Welcome back! I’m saying that either to myself or to you, as I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one out of town for the holiday last week (and a few days before it).
Since the month of July began, a fair bit has actually happened around Mississippi State, not including fireworks. Let’s jump right in and catch up on what transpired.
— Starting today, senior receiver Jameon Lewis was [again] named to the Paul Hornung Award Watch List, an honor given annually to the most versatile player in college football. Obviously, this type of award is right up Tubby’s alley. You’ll recall that not once but twice last year he scored three different ways in one game, having two games where he passed for, ran and received a touchdown. Beyond that, he’s also been an explosive kick returner.
All that, and it’s worth remembering that when he first got to campus Lewis started out as a cornerback. Though the coaches quickly realized which side of the ball he needed to be on.
— In fact, since I started writing this post, two more Bulldogs have made watch lists, and I doubt it will be the last one for either. Junior linebacker Benardrick McKinney was named to Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the Year) and junior quarterback Dak Prescott was placed on the Maxwell Award (National Player of the Year) watch list. McKinney and Prescott are two of the hottest names on their sides of the ball in college as the preseason rolls along and it wouldn’t be surprising to see both in Hoover for SEC Media Days next week
— Some new scheduling news came out last week, as MSU announced it will play a home-and-home with North Carolina State in 2020-21. The first game will be in Raleigh and the second in Starkville. This, of course, is a part of the new SEC scheduling rules in which each school is required to play at least one team per season from one of the other Power Five conferences.
As a reminder, MSU has Arizona scheduled for 2022-23, and Scott Stricklin shared in his update that State is close to finalizing a deal with another team for 2018-19. The struggle, Stricklin said, is finding an opponent for 2016-17. Scheduling (like with the previously mentioned teams) is typically done far in advance and 2016-17, despite seeming so far away, is actually pretty short notice.
— Speaking of Stricklin’s update, he shared news on the expansion of Davis Wade Stadium. He reports the contractors will turn the stadium over to MSU on August 20th, leaving MSU over a full week’s window before the season-opener against Southern Miss.
At this point, the majority of the work on the north end zone is done, with final things like seats, windows, painting and little stuff on the inside left to be done. Progress has also been made on the new video board, where the first of hundreds of panels have gone in. I drove by yesterday and the difference between then and the last I saw it two weeks ago is significant.
— Related news: ESPN actually ranked the top 10 video boards in the country and had MSU at No. 7. I particularly enjoyed this description from the post: “When that thing lights up at night and the cowbells are clanking, you feel like some mythical creature is going to slither out of that pigskin sanctuary.”
I might argue for the use of clanging, rather than clanking, but otherwise I have no issues. What’s worth noting is that the new video board will be the exact same size as the current one, so things are about to get pretty wild at Scott Field.
— Continuing written connect-the-dots, MSU also announced last week the forming of a video department named Hail State Productions. I’m particularly excited about this news, which starts with the hiring of Bennie Ashford from the University Television Center and of Drew Walker from Auburn.
Both have a long history of quality and production, so it ought to be fun. This comes as the result of several things, though the two chief reasons are the oncoming SEC Network which will require advanced and daily video production from the schools, and the eagerness of the department to have professional quality videos both from a creative and production standpoint. Read more about it here.
— One last football note while we’re on the subject: NFL.com did a list of the 14 best uniforms in college football, and you’ll notice the picture at the top of the page features the Maroon and White Adidas we are all so familiar with. Specifically, the list references the specialty 1990s throwbacks MSU will be wearing for the season-opener.
— Now, let’s get to the first of two coaching moves. With Per Nilsson on his way out to Pepperdine, MSU was looking for a new men’s tennis coach. The search was lengthy and thorough, but the end result found what some had thought from the start: the best candidate was already in Starkville. Nilsson’s No. 2 man Matt Roberts was considered one of the top young coaches in the country and has been instrumental in recruiting and developing the teams which have spent four-straight years in the Top 20 nationally.
More info on MSU’s hire of Roberts and his history can be found here at HailState.com.
— Our final note comes from baseball, where John Cohen and the Diamond Dawg program announced the hiring of Zach Dillon as the new director of camps and volunteer first base coach. The former Big XII Player of the Year, Dillon has a strong pedigree at the plate both as catcher and hitter, and it seems to have translated to coaching and working with young players. As before, more info on Dillon and his hiring at HailState.com.
— I lied, one more item: if you’re interested in keeping up with the Diamond Dawgs through summer ball, you can find a full report on their successes here.