Plenty Of Hogs Ties At MSU

FAYETTEVILLE -- Mississippi State offensive line coach J.B. Grimes has strong ties to Arkansas, the team the Bulldogs play Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Starkville, Miss.

A graduate of Henderson State, Grimes grew up in Clarendon and twice was a member of the Arkansas staff. He worked on Lou Holtz' staff in 1981-82 and was under three different head coaches from 1989-92.

Grimes worked with Arkansas coach Houston Nutt for three seasons (1990-92) when Nutt was the Hogs' receivers coach.

Mississippi State first-year coach Sylvester Croom noticed Grimes while watching highlight films of one of his Texas A&M offensive linemen when Croom was with the Detroit Lions.

"We were going to draft an offensive lineman that year and I was looking at their offensive line," Croom said. "I was very impressed with the way that line played. When I got ready to hire an offensive line coach, I went to find out who had been coaching that line. It was J.B."

Grimes has lived up to Croom's expectations and the consistency up front, where the Bulldogs start two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore, has progressed each game.

"J.B. has done an excellent job," Croom said. "Our offensive line has probably improved as much as any position on the team despite some great odds. We're very thin there and we've had a lot of injuries there to compound the problem even more so.

"That group has gotten better. Our protection has been good for most of the year. We've been able to run the football here lately where we weren't able to do so earlier in the year."

Other Bulldogs staffers with ties to Arkansas are defensive line coach Brick Haley and coordinator of football operations Rocky Felker. Haley spent one season at Arkansas (1990) while Felker coached at Fayetteville High from 1993-96.

MSU defensive back Adrian Griffin, who's redshirting this season, played at LaGrange (Ga.) High with Hogs linebacker Sam Olajubutu. Bulldogs sophomore receiver Brandon Wright prepped with Hogs tailback Kyle Dickerson at Memphis (Tenn.) East.

He's Not A Machine
Arkansas true freshman receiver Marcus Monk showed he was human when he dropped a first-quarter pass in last week's 35-3 win against Ole Miss.

"I think I could have had it," said Monk, who needs 11 more catches to move into the top 10 for receptions by a freshman in SEC history. "All I had to do was pull it in."

It was a first for Monk and one of the few drops Hogs receivers have had this season. It hasn't lessened the confidence coaches have in Monk, who leads the Razorbacks with 32 receptions for 501 yards and 6 touchdowns.

"It was really more of a good play by the defender," said quarterbacks coach Roy Wittke. "He grabbed his arm and knocked it out, so it wasn't necessarily a dropped ball.

"The expectations are there because he's made so many great catches that people expect him to come away with everything."

Hogs senior Steven Harris, who switched to flanker when Monk was promoted to starting split end against Auburn, has seen his numbers slip the past few weeks. He has just six receptions for 71 yards in the last three games.

"Steven's been playing well, but it hasn't necessarily been a conscious effort where we say, Hey, we've got to get the ball in his hands.'" Wittke said. "Some of it is based on the looks that we're getting and what people are giving us."

Harris had one of his best games against Mississippi State last season when he caught four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Scheming For MSU
Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said not to expect any major modifications on Saturday when the Hogs take on Mississippi State and one of the top running games in the Southeastern Conference.

"I think you just have to tweak your defense a little bit," Wommack said. "We don't have any big changes, we can't do that at this point with this team anyway.

"We've just got to go into there and execute and we've got to do a better job of tackling as a defense, that's the biggest thing."

Bulldogs running backs Jerious Norwood and Fred Reid have combined for nearly 140 rushing yards per game. Norwood is the shifty starter and is third in the league and 24th nationally, averaging 101.9 yards per game.

"I think their backs are really good, slashing-type backs," Wommack said. "If the hole is not there, they bounced it out or bounced it back.

"Alabama has one of the top defenses in the country and they moved it up and down the field on them a little bit, so we've got to do a good job of tackling and taking care of gap responsibility."

Jones Update
Wittke said quarterback Matt Jones is fine despite the fact the senior practiced sparingly during Thursday's practice inside the Walker Pavilion. He reaggravated a hamstring injury against Ole Miss and has been slowed at times during this week's workouts.

"It was about a normal Thursday for him," Wittke said. "Sometimes it gets based on what each one of (the quarterbacks) have gotten in the scripts during the week.

"He's been getting treatment every day and should be ready to go on Saturday."

Say What?
Hogs tailback De'Arrius Howard, when asked about the slight concussion he suffered last week against Ole Miss: "Well, I can't get no dumber."

Autograph Time
A flood of seventh grade football players from Lincoln stormed the field after Thursday's practice for autographs from their favorite Razorbacks.

Of course, Jones drew the most attention.

"I'm a quarterback and he's a quarterback, so I've always looked up to him," said Lincoln's Jr. Johnson, who said his team went 6-2-1 this season. "This is pretty cool, talking to everybody and getting to meet them."


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