Wyms Looks for Better Days Ahead for MSU

NEW ORLEANS - Former Mississippi State football player Ellis Wyms likes to call them 'splash plays', when the defense makes something happen which has a direct effect on the next series of offensive plays.<P> He and the Tampa Bay Buccaneer defense need to come up with several more if the squad is going to reverse it's year-opening 1-5 tailspin.

In head coach Jon Gruden's second year at the helm, the Buccaneers came into the game winless and lost again, on Monday Night Football this week, to St. Louis.

"It was disappointing not to get (Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks) on the ground more but we're comfortable with how we are playing on defense," Wyms (6-foot-3, 273 pounds) said. "It's just been dropped passes, fumbles or missed opportunities that have kept us from winning a few of those games. And we've got some things on defense, too, that we need to iron out. But the team is confident and excited from week to week."

The high point of his Mississippi State career came when the Bulldogs advanced to meet Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game back in 1998.

His career skyrocketed after that sophomore season's close loss to the Vols and Wyms is now in his fourth season on the defensive line with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"State's going to be better, and soon," Wyms said following his team's win over the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 10. "I haven't actually met Sylvester Croom but he's got to have time to get his entire system in place. Coach Croom's won at all levels and he's taken extra time to sort of weed out the people who weren't committed to winning and he probably doesn't have nearly as much to work with as other teams. I want to somehow be a part of that success I know they are going to end up having."

Wyms himself provided a lot for coaches to work with when he signed with State out of Indianola Gentry High. He got his first MSU start as a sophomore and turned out to a be a four-year letterwinner.

"I still go back to the Delta in the offseason and at other times," said Wyms, who subs on the D-line for the Bucs behind ex-LSU defensive tackle Anthony 'Booger' McFarland. "We put on a football camp back there and about 300 kids showed up."

Three bowl appearances followed a 7-4 non-bowl freshman year, making Wyms a part of arguably the most productive four-year stretch in MSU football history.

"That was the days," Wyms said. "We did nothing but win under Sherrill when I was there. For all the good recruiting decisions those guys made for a period of time, they'd probably tell you they made some bad decisions later on. I've got respect for Coach Sherrill and the rest of that staff. They helped me become a better person and become better at the game of football.

"I think they signed some guys who weren't ready to give all it takes to be consistently competitive in that league. I think they settled on some guys that didn't measure up. It usually comes down to the players and not the coaches.

"Sherrill expected young men to act like young men and a lot of those ones that were there after me couldn't do it. He hit a bad batch of kids."

Wyms makes hundreds of thousands of dollars per game appearance now, making his living putting a heavy rush on quarterbacks and spending as much as his field time loitering in opposing teams' backfields.

"I got some good rushes today ... several times different ones of us did," Wyms said after the 20-17 win over New Orleans. "Simeon (Rice) got some good pressure on them, too. Look for us to be around at the end, if we keep improving as much as we have in the first part of the year. This team is good, take my word."

Pat Wright is a free-lance writer who contribute regularly to Gene's Page.

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