Few things are more stressful than the period of time between school and a first job, trying to find someone to employ you and having no clue where you’ll end up.
It has to be an odd feeling for some former Mississippi State football players this weekend during the NFL Draft. At any moment they could get a call saying they’re moving to Green Bay or Tampa Bay, Oakland or New York, Cleveland or Seattle. Then there’s also the fear they could get no call at all. It must be a bit stressful, I’d imagine.
It’s there, and with Gabe Jackson specifically, where today’s notebook begins. The second and third rounds of the draft are tonight and are almost assuredly the period in which MSU’s four-year starter will be drafted. According to most “experts,” there are three top offensive guards left on the board (generally a position drafted after offensive tackles), with Gabe among them. That in mind, one of two things could happen: there could be a run in which all three are selected close together near the top of the second, or teams may be willing to wait in hopes that one of the three will still be available in the third round.
There are several OL-needy teams in the league, but two, more than any others, have constantly been linked to offensive guards by reporters and draftniks alike: the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa picks sixth tonight (38th overall) and Seattle has the eighth (40th overall) and 32nd (64th) picks of the second round. The Bucs then circle back five picks later at the top of the third.
Of course, of the 30 other teams in the NFL picking tonight and the 64 total picks, nearly all could use some form of help on the offensive line, so projecting with accuracy is difficult. The Vikings, Colts, Broncos, Redskins, Giants, Cowboys and Bengals could all be teams to watch, too.
Rounds 4-7 finish the draft on Saturday, in which guys like LaDarius Perkins, Deontae Skinner, Nickoe Whitley, Tyler Russell and Denico Autry hope to hear their names called.
Perkins in particular has upped his stock since the 2013 season ended. Scouts have been consistently impressed with his measurables and workouts, especially his pass-catching ability. Dan Mullen actually told scouts on Pro Day that Perkins was probably the best receiver on their team.
The way NFL offenses are trending to the passing game and away from the big bruising backs, Perkins is coming out at just the right time. I was talking to Johnthan Banks at MSU’s Pro Day and we agreed on a comparison for LDP: Doug Martin, the Tampa running back who went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2012. Maurice Jones-Drew is another good comp.
I’ll also be interested to see if Russell is drafted. He’s apparently been very impressive in workouts since recovering from his postseason surgery and scouts love his size, arm strength, accuracy and willingness to stand in the pocket. Injuries slowed his senior season, but he may sneak into the final rounds if a team thinks he can develop into a solid pro.
Our next topic is baseball, but mostly off the field. If you haven’t seen, Jackson State’s baseball team was on the road recently when their bus caught on fire. Luckily, the people inside were safe, but nearly all of the team’s gear was on board and was destroyed by the fire.
John Cohen and MSU’s baseball team loaded up an entire truck of goods yesterday for JSU’s program to help replace what they lost.
It was so easy to do because just this past offseason, MSU switched all of their gear – bats, gloves, bags, the works – to Adidas. The result left the Bulldogs with a plethora of “old” but not overly-used equipment that was just sitting around, perfect for JSU and their out-of-nowhere need to replace nearly everything they had.
Beyond the old equipment, MSU also helped out sending extras of much of their current Adidas gear, a very neat gesture. Catchers’ gear, travel bags, bats, gloves, cleats – the Bulldogs packed it all up for JSU.
It’s a topic we’ve discussed a lot the last few weeks, but you can’t help but to love seeing Mississippians help Mississippians.
In one more baseball note: you likely saw on Twitter, but MSU is wearing a special Mother’s Day jersey on Sunday against Tennessee, a variation of the throwbacks introduced at the College World Series last year, this one with a pink stripe across the chest.
NCAA Tournament – let’s talk postseason. There are number of teams currently in or about to be in the big show, so we’ll review it by sport.
Men’s tennis: At time of publication, the Bulldogs had won the doubles point against Louisiana-Lafayette in the first round in Austin. I’ll share more results as they come over the next hour or two. MSU will play the winner of Texas and Marist if they win today.
Women’s golf: After the top half of the Oklahoma State Regional played yesterday, MSU’s ladies on the links were in seventh place. The top eight teams move on to Nationals, so that’s a good spot to be in after the first round.
Softball: MSU was part of a supremely entertaining SEC Tournament game on Wednesday, losing in extra innings to Kentucky. After this weekend, we’ll know where they go for their Regional, and it’s expected they’ll be a two-seed.
The difficulty is that pretty much all of the likely hosts in the region are SEC teams, so MSU is likely to have to travel a good distance. The good news: MSU is hot at the right time, has two dominant pitchers and its bats have been on fire lately.
Men’s golf: Just this week, MSU learned it will be the nine-seed in the Illinois Regional, with competition beginning next Thursday.
Baseball: Obviously, the Diamond Dawgs have two regular season series left, then the SEC Tournament, meaning pretty much anything can happen. The last reputable projection I saw came from Perfect Game, who had MSU as a two-seed in Miami (South Beach!) matched up with the Gainesville Regional.
But, what if MSU were to sweep Tennessee this weekend and Alabama next weekend, could they perhaps sneak their way into hosting? What if MSU loses both series and has an early exit from the SEC Tourney? The Bulldogs are safely in the postseason, but as it stands now they could end up just about anywhere. The point, of course, is that the next two weeks are very important for MSU, who currently sits at second in the SEC West and third in the conference. The Division Title could be won in these next eight days.
Two last baseball notes before we exit.
Former Bulldog football great John Bond will be at tonight’s game vs. UT. Here’s the quick story: A couple weeks ago, Hobie Hobart of Right Field Tiki Lounge fame joked that he would give away 100 of his John Bond triple-threat chili cheese dogs if MSU swept Auburn. Then, as we now know, the Bulldogs went down to the Plains and swept the Tigers. Keeping his word, Hobie will be giving them away tonight, with the namesake of the hot dog as the celebrity chef.
Bond is also hoping to raise awareness for Andrew’s Mission, a charity organization created to honor his son who was tragically lost in a car accident in 2010. More information on the group is available at www.AndrewsMission.org
Oh, and if you’re an MSU baseball fan, or even just a college baseball fan, find 22 minutes to watch this documentary on MSU baseball produced by AT&T UVerse. It really is outstanding, very well done – http://uverseonline.att.net/tv/show/mississippi-state-baseball#play=dk___dk_exc_sp0507_may14.mp4