel like you gained something in these games you played in like the Under Armour All-American game? Ward: You always feel like you gained something when you have a chance to go up against the best players in the country and having other good coaches around. You learn more information that can help you. You always seem to benefit in some way. Q: They all had to be a fun experience right? Ward: How many times can you go to Disney World for free? A free ride to Florida? You got to take that opportunity every chance you get. Q: What are some realistic expectations your first year here at Ole Miss? Ward: I know I’m going to have to push myself harder than I did in high school. Q: Do you feel like you can play and make an impact right away? Ward: I feel like I can. You have to feel like you can play with anybody on the field. You can’t think like you can’t do it because you won’t be able to do it if you think you can’t. Q: What is your most memorable high school game? Ward: My most memorable high school game is when we played against Ripley High School my 10th grade year. We came back and won 28-27. I made a big stop and got a fumble at the end of the game.

Q: Do you feel like you got everything out of your high school career? Do you look back and feel as though I could have made a few more tackles or do you feel like you gave everything you could? Ward: You always look at it as you could have done more or change something that could have changed the whole game. I don’t look at it that way. Aberdeen wasn’t a dominant school and now we can say we changed from a 1-19 school to a school that won so many games and went to the state champioship the last few years. I look at all the positives and how we changed things around. Q: Your class was the one that turned things around at Aberdeen. How did you do that? Ward: We got some coaches in that really cared about winning. Some coaches just wanted to be there and now we have some coaches that really want to win and we just went with it. Q: Who has been the biggest influence on you? Do you pattern your game after a great defensive end playing in the NFL or college now or in the past? Ward: If I had to look at a player in the past, I would say Jevon Kearse. He had a non-stop motor and he wasn’t that big when he first came out. He just wanted it more than some people so he dominated because he wanted it more. I would also say Dwight Freeney because he has a great pass rush. He’s only like 6-3 but he’s just so fast. - MSM

ELI continued from Page 12 time I heard him longingly remember the days of Archie Manning during those dark seasons of the 1980’s and 90’s during my childhood. “There’ll never be another Archie,” he’d say. “Ole Miss was great when Archie was there,” or “It’ll never be like it was when Archie played.” Maybe legend is just something that comes with time. Memories often grow fonder with the passing of years, and it’s been a while since 1971. I suspect my own children will probably hear me say in the coming years, “I wish you could have seen Eli Manning play,” or “It’ll never be like it was when Eli was quarterback.” I suppose for now, despite the statistics, the MVP’s and the Super Bowls, Eli is a Greatest Ole Miss Legend in waiting. From all we know about Eli’s humble nature, I’m sure he’s just fine with that. MSM MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE | 39


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Is Dan Mullen raising the stakes in Mississippi? By Make It Rain Sports Featured Columnist

I

n 2008, the dynamics of college football in the State of Mississippi were decidedly different than they are today. Ole Miss was on a huge upswing due to solid recruiting by former coach Ed Orgeron and the excitement of new Head Coach Houston Nutt. Mississippi State while coming off a bowl game in 2007 was not able to build off that win and were headed for a 45 to 0 drubbing by Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. Southern Miss was feeling out new coach Larry Fedora and had to have felt lucky to get to the New Orleans Bowl after a 2-6 start to the season. MSU’s Athletic Director Greg Byrne, immediately fired Sylvester Croom after the poor showing in Oxford that November, and promised, like many had before him, that a national search would ensue. Byrne promised the Bulldog faithful, the football program would be transformed. The next coach would have “energy,” “charisma,” and be “hard working.” But isn’t that just standard speech for an athletic director in Mississippi. The State of Mississippi has long been recognized as a fertile recruiting hotbed. A state that has lost many of the best and brightest of the year’s recruiting crop to the States of Louisiana or Alabama. What is left over by bigger schools are split between MSU, Ole Miss, Southern Miss and multiple SWAC schools. All having much smaller annual budgets and facilities than the surrounding states. All these factors and more over time has cemented Mississippi athletics as second or third tier within the SEC. Not very often, if ever, have Ole Miss and MSU been at the top of the SEC standings, or even near the top. So, the words of Greg Byrne had to ring somewhat hollow outside the MSU faithful. Byrne found himself offering the reins of the program to then 36 year old Dan Mullen, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the University of Florida. Byrne said about Mullen, “He has a confi-

40 | MISSISSIPPI SPORTS MAGAZINE

By any measurement this looked like a solid hire, especially considering the state of MSU’s football program at the time; but what Byrne didn’t know was the total effect this hire would eventually have on the entire state of Mississippi. dence about him as a coach and as a person and he had confidence in his plan, in being able to go into Mississippi State and concentrate on what his strengths were.” Florida QB Tim Tebow said, “They are going to get a coach who likes to work, who will do a great job. They will have success because of the way he is.” By any measurement this looked like a solid hire, especially considering the state of MSU’s football program at the time; but what Byrne didn’t know was the total effect this hire would eventually have on the entire state of Mississippi. Mullen quickly made his strategy for rebuilding MSU known. He went right at Ole Miss, and claimed MSU would dominate recruiting, and that MSU would soon be the “one” school for all Mississippians to play and cheer. He held nothing back in pumping excitement into the program. He even reached back into the Woodie Hayes days and branded Ole Miss, “The School Up North,” using the similar nickname Ohio State used for Michigan. Ole Miss looked to be very strong heading into 2009, coming off one Cotton Bowl win and ultimately won another after a top five start in the preseason poll. MSU only won five games in 2009, but one of them was a decisive, 45-31 win over Ole Miss in Starkville, after which, Mullen stated, “There’s only one team that’s on the rise in this state.” 2010 brought a nine win season and another Egg Bowl victory over Ole Miss, which

led to Mullen saying, “This team (Ole Miss) will never beat us again.” Mullen’s rhetoric whether part of his overall plan or half happen stance, proved to be effective at taking the momentum away from Ole Miss and very quickly surpassing them as the best program in the State. A highly effective billboard marketing campaign used the term, “Our State” as a play on words of Mississippi State controlling college football in the State of Mississippi. Mullen’s brash tones were not ignored by other programs. Larry Fedora at Southern Miss joined in the billboard wars by pointing out, “We are proud of the fact that all the great players from the state of Mississippi on this team have an opportunity to actually play for a championship.” Pointing out the CUSA championship USM won over Houston last year. Delta State took out full-page newspaper ads to promote their multiple national championships in Division II Gulf South Conference. Mullen energized the entire State of Mississippi like no other coach ever has. Many claim his Northern disposition will eventually be his downfall; they feel this stirring of the fan base, is somewhat classless and doesn’t put MSU in the best light. But I will tell you this is a good thing for Mississippi. Look at the State of Alabama, where play on the field and off is fierce all year long. Even the most recent transplant is forced to choose a side between Alabama and Auburn, and alumni put their money where their mouth is. Now more than ever, all football schools in Mississippi are improving the coaching staffs, improving the facilities, and pushing for better talent during recruiting. And the fans are “all-in” behind their respective schools (Just take a quick listen to a radio talk show or a visit to a fan message board). Mullen continues to push the envelope whenever possible, whether it is to openly turn down a job that he may or may not have been offered, or to remind the rest of the State who he thinks is the best school and fan base. Mullen has turned the heat up on the other schools, hopefully for good. In a southern state with so much history and football tradition, the schools have just been going through the motions, for years. But thanks to a Yankee football coach from Pennsylvania, the title of the Best in Mississippi means something again. This passion, this fire, this desire to win by all schools: This is our State. - MSM


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MS Sports March/April 2012