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Mississippi State Bulldogs

Spring Practice Wrap-up: Mississippi State Bulldogs's Ben Petitto will be doing a series covering each SEC Team's Spring practice. This is the fourth installment of the series on the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom experiment is over, it is unfortunate that the first African-American head coach was not able to produce a winning program. Yet, I tip my hat to Mississippi State for giving a chance to a great guy in a time when fans and boosters have unfairly not allowed another get a chance. How Charlie Strong is not a head coach may be one of the biggest mysteries (or tragedies) in sports. But the matter at hand is former Gator offensive coordinator Dan Mullen. He takes over a program that has averaged two wins in the SEC the last four years. Mullen has a tough task ahead of him- recruiting to Starkville isn’t exactly like recruiting to say Gainesville. However, he seems to be taking the right steps. He hasn’t gone the Chizik and Kiffin route and has hired Matt Balis, former Florida strength and conditioning assistant during the 2006 national championship season. He could be as vital as any member of the staff, similarly to Mickey Marotti at Florida.


On Offense - The Bulldogs produced an embarrassing 276 yards per game last season and only managed 15 points per contest. Their barn-burning 3-2 loss to Auburn showcased their woes. Bad offenses are always plagued by bad line play and the Bulldogs were no exception, giving up 36 sacks last year. Junior center J.C. Brigone was named to the Rimington watch list (for the best center in the nation) and was the only bright spot on the line last year. Former Gator offensive line coach John Hevesy will make this young line better. They start two true sophomores, a redshirt freshman and two juniors, they could be decent but they will need to improve a ton for Mississippi State to do anything on offense. Running back is the only spot where the Bulldogs have a proven SEC player on offense- junior Anthony Dixon is a bruiser at 240 pounds. He ran for 869 yards last season, and could break 1,000 yards if his line is better. Tyson Lee (QB) made strides last year and will be the starter under center for Mullen’s offense. Highly touted prep star Tyler Russell was a recruiting coup for Mullen and will compete in the fall, but look for Lee to start things off for the Bulldogs. At receiver, Brandon McRae will have to be huge and fully recover from his broken leg. He was the only guy who produced last year with 51 grabs for 518 yards and three scores. They brought in an impressive group of freshman receivers. This group led by Chad Bumpis, ranked the number 16 prep receiver by, will be needed to contribute early. The line holds the key to this offensive unit’s potential.

On Defense- The Mississippi State defense lost six starters, but Matt Balis will have them faster and stronger this year. JUCO transfer Pernell McPhee (DT) was ranked the number three JUCO player in the nation by and will anchor the line immediately. Sophomore Sean Ferguson (DE) could also be a star. He had an incredible four sacks in the spring game. Linebacker Jamar Chaney is back for his senior year after missing all of last season with a broken leg. He should be a beast, and juniors KJ Wright (led team with 72 tackles last season) and Chris White have some experience on the outsides. In the secondary, Marcus Washington has 19 career starts and will be solid, but the rest of the backfield is a question mark.  Junior Zak Smith has some experience and is a big hitter at safety. The defense has a long way to go, but might be better we think.

Spring Surprise - Sean Ferguson (DE). The coaches love this guy and he had 4 sacks in the spring game. He will flourish this season if McPhee draws double teams.

Lingering Question- Will Dan Mullen be able to turn things around and make the program respectable? -Houston Nutt did it at Ole Miss in a hurry, but Mullen has less talent on his team than Nutt did. Despite the national championships, Gator fans will recall Mullen wasn’t always the most popular guy in town when it came to play calling (In my opinion he never got Percy the ball nearly enough). Yet Mullen has the ingredients to become a successful head coach. He is modeling the MSU program after many things Florida was so successful doing and I believe he will succeed in some capacity. Mississippi State will never be a powerhouse, but they could be a solid bowl team on a consistent basis.

What to expect this Fall - This will definitely be a rebuilding year. If McPhee (DT) and the linebackers can be productive and Dixon (RB) gets some blocking they could steal one or two SEC games. Look for a new attitude under Mullen and a slow but steady rebuilding process, but don’t expect change overnight.

Predictions -They will win three non-conference games, but they have no chance against a really good Georgia Tech team. Their winnable SEC games are all away at Kentucky, Vandy, Arkansas, and Auburn. I see them surprising people by picking up two of these on the back of Dixon and the defense. They’ll go 5-7 (2-6).

Quotable - “We don’t need to make national headlines to recruit. Taking our budget, instead of buying fancy limos, we’re gonna maybe get more sneakers for our players.”- Dan Mullen on recruiting.  I like this little stab at Chizik and Kiffin, Mullen has class and a sense of humor.

Ben Petitto is a columnist for


 Deep down, any fan in the

 Deep down, any fan in the SEC wishes the best for any SEC team especially vs. other conferences.  So, I wish them the best, but I stopped reading this article when the writer? compared Chizik to Kiffin in that he hasn't gone their route.  I don't know what he's referring to, but Chizik could only pray for Kiffin success.  Mullen too.

This is part of the reason that Tennessee fans are treated with respect in down years in Gainesville and take beer baths and are physically challenged with profanities, etc. in competitive ones.

If you guys want to write nice articles about teams that you deem as no threat to you, that's fine.  But, try to do it without taking jabs at the other teams and give credit where credit is due.

I give Florida all the respect I can.  They have been at the top of their game with the best college QB in the land.  Good for them.  I'm glad they are in the SEC.  However, you guys need to lighten up.

He was referring to the

He was referring to the "Chizik and Kiffin route" as stirring up controversy with his recruiting tactics, such as getting a limo for coaches, having a flame up with a great school for demenaing them on national TV, telling a recruit he can "go pump gas like the rest of the USC grads," calling a coach a cheater when he's had FOUR minor recruiting violations and Meyer hasn't had any this year, having coaches taking their shirts off and jumping around like who knows what, and I could go on and on. Has he been a successfull recruiter? Yes. But, still he has raised a lot of eyebrows and controversy with the way he has done it. No matter how big of a fan of Kiffin you are, you have to agree he has stirred some BIG controversy with his tactics.

The writer was saying he successfully got a good recruiting class and didnt raise any eyebrows or news strories doing it.

"Gator born, Gator bred, and when I die I'll be Gator dead" 

lol. Even with controversy,

lol. Even with controversy, Chizik is no Kiffin!  Not hardly a parallel or a comparison there.  First he denied the gas pumping.  Shirt stunt is just a fun thing to do and has paid off.  No biggie.

Here's the point with the controversy.  Kiffin is only controversial with fans other than Tennessee fans and we don't care and Kiffin doesn't care what opponents think.  The only reason people get up in arms is because Kiffin has been successful at everything he's done at UT, especially recruiting against the Nat'l Champ.

What the controversy has done is turned to eye of top recruits all over the nation who see Tennessee as a list topper and a good path to the NFL.  So, it's working!  He's energized the base, made it fun, and instilled a new winning attitude.

Go to rivals and check every 4 star and up and probably 3 star recruits.  Regardless of their conference, Tennessee is in their top 10.  It hasn't been that way in a while.

Voluvr,  Rusty summed it


 Rusty summed it up. The "Chizik and Kiffin route" is resorting to gimmicks and/or violations to try and draw recruits. Mullen made a slick quote jabbing at this style (see quotable) and his success will depend on football savvy not how he can get a leg up in recruiting regardless of the rules (it has actually been 5 violations for Kiffin and could be more if the SEC investigates the Pahokee fiasco).

On the subject of other SEC teams, I root for all of them against any other conference. The SEC is a part of me as it as of you guys. I love SEC football and respect all of the member institutions not for an individual, but the tradition they represent. Therefore I always repsect the University of Tennessee. BUT, their coach Lane Kiffin has worked to tarnish that tradition so far. He has disrespected the game and hasn't even coached in a contest yet. For your guy's sake I hope Monte can save the team, but for maybe the first time in my life of SEC fandom I hope the Vols lose every game 70-0. I actually still wanted to give him a chance after all these issues, but I heard an interview on College Football Today. His arrogance was off the charts and angered me. I hope you guys get smart and fire him before he coaches a game.

The fact that this guy is a head coach and Charlie Strong is not it one of the biggest travesties I can think of. It is a disgrace to the SEC and football. It makes sense though hire a guy who won like 3 games in the NFL and was a coordinator on a offense that I could have coached instead of the best recruiter in the nation who made a young inconsistent defense into the best in the nation. Makes a lot of sense. 

Read this article on Strong, it will make you think.


Again, don't pretend that

Again, don't pretend that you would even pull for the Vols against the Iranian National Team.  Your hatred of the Vols skewers your credibility as an unbiased observer.  Not that you're pretending to be one.

Also, no thanks, I'll talk to Ham about it, but at this point we don't need your opinion on who we should hire as a coach.  On the reply, first there is no fiasco in Pahokee on Kiffin's part.  He exposed Alejo's manipulation of his students and embarrassed him to the point he had to remove his gator logo from his school website.  He might have won his battle getting an apology, but he lost the war.  More and more will come out of Pahokee.  The only fiasco is in Gainesville for Meyer getting complacent and losing NuKeese and Teague to Kiffin.  Otherwise there's no problem in Pahokee.

Kiffin 5 violations?  Secondary violations.  In 2007 Georgia had 16.  Big deal.  The only people crying disgrace are those losing the recruiting battle to Kiffin, not the VolNation.  We love it.

He was quick accusing Meyer of violations but he'll learn to curb his enthusiasm.  Meyer needs to get him a gator pacifier to suck on.  He gets his wittle feewin's hurt to easy.  If it's not kiffin, it's Matthews.

Kiffin was the O coor. for Pete Carroll with a title and top recruits for 8 yrs.  At what point would you think him qualified to be a head coach.  It's nice of Ham to give him a shot.  To this point, he's excelled in every area.

Btw, USC's uncomplicated Offense is exactly what Tennessee needs.  Power football is back at Tennessee and that's what scares you guys deep down in side.  Also, you might want to send your resume to Carroll, he might need a new coordinator.

Here's the deal, we've turned the corner and UF will not get better than they are now. get the picture.  In 2-3 yrs. the last thing the NC Vols will be eaten up with is 5-7 florida and their new coach.   Think about it.  We're a 5-7 team and you're the NC.  Now look over at the poll to the right on this site.  I call it one thing...Respect.

Call me next time u guys

Call me next time u guys beat us. It could be awhile, I would predict somewhere around 2099. You might steal one on a fluke by then.

If you guys don't go

If you guys don't go undefeated this year w/ Tebow and 2 deep at every position on defense, Meyer should be fired.  We're on the downswing but now on the way back.  I just hope Meyer is there in 2010 where a victory is starting to look more likely.  Meyer is losing the recruiting war for sure.

Recruiting isnt everything.

Recruiting isnt everything. We learned that with Zook and you'll learn that with Kiffin. Just wait and see.

If you ain't a Gator, you must be Gator Bait!

Recruiting isn't everything

Recruiting isn't everything when your stacked up.  Like money, it's not important if you have plenty.  However, the next few yrs. will be more important for the gators.

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