2003 SEC Football Preview- Mississippi State

The Mississippi State Bulldogs come back on Vanderbilt's schedule in 2003-- the Commodores travel to Starkville on Oct. 4. The Bullies are coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons, and head coach Jackie Sherrill is under fire. Today's edition of VandyMania's 2003 SEC Football preview examines Mississippi State, and our staff predicts the outcome of all 12 games on the Bulldogs' schedule.

COACHING

Head Coach: Jackie Sherrill (Career Rec: 178-109-4)
Offensive Coordinator: Morris Watts
Defensive Coordinator: Ron Cooper

2002 Record: 3-9 overall (0-8 SEC)

2002 NCAA STATS RANKINGS

Total Offense: 93rd (336.83)
Rushing Offense: 91st (119.25)
Passing Offense: 58th (217.58)
Scoring Offense: 103rd (18.92)
Total Defense:24th (324.00)
Rushing Defense: 82nd (170.08)
Pass Efficiency Defense: 58th (120.43)
Scoring Defense: 77th (28.25)

Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill slaps a high-five as he is carried off the field following a 23-22, come-from-behind victory over Kentucky, Nov. 4, 1999, in Starkville, Miss. Many believe Sherrill must win in 2003 to keep his job. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis )

STARTERS RETURNING

Offense (7):

LG Brad Weathers (6-5, 313, Jr.)
C Blake Jones (6-2, 284, Sr.)
RT David Stewart (6-6, 304, Jr.)
FL Justin Jenkins (6-1, 210, Sr.)
QB Kevin Fant (6-2, 207, Sr.)
TB Fred Reid (5-9, 180, Jr.)
FB Darnell Jones (5-11, 231, Jr.)

Defense (8):

DT Ronald Fields (6-2, 303, Jr.)
DT Kamau Jackson (6-1, 284, Sr.)
DE Tommy Kelly (6-6, 296, Sr.)
*LB T.J. Mawhinney (6-1, 230, Sr.)
SS Jason Clark (6-1, 240, Sr.)
FS Darren Williams (6-2, 194, So.)
RCB Kevin Dockery (5-10, 181, So.)
LCB Demetric Wright (5-10, 168, Sr.)

* All-Star Candidates

Mississippi State Roster

TEAM STRENGTHS

Defensive line, receivers.

TEAM QUESTION MARKS

Linebacker, running back.

KEY GAME

November 27, at Ole Miss. The Egg Bowl is always the key game for State and Ole Miss. Another loss to the Rebs could mean Sherrill loses his job.

HEAD COACHES COMMENTS

"How I feel about being Dean of SEC. 1) means you're old, 2) mean's you've been able to survive. Done some good things, everything goes in cycles, everything moves up and down."

"Having a wife that has cancer, I was in Georgia when I got the call, she was very upset, crying, said she had to be operated on by Friday, the doctor she was saying said could be here in Memphis, but said if she went to Memphis not have an Ole Miss doctor operate on her. Then a month later, losing my mother. Positive thing was it gave me a lot of inside toughness. The off season was one that I think our players went through very well. Chemistry of players to coaches, coaches to players, has been very good, been able to get back and do a lot of good things, when train starts going down hill can you stop it."

"Can slow it down but not stop it till it bottoms out. Feel confident it has. This freshman, sophomore, team will win a lot of football games. We're young and talented but don't have awful lot of seniors."

"We have 9 starters offensively, 9 defensively that have played, have both kickers back, we have players that have played but do not have large number of seniors or juniors, know you have young guys. How many young guys will play, probably eight on both sides that will play at different times. Everybody is talking about the quarterbacks in this league, one that will stand at end of year will be one that has depth in the OL and DL. Go back to start of championship years, Alabama was dominant team in this conference because of players up front, Florida same thing."

"When we were good in late 90s, we had 2 DLS, and 2 OLS, when you lose a player, can you replace him? That's a big plus for us right now, the depth we have, building the depth, even though it's young. We do have players have the ability to play."

< "Kevin Fant (quarterback) is bigger than he was, in better shape, also very relaxed and really good to see him, every time he comes around always smiling, have lot more respect for Kevin, that a kid that age, has ability to say didn't like self, had to figure out how to get happy, and he did that, plus is you have a QB has experience, has played and is very hungry to get his job. When we start the fall he'll be No. 2. Kevin said coach put me anywhere want. I will have fun and compete."

"We have to get a tight end to replace Donald Lee. We have more depth than we've had, have size at tight end, and we have speed at tight end, but don't have that one player coming out of spring. We felt we had to get two cornerbacks coming out of spring, had one corner, got to find the other. Feel very confident with players coming in. Will not put the player on an island as we have in the past. Will play a lot of zone. But we have some with a lot of ability and that helps."

VandyMania Projection

The Bulldogs will be improved but don't expect more than 5 or 6 wins. 4-9 overall. 1-7 SEC.

2003 SCHEDULE AND PREDICTIONS


Aug. 30 Oregon, W 21-17
Sept. 13 at Tulane, L 24-17
Sept. 20 at Houston, W 24-21
Sept. 27 Louisiana State, L 35-27
Oct. 4 Vanderbilt, L 24-20
Oct. 11 Memphis, W 21-17
Oct. 18 at Auburn, L 28-10
Oct. 25 at Kentucky, W 28-27
Nov. 8 Alabama, L 17-14
Nov. 15 at Tennessee, L 31-7
Nov. 22 at Arkansas, L 26-17
Nov. 27 Ole Miss, L 38-28


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