MSU football got into full swing last week with the veterans reporting.
Based on early observations, the players, as a unit, appear to be in excellent shape. Especially impressive has been the physical condition of the linemen, both offensive and defensive. Every lineman who needed to lose weight has and every lineman who needed to gain weight has.
Quickly looking over the various positions, tight end, wide receiver, running back, fullback, linebacker, free safety, center, dog safety, cornerback and defensive end look like they will have solid depth. Positions that could be a problem depth-wide are noseguard, defensive tackle, offensive tackle, offensive guard and quarterback.
Tight End: Senior Donald Lee holds down the fort with juniors Aaron Lumpkin and Tommy Ferrill backing him up. Donald has looked very good in the early practices. Redshirt freshman Keith Walker also fits in the picture. Juco transfer Kyle Wiley has been impressive, according to his position coach Terry Lewis, and adds excellent depth to an already very deep position. His blocking has impressed Coach Lewis the most. Donald Lee has a chance to be All-SEC and if he is passed to enough, even All-American. Aaron and Tommy have a lot of experience and will help keep Donald fresh throughout the season. Keith and Kyle make this a very, very deep position.
Wide Receiver: Junior Justin Jenkins has been spectacular in practice. Senior Terrell Grindle handles the other receiver spot. Sophomores Ray Ray Bivines and Antonio Hargro will back them up. Antonio has looked very good the past few days. Redshirt freshman Will Prosser has been impressive during early practices. Sophomore McKinley Scott continues to recover from knee surgery and could see playing time this season. Senior Darius Tubbs adds depth. True freshman Brandon Wright has shown ability and very likely will play somewhere, possibly on special teams. With Jenkins, you have a potential All-American. Terrell is solid but expect Ray Ray to play a lot. With Jenkins and Bivines in the game at the same time, it will be tough on the DBs. Plus Hargro looks like he is ready to showcase his great talent. Talented and deep is the best way to describe this position.
Running Back: Senior Dontae Walker continues to lose weight. This is his year to shine. While he came in overweight, he has continued to work hard. If he can play at about 240, he will hurt some folks when they attempt to tackle him. Super quick, sophomore Fred Reid will back him up, but is being challenged by Parade All-Americans Nick Turner and Jerious Norwood, both freshmen. Nick has tremendous speed and very likely will play some this year. Jerious continues to recover from toe surgery but should be 100% soon. Walker gives MSU a solid SEC starter while Reid will be a solid backup. The true freshman gives MSU extreme depth and talent at this position.
Fullback: Senior Justin Griffith is 100% after missing most of last year. Justin is showing great leadership. Backing him up is sophomore Darnell Jones. Darnell is recovering from surgery, but should be 100% by the beginning of the season. He is working hard. Backing him up is redshirt freshman Jeff Billings. He will be pushed hard by newcomers Willie Evans and Bryson Davis. Both youngsters have shown great mobility even though they are both very big for fullbacks (Evans, 258 and Davis, 268). Although none of the players have ever been big yardage gainers during their careers, they should give MSU very good blocking fullbacks. The two freshmen are a load and could hurt some DBs if they get in the game.
Linebacker: I'm not sure what type defense Coach Dunn will run this season. With senior Mario Haggan and junior TJ Mawhinny, he has two of the best linebackers in the conference. Mario is set to earn All-American honors this season. If Coach Dunn plays one linebacker, then Mawhinny will backup Haggan. Backing them up will be sophomore Tarus Morgan, a player that linebacker coach Jim Tompkins has been very pleased with, and redshirt freshman Brandon Downing. This position is a strength of the team.
Free Safety: Senior Josh Morgan remains steady at this position. Backing him up will be former MSU basketball player Michael Gholar. Morgan, while not that fast, has garnered a few pre-season honors. He is a heads up player who will be a steadying influence in the secondary. Gholar will make plays due to athletic ability alone. He will get better as the season progresses and should give Morgan quality rest time when needed. Josh's brother Brett Morgan (a true freshman) has looked good in the early practices and could see a little playing time this season. There is good, solid depth at this position even though Gholar has been away from football for several years.
Center: I like true freshman Chris McNeil. When I first saw him when he came back from the summer holidays, I thought I was looking at one of those redshirt, corn fed, Nebraska linemen. He looks like what an offensive lineman should look like, big and muscular with an attitude to go with it. Mark it down, this kid will be a star before he leaves MSU. It wouldn't surprise me if he is an Outland Trophy candidate by his junior season. And he isn't even the starting center. Junior Blake Jones has that position right now, but will have to be at the top of his game because Chris will breath down his neck the entire season. No matter who starts, MSU will be fine at center. Backing them up is juco transfer Manuel Dickson.
Dog Safety: This was a heavily fought position during the spring with just one clear cut starter, Gabe Wallace. Gabe, a sophomore, is a very athletic youngster who could turn out to be a very good player. He will have major competition from senior Walter Burdett. Walter has the size and talent to be a force at this position but is running behind Gabe due to an injury during spring practice. At the other Dog Safety, redshirt freshman Rico Bennett and junior Milas Randle are in a major battle. Rico seems to be the leader at the moment, but the hitting is just about to start in practice, so it is anybody's guess who will win this battle. And don't forget Parade All-American newcomer Darren Williams. He didn't sign with State to sit on the bench his freshman season. If two of the young guys step forward, this position could wind up being a strength for the next few seasons.
Cornerback: MSU returns their two starting cornerbacks, seniors Korey Banks and Demetric Wright, as well as part-time starter Richard Ball, another senior. All were new to the SEC last season, but now have a full season under their belts. They should all be much better than last season if for no other reason but experience. Korey has the talent to be an All-SEC performer. With new coach Curley Hallman, they will all be better technique-wise. Sophomore Slovakia Griffith will be a very good one before his career is over with. He could take over for Wright if he should falter or not be 100% from his surgery. Add to that bunch juco transfer Odell Bradley and you have a position that could turn out to be very deep and talented.
Defensive End: Former linebackers Kamau Jackson and Jason Clark, both juniors, were moved to defensive end during the spring. Jason earned a starting position, while Kamau is running number two behind sophomore Robert Spivey. Junior Nathan Jackson backs up Clark. Juco All-American Corey Brown, after a redshirt year, will back them up, but will fight for playing time. Parade All-American linebacker Marvin Byrdsong was moved to defensive end because the coaches want him to play this season. If he plays as well as he plays on film, all the other players better be at their best during the season or they will lose a few snaps to him. Marvin runs like a deer and explodes like a bomb when he tackles a ball carrier. He has the potential to be a major star in the SEC before he leaves MSU. There is a lot of talent at this position. The only question mark is SEC game experience.
Quarterback: Junior Kevin Fant is without question a great leader and is very respected by his teammates. Add to that fact that he has talent and you have the makings of a great quarterback. He could be the best ever at State before he leaves. Folks around the SEC talk about Rex and Eli. I like Kevin because of his intangibles. I saw Kevin in high school. He made a good team great. He thrives in pressure situations. He could make this year's team great. And if this team turns out to be a very good team, there is no limit to have good Kevin can make it. How Kevin goes is how this team will go. The only worry I have about Kevin is injuries. Kevin is a hard-nose player who plays hard-nose. MSU can't lose him to injury. Behind him is a player who could be very, very good as he gains game experience. Redshirt freshman Kyle York reminds me of Kevin. He is tough, has talent, has leadership ability and is smart. I also believe the team respects him. Hopefully, he will get experience early in the season. Behind those two are several true freshmen. I don't see any of them getting experience this year unless Fant gets hurt.
Offensive Guard: This is a position that has first-string talent, but both are inexperienced. Sophomore Brad Weathers looks the part of an old time offensive lineman. He has enough talent to be a very solid, even very good SEC lineman. He has size, strength, quickness and intelligence. The only thing he lacks is experience. Senior juco offensive lineman Michael Allen has been one of the hardest workers during the spring and summer. And that is no easy feat for a guy who came in last summer weighing 370 pounds. He has lost about 40 pounds and continues to lose. Michael was an All-American in junior college and wants to be that in D-I ball. If he can get his stamina and quickness back, who knows, it could happen. Even if he doesn't reach that level, he should be a very solid SEC lineman for MSU. Backing up these guys are senior Kyle Watson and sophomore Will Rogers. Will has the talent to be a very good SEC lineman. All he lacks is experience. Redshirt freshman Johnny Wadley has lost a lot of weight and could eventually be a factor if he is needed, but I really think he is another year away. He could turn out to be the next Pork Chop Womack. As of right now, I have no idea how strong this position will be. There is talent, but not much experience. If the starters play well, this could be a solid position for MSU.
Offensive Tackle: Junior Donald Tucker, after moving over to tackle, seems to be coming into his own. He has always had the talent to be a star, but lacked the other ingredients. I think he is ready to be more than a Mr. Potential. This year will be his make or break year. Backing him up is senior Carl Hutchins. Carl will be an adequate backup. On the other side is sophomore David Stewart. David has always had great feet, but needed strength. I don't know if he is where he needs to be strength-wise, but he is stronger. He is also mean and that is something every great offensive lineman has. If David continues to get stronger, he could be a very, very good offensive lineman. Redshirt freshmen Avery House and Carl Higgins back him up. True freshmen James Redmond and Richard Burch could figure in the picture if needed. Both need to get stronger, but have star written all over them. After this season, this position will be one of the strengths on the team.
Noseguard: Sophomore Ronald Fields has a very good chance to be an All-SEC player some day. He has size, strength, quickness and is mean. You can't ask for anything more from a noseguard. Playing behind him will be senior Michael Oyefesobi. Michael has good quickness but has not shown he is ready to be an everyday starter in the SEC. I wish he would get meaner. Senior walk-on Greg Jack backs him up. Front line talent is good. Depth is a concern unless Oyefesobi comes on.
Defensive Tackle: Junior Tommy Kelly can be one of the best defensive tackles in the country. He has almost everything you want in a DT, size, strength and quickness. If he is mean enough and continues to work hard, he could be All-SEC this season. On the other side will be Kahlil Nash. Kahlil will be a solid SEC starter. Hopefully, he will be good enough to take the heat off of Tommy. Backing those two are junior Lennie Day and sophomore Jadice Moore. Both players are question marks. Has Day finally gained enough weight to become a solid backup? If so, then he could help turn a potential weakness into a strength. As for Moore, has he increased his speed so that it is back to where it was in high school? If so, then he could surprise some folks. If Moore and Day aren't ready, then MSU may have to count on true freshmen Markell McKinley and Otis Riddley. Both players have shown talent during the early drills, but haven't faced the MSU offensive linemen in full pads. This week will tell the tale for both of these youngsters. If a couple of the backups can come through, then this could be a solid position. If not, it could haunt the team during the 4th quarter if a game is close. Next season this position will be a strength.
Other than the fact that the NCAA investigators are expected to come back during the fall for additional interviews, there is nothing new on the NCAA investigation front. Based on what I have been told, everything appears to be about secondary violations. Of course, with the NCAA, you never know, but I feel comfortable at the moment.
Having trouble receiving responses when you send out a message board private message? Then, you probably haven't set it up so you can receive responses.
On the front of the message board is a link called MY CONTROL CENTER. Click on it. When the next page appears, click on EDIT PREFERENCES. That takes you to another page. On that page you will see OTHER OPTIONS on the right-hand side. In that section is a small box on the left-hand side of ACCEPT PRIVATE MESSAGES. If there is no check mark in it, then you have not set up your private message feature. Check mark it and you are good to go and will be able to receive private messages.
UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS
Mary Ann has added all of the spring and summer Bulldog Celebration and other MSU events to the calendar that she has been notified of. If you don't see yours on the calendar, please email her at the email address listed below.
If you have a MSU related event coming up and you don't see it listed on the Gene's Page calendar, email Mary Ann your information and she will post it on the calendar. We purchased the calendar for your use, so please don't hesitate using it. Mary Ann's new email address is email@example.com.
Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.
Have a great Bulldog week!
Archived Monday Morning Coffee Break Articles:
July 22, 2002
July 8, 2002
June 24, 2002
June 17, 2002
June 10, 2002
June 3, 2002
May 27, 2002
May 20, 2002
May 13, 2002
May 6, 2002
April 29, 2002
April 22, 2002
April 8, 2002
April 1, 2002
March 25, 2002
March 4, 2002
Feb. 25, 2002
Feb. 18, 2002
Feb. 11, 2002
Feb. 4, 2002
Jan. 28, 2002
Jan. 21, 2002
Jan. 14, 2002
Jan. 7, 2002
Dec. 31, 2001
Dec. 24, 2001
Dec. 17, 2001
Dec. 10, 2001
Dec. 3, 2001
Nov. 26, 2001
Nov. 19, 2001
Nov. 12, 2001
Nov. 7, 2001
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.