Broomfield Plans A Happy Holiday Homecoming

Every other Bulldog regards the Gator Bowl as a holiday road trip. Not so Corey Broomfield. "It's funny, that's actually my Mom's home town, so it's truly a home game!"

As this senior cornerback well knows. Broomfield was a starter on the 2010 Mississippi State squad which visited Jacksonville for New Years Day 2011 and battered Michigan. So this Bulldog has experience with the most challenging aspect of big post-season play; not scouting the opponent or practicing the schemes, but obtaining enough tickets to make everyone happy.

"I had probably about twenty family, I'm probably going to have a little more this time," he said. "It's pretty exciting, it's a chance to go back to Florida to end my career. That's big, you couldn't write it up any better than that."

Broomfield would naturally love to write a happy ending to his Mississippi State career, beginning with a 30th victory for his four varsity seasons. He's one of the fifth-year Bulldogs who were already on campus when Dan Mullen arrived, and experienced—as well as enjoyed—how the program has progressed since. Not least, making post-season play part of their routine.

"It's our third bowl game in a row. The same coaching staff, third year going to a bowl game, we know how to do it." Obviously so, based on the final scores of the Gator and Music City examples which have extended Mississippi State's post-season streak to five victories now going back to 1999.

"We've been successful in the past, everybody has trust and belief in the process," Broomfield said. "So it's going to be a good experience."

There is a difference this year in the campus bowl camp experience for Broomfield and peers. As Mullen made clear, the first week or so of practices will focus on non-starters in general and underclassman backups in particular, along with redshirts. This is the best and really only time in a season where next year's roster can really run the varsity schemes and snaps. Call it winter ball in advance of spring training.

Meaning all those seniors can spend lots of sideline time watching their heirs in action. For those guys this is a working week; for Broomfield? He laughed.

"Nah, it isn't anything like camp! Coach Mullen and the rest of the coaches do a good job making it a lot less like camp. It's fun. It's a reward for us. A chance for us to have fun and just be rewarded for a good season."

Of course simply standing and watching would get dull…and boredom is one thing Broomfield can never, ever be accused of. So look for this senior, and for that matter others, to lend their practical expertise to what the paid staff is instructing. Yes, Broomfield loves the idea of turning coach this week.

And not just the younger cornerbacks and safeties. "I'll be coaching everybody! Linebackers, defensive line, I love it!" he cackled. More seriously, or as seriously as this fun-loving Dog gets with media, "I'm sure we'll be out there with the coaches. If we aren't practicing yeah, I'm going to do my best to hopefully help those guys out. And hopefully in a year or two we might see Jamerson Love receiving the Thorpe Award!"

That being a reference to the event State's secondary squad, and the rest of the program, is still celebrating. Though Broomfield can take even more pleasure than most in watching his four-year compadre Johnthan Banks called to the stage last week to accept the award given college football's best defensive back.

"It's great. I remember our freshman and sophomore years, we were writing down goals. I wrote down Thorpe, Banks was like ‘I think I'm going to do that, too'. He wrote it down, and I'm glad to see one of us actually achieved it. It was great watching that."

Though it is worth noting Broomfield would have made a worthy candidate himself, with his ten career interceptions which tie him for 7th-most in Mississippi State history. Banks has 16 going to Jacksonville and needs one more pick to set the program record. Add the six picks by Darius Slay over his two seasons, and graduation is taking 32 total interceptions from this first-class secondary.

So no wonder Broomfield is of a mind to help the returning and younger defensive backs to develop. Somebody has to take those starting jobs in 2013 after all, and seeing Banks accept a national award ought offer that much more motivation, right?

"It's really great for the younger guys just to see all the hard work that you put in, one day you can be called the best DB in college football. Coach (Melvin) Smith, he really instills that in us to always believe you can be called the best and that you are capable of being the best." Having mentioned Love already, who might be other underclassmen to watch this week and next spring?

"Cedric Jiles," Broomfield answered immediately. "From day-one we all said wow, he can really play. If he wasn't playing behind a Thorpe Award winner, a second-team All-SEC guy (Slay), and another four-year starter, maybe he would have played this year." Jiles did briefly before a September broken hand.

Still there is other work for State's secondary in coming days beyond developing Love, Jiles, Taveze Calhoun, and redshirts Quadry Antoine, Xavier Grindle, Deonte Evans, and Kivon Coman In fact the varsity has unfinished business of their own. All those picks (safety Nickoe Whitley has eight himself career) are big plays but State also gave up too many big passing plays in the regular season. This is not solely, maybe not even primarily as only coaches really know, the fault of downfield coverage.

So the starters see need to make a season-ending statement and erase some frustrations. "We just have to lock-in and focus each play," Broomfield said. "I think a few times we lost focus. Thank God, we have another chance to go out there and show our best showing. We get to show we are the best secondary in the nation one last time together."

Bowl opponent Northwestern is better-known for running the football than throwing it. But this is still an active spread-system, comparable to others that burned Bulldogs with timely tosses or broken-tackle carries. In one sense it echoes what Mississippi State saw two years ago on EverBank Field from spread-option Michigan, and that worked out rather well for the Bulldog defense after a tough first quarter. Not, Broomfield said, that he and other veterans of that romp are counting on the same looks this time.

Or for that matter, that Dogs presume anything based on how these respective conferences have fared head-to-head lately. "You can look at the past," he told media, "You can look at the track record and whatever conclusion you come to that's what you can make." Broomfield was only just starting to scout the Wildcats so his ideas about this matchup are based on limited regular-season game glimpses. Such as fast-strike tailback Mark Venric.

"The Big Ten is always playing in the morning so I catch a few plays. I saw the running back breaking loose, he don't look like he is a Big Ten player! When a guy is fast in the Big Ten he stands out, if he was in the SEC he would be another player." OK, so that delves into stereotypes…but then isn't that part of the fun? And Florida native Broomfield is about fun, especially in his final college game.

Speaking of ending, it will be a somewhat-different Broomfield appearing in Jacksonville this time. Along with all the wins and statistics he takes a Mississippi State degree, too. "I'm going to be an alumnus going to the bowl game, yep!" he grinned.

"I graduate on December 15, I can't wait. I'm counting down the days." Broomfield has also checked-off the list of commencement to-dos, including ordering the cap and gown. Though, "I forgot which day I got to pick it up!"

He won't forget to report to Humphrey Coliseum on time though. And if University bosses have any sense of Bulldog humor too, they won't just hand this guy a diploma. They'll toss it up where Broomfield can make one more campus pick.

Gene's Page Top Stories