30 Predictions Sure To Come True For Mississippi State’s 2016 Football Season

If you could see the future, would you want to? I tend to believe it would ruin the present, even if there are some notable advantages to knowing what’s coming. Avoiding embarrassment and injury, for one. Making money off future Super Bowl winners, perhaps (NCAA reminder: Don’t Bet On It!).

112815_FB_OleMiss_Ross_KP1922But I feel like it would be considerably more fun to predict the future, using only the clues and hints available, rather than to know the future. The difference between magic and magic tricks, in a sense. It’s more impressive that way. Knowing what’s coming takes away all the fun of the ride, not to sound like a bad fortune cookie. Guessing what’s coming leaves room for adventure, adds a bit of risk and invokes more pride if you nail your prediction, though there’s no guarantee you’ll be right.

And in this instance, I’ll probably be wrong. At least somewhat. I did leave myself some easy calls in here.

But here’s the deal: these are all predictions for Mississippi State’s 2016 football season. I’m peering into the crystal ball where depth charts, injury reports and game recaps are floating through the fog, all in the name of making some guesses about what’s going to happen over the next four months (there’s a preview of one prediction: four months, not three).

Some are obvious – I never claimed to be intelligent – and some come from rumblings I hear around the program, observations over the offseason and plain guesswork coming from the slowly-firing synapses in my brain.

All of them are 100 percent guaranteed to maybe be right. Possibly.

  1. Senior receiver Fred Ross again leads MSU in receiving,
  2. But junior receiver Donald Gray is the breakout star of the receiving corps.
  3. Senior running back Ashton Shumpert silences some doubters,
  4. While senior running back Brandon Holloway leads all backs in all-purpose yards and touches,
  5. And sophomore running back Aeris Williams becomes everyone’s new favorite backup (and future starter).
  6. Senior defensive end Jonathan Calvin leads the team in sacks,
  7. Senior linebacker Richie Brown leads the team in tackles,
  8. And sophomore safety Brandon Bryant cements himself as one of the best defensive backs in the country, leading the team in interceptions.
  9. Junior cornerback Jamoral Graham gets at least one pick-six.
  10. Junior cornerback Lashard Durr gets a strong hold on his starting spot at corner.
  11. Freshman defensive back Maurice Smitherman sets himself up to be the next big star in the defensive backfield.
  12. Linebacker Gerri Green takes a huge step as a redshirt sophomore, garnering attention from NFL scouts.
  13. MSU’s front seven becomes feared by mid-season,
  14. Partially because of the variety of looks and attacks,
  15. Partially because of the deep, athletic group of linebackers,
  16. And largely because of the nearly-1,000-pound defensive line trio of Nelson Adams, Nick James and Jeff Simmons gobbling up offensive linemen,
  17. All aided by the attention drawn by senior end A.J. Jefferson, who shaves his beard, much to the dismay of humans everywhere.
  18. MSU increases its team sack total considerably.
  19. Forced turnovers see an uptick, too, thanks largely to the previously mentioned Bryant.
  20. Center Jamaal Clayborn is again one of the most underrated players on the team.
  21. Junior receiver Gabe Myles joins him on the list by season’s end.
  22. Sophomore receiver Malik Dear becomes MSU’s best mismatch,
  23. While freshman receiver Keith Mixon makes highlight-reel plays 50 percent of the time he touches the ball,
  24. And fans complain that he doesn’t get more playing time,
  25. While coaches patiently explain that he’s just a freshman and has to get a grasp of the entire offense, but yes, he is pretty good, isn’t he?
  26. Tight end becomes a position of depth and strength by season’s end.
  27. The quarterback position is settled by the off week,
  28. And opens back up after the bowl game.
  29. Oh, MSU goes to its seventh-straight bowl game, adding to the current program-record streak of six.
  30. And finally, junior kicker Westin Graves finishes the season with the most points-responsible-for on the team.
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Live Blog: Dan Mullen Monday Press Conference, South Alabama Week

At 1 p.m. today, Dan Mullen will hold his first weekly press conference. Mississippi State plays South Alabama on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the season opener. We’ll be live-reporting his press conference as it happens.

Updates to follow.


WPMAMXXNWEPIADE.20151230195608And he’s here. Football season is almost, somewhat, sort of underway. Let’s roll.

Mullen says this week, transitioning into game week, is what you work for. He’s interested to see how the younger guys handle their first real game week.

“It’s real. Now, it’s going on the field,” he says.

“Going into year eight for me as a coach, I’m fired up. I’m excited. Can’t wait to go run out of that tunnel,” he adds.

As for South Alabama, Mullen said he expects an exciting game and sees two similar teams who will be young at a good number of positions, both dealing with injuries on defense.

“Both teams are undefined right now, and both teams are going to find their personality,” he said.

Now, for the topic everyone was waiting to discuss:

Mullen says “I was hoping to be ready” to name a starting quarterback today, but he’s not quite there yet. “I’m waiting for the clarity.”

He said he’s not trying to be deceptive or misleading, he just doesn’t have an answer yet. Said that more than one quarterback will play, probably two in the first quarter. He said he’d hate to name a starter, have that guy go out for the first series, then the second guy comes in for the second series and does a better job.

The way he explained it, it sounds like one guy will get the first series, the next will get the second series, and then they’ll go from there. To him, it doesn’t seem to matter who gets which series, just who does better with it.

He reiterated that he wanted it to happen, wanted to have it decided, but it’s not yet settled. Needs real game play to do that.

The competition is down to two people, Nick Fitzgerald and Damian Williams, as expected. However, Mullen did say freshman Nick Tiano will get some reps, too.

He adds, “There’s a comfort level with both guys repping with the ones, so I don’t think it’s going to be an issue.”

As for the competition at running back, Mullen says Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway “will get the majority of the reps” to begin with. Though he adds there will be plenty of reps to go around, also saying that special teams are a proving ground for young players like some of the running backs MSU has.

Asked which RB to expect after the veterans, Mullen went with Aeris Williams. Said he’s a good mix of Shump and Holloway’s skill sets.

Mullen on Dak Prescott becoming the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys: “He’s going to handle the moment well. He’s been in a lot of pressure situations … I’m just proud of him.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Mullen asked about the injuries at cornerback. He says that through training camp, the ones through threes had all had equal reps, so he’s not too concerned about guys not being ready.

Injury update, defensively, as well: DL/LB Will Coleman will be out the first two weeks with “a back issue” that popped up early in camp.

And that’s it for Mullen. Catch y’all later.

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Eleven lessons learned in Italy with MSU basketball

Twice in Italy, Mississippi State took games against professional basketball teams into overtime. On both occasions, Ben Howland’s team won. Most impressively, one of those wins came against the national team of Kosovo, a group made up of, as one MSU player observed, some “real, grown men.“ Real, grown men who, for example, were All-Conference players in the United States in college; real, grown men who, for example, had contracts in the millions to play professionally; real, grown men who, for example, were named MVP of the Spanish professional basketball league.

howlandAnd MSU beat them. To my surprise, if I’m being honest. After three wins against teams with varying levels of talent, size and skill, Kosovo was by far the hardest test the Bulldogs had to face, a team made up of real-deal stars, the best the entire country had to offer. That was a game the Bulldogs were expected to lose, and it would have been no big deal had they done so. One missed free throw in regulation and they would have, though it still would have been impressive to have competed so closely.

But they won. They won that game just like they did every other game in Italy, a perfect 4-0 record. The story in that is as much about mindset as it is about talent. People often use the expression “They don’t know how to win” about a team that consistently loses close games. Watching some of the tight losses MSU has had in recent years, one might have said that applied to the Bulldogs from time to time. But Howland is changing that. Perhaps after watching two overtime wins in Italy, I shouldn’t even use the present progressive form of the verb change. Make it past tense. It appears he already has changed it.

Some teams don’t know how to win. This team doesn’t know how to lose. The roster is completely revamped with only three returning players, two of them sophomores. Once senior point guard I.J. Ready got sick, it was down to a dozen freshmen and two sophomores in Europe. And all of them were people who aren’t used to losing, who don’t ever believe they’re going to lose.

Those freshmen were part of the best signing class in MSU history, and the reason is clear. They are incredibly talented. They’re young, of course, but man are they fun to watch play basketball. And because they’re so good, they’ve tended to win at a high rate. It’s what they’re used to.

It’s not just them, though, and Italy wasn’t even the first time. In the big picture, it began when Howland was hired and moved to Starkville. The movement started then. The first ball dropped, very literally, six months ago, shot from the corner when Quinndary Weatherspoon drilled a three at the buzzer to give MSU a win over Vanderbilt. It was the highlight play of the entire athletic year.

Howland is creating – excuse me, has created – a culture of winning. The process is ongoing, of course, and there will be growing pains along the way with such a young team, but the development of Mississippi State basketball is clear, even if it took traveling halfway across the world to get a good look at it.

Walking back to the bus after MSU won it’s first game against a Lithuanian national team, I was talking to freshman guard Eli Wright, who shot 8-of-9 from the field in the win. I told him the team looked so much bigger than it has in recent years, that it has so many great shooters and so many impressive athletes. He smiled, then gave me a knowing look.

“That’s Coach Howland,” was all he said.

It was all he needed to say.

———————–

As you’ve surmised by now, I spent roughly two weeks in Italy (and a few hours in Switzerland, to boot) traveling with MSU’s basketball team as they played four games against international teams. For full game recaps with quotes, scores and stats, check out hailstate.com/mensbasketball.

What I’ll share here are 10 Things I Think, 10 observations from getting an early and exclusive look at year two under Ben Howland.

  1. I think Quinndary Weatherspoon is going to have a monster second year.

q 2Ben Howland has often said that the most development a player ever has is between his freshman and sophomore years. Weatherspoon may end up being his best example of that school of thought, which is impressive considering how strong his freshman year was to begin with. Q scored over 80 points in four games, and did so with limited minutes against the weakest opponent and while battling through pain against Kosovo. The biggest obvious change is his confidence. He knows it’s his team now, and he knows how good he is and can be.

2. I think MSU is going to win a lot of games it “shouldn’t” this season.

People won’t be expecting much of the Bulldogs, but the Bulldogs will be expecting a great deal of themselves. With the confidence this team has, they’ll go into every game believing they’re going to win. With their talent, I’d hazard a guess that they’ll be right more often than not.

  1. I think Ben Howland is one of the best developers of talent on the Mississippi State campus.

You can check out a longer story I wrote from Florence for more details on this, but seeing the improvement in individual players and the team as a whole from game to game (and having the inside peek of practice to see how it was done) was incredibly impressive.

  1. I think I’m planting a symbolic flag on the career of freshman guard Eli Wright.

Howland often said last year how much he wishes he could have had more time with Craig Sword to develop him. I think he has that chance with Wright, who reminds a lot of people of a younger Chicken, and perhaps with an even better jump shot as a freshman. Wright is smart, focused and works extremely hard, having developed that jump shot seemingly out of nowhere. He can create, he can shoot, he can rebound and he has great vision. I was impressed.

  1. I think freshman forward Schnider Herard is going to be immensely valuable to this team, even if the stats don’t always show it.

Herard’s best game came when it was needed the most against Kosovo. They were the biggest and most physical team MSU played, and they needed their biggest and most physical guy to step up, and he absolutely did, scoring 17 and hitting double-digits in rebounds.

“He’s the reason we won that game,” Aric Holman told me after the game as we reviewed the stat sheet, “and he doesn’t even know it.”

Herard is big and talented, certainly, but he’s also a hustle guy, and it was his passion as much as anything that spurred his teammates on against Kosovo. His presence will always be felt, on the court or on the bench.

  1. I think Delta pilots are pretty fantastic.

Granted, it was likely the fault of Delta that our flight was delayed in the first place, as the plane from Milan to Atlanta left three hours later than scheduled. Those who have flown to Starkville and into GTR before know, if you miss that last flight from Atlanta, there’s nothing you can do but find a hotel or take a REALLY expensive cab ride. The pilot of the 10 hour flight out of Italy, the pilot with hundreds of other passengers on board, not only called ahead from somewhere over the Atlantic to ask the Atlanta-Starkville flight to wait for the 32 of us who needed to catch it, but he escorted us through customs and across terminals all the way to our gate, just to make sure we got to our flight on time. Thanks to him, we did.

  1. I think the addition of freshman forward Mario Kegler is going to be a very big piece for this team.

As impressive as the team was in Italy, they did it without one of their best players. Adding an extremely talented four-man who can shoot and create offensively will do wonders to keep teams from focusing on Weatherspoon or any of the team’s new sharpshooters. Speaking of…

  1. I think this team is going to light up the scoreboard.

Stretching back to the early days of Jarvis Varnado, MSU basketball has almost exclusively been dependent on playing good defense and keeping games low-scoring. Howland loves coaching defense, too, but man, this team is going to be able to score. They have so many shooters, and a great deal of variety. Freshman guard Tyson Carter might have been the surprise star of the trip, racking up basket after basket throughout the entire trip, threatening Weatherspoon for the four-game scoring title and even hitting a ¾ court shot at the halftime buzzer in one game. I hate to put this on him as a freshman, but he’s got the kind of pure shooting ability to make me think he could push for Barry Stewart’s career three-pointers record. MSU will score a lot in 2016-17.

  1. I think Lamar Peters is one of the most entertaining players I’ve watched in a long time.

The freshman point guard ended up starting for three out of four games when I.J. Ready got sick, and he performed very well, getting better with each outing. Like all freshmen, he has to develop as he learns what it takes to be a true point guard in the SEC, but even from day one, he is just a ball to watch play. Peters is very much an example of an electric athlete. He is the quickest player on pretty much any court he steps on to and he may very well lead the SEC in broken ankles this year, were such a stat tracked. I saw at least a half dozen would-be defenders fall to the ground as a result of his crossovers.

  1. I think MSU fans should buy tickets now while they still can.

This is probably the part where someone would encourage me to include a link to hailstate.com/tickets. Whatever. My point is that this is going to be an incredibly fun team to watch, and when people start to notice that fact, The Hump is going to fill up much faster and much more often than it has in a while. Win or lose, MSU’s games won’t be boring for a long time to come. Through TV, internet or in person, this is a group that will grab people’s attention.

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Brian Johnson breaks down MSU’s QB competition midway through preseason

Finding the replacement for Dak Prescott, it turns out, has surprisingly little to do with emulating the former star quarterback for Mississippi State. In fact, calling the next starting QB for the Bulldogs a “replacement” for Dak would be misleading at best, and more than likely, just plain inaccurate.

Brian Johnson at MSU's spring game with Dak Prescott and Fred Ross

Brian Johnson at MSU’s spring game with Dak Prescott and Fred Ross

Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson spoke with local reporters halfway through preseason camp about the three-way battle to be the team’s signal caller in 2016, a race he says remains quite even. He didn’t talk about who can run the best, like Prescott did throughout his career. He didn’t speculate who had the best deep ball, who was the best leader, who was the most personable in interviews, who could make the quickest reads or who could scramble best if the pocket breaks down.

Johnson – and head coach Dan Mullen, by extension – wants one quality in his starting quarterback: consistency.

Who cares if you can throw the prettiest touchdown, if you’re just as likely to throw an interception the very next play (even if it is somehow a prettily-thrown pick). Sure, you can scramble, but so what, if you can’t remember the hot route?

High ceilings are good. High ceilings are why guys are recruited, why the three young men battling for this position were signed, but a high floor is the key to making a coach comfortable letting them on the field every play.

“Consistency is what this whole thing boils down to,” Johnson replied when asked what he’s looking for.

The candidates are known, generally, and now down to three after the transfer of Elijah Staley. Junior Damian Williams is the veteran of the group, having both started and won games in the SEC, though he redshirted all of last season. Sophomore Nick Fitzgerald was the primary backup to Prescott last year, the only of three to take a snap in 2015. And freshman Nick Tiano is the greenest of the bunch, having never taken a snap of college football in his life, though his talent and charisma have given him an equal chance in this race.

As it stands today, none have separated themselves, their coach told reporters after practice.

“Consistency,” Johnson continued to explain. “Be the same guy every play. No roller coaster. Have that baseline up here, and you can wiggle on the baseline, but I don’t want to see the huge ebbs and flows. Consistency in performance … You want to be closer to your ceiling than your floor at all times. The whole deal is bringing that baseline up and shrinking that gap.”

It’s like playing the stock market. The idea makes sense. The quarterback is the only player on the field guaranteed to touch the ball every snap, except for the center, of course. MSU also believes it’s going to have a strong defense in 2016. A reliable quarterback pairs well there, too. Add in a veteran group of running backs and receivers, including the leading returning receiver in the SEC in Fred Ross, and MSU has even more of a need to find someone who can support them on a play-by-play basis.

The question for Johnson then becomes: you can work on fundamentals and technique, you can develop talent and you can review playbooks, but how do you coach consistency? How does Johnson, the man so in need of consistency, teach his pupils to have it?

“It’s a constant, every day reminder,” he answered. “Like you said, how do you coach it? You just have to beat it in every single day that this is the standard. What do you want your standard to be as a player? What do you want your standard to be as position group? You have to live up to or exceed that standard every single day. Understand the consequences at hand, what’s at stake, understand what you’re competing for. You have to be self-motivated to achieve that. 99 percent of the world can’t do that. They have to understand that and meet that baseline of effort, intensity and focus every single practice, every single work out, every single walk through, every single meal – everything they do in every aspect of their life, they have to meet or exceed their baseline.”

Find your floor. Never sink below it. Always seek to raise it. The one who does, has the job of a lifetime waiting on him.

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Howland Building Through Details, Experience In Italy

Ben Howland lives in the details. Not in a way to suggest he needs organization to function – though disorganization is almost certainly among his pet peeves – but in the sense that he builds his knowledge on details. He sees the forest because of the trees.

As his team tours through Italy on a four-game exhibition trip for Mississippi State basketball, the head coach of the Bulldogs has shown what it is that’s made him so successful in his career as a builder of programs and players – the details.

unnamed-1His style as a coach comes very much from his natural tendencies as a person, exhibited on a regular basis throughout Rome and Florence and their collective museums, towers and cathedrals. The trip is for the team, for the young roster to develop chemistry, to play other opponents and to experience new cultures and see history in person. However, seemingly none have been as excited away from the court in Italy as Howland. On each of the many guided tours, he is rapt with attention, carefully making sure he takes in every word, often turning to his players to ask if they heard what was said, repeating some interesting tidbit of information on the Sistine Chapel or Il Duomo or even Michelangelo’s statue of David.

Intentional or not, Howland has found himself standing right next to the guide by the end of every tour, asking question after question as the group walks behind them. In one instance he even asked the guide if she would take he and his family to a nearby area he wanted to learn about, the famed Piazza della Signoria in Florence.

In those questions Howland asks, he is seeking information. The Whos, the Whats, the Wheres, Whens and Whys. In one instance, he wants to know more about the Medici family, ancient bankers who warred with Michelangelo and controlled much of the direction of the country.

In museums and churches, he wants to know the names of the artists, the names of their works, why their works were given that name and what inspired those works to begin with.

Outside the entrance to the town hall of Florence is mounted a large re-creation of Michelangelo’s David. Opposite that statue stands another marble creation, that one of a man of strong build and stature holding a club with a smaller man cowed on his knees before him. Merely 20 yards away, in front of a museum, stands the famous Bernini sculpture Howland had come to see, one he had learned about on the previous tour. But Howland needed to know who the other statue was, the one he did not know or recognize. In this square, the Piazza della Signoria, containing statues of famous men created by famous men, Howland needed to know the name of the anonymous Adonis with a club.

Howland couldn’t see the whole square until he saw each part of it. Or because he saw the whole square, he wanted to see each part of it, to trace the lines of the puzzle pieces. His big picture, just as with the eyes of the artist, is seen in the individual strokes of the brush.

Ben Howland lives in the details, and because of that, he coaches in them, too.

Few head coaches are as hands-on in running their practices as Howland, regularly switching sides of the court to work with guards or forwards. The assistants are running each drill their players go through, while Howland observes, notes and teaches, often stepping in to coach an individual on technique or to physically provide an example of what needs to be done.

Howland enthusiastically sets picks against men one-and-a-half times his size, happily runs through drills with his players and regularly rolls off screens himself.

And then he explains why. He doesn’t just want his players to know what they’re doing. He needs them to understand why. And The Why is in the details.

Saturday afternoon, Florence

“I’ve never seen you jump so high,” Howland says.

Leaning against the wall of the Galleria dell’Accademia – home of The David – Joe Strugg looks at the ground and sheepishly smiles.

Strugg, because of a stress fracture in his leg last year, hasn’t played in a single game for MSU. The rangy, athletic forward is finally healthy, finally practicing, and finally ready to put on a jersey and play after having to redshirt his first year on campus. The night before in Rome, Strugg did just that, albeit in an exhibition against a Lithuanian pro team.

Strugg played well in that game, a fact not escaping Howland’s notice, particularly as he finds himself needing depth in the post.

“You’re going to play more minutes in our next game,” Howland says, this time more seriously. “You’re going to rebound and you’re going to defend.”

Sunday afternoon, Florence

unnamedNearing the end of their practice, MSU is doing halfcourt five-on-five to review the sets they went over all practice. Strugg has been noticeably putting forth extra effort the full time, paying extra attention to Howland in the moments he comes to the forwards’ side of the court, mimicking his coach when he shows him what angle to take on a screen and making eye contact as he listens intently before mentally running himself through reps of what he just learned when Howland walks away.

But now, as the team is playing five-on-five, Strugg is having difficulty remembering which of all the moving bodies are the ones he’s supposed to screen and supposed to screen for.

Howland calls out and brings the motion to a halt.

“If the ball goes here,” Howland says to Strugg, pointing to a player out on the perimeter as he walks into the middle of the fray, “where do you go?”

Strugg thinks for a moment, eager to show his coach he deserves the extra minutes he promised. He then points to a spot a few feet away.

“You got it,” Howland says. “Your screen opens him up and it gives you the lane,” Howland continues, pointing again as he explains The Why after demonstrating The What.

“Let’s do it again.”

This time, Strugg nails it.

Socrates may have been Greek, but his method is still effective in this Italian gym on the land of ancient Rome.

Monday night, Florence

It’s game day, the second of MSU’s tour of Europe. The Bulldogs are playing another Lithuanian pro team and Strugg is eager for his chance to get his minutes and prove his worth.

Midway through the third quarter, MSU’s bench erupts in cheers and clapping for the result of a play on the offensive end.

Moments before, when the ball was passed around the perimeter, Strugg sprinted to the top of the key and planted himself on the back side of the Lithuanian defender guarding the ball. When the point guard ran free thanks to the perfectly set pick, Strugg rolled in the appropriate direction, turning inside toward the lane, and saw that the man responsible for guarding him had left to cover the recently-freed point guard. The man responsible for the point guard was trapped behind Strugg, no angle to defend a pass. So, when Strugg turned and caught the pass that immediately came, he streaked through the open paint and into the air to bring home a thunderous one-handed slam.

“It was the exact play we worked on in practice,” assistant coach Ernie Zeigler confirmed after the game.

Moments like that are why this trip is so valuable to MSU, to Howland, as so many new pieces come together. Little breakthroughs in practice lead to big breakthroughs in games. The more trees, the bigger the forest, and Howland cherishes every chance to plant a seed.

—————–

The unknown statue in the square outside town hall turned out to be a name Howland had heard plenty before – it was a monument to Hercules, sculpted to show his strength following his eradication of the fire-breathing monster Cacus.

The statues of Hercules and David flank the entrance to the palatial town hall, meant to signify spiritual power (David) and physical power (Hercules) joining to give the city dominance and success. Certainly, the symbolism wasn’t lost on Howland as he lays his plan to build a college basketball power.

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MSU Basketball Tours Roman Coliseum On Maroon Friday

 

It took each of them traveling thousands of miles halfway around the globe to one of the world’s most historic sites, but finally, with perfect timing on Maroon Friday, the two met.

unnamed-6Just outside of The Coliseum in Rome, as Mississippi State’s basketball was taking a group picture before leaving, a lady nearby called out, “Hail State!” Up walked Kristy James, a Bulldog fan and a 1991 MSU graduate, and coming from the middle of the group to meet her was Ben Howland, head coach of her alma mater’s team.

Never mind that they both live in Mississippi. It was probably more fun to make introductions at this Coliseum, as opposed to the one Howland’s team plays its games in back home in Starkville.

Although, there might be more similarities than one would imagine between the two structures, as one player noted while the tour guide shared stories of the various games played at the historic amphitheater – much more than just the gladiator battles, the team learned.

“Instead of basketball, they had this,” he remarked while walking along the second level.

If only James Naismith had been around in ancient Rome to pitch his idea to the emperors of the time.

We’ll have more from MSU’s trip to Europe coming soon, starting with their first game tonight at 6:30 local time, 11:30 a.m. central time. We will attempt to broadcast the game on Periscope for as long as the wireless internet connection holds up. In the meantime, here are a few more pictures of today’s tour.

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Freshman Eli Wright having his picture taken

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Freshman Schnider Herard capturing a panoramic shot of The Coliseum

Freshman Schnider Herard capturing a panoramic shot of The Coliseum

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MSU Basketball Arrives In Europe, Tours Rome Ahead Of First Exhibition Game

 

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Mississippi State’s basketball team in front of St. Peter’s Basilica

Buongiorno from Italia! After somewhere between 20-30 hours of travel, depending on how you do time zone math, the Mississippi State basketball team arrived in Rome on Wednesday morning for a two-week, four-game exhibition trip in Europe. Days one and two were mostly devoted to sightseeing and acclimation to the area and new time zone, including visits to the Trevi Fountain and The Vatican in Rome, as well enough local food to feed most families for a month.

The trip to Italy and Switzerland will include nearly a dozen cities, and is important to second-year head coach Ben Howland for nearly as many reasons. Certainly, he recognizes the cultural opportunity this is for himself and his players, calling it a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Like his team, it’s Howland’s first time in Italy, as well.

But among trips to the Sistine Chapel and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, another something important is happening with MSU’s basketball team – emphasis on basketball. A young and talented group, largely made up of the best signing class in school history, the chance to build chemistry both on the court and off couldn’t come at a better time.

The extra time for development and cohesion as a team is a great benefit, and Howland and the staff have made sure to drive that point home to the players, repeatedly reminding them how much they want to win a difficult first game in Rome against the Lithuanian National Team. It showed in practice on Thursday – an activity many teams might have skipped, opting to wait have a shoot-around on game day. Howland wanted his team to get on the court ahead of time, to learn the gym and to get experience with the rims. He wants them ready. And with a young team, he wants them to get better. This is too prime an opportunity for him not to take advantage.

unnamed-2It was evident in practice, too, where his demeanor while coaching down the street from the Roman Colosseum was the same as it is in Starkville at the Humphrey Coliseum. On one end of the court, Howland ran guards through situational drills. On the other, forwards were put through their paces, coaches teaching technique and developing skill rather than just repetitive drills to keep them fresh.

When practice was over, Howland was as serious and demanding as ever, reminding them they couldn’t leave the court until the objective was met. As the players watched each other shoot free throws in order, Howland stood and stared, expectantly and stone-faced, pausing only to offer coaching advice on form or to congratulate the players who made both of their shots.

When enough free throws had been made in few enough shots, Howland’s final words to the team before exiting the court reminded them that they have a goal here.

“We want to win this game tomorrow,” he said, looking from player to player, making sure they understood the message.

They’re here to get better.

But they’re here to have fun, too. Call it the Duality of Vacation, if you like, and the first two days in Italy have certainly been entertaining as players experience a completely new culture.

“Do you know where I can get a regular water?” freshman forward Schnider Herard asked Fabio, the team tour guide for the trip.

Fabio laughed, while just to Herard’s left, senior point guard I.J. Ready was cautiously pouring a liter of satisfactorily non-carbonated water into his Gatorade bottle before they left breakfast.

Just as funny is watching the team of very large basketball players wander around a city of very averaged-sized people. In the Sistine Chapel, freshman guard Eli Wright was pointing out the snake wrapped around a tree in the middle of the ceiling, explaining to his teammates that the snake and the man and woman next to its tree were Michelangelo’s representation of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. In the midst of such historic artwork, people who had presumably traveled thousands of miles to see that masterpiece were too busy staring at the 7-feet tall young men standing 100 feet below the painted ceiling.

unnamed-3In the square outside of St. Peter’s Basilica, the biggest and grandest church in the entire world, a pair of 20-year-old men stopped to take their picture not in front of the enormous building, but with basketball players. They didn’t even attempt to get the Basilica in the background.

“We are the same age,” one of the tourists said in awe after asking and learning how old sophomore guard Quinndary Weatherspoon is.

He couldn’t believe he was the same age as this large person he presumed to be a star in America. The fact that Peter himself – THE Peter – was buried a mere 100 yards away seemed almost secondary in that moment.

MSU’s players and coaches, however, were certainly wrapped up in the tour, taking pictures and videos every chance they had along the way, enveloping themselves in the history and the experience, not to mention the beauty.

Two days in, with more than a week to go, the Bulldogs are enjoying the experience, even if some of the cultural specifics require occasional adjustment.

“It’s incredible,” Wright said when asked what he thought of the trip so far. “But the food is different – they don’t use any salt or butter.”

Perhaps they could do without some of the unhealthy add-ons for a bit, anyway. They do have four games to play, after all. And as Howland has reminded them, those are four games they want to win.

MSU plays Lithuania Friday morning at 11:30 central time, and the game will be live-streamed by @HailStateMBK on Periscope as wireless internet access allows. Follow @HailStateMBK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to keep track of the team’s trip in Europe.

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Jackie Sherrill remembered as he enters Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame

Jackie Sherrill is the winningest coach in Misissippi State football history. He took the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship game one year, and his teams were collectively the ‘Best in the West’ for three more. He produced All-SEC and All-American players on an annual basis, sending player-after-player to the NFL. He set records, only to break them again and again on his own. His numbers and his accomplishments are why Sherrill is being inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame this weekend.

Erik S. Lesser - Associated Press

AP Photo – Erik S. Lesser

But what he means to those who cheered for him in Starkville throughout the ‘90s, who he is to MSU fans, is more than just being ‘Coach’ or ‘Hall of Famer.’ To Bulldogs of the time, Jackie Sherrill is The Kang. He’s Jackie Wayne. Sherrill is swagger, he’s confidence, he’s the interlocking MSU – unique and unmistakable.

Before he arrived, it was hard for many not to think, “We’re just Mississippi State.” Sherrill took the scene and changed that to, “We ARE Mississippi State.” It’s a cliché to say, perhaps, but Sherrill changed the culture, and did so as only he could do.

“He had a way of understanding, as a head coach, how to build confidence in his team,” former MSU quarterback Matt Wyatt said. “That was important, I think, at State, because there hadn’t been a lot of history.”

Much of that, Wyatt remembered from his time under center for Sherrill’s teams, was in the way their head coach carried himself. On the sideline, in the homes of recruits and anywhere on campus, Sherrill had a larger-than-life persona and appearance wherever he went, and the confidence he possessed so naturally found its way into those around him.

“He was always dressed to a T,” Wyatt recalled. “Big rings, $1,000 shoes, fancy watches, drove a Jaguar around campus. So, he’s got all these kids from small town Mississippi and Alabama on his team, but he always had his teams believing, ‘You know what, we don’t take a backseat to anybody.’ He did a great job of instilling that confidence.”

Sherrill was a strong offensive mind, certainly, and at the peak of his tenure, that offense paired with the nation-leading attack of defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn to make the Bulldogs a force in the SEC. But just as important as Xs and Os was that demeanor he showed and that the team around him took on.

Part of that personality, Wyatt remembers, involved making sure the team had the best of everything. The facilities, for their time, were among the best. Players were always being given new gear when equipment shipments came in. They were fed the best food, stayed at the best hotels and trained to feel like they were rock stars.

And it worked.

“We got off that bus, man, we were treated like kings,” Wyatt said. “He instilled that so that when we not only competed with the big-name programs but beat them, the only people surprised were everybody else. Not us. He did a great job of instilling that attitude and that outlook.”

AP Photo/Dave Martin

AP Photo – Dave Martin

Because of that personality, and through experience gained in previous successful stops at Pittsburgh and Texas A&M, Sherrill was also able to recruit in a way that MSU had never seen before. Big names with bigger personalities came from all over the country to play for The Kang.

“Some of the players that he recruited,” Wyatt said, “that others might not have been able to recruit to Mississippi State, we’re still celebrating those guys. Fred Smoot. Wayne Madkin, who’s going into the Mississippi State Hall of Fame. Eric Moulds, who we still talk about. Those guys maybe don’t come to State if Coach Sherrill’s not coaching there.

“In some ways, he opened the door to the idea that there’s no ceiling,” Wyatt continued. “You give us a few years, we’ll put a team together and we’ll beat everybody. That was the attitude, and you believed it.”

And it happened, too. Texas, Alabama, Florida, and his personal favorite, ahem, Mississippi – all fell to Sherrill. Some more than a few times. His plan worked, his style took hold and Mississippi State placed itself squarely in the middle of the national college football landscape under Sherrill’s leadership, setting a foundation for the program still being built upon today.

However, while Sherrill had that demeanor in public, there was another, very different side to the man who made the maroon sweater vest famous.

“He was more of a deep person than people realized,” Wyatt said. “I think he was more of a deep thinker, on a personal level dealing with you 1-on-1, than some people knew or would understand.”

In addition to asking his players to study playbooks and go to workouts and meetings, Sherrill also had every individual on the team keep a personal growth workbook. In it, Sherrill had them answer questions, share their innermost thoughts and offer anecdotes on their daily lives and personal views. He would have them define what success meant to them. He wanted to know what guided their interactions in life, with teammates and otherwise.

Every summer, he would meet with each player 1-on-1 to talk about what they wrote in their workbook. Sherrill would have the players turn it in ahead of their meeting so that he could read every word. He would study what they said and take notes on his reaction to their thoughts, so that when they met he knew exactly what he wanted to discuss.

Wyatt still remembers Sherrill pressing him on social issues, on his own definition of success.

“There were a couple times where he met with me because he thought he needed to coach me on some of the things I believed and thought,” Wyatt said, “which is totally fine, because it meant he cared enough to spend his time with me. I think that would surprise people.

“He was constantly trying to help you improve as a person, grow up in a way that wasn’t just football stuff.”

Moments like those, just as much as any seen on the field, are part of why, this weekend, he goes from ‘Coach Sherrill’ to ‘Hall of Fame Coach Jackie Sherrill.’

Although, to many, he’ll always be The Kang.

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SEC Network takeover for MSU on Wednesday highlights impressive year of Bulldog athletics

At 11 o’clock tonight – midnight tomorrow, technically, if you’re on the east coast – 24 hours of all things Mississippi State sports begins on the SEC Network. With the two documentaries leading off the programming block being the exceptions, everything on MSU’s SEC Network Takeover day comes from the 2015-16 athletic year. Those who track such things will recall that, based on State’s record finish in the Learfield Director’s Cup, this was the best year of athletics in recent MSU history. Ought to make for a fun day of viewing.

DVRJPQNOLTJKICT.20160522033824Anyway, below is a quick schedule of what all will be airing with descriptions of what makes those moments, games or shows important. Perhaps there are experiences you’d like to re-live, or maybe there are some you never had or even knew about. Either way, there’s plenty to watch while at home, work or the vacation destination of your choosing.

A reminder: all times listed are central standard.

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Time: 11 p.m.

What’s on: MSU Update

Why it’s worth watching: A slight departure from sports, the MSU Update (airing three times throughout the day) features MSU President Mark E. Keenum providing an overview of university research prowess in unmanned aerial systems and global food security, and then outlines MSU community service.

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Time: 11:30 p.m.

What’s on: One Night in March

Why it’s worth watching: I’m actually really excited about MSU choosing to air this documentary, as I’m not sure that it’s been as widely seen as it deserves to be. One Night in March is an excellent look into The Game of Change when MSU’s all-white basketball team snuck out of the state to play in the NCAA Tournament against an integrated Loyola team. Worth staying up late to watch.

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Time: 12:30 a.m.

What’s on: SEC Storied: Thunder and Lightning

Why it’s worth watching: Thanks to being produced by ESPN and the SEC Network, this one has been a little more widely seen. That said, if you haven’t seen the documentary on MSU baseball stars and teammates Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro, consider this a required viewing. Throughout all of the great history of MSU baseball, this story may be the best.

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Time: 2 a.m.

What’s on: SEC Football: Mississippi State Summer Tour

Why it’s worth watching: We don’t often get a look into what happens around the football program during the seeming doldrums of summer. Nice peek into the activity.

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Time: 2:30 a.m.

What’s on: SEC Inside: Women’s Basketball Tournament

Why it’s worth watching: One of several milestones during a historic season, MSU’s women’s basketball team made an extremely impressive run all the way to the title game of the SEC Tournament. Good chance to see behind the scenes of something that happened so far from Starkville.

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Time: 3 a.m.

What’s on: SEC Inside Football: Kentucky vs. MSU

Why it’s worth watching: Because there’s nothing better on at 3 a.m. Nah, just kidding. This game was actually really fun if you were cheering for MSU, who won 42-16. In it, Dak Prescott tied the school record for a single game with six total touchdowns, including over 450 yards of offense. Taveze Calhoun also had two interceptions.

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Time: 3:30 a.m.

What’s on: Softball – Ole Miss vs. MSU

Why it’s worth watching: This one was a thriller. An extra-inning affair, MSU (SPOILER ALERT) went on to win the game 1-0. Drama. Excitement. Rivalry. You’ll love it.

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Time: 5:30 a.m.

What’s on: MSU Update

Why it’s worth watching: A slight departure from sports, the MSU Update (airing three times throughout the day) features MSU President Mark E. Keenum providing an overview of university research prowess in unmanned aerial systems and global food security, and then outlines MSU community service.

———-

Time: 6 a.m.

What’s on: Volleyball: LSU vs. MSU

Why it’s worth watching: This was one of MSU’s most dominant performances of the year and a highlight of head coach David McFatrich’s first season. One of 12 sweeps on the year, the Bulldogs won this one 3-0 in straight sets.

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Time: 7:30 a.m.

What’s on: Women’s soccer – Kentucky vs. MSU

Why it’s worth watching: Like the game airing before it, this was a signature win for MSU soccer in 2015, taking down a top-20 Kentucky team in Starkville. In front of a big and active crowd, MSU won 3-0.

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Time: 9:30 a.m.

What’s on: Men’s basketball – Vanderbilt vs. MSU

Why it’s worth watching: The whole game is nice, but you’re really watching for the last half-second when Quinndary Weatherspoon hits the game-winning three at the buzzer. This game and that moment are perhaps the most memorable from the year, regardless of sport.

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Time: 11:30 a.m.

What’s on: Football – MSU at Arkansas

Why it’s worth watching: My goodness, this game. It was the absolute definition of a roller coaster of emotions. 101 points were scored, though it was a blocked field goal by Beniquez Brown that secured the 51-50 win for MSU. Not a dull moment from start to finish.

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Time: 1:30 p.m.

What’s on: Relentless: Mississippi State football vs. Arkansas

Why it’s worth watching: I assume most of you are familiar with the very excellent job Hail State Productions does putting together Relentless, the weekly series featuring MSU sports from inside the locker room and on the field. In one of two instances today where this sets up nicely, MSU has made the good call to follow up an exciting game with the Relentless episode featuring that contest.

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Time: 2 p.m.

What’s on: Women’s basketball – Tennessee vs. MSU

Why it’s worth watching: For the first time in history, MSU beat Tennessee in women’s basketball. It was a big deal and a big game. The emotion from Vic Schaefer and the team and staff following the win quite a sight.

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Time: 4 p.m.

What’s on: Relentless: Mississippi State women’s basketball vs Tennessee

Why it’s worth watching: As with the football game, the entertaining basketball game is followed up with a superb behind the scenes view of what made it happen.

——

Time: 4:30 p.m.

What’s on: MSU Update

Why it’s worth watching: A slight departure from sports, the MSU Update (airing three times throughout the day) features MSU President Mark E. Keenum providing an overview of university research prowess in unmanned aerial systems and global food security, and then outlines MSU community service.

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Time: 5 p.m.

What’s on: Baseball – Arkansas vs. MSU

Why it’s worth watching: Because MSU wins the SEC regular season championship for the first time in 25 years. Not many moments better than that one in 2015-16.

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Time: 7 p.m.

What’s on: Football – 2015 Belk Bowl: NC State vs. MSU

Why it’s worth watching: Belkamania! Not only did MSU win big, but it was the final game of Dak Prescott’s career as he won the Belk Bowl MVP and broke his own records for most passing yards and most passing touchdowns in a single season in MSU history. Certainly helped that he threw for 380 yards and four touchdowns in this game.

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Time: 9 p.m.

What’s on: Women’s basketball NCAA Tournament: MSU vs. Michigan State

Why it’s worth watching: No hyperbole, it was one of and very possibly the biggest game in the history of the program. A mind-numbingly (in a good way) raucous crowd at The Hump watched as Vic Schaefer’s team took down Michigan State in a thriller and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

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Hair Science: Categorizing and explaining every Bulldog beard

This time of year, it seems as if all sportswriters are writing stories about silly preseason projections or rankings, attempts at comparing teams or players to characters from TV shows or all kinds of other poor attempts at humor. This is not one of those stories. This is very, very serious journalism about the hairs growing out of football players’ faces. Such an endeavor became clearly necessary when, at SEC Media Days last week, none of the players could agree whose facial hair was best.

In fact, this isn’t even a story. This is science, breaking down and reviewing the facial hair of each Mississippi State football player who has any, using the new headshots recently posted on HailState.com. In science, of course, we categorize and associate our discoveries in easily identifiable groups, so we will do the same here, assigning each beard to either the high, middle or low phylum.

And again, with science in mind, we recognize that each beard is a variable. Therefore, we need a constant, a perfectly hairless football player face. See below for an example, then scroll at your leisure to view the rest of the facial hair findings.

Westin Graves: Constant

Westin Graves: Constant

Phylum: High

Nelson Adams: Nice of his barber to cut a breathing hole for him in the middle of the woodland creature he sewed onto his face.

Nelson Adams: Nice of his barber to cut a breathing hole for him in the middle of the woodland creature he sewed onto his face.

Richie Brown: Led the Union forces in their victory at Shiloh, once tackled 13 people in a game, probably has some super hairy toes.

Richie Brown: Led the Union forces in their victory at Shiloh, once tackled 13 people in a game, probably has some super hairy toes.

A.J. Jefferson: Has a Mohawk growing out of his face, is just as stylish when viewed upside down, likely has supernatural talents.

A.J. Jefferson: Has a Mohawk growing out of his face, is just as stylish when viewed upside down, likely has supernatural talents.

Phylum: Middle

Cedric Jiles: Wears No. 5, has five o’clock shadow, gets five out of 10.

Cedric Jiles: Wears No. 5, has five o’clock shadow, gets five out of 10.

Jamoral Graham: Well-manicured variety of thickness and length that all somehow connects like an M. C. Escher painting.

Jamoral Graham: Well-manicured variety of thickness and length that all somehow connects like an M. C. Escher painting.

Kivon Coman: Respect for having a neckbeard in a completely-literal, only-on-the-neck way.

Kivon Coman: Respect for having a neckbeard in a completely-literal, only-on-the-neck way.

Keith Mixon: 90 percent chance he hasn’t touched his facial hair in six months. That’s just where it is.

Keith Mixon: 90 percent chance he hasn’t touched his facial hair in six months. That’s just where it is.

Alec Murphy: Looks like he bought that beard at the Ralph Lauren outlet.

Alec Murphy: Got that beard at the Ralph Lauren outlet.

Aeris Williams: Happiest headshot I’ve ever seen. Even the beard is smiling. Ten out of 10.

Aeris Williams: Happiest headshot I’ve ever seen. Even the beard is smiling. Ten out of 10.

Ashton Shumpert: Like cuff links or a pocket square, this beard is just an accessory to the main show.

Ashton Shumpert: Like cuff links or a pocket square, this beard is just an accessory to the main show.

Fletcher Adams: Raw talent with high upside. Potential first-round beard after another year in the program.

Fletcher Adams: Raw talent with high upside. Potential first-round beard after another year in the program.

Lawrence Brown: Has matching BFF necklaces with every cool person you know.

Lawrence Brown: Has matching BFF necklaces with every cool person you know.

Devon Desper: Trimmed exclusively for this picture, has multiple ounces of beef in mustache at any given moment.

Devon Desper: Trimmed exclusively for this picture, has multiple ounces of beef in mustache at any given moment.

Michael Story: Stick to the fairway. The rough is really hairy on this course when you get off the cheeks.

Michael Story: Stick to the fairway. The rough is really hairy on this course when you get off the cheeks.

Rodney Lacy: I have nothing but good things to say.

Rodney Lacy: I have nothing but good things to say.

Harrison Moon: Remember when the black stuff from a curse was growing on Dumbledore’s arm? Your face is under slow attack by your neck, is what I’m saying.

Harrison Moon: Remember when the black stuff from a curse was growing down Dumbledore’s arm? Your face is under slow attack by your neck, is what I’m saying.

Johnathan Calvin: His face doesn’t realize it’s sitting in a neck-hair slingshot and is about to be rocketed away from its shoulders.

Johnathan Calvin: His face doesn’t realize it’s sitting in a neck-hair slingshot and is about to be rocketed away from its shoulders.

Phylum: Low

Elijah Staley: I had to move my laptop screen just to get the right lighting to see most of it.

Elijah Staley: Had to move my laptop screen just to get the right lighting to see some of it.

Traver Jung: You might want to get on craigslist missed connections, where there is a clump of chin hair trying to reach a mustache.

Traver Jung: You might want to get on craigslist missed connections, where there is a clump of chin hair trying to reach a mustache.

Gerri Green: The under-chin is under-rated.

Gerri Green: The under-chin is under-rated.

Fred Ross: Doesn’t matter. No one is looking at the hair on the bottom of his head anyway.

Fred Ross: Doesn’t matter. No one is looking at the hair on the bottom of his head anyway.

Damian Williams: Dragonball Z called. That’s all I got.

Damian Williams: Dragonball Z called. That’s all I got.

Jamal Peters: I am so distracted by everything and have a sudden craving for broccoli.

Jamal Peters: I am so distracted by everything and have a sudden craving for broccoli.

Nick Tiano: Kelly Kapowski called, wants to know if you’re still taking her to the Homecoming dance.

Nick Tiano: Kelly Kapowski called, wants to know if you’re still taking her to the Homecoming dance.

Deddrick Thomas: “You’re fine, son. Bruise ought to heal in 7-10 days.”

Deddrick Thomas: “You’re fine, son. Bruise ought to heal in 7-10 days.”

Nick Gibson: “And it seems to me you’ve lived your life/ like a candle in the wind/ never knowing who to cling to.”

Nick Gibson: “And it seems to me you’ve lived your life/ like a candle in the wind/ never knowing who to cling to.”

Malik Dear: Here is a man who really knows how to accentuate a jaw.

Malik Dear: Here is a man who really knows how to accentuate a jaw.

Chris Rayford: I call that chin look Moses Parting The Red Sea.

Chris Rayford: I call that chin look Moses Parting The Red Sea.

Lashard Durr: The hourglass of goatees. Individual hairs slowly trickle down form the mustache and collect on the chin.

Lashard Durr: The hourglass of goatees. Individual hairs slowly trickle down form the mustache and collect on the chin.

DeAndre Ward: Disappears completely when he buckles his chinstrap.

DeAndre Ward: Disappears completely when he buckles his chinstrap.

C.J. Morgan: “I want to be itchy, but I want to be happy about it.”

C.J. Morgan: “I want to be itchy, but I want to be happy about it.”

Gabe Myles: I remember my first shave, too.

Gabe Myles: I remember my first shave, too.

Mark McLaurin: Understated and always appropriate. The little black dress of facial hair.

Mark McLaurin: Understated and always appropriate. The little black dress of facial hair.

Leo Lewis: Points for creativity and staying on theme. Shaped like a goalpost.

Leo Lewis: Points for creativity and staying on theme. Shaped like a goalpost.

J.T. Gray: I never did see Joe Dirt 2.

J.T. Gray: I never did see Joe Dirt 2.

Dezmond Harris: Like the bottom of a strawberry.

Dezmond Harris: Like the bottom of a strawberry.

Torrey Dale: BE BRAVE USE YOUR POTENTIAL

Torrey Dale: BE BRAVE USE YOUR POTENTIAL

Hunter Bradley: BASIC

Hunter Bradley: BASIC

Will Coleman: Never colors inside the lines. Oh and Coolio called.

Will Coleman: Never colors inside the lines. Oh and Coolio called.

Justin Senior: Uses a straight razor once a month, has never cut himself.

Justin Senior: Uses a straight razor once a month, has never cut himself.

Jocquell Johnson: Low-cut top, really accentuates the chin.

Jocquell Johnson: Low-cut top, really accentuates the chin.

Evans Wilkerson: Like a watercolor beard painting. Oddly wispy.

Evans Wilkerson: Like a watercolor beard painting. Oddly wispy.

Dontea Jones: Excellent for when needing to appear pensive.

Dontea Jones: Excellent for when needing to appear pensive.

Jesse Jackson: Not entirely sure that isn’t just beard-colored skin.

Jesse Jackson: Not entirely sure some of that isn’t just beard-colored skin.

Nick James: Upside-down angry troll doll.

Nick James: Upside-down angry troll doll.

Grant Harris: Would’ve liked to see a matching blonde patch on the side of his chin.

Grant Harris: Would’ve liked to see a matching blonde patch on the side of his chin.

Anfernee Mullins: The Acorn.

Anfernee Mullins: Acorn.

 

 

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