The questions were few this week – two to be exact – but that's two more than last week, and they both required lengthy answers. And both had to do with football, naturally. Because it's nearly May.
Q: I saw a couple of national articles mention how MSU is an underdog for a national title in football in 2011. Naturally, that's a tough pill for me to swallow after years of sub-.500 seasons. How does our upcoming team compare to dark-horse national title contenders/winners of the past? Are their comments even in a sane ballpark, or is that far and away above what State will be capable of?
A: I'm not sure what articles you were reading, but I've not seen or heard anything like that. I suppose anything could happen – raise your hand if you picked Auburn to win it last year; OK then – but I don't think MSU has enough tools to get that done.
While Chris Relf might conceivably be considered a dark-horse Heisman Trophy candidate – quite a reach, though – and the running game should be lights-out, and the receivers look strong … there are too many question marks, particularly on defense. Three new starting linebackers, no defensive ends who are proven pass rushers – Chris Wilson would have to work an awful lot of magic to make this group better than the sum of its parts.
Then there's the fact MSU plays in the SEC West, and being asked to overtake Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU is too much.
Q: Which recruits are scheduled to come in early in the summer? How has that affected immediate playing time under Dan Mullen at State and at other SEC programs?
A: My man Paul Jones said he expects about 10 signees to show up for the June semester. Last year, 23 of MSU's 26 signees had enrolled by the July semester, including 13 in June (and four in January).
Enrolling early is something you're seeing more of these days, and it allows kids to become familiar with their teammates, their surroundings, the coaches' expectations and the playbook. And Matt Balis gets to chip away at them in the weight room.
And yet, 18 of MSU's 2010 signees redshirted, which is Mullen's preference. The three juco guys – Vick Ballard, James Carmon and Jeff Howie – made big contributions, while the only three freshmen who saw action were linebacker Chris Hughes, defensive lineman Corvell Harrison-Gay and receiver Michael Carr, who didn't make it in until August.
If you're trying to figure out the math, two signees from last year never made it to campus: end Paul Crawford and cornerback Jeremy Lee.