Such as, say, the Dawgs’ Bite Magazine years? Which is what we did in fact for what was planned to be the final printed edition of the publication, a one-time D.B. submitted in early July and mailed this month. Since it was presumably our last print issue, the time seemed right for our own all-era lineup…which has the advantage over a true All-Time Team in that readers were able to watch many, most, even all of the players and teams in this 1977-2013 time frame.
That also means debates, disagreements, arguments, even outright anger (we’re sports fans after all) are certain to ensue over the D.B. era selections. And that is part of the fun. The time frame obviously eliminates many of the true legends. Nobody from the 1941 SEC champs for example. Or a D.D. Lewis, Art Davis, Tom Goode, Jimmy Webb, Harvey Hull, Steve Freeman, etc. Nor the greatest Bulldog ballplayer of them all, Jackie Parker. They are up for the All-Century Team thankfully.
Today presents the Offensive Lineup, with Defense and Specialists coming tomorrow. It is a little tricky settling what ‘offense’ is being lined up since the time frame includes great Bulldogs playing within classic I-sets and wishbones of the 70s all the way to today’s spread-dominated approaches. Sadly there isn’t a great track record in our program of true pocket passing. One can always hope…
So we’ve settled on a base offense of quarterback, two running backs, one classic tight end and two true wide receivers behind five blockers. And then added a spot for a fullback since, c’mon, this is one area Mississippi State football has always excelled in! The lineup might not look like today’s four-wides set, but remember—offense styles change and sooner or later everything comes back around. As a former MSU magician of the ‘veer’ offense who doesn’t fit our time frame has commented that today’s spread-option is just an upgrade of what he did in the early 70s!
The All-American and All-SEC honors listed here are from the ‘major’ national and conference teams, not Jimmy Bob Bubba’s picks for the Byhalia Bugle. Even though they say JBB had a fine eye for talent. One more by-the-way; on both offensive and defensive lines players were picked at their college position, making it even tougher to pick if there was a third great guard but only two openings available. The right or left parts were ignored though.
TACKLE – Derek Sherrod (2007-10) All-American (1 CBS, 2 AP); All-SEC (1 AP, 1 Coaches) 1st Round Draft (Green Bay)
Here is a local boy who really did make good. He even got to taste some real team success with bowl wins at opposite ends of his career. The classic college left tackle, Sherrod showed how he could dominate there whether playing a pro-style offense the first two years and in a spread system the last two seasons.
GUARD – PORK CHOP WOMACK (1997-2000) All-American (1 AP, 2 Camp); All-SEC (1 AP, 1 Coaches) 4th Round Draft (Seattle)
Well it certainly didn’t hurt having that great nickname given in chunky-childhood by his mother. Still the name only attracted attention; it was Floyd’s play in the interior which achieved his awards and led to a fine pro career before joining the MSU staff last fall. And he even edges out a guy he got to coach for one season, Gabe Jackson, to make this team.
CENTER – KENT HULL (1979-82) 7th Round Draft (New Jersey USF)
You read rightly. Our choice for the top center of the last three-plus decades never received an all-conference or all-American honor. One reason was the guard he played alongside got the attention at the time. He even had to go the hard way just to reach the NFL, where he became one of the most-honored centers of his era with four-straight Super Bowl starts. In turn, that has allowed Hull’s college career to finally receive its just due. RIP, my friend.
GUARD – Wayne Harris (1979-82) All-American (3 Football News); All-SEC (1 AP, 1 UPI) 5th Round Draft (New Jersey USFL)
Anyone in the crowd remember the Jacobs Award? It was presented to the best blocker in the SEC, and Harris won it consecutively in 1981-82. In the process taking spotlight away from center Hull who we realized later was just as key to State’s success. This doesn’t take away from the matching fact that Harris earned his awards in his own right, he was a definitive college guard of the era and a true State great.
TACKLE – David Stewart (2001-04) All-SEC (2 AP) 4th Round Draft (Tennessee)
You can regard this a case of plain bad timing. Stewart arrived on campus just as the program was beginning to crumble and would spend his career blocking for a series of frustrating offenses. Yet maybe this allowed his superb work from right tackle stand out that much more to the scouts after all, because ‘Big Country’ went on to enjoy a fine professional career.
AND WHAT ABOUT? John James and Robert Hicks were first-class Bulldog tackles. And while he was a close call here at guard Randy Thomas began at tackle too. Roman Grace defined ‘iron man’ over his 1978-81 career at guard, and Gabe Jackson was nudged out by his current assistant coach. And we can’t overlook Eric Allen, an outstanding center and as key to the 1998 West crown as anyone running or catching the ball.
TIGHT END – REGGIE KELLY (1995-98) 2nd Round Draft (Atlanta)
In working on this team, it was a surprise—and disappointment too—discovering no Bulldog tight end has ever been named All-American. And darned few made All-SEC. Blame it on a program which typically emphasizes blocking over catching and thus earning statistics to attract honors. Well, R.Kelly was indeed a top-tier blocker…but had State wanted to make him a go-to receiver he’d have been brilliant at it, and when he did get a ball thrown his way Reggie made it count.
AND WHAT ABOUT? Jesse Anderson now, he did lead his team (1989) in receiving, and Corwyn Aldredge was a consistent target in his own time. We all recall Donald Lee quite fondly too. Oh, and while he’s not exactly an all timer, it is worth repeating: C.J. Sirmones is still open! (look it up, kids).
WIDE RECEIVER – Eric Moulds (1993-95) All-SEC (1 Coaches, 2 AP) 1st Round Draft (Buffalo)
Speaking of open… It takes a heckuva talent to coax a run-oriented regime into more gameplanning for the air attack, which Moulds surely did. Had he not been ineligible as a freshman and been able to play four years he would own just about every Mississippi State receiving record. A spectacular athlete, he could have played on the basketball varsity if given the chance and time.
WIDE RECEIVER -- MARDYE McDOLE (1977-80) All-American (TSN); All-SEC (1 AP, 1 UPI) 2nd Round Draft (Minnesota)
Just how good was Mobile Mardye? Well, he played during the triple-option era when passing was rare and usually erratic…but today he still ranks second in career receiving yardage and averaged 19.1 yards on every caught ball. More impressively, he was working on the same field as two more all-time candidates who caught their own share of passes. Had he been the only target those years, all his records would have been out of reach.
AND WHAT ABOUT? One of those two teammates referred to is of course Glen Young, also a candidate for all-time return specialist. Danny Knight was technically a wingback and runner but did most damage as a receiver, and how. All that aerial talent stuck in an option offense, go figure. And if talking of a ‘only target’ on his team, despite focused coverage Justin Jenkins still got open, made plays, and scored touchdowns.
RUNNING BACK – Michael Haddix (1979-82) All-SEC (2 AP) 2nd Round Draft (New Jersey USFL)
And if we are going to talk about wishbones…there has not been nor ever will be a backfield to compare to 1980-81 when it came to ground-pounding. It is only because Haddix had to share carries with George Wonsley, D.Ray King, Henry Koontz, and triggerman John Bond that he doesn’t own every rushing record out there. He had to settle for ‘only’ 2,558 career yards but he netted 6.0 each time he toted, which would have been a great average for a I-tailback. Oh, and he could have taken a basketball scholarship out of high school, too.
RUNNING BACK – Anthony Dixon (2006-09) All-SEC (1 AP, 1 Coaches) 6th Round Draft (San Francisco)
Yeah, like it would be possible to leave out the Dog who does now hold both the all-time rushing yards and touchdowns scored records. To be clear this wasn’t an easy choice really as the numbers indicate. In the end it was how Dixon scored more points than any Bulldog of any position ever that tipped the balance, and that he did so usually on low-scoring or just plain bad teams when defenses knew who was getting the ball. Besides, he was just such a wonderful goofball. Still is in the NFL, in fact.
OR WHAT ABOUT? The obvious Bulldog back muscled aside by Dixon’s numbers, tenure, and persona has to be James Johnson, who fit every perception of what a strong, fast, and long-striding college tailback is supposed to be. Maybe it he’d been a four-year guy rather than a juco we’d take JJ over Haddix. Maybe. One also will always wonder that Jerious Norwood would have achieved running with good teams? And Vick Ballard may go down as the most under-appreciated back of any era during his time.
FULLBACK – PICK ONE (1977-2013) OK, so this is something of a wimp-out. And with the spread overtaking the game this position has been minimized to situational settings only. That’s a shame since fullback might be the richest on-average spot in all Bulldog lineups. Narrowing the list isn’t easy but we will settle for the four in our timeframe--Dennis Johnson, Fred McCrary, Dennis McKinley, Justin Griffith—who went on to NFL careers. And had he stayed a fullback, Michael Davis woulda been best, amen.
QUARTERBACK – DON SMITH (1983-86) 2nd Round Draft (Tampa Bay) All-SEC (1 AP, 1 UPI, 1 Coaches)
Along those lines of great player on poor teams… Look at his numbers in awe, SEC fan, with 52 career touchdowns and 7,097 total yards; all of it achieved in the 11-game season era and without a single bowl trip. Or often without enough assistance to keep defenses honest. Only Moulds may—may—compare to Smith for the finest all-around athlete ever to wear a Bulldog uniform, in any sport. Oh, he also holds this distinction as the only Dog alumni so far to score a Super Bowl touchdown.
OR WHAT ABOUT? Much as I like to joke with him about being #2, it really does hurt a bit not to list #13 as number-one quarterback. That’s OK, we all still love John Bond. And while current players are not considered for this listing, let’s keep an eye on Dak Prescott because if he has the junior and (hopefully) senior seasons we all envision there might be a new #1 if this team is re-done in the future.