New MSU nutritionist changing up football training camp

Fall camp can be a bit of a conundrum for 300-plus pound football players at Mississippi State. On the one hand, two-a-days under the August sun can feel like a form of torture. On the other, it results in the realization of a dream: eating, eating, eating and then eating some more. Followed by more eating.

unnamedThe upside to burning so many calories on practice fields and in weight rooms is getting to eat them back onto their bodies. The amount depends on the player and position, but the intake over the course of any day of camp is quite substantial, and a great deal more than the average 20-year-old. Breakfast, snack, snack, lunch, snack, snack, dinner, snack…. it’s a lot of food, and someone has to make sure they’re both doing and doing it right.

To help facilitate those nutritional needs, and the similar needs of all of MSU’s 16 teams, the athletic department has hired a sports dietician – Kelly White, who joins the staff after working in a similar capacity at Oktibbeha County Hospital.

White will obviously have a big role in helping players across the department to gain weight, lose it or just maintain where they are, depending on their need and the directive of their sport and position. But a big part of her job is education. Making sure football players know what a healthy plate at the cafeteria looks like and that they’re not just eating 5,000 calories of greasy burritos.

Ensuring the baseball team knows what time of day to eat which types of food (low fat foods and complex carbs before practice, simple sugars after). She’s even taken softball players on grocery shopping tours.

White started at MSU shortly after football training camp began, so it’s there where much of the early focus has been, and she’s moved pretty quickly.

Outside the weight room in the Seal Complex, MSU now has a fueling station (and will put them in outside other weight rooms, as well) to keep players hydrated and fed.

Recovery drinks, smoothies, snack mixes, fruit, milk and cereal, goldfish or pretzels – pretty much any snack or need players have – all available, with someone there to make sure they are partaking.

Recent NCAA legislation allowing for unlimited food and snacks has actually made that job much easier for people like White, giving her more variety to work with.

“More than just bagels, nuts and peanut butter,” White joked. “Giving them more of a choice and variety will keep them into snacking on foods that we’re offering and hopefully preventing them going out and getting unhealthy snacks.”

Another new addition comes in the stations set up after practice to keep players hydrated and fueled.

After each go-round on the field, multiple tables full of goods stand between players and the entrance to the facility, with another handful of staff members making sure everyone gets what they need.

The tables are packed with strawberries and blueberries, pineapples and pickles, bananas, apples and an endless supply of Gatorade.

It’s nice to have good food to eat, sure, but it’s important to their health, especially with what players put their bodies through.

And it’s also a sneaky way for White to control their intake.

“The fruit,” she said, “not only does it have simple carbohydrates, it also has a very high water content. So they don’t really know they’re drinking water, but they are. Anything that can help improve their performance is what we want.”

During these weeks of hot, hard camp, players are required to weigh in three times per day to make sure they haven’t lost [or gained] too much weight and are staying on their guided, healthy course. If something is off, White and the strength coaches and trainers get it fixed.

Say a lineman weighs too little after practice – he has to put the weight back on by weigh-in the next morning.

Of course, that can be easy enough to do, considering how much there is to eat.

On a given day, White says she’ll go through around eight boxes of cereal (just as a snack, not from breakfast), four table-sized trays of fruit, eight jars of pickles and as many as 200 Gatorade shakes. And those are the grab-at-your-own-leisure snacks.

In addition to the food lying around, MSU has bigger planned snacks delivered at different points during the day. Then, after all of those, they finally have their actual breakfasts lunches and dinner.

“Imagine Stromboli’s setting up 125 calzones for a snack,” White explained. “Then they go to the Hilton and eat a catered dinner. It’s a lot.”

Having a nutritionist is a new position for MSU, as well as a job many athletic departments across the country are adding, and it seems to be paying off quickly.

Weights are steady, cramps are down and spirits are up. At least at dinner time.

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All-Time MSU Football Team: Offensive Linemen

Over the three weeks of fall camp, Mississippi State will be collecting votes and assembling an all-time MSU football team in honor of the 100th anniversary of Scott Field. Winners will be announced over the course of the season as the starters are filled in on both sides of the ball.

Voting is simple: the candidates and their highlights are listed below, just vote for your choices in the poll.

Kent Hull

Kent Hull

Today, we are selecting four offensive linemen from the pool of finalists.

Hunter Corhern, Offensive Guard

All-American 1940, first AP All-American in MSU history, All-SEC 1940

Hal Easterwood, Center

All-American 1954, Birmingham QB Club MVP 1953, 12th round NFL Draft pick 1954

Scott Suber, Offensive Guard

All-American 1955, Birmingham QB Club MVP 1955, All-SEC 1955

Tom Goode, Center

All-American 1960, two-time All-SEC (1959-60), second round NFL Draft pick 1961

Pat Watson, Center

All-American 1963, three-time All-SEC (1962-64)

Richard Keyes, Center

Two-time All-SEC (1975-76)

Kent Hull, Center

Namesake of Kent Hull Award given annually to top collegiate OL in state of Mississippi, four Super Bowl appearances with Buffalo Bills, member of Ring of Honor at Davis Wade Stadium

Wayne Harris, Offensive Guard

All-American 1982, Lombardi Award semi-finalist 1982, three-time All-SEC (1980-82)

John James, Offensive Tackle

All-American 1992, Freshman All-SEC 1989, two-time All-SEC (1991-92)

David Stewart, Offensive Tackle

All-SEC 2004, fourth round NFL Draft pick 2005

Jesse James, Offensive Guard

All-American 1994, Atlanta Touchdown Club Southeast OL of the Year 1994, All-SEC 1994, second round NFL Draft pick 1995

Randy Thomas, Offensive Guard

All-American 1998, All-SEC 1998, second round NFL Draft pick 1999

Pork Chop Womack, Offensive Tackle

All-American 2000, All-SEC 2000, fourth round NFL Draft pick 2001

Derek Sherrod, Offensive Tackle

All-American 2010, National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete 2010, four-time SEC OL of the Week, two-time All-SEC (2009-10), first round NFL Draft pick 2010

Gabe Jackson, Offensive Guard

All-American 2012, All-American 2013, Conerly Trophy Winner 2013, Freshman All-SEC 2010, Kent Hull Award Winner 2013, three-time SEC OL of the Week, SEC Good Works Team 2010, three-time All-SEC (2011-13), third round NFL Draft pick 2013

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MSU’s Ally McDonald a rising star in world of golf

In barely one year, Ally McDonald has finished fourth in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, set multiple school records at Mississippi State, twice led her team to the NCAA Championships, represented the USA in the Curtis Cup, competed in the U.S. Women’s Open, played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and vaulted up the rankings to become one of the Top 10 amateurs in the world.

And somewhere in all that, she’s found time for classes, homework and exams, too.

In a seemingly-unending cycle, she hasn’t really had a chance to reflect on everything that’s happened, though she likely prefers it that way.

“I can’t let the past affect my future,” McDonald said. “While I think it’s great what I have done, I can’t dwell on that. I still have a lot more that I want to do.”

This time next year, McDonald will have dropped the ‘amateur’ tag in front of her events and rankings and will be a professional golfer. Most student-athletes go pro in something other than sports, as the NCAA likes to say, but McDonald is one of the select few who doesn’t fit into that ‘most’ category.

Of course, she could have already rid herself of the amateur status by not coming to school. She’s plenty talented and has had enough success at the collegiate level, but she didn’t want to miss her senior year at MSU.

“Growing up, my parents always pushed me to get a solid education and pursue good grades,” she said. “I hope the pro career works out, but my education is very important and I needed something in case it doesn’t work out.”

Beyond the schooling, she’s excited about one more year with her Bulldogs and her coach Ginger Brown-Lemm.

“Our program is going to be great,” she said. “I hope we have another National Championship experience, and if we play like we can, I think we will.”

VLDDQCPJCVFARYI.20130523224634It’s due mostly to Brown-Lemm that McDonald is even here. A Mississippi product, she had the opportunity to go just about anywhere in the country coming out of high school.

Instead of going with something more established, McDonald took a chance on MSU and Brown-Lemm, believing in both and the vision her future coach had.

“She’s turned this program around,” McDonald said. “I knew coming in to Mississippi State what she wanted to do with the program and I knew she could.”

In just four years, MSU has gone from 127th in the country to 19th, from perennial pushover to finishing sixth in the NCAA Championships.

They have chiseled 66 strokes off the team’s 54-hole average, set records for Top 10 finishes, won weekly honors, broke years-established records and vaulted to the nation’s elite in the country’s toughest conference.

“They’re so excited about the process,” McDonald said of her coaches, “and I think that’s a big part of seeing a program succeed. You have to have coaches who are very, very excited about seeing their program grow and seeing their players grow.”

Part of the success has come from the somewhat unorthodox style of the coaching staff.

To sum up McDonald: they like to have fun.

“I mean, we’re all pretty crazy,” Mcdonald said with a laugh. “The word that coach always uses is camaraderie. It’s amazing and we’re just a great, tight-knit team. The dynamic of our team – I think other teams are jealous of the way we are at tournaments. Our coaches are really laid back, but they’re serious when they need to be.

“Some of the bigger programs, I think, could learn from what we do.”

Though, calling anyone bigger may not be possible much longer. As impressive as the last four years have been, it seems things are only building larger now that MSU has announced a partnership with Old Waverly Golf Club, one of the nation’s premiere facilities in nearby West Point, Mississippi.

Led by State alum George Bryan and family, Old Waverly has partnered with MSU on a $2.2 million investment to create the best home facility in college golf, including a state-of-the-art clubhouse, an indoor putting system, a 2,400 square-foot indoor hitting bay and full team practice areas, including a putting green in the shape of the state of Mississippi. Designed by the renowned Gil Hanse, Old Waverly will also be adding an additional course adjacent to Mississippi State University Golf Center, in development now.

Things are certainly trending upward for MSU, and McDonald has been one of the catalysts behind the program’s success.

It’s been a bit strange for a girl from small-town Mississippi who for most of her young life never realized the talent and potential and she had. She always loved golf, but it wasn’t until she started competing around the country that she discovered she might actually be pretty good at it. In the handful of years since, she’s accomplished quite a lot.

“It was all just a dream,” McDonald said, “and now my dreams are coming true.”

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All-Time MSU Football Team: Tight Ends

Over the three weeks of fall camp, Mississippi State will be collecting votes and assembling an all-time MSU football team in honor of the 100th anniversary of Scott Field. Winners will be announced over the course of the season as the starters are filled in on both sides of the ball.

Voting is simple: the candidates and their highlights are listed below, just vote for your choices in the poll.

Reggie Kelly

Reggie Kelly

Today, we are selecting one tight end from the pool

Johnny Baker 1960-62

40 career catches, 558 yards, one touchdown, 3rd round NFL Draft pick, 7th round AFL Draft pick in 1963, 1961 All-SEC, 1962 All-SEC

Jerry Price 1979-82

29 career catches, 425 yards, one touchdown, 1981 All-SEC

Jesse Anderson 1987-89

69 career catches, 887 yards, four touchdowns, 4th round NFL Draft pick by Tampa Bay Buccaneers, split time as running back with 125 career rushes for 545 yards and three touchdowns, 1989 All-SEC

Kendell Watkins 1991-94

11 career catches, 130 yards, two touchdowns, 2nd round NFL Draft pick by Dallas Cowboys in 1995, 1994 All-SEC

Reggie Kelly 1995-98

29 career catches, 472 yards, two touchdowns, 16.3 yards per catch, played in SEC Championship Game, 2nd round NFL Draft pick by Atlanta Falcons in 1999, salsa entrepreneur

Donald Lee 1999-02

61 career catches, 611 yards, three touchdowns, 2003 5th round NFL Draft pick by Miami Dolphins

Eric Butler 2004-07

50 career catches, 635 yards, eight touchdowns, 2004 Freshman All-SEC

Marcus Green 2008-12

61 career catches, 795 yards, 10 touchdowns

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Two breakout candidates in MSU’s secondary: Will Redmond and Justin Cox

Last year, no one outside of Starkville really knew Taveze Calhoun. Two years ago, Benardrick McKinney was barely a household name in his own home. Now, both are stars at Mississippi State under defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.

Today, MSU’s defensive coaches pinpointed two more players who may not be on anybody’s watch list but could end up becoming stars for the Bulldogs.

Each, however, was a bit more recruited than Calhoun and McKinney – they were both four stars – and both have reached a later stage of their career than they might like to be.

willredmondalabamavmississippistatee-wypxjhnlblThe wait may be worth the patience used for junior cornerback Will Redmond and senior safety Justin Cox, neither of whom is technically listed as a starter (though Cox could earn that title by week one), but their coaches say terms like “starter” are a bit outdated.

“You’ve gotta have four deep,” cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend said. “It’s hard to play 80, 90 snaps like offenses are trying to get.”

It’s his junior, Redmond, who Collins went to when asked if anyone in the secondary could be a breakout player like Calhoun was last year.

“He’s had a tremendous offseason with [strength and conditioning] coach [Rick] Court,” Collins said. “Will is a tremendous talent. Rick should post the ladder drill videos that he does. They say Will stays out there twenty to thirty minutes after every workout on his own doing different ladder drills and footwork drills. So we’re excited to see him this season and how he’s progressed.”

Redmond, of course, has not walked the easiest road, though to his credit, he’s taken the situation he found himself in and made the best out of it. The NCAA suspended him for an entire year and a half, the type of punishment which, without mentioning names, has derailed and even ruined the careers of others in college sports.

He finally got to see the field in the second half of last season, after months of having to stay on the sidelines with both he and his coaches knowing he could contribute, and he quietly became a reliable third corner for State in only half a season.

“To see what he went through and still be mentally in the game is amazing,” Townsend said. “He’s such a physical talent. He just has good size, good speed. He’s still hungry. He’s only played in six or seven games and he’s been here for two years. He’s one of the guys that, if he’s out there, I’m not worried. The questions he asks me are impressive. He wants to be a complete corner.”

Surprising or not, Townsend even mentioned Redmond’s name when discussing the leaders he has in his group, right up there with Calhoun and senior Jamerson Love.

Sometimes, potential isn’t realized because of squandered opportunity. In this case, that potential just hasn’t had a chance. In a few weeks, Redmond will have his opportunity, and those around him expect to see everything he hadn’t previously been allowed to show.

Cox himself was actually a corner with Redmond when he got to campus last year from junior college, and he’s been the first to say he struggled, despite all the hype around his signing and arrival.

Justin Cox intercepts Bo Wallace (courtesy: ESPN)

Justin Cox intercepts Bo Wallace (courtesy: ESPN)

But, once he moved to safety, things started clicking, and the coaches saw it immediately. A more natural position for Cox, he made the switch in bowl practice, which “is like having an extra spring camp,” safeties coach Tony Hughes said. Then he had an actual spring camp, followed by summer workouts, now being capped off with fall training camp.

“With all of that, the transition has been very smooth for him and has gone very well,” Hughes told reporters Wednesday. “The other kids in the room have all worked together to make sure he knew what to do and that he could operate and perform at that position.”

Regularly ranked among the fastest players on the team, Cox is also the tallest member of MSU’s secondary (6’3”), with the longest reach and one of the highest ceilings.

His athleticism was evident last year, that much was never in question. It was just his comfort at the position after two years of playing safety in JUCO.

Now, beyond comfort and talent, he’s got one more thing Hughes says he often sees in his seniors: desperation.

“It’s like a person being dropped off in the desert with no water or no food,” Hughes says. “They’re desperate for food. These guys are desperate for football. Every day at practice, every meeting, every drill is competitive. To these guys, it’s like life or death in the game of football. Just like Nickoe Whitley last year. With all that he was going through, you couldn’t keep him off the football field.”

On a defense as deep as MSU’s, and in a particularly strong secondary, the odds of anyone breaking out may be long, but Cox and Redmond may find a way to do it, anyway.

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All-Time MSU Football Team: Defensive Backs

Over the three weeks of fall camp, Mississippi State will be collecting votes and assembling an all-time MSU football team in honor of the 100th anniversary of Scott Field. Winners will be announced over the course of the season as the starters are filled in on both sides of the ball.

smootcollegeVoting is simple: the candidates and their highlights are listed below, just vote for your choices in the poll.

Today, we are selecting four defensive backs from the pool of cornerbacks and safeties to fill out the secondary.

Steve Freeman 1972-74

10 interceptions (T-8th), named an SEC Legend, led team in interceptions twice (1973, 1974), drafted by New England Patriots, long career with Buffalo Bills

Johnthan Banks 2009-12

16 career interceptions (tied 1st all-time), 320 yards on interception returns (1st), three interceptions returned for touchdowns (T-1st), tied 1st longest interception return (100 yards vs Florida, 2009), 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner, two-time All-SEC

Pig Prather 1998-2001

207 career tackles, 16 tackles for loss, seven sacks, seven forced fumbles and four interceptions, 2001 semi-finalist for Thorpe Award, 2000 finalist for Defensive Player of the Year, 2000 All-American, two-time All-SEC

Ashley Cooper 1998-99

109 career tackles, 22 tackles for loss, six sacks and three interceptions, 1999 All-American, 1999 All-SEC

Fred Smoot 1999-2000

10 interceptions (T-8th) in only two years, 99 career tackles, six tackles for loss, 2000 Consensus All-American, 2nd round NFL Draft Pick, founder of Smoot Smack, finalist for 2000 Thorpe Award, two-time All-SEC

Robert Bean 1998-99

Six career interceptions, 64 tackles, one tackle for loss and one fumble recovery, 1999 All-SEC

Walt Harris 1992-95

16 career interceptions (T-1st), tied 1st most interceptions in a single season (six in 1993, six again in 1994), All-American, 1st-round NFL Draft pick, three-time All-SEC

Derek Pegues 2005-08

12 interceptions (T-4th), 20.1 yards per interception return (1st, minimum 10 INTs), three interceptions for touchdowns (T-1st), 112 kickoff returns (1st) for 2,498 yards (1st), 792 punt return yards (3rd), three-time All-SEC

Charles Mitchell 2008-11

283 career tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, one sack, four interceptions, two forced fumbles

Keith Fitzhugh 2005-08

180 career tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, six interceptions, two forced fumbles

Stan Black 1973-76

Seven career interceptions, 1976 All-American, 1976 All-SEC, drafted by San Francisco 49ers

Izell McGill 1994-97

12 career interceptions (T-4th), 108 career tackles, two fumble recoveries, led team in interceptions twice (six in 1997, four in 1996)

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MSU moves to The Farm for fall camp

The coaches may call it a blessing, while the players likely consider it more of a curse. Either way, Mississippi State’s football team has the fortune, good or bad, of having a massive farm on campus. Two of them, actually, and one will be home to 105 MSU players and nearly as many coaches, GAs, trainers and managers for the next two weeks as the meat of their call camp moves to MSU’s South Farm on the edge of campus.

Courtesy: 247 Sports

Courtesy: 247 Sports

And it’s awful. Terrible. Scorching, sticky and smelly from the combination of sweaty athletes and live farm animals on the surrounding fields.

“It’s hot, it stinks and it smells like cow,” Dak Prescott summarized pretty accurately. “It’s a farm.”

And it’s only gotten worse since he offered that description. When practices began last week, oddly-cool weather had the temperatures in the 70s and the humidity low, feeling more like Oregon than Mississippi.

Coaches were a touch disappointed in the less-than-Amazonian weather, saying God must have been looking out for the players. But if it was God watching over them last week, it’s the Devil’s turn as the week turns and practice at The Farm begins.

“Today,” offensive line coach John Hevesy said, “when we put pads on, it’ll be 95-100 degrees.”

It’s only going to get hotter as the week goes on, too. Latest projections show temps in the 90s and clouds nearly non-existent, the kind of skies that become a haze and the type of sun which is completely inescapable.

6-14-13_horses

Courtesy: Beth Newman Wynn, Mississippi State Public Affairs

To make the misery complete, Starkville and MSU’s campus bore the brunt of a heavy system on Sunday as lightning and rain pounded the area through the afternoon and evening. Rain during practice is great. Rain the day before?

“Rain makes it muddy,” Prescott offered simply. “And when the mud comes, it’s even worse.”

As 300-pound men tramp across the field, their massive cleated and taped-up feet sink into mud with every step. Not enough that it will be hot and exhausting on its own, now each step becomes that much harder, the willpower needed to even jog from drill-to-drill increases exponentially.

The air around them will be thick with humidity, as nearly any August day in this state is, but the worst moisture is what comes from the mud, the wet heat steaming up from the ground, engulfing their legs and whipping their faces.

It’s the opposite of fun, which is exactly how the coaches want it.

There are precautions to take, of course. Players are required to drink so much Gatorade to replace the fluids lost through sweat and eat so many thousands of calories to counteract the pounds they’ll lose in each practice. A lineman could see his weight drop 10 pounds in a day if he doesn’t keep up his intake.

Photo by Ag. Communications/Jim Lytle

Photo of South Farm by Ag. Communications/Jim Lytle

Naps aren’t required by coaches, but air mattresses will cover the floor of MSU’s locker room. 15-minute naps are like precious stones and a full hour to rest mid-day is as rare and beautiful as the brightest crown jewel.

For most of camp on The Farm, the team will be staying together at a hotel, completely cut off from anything but football. Hot, fast-paced, unending football.

You have to love it, even if you hate it. Young players have to lean on veterans for support. This is the time of year when freshmen may find they hit a wall. Dillon Day, MSU’s senior center, contemplated giving it up during his first camp. 2012 Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks had actually packed up and gone home during his first camp, only to be persuaded to return by an elder member of the secondary.

“It’s time to separate the men from the boys,” defensive line coach David Turner tweeted.

Call it initiation, a rite of passage or just organized misery, camp on The Farm is the preparation all Bulldogs must finish, the Hell they must pass through to get to Heaven.

“We’ll find out a lot more about the kids,” Hevesy said.

If the past is any indication, they’ll learn plenty about themselves, too.

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Live Blog: 2014 MSU Football Media Day

Starting at 12:30, Mississippi State will host its on-campus media day for football. Dan Mullen is scheduled to lead things off, followed by coordinators and then players. Live-streaming video is available at HailState.com, and I’ll be running a live-thread here over the course of the day.

After interviews, practice is open to the media, so we’ll have reports from that later on, as well.

Time to get it started with the head man…

Today, as Mullen tells us, will be MSU’s first day with shoulder pads on. He likes it not necessarily so guys can hit, but because he thinks it’s actually more dangerous to have no pads at all on, like the first two practices.

Mullen said he’s not sure about outside hype, but says, “This team has extremely high expectation for themselves.”

Says his guys “know what they’ve put in” as far as offseason workouts, the experience they have with a lot of veterans, as well as talent and depth.

“I feel like we have a championship-caliber team.”

On the running backs, Mullen says every year is a committee to some degree, though usually “one guy steps out a little bit.” Came in response to a question asking of Josh Robinson would be the feature back.

“We’re gonna see who has the hot hand.”

He mentioned Nick Griffin finally being healthy, said he likes Ashton Shumpert as a power back and is particularly excited about what Brandon Holloway brings to the backfield with his speed.

“The program is built on playing great defense,” Mullen says in response to a question about up-tempo offenses. Again said he considers MSU a ball-control team.

“We’ve done some of that before,” he said, but doesn’t think that’s what his offense will be built on.

On Chris Jones: “I think he knows he has playmaking ability, but what we want form him is consistency. There’s a difference between being a playmaker and being a dominant player … He’s working at to get things done and has a lot of potential.”

Getting into the development of Dak Prescott, Mullen says he was “an average passer at-best when he got to campus,” but worked hard every day to become a talented passer. Says that’s what players have to do to improve. Proud of Prescott for the work he’s put in and effort he’s made.

“At the end of training camp, what would make me the happiest? That everyone is healthy,” Mullen says, “And that everyone has made great strides to be ready to get on the field on game day.”

Asked about the defense, Mullen pointed out that the defense finished the season by giving up three points to Ole Miss.

Going into a season, they don’t want to be good enough to just make a bowl game. They want to be good enough for more than a bowl game. They want to play for a conference championship and whatever comes after that.”

Mullen got into mentioning how tough the SEC is, talked about there being five SEC West teams in the Top 25.
“You can be good enough to win most other conferences, and not even finish in the top half of your own division.”

Mullen on the expanded Davis Wade Stadium: “I think our fans are gonna be wowed when they go in and see it.”

Getting back to the running backs, Mullen says of Nick Griffin: “I think this is the healthiest he’s been coming into a season.” Says he brings stability and leadership, knows the playbook inside and out.

On sophomore defensive end AJ Jefferson Mullen says, “AJ is certainly a very nifty player. He has very natural instincts of getting to the ball. I think sometimes those instincts make him seem quicker than maybe he even is. He’s great at being where he needs to be.”

———————

Co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Billy Gonzales is here and rocking a nice trimmed beard. Opens by saying how cohesive the offensive staff is. “An exceptional group of coaches.” Says they know how to work with each other.

MSU’s plan to win, according to Gonzales and coming from Mullen:

1. Play great defense. Includes field position, get some first downs on offense, etc.

2. Win the turnover battle. What does this mean for the offense? Don’t turn the ball over. Ball security, pass block, etc.

3. Redzone scoring. Gonzales says that’s where MSU needs to get better. “We’re gonna try to practice redzone more than any other team in the country.”

4. Special teams. Says MSU averaged 29 snaps per game on special teams last year. Need to have your best players on the field for that many plays. “In order to start at a position, you’ve got to be able to start on special teams.”

Gonzales says those four points were the first thing they talked with players about as a staff.

Interesting to hear Gonzales talk about his receivers. “I considered last year as a kind of get-your-feet-wet year.” Says no one had played extensively coming in.

Now, he considers his group to be very veteran and also likes the young guys who didn’t get to play last year.

Gonzales says his inside slot guy and the tight ends “are basically the same position” in terms of receiving. Says while there isn’t much experience behind Jameon Lewis in the slot, having a deep group of tight ends helps that.

Gonzales says he will stay on the sideline this year. “I like being able to look my players in the eyes.” Expects John Hevesy to remain in the coaches box upstairs.

————————

Offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy up to the podium now.

“It’s not really football until we have pads on,” he says. Hasn’t been able to glean much the last couple days without them. But he likes how well his guys know the playbook and how comfortable they seem.

Hevesy is talking about recruiting linemen now. Says some guys are told how greta they are all the time, they have the size, the build, the attention from media. Says he’d rather have someone who may not get as much hype, but “loves to work. They’ll be in the weight room every day, they’ll be in the classroom every day … Everybody loves Saturdays in the SEC. Who loves 5:30 in the morning in the weight room in February?”

“You’ve gotta do your homework.”

Hevesy just brought up his name and Mullen did too – Justin Senior. Both coaches mentioned him in the mix for right tackle. Also said junior guard Justin Malone could kick out there. Damien Robinson one of the veterans in the competition.

Hevesy says he’s learned over the years that he needs players on offensive line to be read for a season: two centers, three guards and three tackles. He’s hopeful he will have that.

—————————

Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins at the podium now. Starts off by saying how close the coaching staff is.

“We genuinely like each other.”

Says he was standing behind the media making fun of Hevesy while he spoke to the crowd.

Collins says the big thing they do as a defense is install as a unit. They don’t teach ornery one thing, linemen another. Every one learns everything together. Makes for a more cohesive defense, know what everyone is doing.

Collins is heaping praise on Benardrick McKinney. Loves his measurables and ability. “I’m lucky I get to coach him.”

Says what makes him great is how good a teammate he is. Says B-Mac cares about making his teammates better, wants the defense and team to be as good as possible, regardless of the affect on himself.

“I think Chris Jones has a world of potential … There’s a lot of external expectations. Internally, he has to manage those and improve his fundamentals every day, improve his technique every day, become a better teammate. I think he’s doing that.”

“If he can continue that, he can be a great defensive player,”

on Jones at end or tackle: “Regardless of where you’re lined up, you’re playing the same technique and playing at a high level.”

Collins says there were times last year where Preston Smith was at nose guard and Jones was at end, then the next play Jones was at nose and Smith on the end. Says DL coach David Turner does a great job with the line.

One of Collins’ favorite things about the team: the two best leaders are two of the best players at two of the most important positions – Dak Prescott at QB and Benardrick McKinney at middle linebacker.

Asked why he has so much energy: “I just love what I do. I love being around the players. They keep me young.”

Young, indeed, as he at one point said the coaches “run around dappin’ each other up.”

Collins says they have a turnover drill called “The Nickoe Drill” after Nickoe Whitley. It involves ripping the ball out of people’s hands.

Apparently junior corner Will Redmond has had a big offseason. Collins says he stays after workouts every day for 20-30 minutes on his own doing ladder drills. Has received a lot of praise from his teammates.

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Positional storylines as fall camp begins for MSU football

Mississippi State’s first practice of fall camp is tonight, just under a month out from the season-opener against Southern Miss.

There is plenty we’ll be keeping track of over the next several weeks, but as we begin, let’s break it down with quick hitters at each position. Some are more obvious than others.

com_140507_NCF_VBlog_Aschoff_BenardrickMcKinney_140507Of course, one non-player note worth mentioning: the all new practice fields MSU will be using for the first time. Over the spring and summer, State completely re-did the grass fields, bringing in new grass, erecting new lights and towers and enhancing what they have available, in addition to the turf field right next to the Seal Complex.

Over the course of camp, we’ll have video features, blogs and plenty more as a means of staying connected with the team.

Quarterback: For as much talk and hype as he’s received (and deservedly so), this will be Dak Prescott’s first camp as the starter. Behind him, I’m intrigued to get a first look at true freshman and dual-sport star Elijah Staley.

Running back: Dan Mullen anointed Josh Robinson as the starter in the spring, but minor injuries kept him from being in that role full-time in practice. Can senior Nick Griffin – huge and finally healthy – make a push? I’m also excited to see true freshman Aeris Williams, who could be a stud sooner rather than later. Oh, and what will speedster Brandon Holloway’s role be? We may have to wait until the season to find out. MSU’s had a long and successful line of starting running backs, and the next one begins his time at the top today.

Wide receiver: This is, far and away, the deepest and most talented group of pass-catchers Mullen has had at MSU. The only person I’m confident in saying can’t lose their starting job is Jameon Lewis, the SEC’s leading returning receiver. There’s too much talent on the outside for any starter to feel safe and not be pushed. I’m particularly interested in seeing if De’Runnya Wilson makes a jump from freshman to sophomore year.

Offensive line: Everything I’ve heard from players over the summer is that true sophomore guard Jamaal Clayborn is a beast and future star as he replaces Gabe Jackson. The biggest question, to me at least: who steps in at right tackle? My guess is the tall and athletic Justin Malone slides over from guard, but I’ve often been wrong.

Tight end: We know plenty about senior Malcolm Johnson, one of the best tight ends in the league, so I’ll have my eyes on the newest and oldest freshman on the team: Rashun Dixon, younger brother of Anthony Dixon. Having just finished his career in pro baseball, he’s in great shape, is clearly athletic and is far more fully-grown and developed than any other freshman. I don’t know if he’ll stay at tight end, but that’s where he’s starting out in camp.

7641842Defensive line: Hearing Chris Jones talk yesterday, he may be the most improved player on the team, which is an intimidating thought for offensive linemen across the southeast. He was thrown in last year and thrived on talent alone. This year, he says, he’s actually learned how to watch and break down film and has learned technique, in addition to shaping his body (a lean 308 pounds). MSU will have packages where Jones lines up on the outside, but he’s a tackle for coach David Turner.

On the outside, senior Preston Smith is the leader who decided not to go to the NFL and he says the competition at end is fierce. Junior Ryan Brown figures as the other starter, but sophomore A.J. Jefferson may have had the best spring of any defensive lineman.

Linebacker: Let’s look for folks not named Benardrick McKinney. He’s one of the best defensive players in the country, but who will line up next to him? Sophomore Beniquez Brown came on huge at the end of last year, and senior Matt Wells has quietly been one of MSU’s most consistent playmakers. My pick for surprise player here: freshman Dez Harris. Geoff Collins loves him and he’s the next in the family tree of freaky athletic linebackers after McKinney and KJ Wright.

Cornerback: Taveze Calhoun was the surprise breakout star of the secondary last year alongside the speedy Jamerson Love. Beyond those, I’ll be interested to see what junior Will Redmond does in camp. He’s only got half a season to his name, but he might have as much as raw talent as anyone in the defensive backfield for State. He could easily be MSU’s nickel corner, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he pushes for a starting gig by season’s end. I’m also keeping an eye on sophomore Cedric Jiles, one of my favorite athletes on the team who has been slowed some by injury.

CAFRKWCCMCJKTZY.20130420212126Safety: The two most important players here only played one game at the position last year: senior Justin Cox, who spent the regular season as a corner, and senior Jay Hughes, who was injured in the first game and missed the rest of the year. Hughes is the leader of the defense and as a coach’s son is a legitimate coach on the field. Cox struggled some last year at corner, but coaches think safety is much more natural fit for the player with the best combination of length and speed in the secondary. He seemed to do well in the Liberty Bowl when he made the switch.

Special teams: Greg Knox took over as the singular special teams coach in the spring, so I’m interested to see the benefits of what should be a more streamlined and consistent special teams operation. Devon Bell is set as punter, and is a supremely talented one. Evan Sobiesk – Sobes, as Mullen likes to call him – seems to have the field goal kicking job locked down, though Michigan transfer JJ McGrath could push him with a strong camp.

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All-Time MSU Football Team: Receivers

Over the three weeks of fall camp, Mississippi State will be collecting votes and assembling an all-time MSU football team in honor of the 100th anniversary of Scott Field. Winners will be announced over the course of the season as the starters are filled in on both sides of the ball.

Voting is simple: the candidates and their highlights are listed below, just vote for your choices in the poll.

Today, we begin by selecting three receivers from the pool.

Justin Jenkins 2000-03

139 catches (4th-most all-time), 1,974 yards (5th-most all-time), 17 touchdowns (tied second), six 100-yard games (T-4th), holds record for most consecutive games with a touchdown catch (five in 2003).

David Smith 1968-70

162 catches (1st all-time), 2,168 yards (1st), 12 touchdowns (7th), eight 100-yard games (1st), averaged 74.8 yards per game (1st), second-most receptions in one game (14 for 194 yards in 1969 Egg Bowl), second-most yards in one game (215 vs Texas Tech in 1970).

Chad Bumphis 2009-2012

159 catches (2nd all-time), 2,270 yards (1st), 24 touchdowns (1st), seven 100-yard games (T-2nd), most consecutive games with a catch (30 from 2009-12), single-season record for touchdown catches (12 in 2012).

Mardye McDole 1977-80

116 catches (7th all-time), 2,214 yards (2nd), 13 touchdowns (T-5), averaged 19.09 yards per catch (1st, minimum 100 career receptions), only 1,000-yard receiver in MSU history (1,035 in 1978), seven 100-yard games (T-2nd).

Eric Moulds vs. Tennessee

Eric Moulds vs. Tennessee

Eric Moulds 1993-95

118 catches (6th all-time), 2,022 yards (4th), 17 touchdowns (T-2nd), most catches in a single game (15 for 183 yards vs Tennessee in 1995).

Sammy Milner 1968-70

146 catches (3rd all-time), 1,806 yards (6th), 11 touchdowns (8th), two 64-catch seasons (T-2nd for best single-season, 1968 and 1969).

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