|July 16, 2009||MSU Offense: Who's Running the Show?||4 comments|
|July 16, 2009||Sidney Attorney: NCAA Dragging its Feet||6 comments|
|July 15, 2009||Bulldog Bites for 7.15||1 comments|
|July 14, 2009||Hitting the Ground Jogging||6 comments|
|July 09, 2009||Sitting Down with Les Koenning||2 comments|
|July 08, 2009||Wednesday Blog Roundup||1 comments|
|July 08, 2009||Five Key Position Battles for MSU||6 comments|
|July 08, 2009||Sidney: Now We Wait; Plus, Supercool Links||no comments|
|July 07, 2009||NCAA/Sidney Interviews Went 'Real Well'||no comments|
|July 07, 2009||Tuesday Blog Roundup||2 comments|
I spoke with Dan Mullen a few moments ago for a feature I'm doing on offensive coordinator Les Koenning. What's interesting about Koenning's position is how it's defined. Or rather, how it's not defined, yet.
While the veteran Koenning has a background in the spread offense, this is Mullen's deal. He'll be involved. How involved?
"I’m sure it’ll all be a group effort, but I’m going to be very involved in the offense," Mullen said. "Who calls plays, I think it’s going to be a group effort. We’ve got to see as we go on how comfortable we are functioning in a game-day situation."
Play-calling by committee? Interesting, but I think that last sentence indicates that Mullen eventually wants to streamline the play-calling, whether that involves one person or more. Remember, he's never head coached a game, so it'll be a learning process for everyone.
I also asked Mullen about the likelihood of incoming freshman QB Tyler Russell playing early. He echoed Koenning's sentiment that with no player/coach contact allowed before August drills, it's hard to say if Russell will pick up the offense quickly enough to make an early contribution.
"Maybe. We’ll see. I don’t know," Mullen said. "The hard one for me is we can’t be around players in the summer time. So I really have no idea where Tyler would be at this point. I think it’d be a lot easier if he’d enrolled in January. It’s going to be so accelerated once two-a-days start."
Russell is on campus and enrolled in summer classes, so he's getting to do voluntary work with teammates. By the way, the Koenning story should run some time this weekend.
I cranked up the laptop this morning to find that the Los Angeles Times had an article on Mississippi State signee Renardo Sidney. In the story, an anonymous source said the NCAA wants to know what collateral was used by the Sidney family to secure a personal loan (supposedly one of at least two such loans taken out).
Donald Jackson, the Sidney family's attorney during the NCAA's amateurism evaluation of the 6-foot-10 McDonald's All-American, mocked (again) the use of an anonymous source by the L.A. Times. He reiterated that no bank statements will be provided, and he doesn't see the need for the loan information request, either, calling it "almost a non-issue."
He also said the NCAA is trying its best to drag out this process. How?
During the NCAA's interviews with the Sidneys last week, investigator Alex Hammond made a second information request of the Sidneys. Jackson said it asked for "supplementary" info related to the first information request. Fine. But then, this past Monday, Jackson was told via telephone that a third request was immiment, and Hammond wrote in a summary that a fourth request was likely to be made. Those requests would be made, Hammond said, after the interview transcript was completed and reviewed.
"Now frankly, I don’t know what the hell that means," Jackson said. "That’s almost like me telling you, 'Brad, call me next week, call me two weeks from now, and then call me in two weeks again, and we’ll figure out what we’ll talk about between now and then.'"
Added Jackson, "This is nothing more than intentional effort now to drag this out. At a certain point, if there are violations, they need to point the finger and say what the violations are. If there are no violations, they need to leave this young man and this family alone."
Strong words, and Jackson's frustration is apparent. He was hopeful after the interviews that the process would move forward quickly and be resolved well before the season began. Now, he's not so sure.
Jackson said he has asked the NCAA on five different occasions under what authority – NCAA rules, state law, the U.S. Constitution – they are justifying their demand for personal financial information. More strong words:
"Their own legislation doesn’t even support a demand like this. So what they are doing right now is distorting their own bylaws. … They don’t have the right to continually harass this family, they don’t have the right to drag this process out."
I've e-mailed NCAA spokesman Bob Williams, who has already commented twice on this investigation, which is quite unusual. Haven't heard back yet.
Various items of interest for you as I prepare to throw down on the Thursday agate page. I expect all of you to study every word of the 7-point type, including the WNBA standings. OK, maybe not those.
• ESPN has farmed out some SEC football and basketball games (other sports, too) to Fox Sports Net, it was announced today. Fox Sports South, Sun Sports and Fox Sports Southwest will carry a minimum of 91 SEC events a year. Here's a breakdown:
–Seven live, exclusive football games
–20 men's basketball games
–24 women's basketball games (16 regular season, eight tournament)
–16 baseball games (10 regular season, six tournament)
–24 additional Olympic sport events
The release says these games will be distributed to more than 24 million cable and satellite subscribers across FSN's SEC coverage area. Yeehaw.
• MSU's football season ticket sales are clipping along. On Wednesday, the school announced that all east side upper level discounted season packages (a mouthful there) have sold out. There are a few lower deck tickets on that side left (sections V and W), as well as in the west side upper level (sections 305-309). Limited donor seating is still available in some east side sections (Q, T, U) as well as west side (B, F, G). Gotta be a Bulldog Club member for those.
Want tickets? Call 1-888-GO-DAWGS. Or, you can buy season tickets tomorrow night in Jackson at MSU's "Summer Extravaganza." The Jackson Convention Complex opens its doors at 5:30, program at 7.
• We had a story in today's Journal, written by the AP, about the U.S. softball team. The team is coached by MSU's Jay Miller, who's leading the ladies into the World Cup on Thursday. He and Lady Bulldog Chelsea Bramlett, a Team USA member, are blogging about their experience right here. And here is the tournament schedule.
• D.J. Looney, a backup center for the football team, leaves for Denver tomorrow to begin a two-year term as the SEC's lone representative on the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. He's a member of the SAAC at MSU.
Today's Random Link: The good folks at TheBigLead.com have taken to calling Brett Favre something else: He Who Shall Not Be Named. Maybe someone else came up with that, I don't know, but the timing is good.
I'm back from St. Louis, my last little getaway before preseason football madness fully cranks up. That'll happen in eight days when the SEC Media Days begin at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover. Mississippi State will be up on the first day.
So I'm trying to get some stories done this week and prepare for what lies ahead. Can't exactly hit the ground at full speed, because copy desk duties call today and Wednesday. Love that ol' 3-midnight shift.
By the way, no Blog Bag again this week, which promises to be not only a short one, but just generally out of whack (see: desk duty).
Before I got out of town, I graded the SEC's teams in each of the big three sports, as did colleague Parrish Alford. Some other links for you:
• In what MSU describes as the "unofficial kickoff to the upcoming academic and athetic year," the Summer Extravaganza will take place Thursday at the Jackson Convention Complex. Dan Mullen, Greg Byrne, et al., will be there.
• Former Bulldog Tyrone Keys, who won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears, will be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum on July 31.
• Tony Barnhart of the AJC has made his SEC West predictions. He's taking Alabama, followed by LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Auburn and MSU. Of the Bulldogs, Barnhart writes, "It looks like a pretty bumpy first year for Mullen." He made his Eastern Division picks yesterday. Guess I oughta do this soon.
I'm about to head out of town for a long weekend, but before doing that, I sat down with Mississippi State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Les Koenning this morning. I asked him several questions about the offense, his boss (Dan Mullen) and other topics for a story I'm working on for later.
Some excerpts from today's conversation:
• On Mullen's involvement in the offense: "He’ll be involved heavily. Dan’s had such a great career as an assistant coach at Utah and Florida. We’d be absolutely foolish not to have him involved. "
• On why Texas A&M adopted the spread when Koenning was there: "No. 1, it was easy to recruit to. Most kids wanna pay in a wide-open offense."
• On the QB competition: "The best player plays. I know that Tyson (Lee), Chris (Relf) or Tyler (Russell), they want the best player to play. Our football team wants the best player to play, and that goes for every position."
• On how easy/difficult it is for a freshman to pick up the spread offense: "It depends who the freshman is. … You don’t give them the whole playbook. You give them the things that they can obtain."
• On RB Anthony Dixon's finding an identity: "I think he’ll develop his identity as the year goes on. ... I’ve seen the hard work in the weightroom pay off for him."
Another slow day on the blogs, but I rounded up some pretty good stuff for your reading pleasure.
• This is funny: The Orlando Sentinel is listing "candidates" for Florida's Athlete of the Year. Gee, wonder who will win that one?
• Brett Dawson of the Louisville Courier-Journal has a good, info-packed basketball notebook after spending some time at an AAU event in Cincinnati.
• Ken Howlett, at A Sea of Blue, compares Memphis and Kentucky stats from the 2008-09 season.
• Tony Barnhart of the AJC tells us what we've learned from the preseason football mags.
• If you're interested – perhaps you won't be – the folks at SouthernPigskin.com sat down with Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt for a Q&A.
If I may look ahead a few weeks to Mississippi State's August camp, here are what I see as the five most important position battles, ranked in ascending order:
5. Kick returner: Derek Pegues was good here, but he didn't provide as big a spark as I thought he should've. Maybe it was him, maybe it was the blocking, who knows. State's got some good options. Juco transfer Leon Berry is listed first team on kicks and punts, but Delmon Robinson has the speed to make stuff happen. And I don't see how freshman Chad Bumphis doesn't at least get a shot at it, because he was a terror in high school. MSU will need a spark from special teams this year.
4. Offensive guards: It's been kind of a mix-and-match game at both spots. Right now, redshirt freshman Tobias Smith is penciled in as the starter on the right side, and sophomore Quentin Saulsberry on the left. Both will be pushed by older players, but they are promising young talents. Even though MSU is going to spread the field and try to use the edges, RB Anthony Dixon is at his best running inside (if he isn't dancing), and the Bulldogs have to establish that kind of run game.
3. Cornerback: Marcus Washington, a senior, will be a third-year starter and should be pretty solid on the right side. Sophomore Damein Anderson's job might not be so safe, because cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith likes what he's seen from other guys, like junior Emmanuel Gatling and redshirt freshmen Corey Broomfield and Louis Watson. MSU will be facing some good QBs this year, and the corner positions seem to be the weak link on an already inexperienced defense (two returning starters).
2. Wide receiver: This has been coach Dan Mullen's biggest concern, because there is so little depth and experience here. Brandon McRae's experience will come in handy, though he's got to put the broken leg behind him. There is plenty of speed on this unit, but who will step up and be a playmaker? Berry? O'Neal Wilder, who flashed his potential in the spring game? Bumphis? Probably will be a by-committee thing.
1. Quarterback: I still say this is Tyson Lee's job to lose, but given Mullen's desire for rapid improvement as a team – and believe me, he wants to win now – don't be shocked if everybody gets a shot early in the season. Chris Relf still has accuracy issues but has improved, while true freshman Tyler Russell – the theory goes – must simply acclimate himself to the college game and then will take off. But how long will that take? I don't know, but if the QB spot is unstable all season, it'll be a long autumn in Starkville.
Now we are back to waiting. Renardo Sidney and his parents were interviewed by the NCAA on Monday and Tuesday, and while it went well, we still don't know how long this will take. Family attorney Donald Jackson is hopeful it won't drag out, but with the NCAA, you never know.
The NCAA filed another information request yesterday, which Jackson has not had time to study. He was traveling last night and has meetings this morning, and he said he'll look at the request later today.
Some other links of interest this morning:
• South Carolina football has committed a handful of secondary violations.
• Chris Low of ESPN.com takes a look at what he thinks are the most crucial road games for each SEC team.
• South Alabama, whose fledgling football program will play Mississippi State in 2012, '14 and '16, is interviewing candidates for its vacant athletics director position. The first interviewee: Joel Erdmann, the Southeastern Louisiana AD. MSU played SELA last year.
• Cast your vote in our sports poll, which asks what you think Auburn's record will be this fall.
Today's Random Link: LeBron James apparently was posterized by Xavier's Jordan Crawford in a pick-up game, but Nike has confiscated all video evidence. Figures.
Attorney Donald Jackson said the NCAA's interviews of Renardo Sidney Jr. and his parents "went real well both yesterday and today." The NCAA, which is conducting an amateurism evaluation of Sidney, interviewed the 6-foot-10 MSU signee for about three hours Monday. Sidney's parents were then interviewed today, starting about 8:30 a.m. and finishing up around 1:30 p.m.
Conducting the interviews was Alex Hammond, with the NCAA eligibility center. He was accompanied by another NCAA official. Bracky Brett, MSU's compliance director, and Michael Glazier, an attorney retained by MSU, were also present.
Jackson said the interviews were basically a "historical progression" of Sidney's life since his talent was recognized some six years ago. "Literally middle school all the way up through today," Jackson said.
They went over documents and information pertaining to the Sidney's time in Los Angeles, where Sidney attended two high schools, graduating from Fairfax Senior High. Among the questions the NCAA is asking is how the Sidneys could afford the rent on a $1.2 million home in L.A., as reported by the Los Angeles Times. There's also the curious fact that UCLA and USC both reportedly pulled scholarship offers from Sidney; Jackson has called it "sour grapes."
Jackson said the tone of the interviews were sometimes tense, "but I thought for the most part it was pretty cooperative." He said Sidney "handled himself extremely well."
So what's next in this process?
Jackson said the NCAA has filed another information request – he hasn't had time to study it, as he's trying to get out of town. So he'll take care of that soon, and he hopes to have a transcript of the interviews within a week's time. He said the NCAA has not yet requested follow-up interviews.
Jackson was hopeful that the remainder of this evaluation wouldn't drag on.
"I don’t anticipate that this is a sprint," he said, "but I don’t anticipate that it’s a marathon, either. More like a 200-meter race."
I've gotten a good bit of sour (and predictable) reaction to my column, but some thoughtful reaction, too. Always good to spark a lively discussion.
As for what others around the league are discussing, here are some blog entries worth visiting.
• The folks at RollBamaRoll.com list the five players Alabama can least afford to lose to injury this year.
• Georgia in black: A good thing? Bill King of the Junkyard Blawg wonders.
• SouthernPigskin.com has made its preseason All-SEC selections.
• Tony Barnhart of the AJC gets honest about the BCS. Good read.