|April 01, 2009||What's Up on Wednesday||no comments|
|March 31, 2009||Quarterbacks and Golf Swings||2 comments|
|March 31, 2009||Pony Up, Be a Coach … Seriously||22 comments|
|March 31, 2009||Calipari Joins the SEC: What It Means||3 comments|
|March 31, 2009||Big Impressions||5 comments|
|March 30, 2009||It's a State Sweep||no comments|
|March 30, 2009||Blog Bag, & a Little Extra||3 comments|
|March 30, 2009||Stansbury on Kentucky: No Comment||1 comments|
|March 30, 2009||What MSU's Got That Others Haven't||6 comments|
|March 29, 2009||On the (Lazy) Sunday Links (Kind of)||4 comments|
• Another day, another postseason honor for Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado. The junior center was named second-team All-American by the Basketball Times. Also on the second team: Stephen Curry (Davidson), Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina), Luke Nevill (Utah) and Marcus Thornton (LSU).
• Some sad news for MSU yesterday, as former Bulldog football coach Paul Davis died in Auburn. He was 87. Davis coached at State from 1962-66, posting a 7-2-2 record in 1963, including a win in the Liberty Bowl over N.C. State. Former MSU athletics director Larry Templeton lived next door to Davis as a child. "He was an outstanding football coach, probably was as respected for just hard-nosed football as any coach that’s ever come through here,” Templeton said. “But I guess I knew him more as a man.”
• MSU's baseball team, which had Tuesday's game with Mississippi Valley State rained out, is traveling to Louisiana-Monroe today for a 6:30 p.m. game. The Indians, I mean, Warhawks, are usually a pretty strong group. They're coached by the awesomely named Jeff Schexnaider.
• Oh yeah, there was a little coaching news yesterday. Kentucky apparently got a new basketball coach, as John Calipari left Memphis for bluegrass country (links have inexplicably stopped working).
It was not a pretty sight. Near the end of today's Mississippi State practice session – in full pads, full contact – second-string quarterback Chris Relf threw a pair of interceptions and had several other off-target throws. Starter Tyson Lee looked better, but neither QB has blown away coach Dan Mullen.
The key: Repetition.
"Accuracy was way off," Mullen said. "Throwing a football’s a lot like swinging a golf club – you’ve just got to do it over and over, 10,000 times. You keep doing it, all of a sudden you start hitting balls straight. When you keep throwing the ball, you’re going to start throwing it straight, so we’ve just got to keep throwing a lot more."
Mullen's diagnosis of the problem is that the quarterbacks' offseason regimen was lacking. Lee said he and Relf threw five times a week.
"Obviously, they didn’t throw that much, because they’re not very accurate," Mullen said. "Whatever they thought they were doing is probably 100 times less than what they need to be doing, if you want to be a great quarterback."
Lee thinks it's just a timing problem. "Before we got out here, we’re still installing plays, so the routes were different," he said. "A slant then might be different from a slant we’re running now."
It probably didn't help that Lee and Relf didn't have many receivers to work with. With Leon Berry, Terrance Davis and Delmon Robinson all out or limited with minor injuries, Mullen was just trying to get warm bodies out there. He had to move quarterback Cameron Lawrence, an early enrollee out of high school, to receiver.
A couple more notes from today:
• Tailback Christian Ducre' suffered a shoulder sprain during a two-minute drill near the end of practice.
• Speaking of running backs, Mullen likes what he sees out of seniors Ducre', Anthony Dixon and Arnil Stallworth. "If they can continue to buy in that way, play unselfishly, those are going to be three guys that we feature in the offense."
MSU returns to the practice field Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
I wasn't going to blog about this until I read the details, and now I have to. I'm still scratching my head over it.
You might have heard that Mississippi State is holding an online auction for one lucky fan to coach the White team in the Maroon-White game on April 18. I'll quote directly from the press release:
"As head coach, the lucky fan will participate in staff meetings as the teams are 'drafted,' give the pregame speech and make the tough gameday decisions for their team."
Wow, really? Are we being serious? You're letting some rich goober call plays and give a pregame speech? Hey, we all know how inspiring a pre-spring game speech can be. I wonder if the players will be able to keep from snickering.
Kudos to coach Dan Mullen, or whoever thought this up, for trying. But they're trying too hard. The fans are on board. As much as I'm for giving fans a chance at behind-the-scenes access, this is overkill. You've got a struggling team trying to learn a new offense that requires the sort of personnel State doesn't yet have, and you're screwing around with this "coach for a day" business? It's literally like letting some guy off the street give a big presentation to an important client.
Am I overreacting here? I think not.
Any guesses on what the winning bid will be? I'll start the bidding high, at 99 cents.
It seems as if John Calipari will indeed leave Memphis for Kentucky – so reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. What's this mean? Why, it means Kentucky is once again a team to be reckoned with. At least, that's what conventional wisdom holds.
Keep in mind, however, that the 2008-09 Wildcats didn't even make the NCAA tournament, the first time that's happened since 1991. Many UK fans would lay the blame for that at the feet of the fired Billy Gillispie, but I don't think he alone is at fault. From my point of view, Kentucky played scared. Besides Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson, the Wildcats at times played tentatively, afraid to take wide-open shots – they passed so much, even Norman Dale would have been screaming, "Shoot already!"
What's this mean for the rest of the SEC? Well, what's good for Kentucky is generally good for the league. We all saw how weak it was this year, and the struggles of traditional powers like Kentucky and Florida only exacerbated that perception. So having the Wildcats relevant will boost the SEC's profile.
On the other hand, a Kentucky resurgence would make life tougher for teams in the Eastern Division, yes, but for everyone. Like, say, Mississippi State. The Bulldogs beat UK at Rupp Arena, which won't happen most years. The Bulldogs should be a favorite to win the West next season, and the future beyond that looks bright, too, but any hopes of becoming a dominant force in the SEC must be tempered with Calipari in Lexington.
The mistake that's often made in such situations, though, is overstating the potential impact of a single individual. Calipari is a mighty important and talented individual, mind you, and he'll have some great tools at his disposal. But here's the X-factor: Calipari's never coached in the SEC. Conference-USA, formerly pretty tough, is now a cupcake league. At UMass, he was in the Atlantic 10.
So for all the hype surrounding this hire, I choose to retain my realist sensibilities and watch it play out. And it ought to be quite entertaining.
Mississippi State's football team returns to the practice field today (3:30 p.m.), which means we get to have another look at Dan Mullen and what kind of progress the Bulldogs are making. As I columnized in today's Journal, Mullen is off to a strong start from a public relations standpoint. I'll be reporting from today's practice, so check back here.
In hoops, Jarvis Varnado and Alexis Rack obviously made big impressions this season, as they won the Howell and Gillom trophies, respectively, last night in Jackson.
Not making such a good impression so far has been the MSU baseball team, at which we take a glance today. State plays host to Mississippi Valley State tonight (6:30).
It's the latest in many accolades for Varnado, who has been named first-team all-SEC by both the coaches and the Associated Press; SEC Defensive Player of the Year; honorable mention AP All-American; and CollegeInsider.com Defensive All-American. He's the third Bulldog to win the award, joining _*Lawrence Roberts*_ (2005) and *_Jamont Gordon_* (2008).
Gillom Trophy winner Rack, a 5-7 guard, was as excited as Varnado. "This is just amazing," she said. "I can't even describe the feeling." Rack, a second-team All-SEC pick, averaged 14.8 points and 4.3 assists per game and led the Lady Bulldogs to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
So what's this all mean for MSU? Well, these are great honors, of course, but if events unfold as expected, both will return for their senior seasons. There's no question Rack will be back, but Varnado is still pondering his future – whether to return or leave for the NBA. Having both players back should spell big-time success next year, especially considering neither team loses very much. This coda to a pair of fine seasons could also be a prelude to a huge 2009-10 for MSU basketball.
• _*Jarvis Varnado*_ was named an honorable mention AP All-American today. There were 47 players named honorable mention, but a nice honor nonetheless. Varnado can pick up some solid hardware tonight in Jackson, when the winner of the Howell Trophy is announced. The program starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum. No word yet on Varnado's decision about his future.
• I have a column coming in tomorrow's Journal about football coach _*Dan Mullen*_. A sampling: _"Mullen is a grand salesman. Like my oldest daughter, he could sell you a handful of rocks and make you like it. In a way, that’s what he’s doing. Seriously. He is trying to sell people on the possibility of Mississippi State being a consistent winner. Since 1955, MSU has posted four consecutive winning seasons only once – 1997-2000. …"_
OK, people, drop in your questions.
Alas, MSU coach _*Rick Stansbury*_ did not care to comment on the Kentucky job opening. First, I was going to ask him about the fired _*Billy Gillispie*_. No comment. OK, what about the job itself? Nope. Now for the big one: What about you and Kentucky? No dice. "I don't want to talk about any of that," Stansbury said, more than once.
One of the first thoughts I had after Gillispie got fired Friday was about Stansbury and his connection to the state of Kentucky. It's his home state, of course. He was born in Louisville and went to Campbellsville College, about 85 miles southwest of Lexington. I know Memphis' _*John Calipari*_ is at the top of the Wildcats' wish list, but it seems logical that Stansbury, even though he's not a "big" name, would at least draw some consideration. He owns a pretty strong résumé.
But, he wasn't talking. And honestly, his name has not been floated around much at all in connection with this job. _*Dan Wetzel*_ of Yahoo! Sports brought up Stansbury in a story Friday (link), but that's about it.
Should Calipari not wind up at UK, though, that might change.
Kentucky's fans and administration showed remarkable impatience, not that Gillispie did much to aid his cause. Those folks will settle for nothing less than a huge name, like Calipari, and they will settle for nothing less than SEC championships and deep NCAA tournament runs. Alabama, which made a little history by making Grant the school's first black head basketball coach, will just be happy with anything better than this past season.
So what's this mean for MSU? Big picture, who knows. But it does remind us that the State program has a quality many programs don't have these days: Stability. Sure, players leave early – we should find out this week if _*Jarvis Varnado*_ is going to try the NBA – but coach _*Rick Stansbury*_ has been putting a winning product on the floor no matter what tools he's been handed. He's had only one losing season at MSU, and that was way back in 1999-2000, his second year. He's made the postseason nine times in 11 years, including six NCAA berths. And we saw what he did with this year's young, lightweight team.
So, if I were a State fan, I'd sit back and smile as Alabama and Kentucky adjust to regime changes and try to recapture their winning ways.
Speaking of hoops, the Howell and Gillom trophies will be awarded tonight. Varnado is up for the Howell, and Lady Bulldog _*Alexis Rack*_ is a finalist for the Gillom.
In baseball, MSU salvaged a win at Arkansas in yesterday's series finale, 12-4. State is now 15-12 overall, 3-6 in SEC play.