Mississippi State preview

Two sure signs that a college football coach is on the hot seat: One, he shuffles his coaching staff. Two, he starts bringing in transfers from other schools. Clearly, Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom is on the hot seat.

Croom, who stands 9-25 overall and 4-20 in Southeastern Conference play after three seasons in Starkville, significantly revamped his staff since last fall. Former MSU head man Rocky Felker was tabbed to coach the running backs and former Tennessee aide Pat Washington was brought in from Kansas State to coach the receivers. Two members of deposed Alabama head man Mike Shula's 2006 staff – Charlie Harbison (safeties) and David Turner (defensive line) – also came on board.

In addition, Mississippi State's depth chart is dotted with guys who began their careers at other schools. Backup quarterback Josh Riddell, first-team defensive tackle Jessie Bowman and second-team linebacker Dominic Douglas all joined the Dogs from junior colleges in the spring.

Other transfers who figure prominently in MSU's 2007 outlook are: first-team wideout Brandon McRae (a walk-on from Morehead State), reserve running back Christian Ducre (Tulane), first-team defensive tackle Cortez McCraney (Memphis), second-team defensive end Jimmie Holmes (junior college) and first-team receiver Tony Burks (2006 junior college).

Although staff changes and transfers do not bode well as a rule, Mississippi State should be better in 2007 if it can keep quarterback Michael Henig healthy. He broke his collarbone twice in '06, contributing significantly to MSU's season-long offensive woes. He hopes gaining 20 pounds during the offseason will make him more durable. If Henig is hurt again, at least Riddell proved himself a capable passer at the juco level (more than 5,000 yards and 54 TDs).

Minus 2006 Atlanta Falcons draft pick Jerious Norwood, the Bulldogs struggled to establish a ground game last fall. Anthony Dixon seems to have resolved that problem, however, gaining 335 yards over the last three games of his freshman season and averaging 7.3 yards per carry during spring practice. He could be one of the SEC's better backs in '07.

Defensively, MSU has lost three members of its 2006 front four. Fortunately, Titus Brown is a quality end who registered 14½ tackles for loss last year, including 7 sacks.

The Dogs will sorely miss standout middle linebacker Quinton Culberson, who was the cornerstone of their 2006 defense. His departure leaves Derek Pegues, moved from cornerback to safety in the spring, as the Bulldogs' most dynamic defender. Pegues also ranks among the SEC's premier return specialists.

Adam Carlson returns for another year as the No. 1 place-kicker but he made just 6 of 12 field-goal attempts last season.


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