By JOEL COLEMAN
Hello everyone. It has been quite the busy week around the Starkville Daily News office and surrounding Mississippi State sports. After taking over the MSU beat on Monday, I say it’s time we catch the blog up to speed. Here’s some quick news and notes from the first half of this week, along with my Tuesday story from SEC Media Days. For the latest information, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of the Starkville Daily News, or subscribe to either the print or e-editions. In today’s edition, you’ll find more coverage from SEC Media Days as I caught up with Taveze Calhoun and got the senior cornerback’s impressions on the Bulldogs’ upcoming season. In the meanwhile, let’s get to the happenings of the week so far.
- Christy transfers
Shelby Christy is going home. The Louisiana native, who came to Mississippi State as a wide receiver before being shifted to tight end, announced via Twitter that he’s transferring to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
“It’s official. I’m a Cajun,” Christy tweeted late Monday night.
Christy never saw playing time during his time with the Bulldogs. Rated a three-star recruit by ESPN.com, Scout.com, 247Sports.com and Rivals.com out of Dutchtown High School, Christy redshirted during his first year in Starkville in 2013. He then missed all of last season after suffering a torn ACL in fall camp.
- Richie Brown named to Butkus watch list
Mississippi State senior linebacker Richie Brown was selected to the Butkus Award watch list on Tuesday.
51 players were selected to the watch list for the award, which is given each year to the nation’s top linebacker.
Brown has played in all 26 games of his Bulldog career, amassing 88 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks and four interceptions. Three of those picks came in last season’s win over Texas A&M as Brown became just the sixth player in school history to haul in three interceptions in a single game. That performance earned Brown both SEC Defensive Player of the Week and Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors.
- Prescott named to Wuerfful Trophy watch list
Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott has been named to another preseason watch list, this one for his work on and off the football field.
The senior quarterback was one of 78 players named on Wednesday to the Wuerffel Trophy watch list. The award is given away at the end of each season to the player that best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.
Prescott is coming off a year in which he finished eighth in voting for the Heisman Trophy. In 2014, he was selected as SEC Offensive Player of the Week three times and set 12 single-season Mississippi State records including rushing yards by a quarterback (986), passing yards (3,449) and touchdowns responsible (41).
The Louisiana native is also highly involved while away from the gridiron, spending time speaking to local youth, camps and kids with disabilities.
Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs spent time with Prescott at the Manning Passing Academy earlier this month, and spoke highly at Southeastern Conference Media Days Tuesday of MSU’s signal-caller and his relationship with youth.
“Just the way he carried himself and acted around the kids was great,” said Dobbs. “It was great to see how open he was with the fans and I admire that from him.”
- Mullen’s shoes light up Media Days
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen made headlines with his feet on Tuesday at Southeastern Conference Media Days.
After announcing on Twitter he’d received new shoes, Mullen arrived to meet with the media while sporting a pair of Yeezy 350 Boost Lows, a shoe designed by Adidas in collaboration with rapper Kanye West.
“I try to be swagged up in footwear,” said Mullen to a room of chuckling reporters. “I’ve got a little sock game going too. I was talking to the guys at Adidas, like, hey, this is the hottest shoe. I’m like, well, I’d like to wear kind of cool shoes.”
Mullen said he had a backup pair of shoes ready to go if needed, but luckily, his special request was fulfilled in time.
“Everyone likes the Stark Vegas shoes I wear, but I had another custom set of Adidas shoes to wear for (Tuesday) just in case I didn’t get these ones in,” said Mullen. “But when they got in, it was an easy decision.”
Speaking of Mullen, the Bulldogs’ coach took to the stage at 1 p.m. on Tuesday for his annual Media Days session. Coming out of that, I took a look at his initial thoughts on the upcoming season, as well as gathered the impressions of Prescott, Calhoun and Ryan Brown. Hope you enjoy. After reading, go ahead and bookmark this page. We’re going to have some fun here in the days and weeks to come.
Bulldogs embracing underdog role again
By Joel Coleman
HOOVER, Ala. – Like clockwork, football is a never-ending cycle. There is recruiting season, spring practice, fall camp, and at least according to Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, the annual rite of his team being overlooked in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division.
Coming off a season that saw the Bulldogs rise to the top of the national polls for the first time in school history, multiple preseason publications have placed Mississippi State at or near the bottom in the West. When Mullen took the stage Tuesday for SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., the seventh-year leader of the maroon and white indicated he’s not surprised that many might be down on his squad.
“This is my seventh year coming here and I think all seven years (the media) has pretty much picked us to finish last in the West,” Mullen said. “It’s kind of like a tradition, I guess.”
The arguments against State’s chances are well-founded on the surface. Only four offensive and four defensive starters return. Gone is the defensive production of Preston Smith and Benardrick McKinney. Josh Robinson’s days of coming out of the MSU backfield have passed. Offensive line standouts Ben Beckwith and Dillon Day are no longer in the picture.
Even with such significant pieces of last season’s 10-win team gone, Mullen has confidence. Like a good mechanic pointing to a remodeled car, the MSU head man is basing his faith on what’s underneath the hood.
“We look at guys coming back and the perception and reality,” Mullen said. “We have a returning fifth-year senior quarterback. We have four different wide receivers that had 100-yard receiving games last year that are coming back. We have seven wide receivers that have touchdown passes in games coming back.
“Defensively, we roll so many players that it’s hard. When you look at guys like a Will Redmond, a Chris Jones, a Richie Brown who was an SEC defensive player of the week one week last year, they’re not returning starters because they didn’t play the first play of the game. I don’t view that as a real negative.”
Mullen’s players echo his beliefs, starting with his veteran signal-caller, Dak Prescott. The Heisman contender says he uses those who overlook Mississippi State as motivation.
“I do not care if they have us at No. 1 or No. 7,” Prescott said. “The people who decide that are outside of our facility. They do not see the people I work out with every day.
“We have a chance, and our expectation is not the same as everyone else’s.”
Senior defensive end Ryan Brown is on the same page as his quarterback.
“I feel as if I’d rather be underrated than overrated,” Brown said. “I like being a bulldog, and better than that, an underdog to prove ourselves and have that motivation.”
Like Brown, senior cornerback Taveze Calhoun takes preseason predictions with a grain of salt. Though he recognizes State’s defense might be a bit less experienced than that of a year ago, Calhoun has faith in the unit.
“A lot of our young guys have already proven they are talented,” Calhoun said. “Even though we lost a lot of guys, I still believe we have a lot to build on and have another good season this year.”
Though the SEC media’s official preseason predicted order of finish won’t be revealed until Thursday, don’t expect Mullen to be eagerly updating his Twitter or email accounts waiting for the news. If anything, Mullen might simply encourage voters to go ahead and put the Bulldogs last. It’s a situation he and his club have proven in the past to be more than comfortable with.
“We kind of like that role,” said Mullen. “That fits us, how to play with a little bit of a chip on your shoulder and go out there and prove everybody wrong.”