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Mississippi State football: Bulldogs running game could be even better in 2017

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STARKVILLE, Miss. — Historically, and over the last two decades especially, Mississippi State football maintained a proud tradition at running back. Workhorses Anthony Dixon, Jerious Norwood, Josh Robinson and Vick Ballard, all of whom made it to the NFL, pepper the program record books.

Mississippi State’s typically productive ground game took new shape in 2015-16, as quarterbacks Dak Prescott and then Nick Fitzgerald led the team in rushing. Prescott accounted for 10 rushing touchdowns as a senior, and Fitzgerald ran for 1,375 yards and 16 scores last fall as a sophomore.

We can in part attribute that lack of balance to inconsistent offensive line play; since 2014, only one former Bulldogs lineman was drafted into the NFL (Justin Senior). But tailbacks Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert were found wanting as seniors at times in 2016, hence the emergence of Aeris Williams last November.

The return of Williams, who ran for 720 yards as a sophomore and has receiving skills, gives Mississippi State a potential do-it-all back in 2017. More important, the running backs room should be stronger, deeper and more competitive this fall.

“We’ve got three backs capable of being really, really good SEC backs,” running backs coach Greg Knox said last month, referring to Williams, redshirt sophomore Nick Gibson and redshirt junior Dontavian Lee.

Gibson rushed for 108 yards on 17 carries during Mississippi State’s spring game and had a handful of impressive runs, including a 25-yarder in the first half. It was only a glorified scrimmage, of course, but the tough running Gibson displayed had to be promising for Dan Mullen and his coaching staff.

“We kept it really simple for [Gibson],” Mullen said after the game. “And you saw he has some ability running the football. Now what we got to see is the other things from him.

“And that’s always been the case for him. Route running, pass protections, blocking, some of those things. The consistency of performance. He’s got the running part down. We want to see the complete game.”

A former 4-star recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings, Gibson said he gained 10 pounds this offseason so that he “could take more punishment” in the fall. He was 5-foot-11, 211 pounds on the spring roster.

“He got smarter as well,” Williams said. “Just being around Coach Knox, he’s going to get smarter anyways, man. His pad level got better over the spring. He’s been running the ball pretty good.”

Then there’s Lee, a rising junior from Hattiesburg listed at 6-1 and 235 pounds. He ran for 49 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in the spring game and, according to coaches, is a lot healthier than he was last season.

“That ankle injury held him back,” Knox said. “And then mentally, he’s making better decisions.”

Four-star signee Kylin Hill deepens Mississippi State’s running back options. (247Sports)

The Mississippi State running backs room will add talent once Kylin Hill, a prized 4-star signee out of Columbus (Miss.) High School, begins participating in fall camp. Without committing to anything, Knox made it clear he expects his newest blue-chip standout to compete for early playing time.

“We’ll get him here, give him every opportunity and see how he does,” Knox said. “We’ll go from there with it. But he’s going to get every shot.”

If any combination of Gibson, Lee and Hill can establish themselves as reliable options in the running game, that would not only ease the workload for Williams but also Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald ran the ball 195 times last season — more than Alabama’s Jalen Hurts did — and while it’s obvious the junior quarterback can handle the beating he takes on those inside option runs, Mississippi State might consider managing his workload a little more carefully this year. For a Mississippi State rushing attack that finished fourth in the SEC as The Nick Fitzgerald Show, throwing more bodies into the mix should give the unit a boost.

The X-factor, of course, again will be the offensive line. Tackle Senior and center Jamaal Clayborn graduated, and two of the projected starters missed all of spring practice while injured (Elgton Jenkins and Deion Calhoun). The result was a first-team line that looked like this: Greg Eiland at left tackle, Dareuan Parker at left guard, Martinas Rankin at center, Darryl Williams at right guard and Stewart Reese at right tackle. Of those players, only Rankin started last season, and that was at left tackle.

When Jenkins and Calhoun return to the fold, there will be more shuffling up front and adjustments from there. It’s a tricky situation for position coach John Hevesy.

If Williams’ opinion counts for anything, though, Mississippi State fans can expect more performances reminiscent of what they saw during the spring game, in which Williams and Gibson each averaged more than 6 yards per carry.

“It is going to be a lot of days like this in the fall,” Williams said. “I promise you that.”

The post Mississippi State football: Bulldogs running game could be even better in 2017 appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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Mississippi State football: Nick Fitzgerald explains his ‘hate’ for new DC Todd Grantham

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STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald’s first season as starter was no joke. In the span of two months, he faced defenses run by Will Muschamp, Dave Aranda, Kevin Steele, John Chavis and Nick Saban — some of the finest minds in the country.

This spring, Fitzgerald added another respected name to that list: new Bulldogs hire Todd Grantham. Knowing who he already played against, Fitzgerald’s comments about the Mississippi State defensive coordinator should hold weight.

“I hate that man,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s one of the craziest defenses I think I’ve ever gone against. You think they’re bringing a blitz from one side, then all of a sudden they’re sending four guys off the other edge. They’re very good at disguising it.”

The hatred surely continued during the Maroon and White spring game, where Fitzgerald threw 4 interceptions during a 14 of 27 passing performance last month. Granted, the first-team offense was missing several key players, including top receivers Donald Gray (held out) and Malik Dear (ACL). But that doesn’t diminish the clear progress Grantham’s unit displayed that afternoon in Davis Wade Stadium.

“You know the defense I want to play here — guys flying to the football as hard as they can,” coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “Trying to go make plays and playing an aggressive style of defense.”

The Bulldogs have the talent to field a stout front seven in 2017. Blue-chip sophomores Leo Lewis, Marquiss Spencer, Jeffery Simmons and Fletcher Adams anchor a group that could thrive in Grantham’s blitz-heavy 3-4 scheme. Newcomers including 4-star Starkville linebacker Willie Gay and junior college signee Chauncey Rivers could contribute early, as well.

Behind them, fans saw a surprisingly deep second-team defense hold its own during the spring game, highlighted by plays from linemen Kobe Jones and Deion Pope along with linebacker Erroll Thompson. And that’s without even mentioning experienced upperclassmen Cory Thomas and Braxton Hoyett, who are also competing for reps this fall.

“We have a lot of depth,” Hoyett said. “We’ve still got some guys learning, which is expected because it’s the spring. But after this transition from May, June, July, we’ll get to fall camp, and we’re going to be better. We’re going to be a good unit.”

Depth behind defensive line

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise to come out of the spring game for Mississippi State, however, was the play of its secondary. Even as projected starting cornerback Tolando Cleveland sat out with injury, teammates Jamal Peters, Cameron Dantzler, Brian Cole and Lashard Durr combined for 17 tackles, 4 interceptions and 5 pass break-ups.

The tackling in the secondary looked particularly improved, considering it was a major problem for Mississippi State last season. That defense allowed an SEC-worst 59 passing plays of 20-plus yards.

Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has 10 years’ experience between the NFL and college ranks. (Credit: NFL Photos)

“With the new scheme [Grantham] runs, we blitz a lot. So we’re going to put pressure on the quarterback to force a bad throw. And the coverage, we play a lot of man,” Dantzler said. “So we should always be there to make a play.”

The development of Cole and Johnathan Abram, both junior college additions, will be especially interesting to follow when fall camp begins. Mississippi State struggled at safety in 2016, as the ultra-athletic Brandon Bryant didn’t have the breakout season many predicted. Fellow starter Kivon Coman graduated this spring.

Abram signed with Georgia out of high school and started four games as a true freshman under then-coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. In addition, Abram was recruited by Louisville, which had Grantham and Bulldogs safety coach Terrell Buckley on staff at the time.

Fans caught a glimpse of the edge Abram plays with during the spring game, when he laid a brutal hit on Bennie Braswell that ended the scrimmage early.

In addition to the change at defensive coordinator — Grantham will be Mississippi State’s fourth in four seasons — Mullen hired defensive line coach Brian Baker and safeties coach Ron English this offseason. So, without question, this spring was one of transition.

But the biggest question for every defensive player entering the summer is a simple one: How well can they learn the playbook? Grantham’s scheme is notoriously complex. Those who know it the best will have a leg up on their competition in the fall.

“He’s really hard on us about learning the playbook,” Dantzler said. “You don’t always know when to blitz, or when not to blitz. Sometimes we do corner blitzes. It’s kind of hard to adjust to the new playbook.”

Todd Grantham by the numbers

  • Grantham’s defenses ranked top-20 nationally in all three of his seasons at Louisville.
  • Those same Louisville teams all ranked top-15 in run defense, as well.
  • The Cardinals forced at least 25 takeaways in each of Grantham’s three seasons with the program.
  • Two of his three Louisville defenses finished top-15 nationally in sacks.
  • At Georgia, Grantham coached future NFL standouts Justin Houston, Alec Ogletree and Shawn Williams, along with college star Jarvis Jones.

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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Mississippi State football: Donald Gray demanding ‘nothing but greatness’ from teammates, young WRs

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STARKVILLE, Miss. — Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald’s breakout season made life after Dak Prescott a little easier for Mississippi State. Whether the Bulldogs can withstand the losses of Fred Ross, the program’s all-time leading receiver, and promising junior Malik Dear will be the big question on offense this fall.

Dear will miss most of the season while recovering from a torn ACL. A former 4-star recruit, Dear was expected to earn a bigger role in the absence of Ross, who accounted for more than 30 percent of Mississippi State’s receiving production in 2016. Without Dear and Ross, the program suddenly finds itself thin at wideout.

That means coach Dan Mullen’s offense will rely even more heavily on senior wide receiver Donald Gray, who established himself as Fitzgerald’s second-favorite target last season.

The receivers on the depth chart behind Gray have talent, but their lack of game experience could result in early hiccups this fall. Fans can rest a little easier, however, knowing that Gray feels personally responsible for the performance of his position group.

Gray wants to “make sure everybody’s ready,” he said.

“My personal goals, I don’t like spreading them among everybody, but they’re big. There’s never a time when they’re not big,” Gray said. “I just focus on becoming a great leader, not only for the receivers but for the team. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

Gray caught 41 passes for 709 yards in 2016, so clearly he can walk the walk. As far as the talking part goes, Gray is confident that what he preaches to the other receivers will resonate, even if he doesn’t speak up too often.

“I won’t ask them to do something I won’t. My attitude is, if I ask you to do something, that means I did it 10 times before I asked you,” Gray said. “Therefore, I know I’m capable of doing it, so I know you can do it. So I demand nothing but greatness, just as I do myself. I want the same for you.

“Lead by example. I don’t try to talk a lot. I try to be the hardest worker on the team so when I do speak, they’re going to listen.”

The Maroon and White spring scrimmage gave a glimpse of who could emerge alongside Gray in 2017. Former 4-star prospect Reggie Todd, who has added “15 or 16” pounds since arriving on campus, led the White squad with 4 catches for 51 yards. Todd is a redshirt freshman. Jamal Couch, a 6-foot-4, 223-pound redshirt freshman, made two receptions for the Maroon team and impressed Gray with his work in practice.

“He’s using his size a lot more. We’re trying to get him to work on some more technique,” Gray said of Couch. “Little things like stance. He’s got a perfect body for a receiver. He’s going to be hard to deal with once he puts everything together.”

The other player fans should watch, if only because of his experience, is Gabe Myles. A senior, Myles struggled with untimely drops last season, but he says he tried to “stop thinking so much” this spring and enjoy the game more.

“I let a lot of outside influences come into how I play my game,” said Myles, who caught 4 passes for 50 yards in the spring game. “It wasn’t fun. I was just going out there trying to mess up. You can’t go out there trying not to mess up. That’s how you’ll mess up.”

At the end of Myles’ interview, Fitzgerald — a former receiver — jokingly asked his teammate how he would respond to allegations that “his quarterback has better hands” than him, and then pressed him about his confidence. Myles smiled and played it cool, but also answered affirmatively: “I just say let’s take it to the JUGS machine … let’s go out there and prove it.”

The exchange was humorous, but it also underscores maybe the most important storyline for Mississippi State’s offense this summer: Fitzgerald and his receivers are continuing to build chemistry. By now, the college football world knows Fitzgerald can run the ball; an improved passing game could be the difference between a solid season and an excellent one for the Bulldogs.

With new players likely seeing time at receiver this fall, getting better could prove challenging. But spring practice at least seemed a positive first step for Fitzgerald and his young targets.

“We all just got so many reps together. We really built timing,” Fitzgerald said. “Working against our defense, which is a really good defense, how we’re going to run certain routes, the timing of it all. That way we can go into the summer, try to duplicate that and just try to get better.”

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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Mississippi State football: Dan Mullen not ‘comfortable’ with kicking situation after spring

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Mississippi State knew it had a void to fill on special teams when kicker Westin Graves retired from football last January. What little fans saw of the team’s remaining field goal specialists this spring, however, was enough to raise concerns about the position entering summer workouts.

Sophomore Brad Wall and redshirt freshman Jace Christmann, both walk-ons, combined to go 0-for-3 on field goal attempts during the Maroon and White scrimmage. Wall made a 26-yarder but missed from 41 yards out, while Christmann missed from 26 yards.

Because Mississippi State closed its other spring practice sessions, our only public glimpse of the position came during that scrimmage. But MSU coach Dan Mullen also expressed some uneasiness about his kickers Monday during the SEC spring football teleconference.

“Coming out of spring, it’s not a position we’re comfortable in right now,” Mullen said. “But we still have a ways to go to get to our first game to get comfortable and see where we’re at.”

The apparent kicking struggles open the door even wider for incoming freshman Tucker Day to be the Bulldogs’ starting kicker this fall. Day, the No. 9-ranked punter in the Class of 2017 according to the 247Sports Composite, is set to enroll this summer.

“You look at it, there’s going to be some great opportunity for guys to get on the field and play right away,” Mullen said. “There’s going to be opportunities for them to earn a spot. They’ll play right away. It’ll be a wide-open race.”

Kicking woes hampered MSU last season, when Graves went just 11 of 19 on field goal tries. He also missed two attempts during the Week 1 upset loss to South Alabama.

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 5)

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After reaching a high of No. 3 in the SEC Country Power Poll several weeks ago, Mississippi State is out of the top 5 following a 49-10 pounding at Auburn on Saturday night, the Bulldogs’ second straight loss.

Auburn jumped on Mississippi State (3-2, 1-2 SEC) early and didn’t let up with a balanced offense that put up near-identical numbers in passing (267) and rushing (244). The Bulldogs didn’t do themselves any favors with 10 penalties, including seven false starts that seemed to always come on third-and-short.

“I don’t think it’s time to panic. I don’t think we need to press,” Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald said after the game. “I don’t think we need to be frustrated. We just need to come out and focus on ourselves. When practicing, we really need to focus on a lot of individual drills, work on some techniques so they know what will get them through game weeks, and get some younger guys some reps.”

The Bulldogs fell two spots to No. 7 in the latest SEC Country Power Poll, released Sunday. The 27 voters placed the Bulldogs as high as fourth and as low as ninth. The top 5 is comprised of Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M. As they have every week this season, the Crimson Tide received every first-place vote.

Mississippi State gets a week off to figure out things after being outscored a combined 80-13 against Auburn and Georgia the last two games. When the Bulldogs return to action Oct. 14, they’ll do so at home against BYU before returning to SEC play on Oct. 21 against Kentucky.

“The big plays really hurt today on the defensive side of the ball,” coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “There were some missed opportunities on the offensive side. Last week I don’t think we played well. I’m anxious to see the film this week to see if we played better than last week, but just missed some plays. If that’s the case then we’ll take a look and try to get that fixed. If we played worse than that’ll just be disappointing that we didn’t get better.”

Check back here every Sunday for the latest installment of the SEC Country Power Poll.

Your Week 5 Power Poll rankings

Results are below:

RANK TEAM POINTS 1ST PLACE
VOTES
PREV HIGH
VOTE
LOW
VOTE
1 Alabama (13 – 1) 351 27 1 1 1
2 Georgia (13 – 2) 322 0 2 2 3
3 Auburn (10 – 4) 298 0 3 2 4
4 Florida (4 – 7) 265 0 4 4 5
5 Texas A&M (7 – 6) 223 0 8 4 13
6 Kentucky (7 – 6) 200 0 7 4 12
7 Mississippi State (9 – 4) 191 0 5 4 9
8 South Carolina (9 – 4) 135 0 11 7 13
9 Arkansas (4 – 8) 128 0 12 3 13
10 LSU (9 – 4) 115 0 6 7 13
11 Vanderbilt (5 – 7) 93 0 9 7 14
12 Tennessee (4 – 8) 81 0 10 6 13
13 Ole Miss (6 – 6) 49 0 13 7 14
14 Missouri (7 – 6) 6 0 14 9 14

This week’s voters:

Alex Hickey (SEC Country)
Alex Martin Smith (SEC Country)
Andrew Astleford (SEC Country)
Ben Wolk (SEC Country)
Blake Morgan
Brandon Walker (SEC Country)
Chip Towers (DawgNation)
Chris Kirschner (SEC Country)
Christopher Walsh (SEC Country)
Eric Bolin (SEC Country)
Joe Mussatto (SEC Country)
Jordan Mcpherson (SEC Country)
Justin Ferguson (SEC Country)
Ken Bradley (SEC Country)
Kyle Tucker (SEC Country)
Lauren Shute (SEC Country)
Marq Burnett (SEC Country)
Mike Bambach
Mike Griffith (SEC Country)
Nick Suss
Pete Scantlebury
Ryan Young
Sam Spiegelman
Seth Emerson (DawgNation)
Thomas Neumann (SEC Country)
Trent Shadid (SEC Country)
Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country)

The post 2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 5) appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country

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Dan Mullen’s success at Mississippi State should translate at Florida

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Florida Gators football is the No. 1 topic in Good Morning, Gators every day — but we cover news, notes and analysis from across the Gators sports world. Join us each morning to get caught up on everything you missed in the world of Florida football, recruiting, basketball and more.

In-depth look at Dan Mullen’s tenure at Mississippi State

It’s been a little more than two weeks since Florida formally introduced Dan Mullen as its next football coach after he spent nine years building up the Mississippi State program. Our Ryan Young took an in-depth look at Mullen’s time at Mississippi State — with interviews from athletic director Scott Stricklin and Mississippi State players — and what that success could mean for the Gators.

“The trajectory of that program changed the day Dan walked in. He led them to unprecedented consistent success. … Facilities changed, mindset changed, the support changed,” Stricklin said.

“But you sit here and go, OK, now Dan gets to come back in here and he knows the place so he doesn’t have the learning curve. … It’s just exciting to think about how he can take the experience he had there and build on it and use the platform here at Florida to have the kind of program that Gators fans want.”

Stricklin also candidly reflected on the personal toll of hiring Mullen from Mississippi State.

Recruiting roundup

  • Why Mullen waited until Monday to visit Matt Corral.
  • Should Corral sign at Florida, it would help Mullen haul in more offensive talent.
  • The Gators are in the lead for Noah Jefferson, the nation’s seventh-ranked JUCO defensive lineman.

In other Florida football news

Let’s keep talking

Want to keep the conversation going? Hop over to our free Florida message board. Sign up now and join the discussion here.

What they’re saying on Twitter

Running back Adarius Lemons:

Linebacker Nick Smith:

Punter Johnny Townsend:

Miss a previous edition of Good Morning, Gators? Get caught up here.

The post Dan Mullen’s success at Mississippi State should translate at Florida appeared first on SEC Country.

Jordan McPherson – SEC Country

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2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 7)

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Nick Fitzgerald threw for 2 touchdown passes and ran for 2 more as Mississippi State returned after its bye week and a pair of lopsided losses to handle BYU at home, 35-10.

The victory was a nice bounce-back after the Bulldogs began the season 3-0 before being upended in back-to-back games against Georgia and Auburn by a combined 67 points.

“Overall, I like the performance our guys came out with despite coming off a bye week and the early kickoff,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said after the win. “BYU is a team we talked about being very physical on both lines of scrimmage. I thought we came out and played hard on defense. We made plays; holding them to 10 points. We were able to control the line of scrimmage on offense and wear them down.”

It was an all-around performance Saturday in Starkville. The Bulldogs piled up 546 yards of offense — 306 rushing and 240 passing — while they allowed just 8 first downs and 176 yards on defense. Aeris Williams ran for 114 yards and had a 5-yard TD run, while Keith Mixon had 69 receiving yards and Donald Gray hauled in 4 passes for 41 yards and a 9-yard touchdown.

BYU was held to seven possessions of 3 plays or fewer and nine that totaled 4 plays or fewer.

The Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2 SEC) improved one spot in the SEC Country Power Poll this week. The 25 voters moved them up to No. 6 this week, replacing Florida, which fell to No. 8 after losing to Texas A&M.

Alabama retained the top spot with all 25 first-place votes and was followed by Georgia. Auburn remained third despite losing at LSU, Texas A&M is fourth and LSU sits one spot ahead of Mississippi State.

Check back here every Sunday for the latest installment of the SEC Country Power Poll.

Your Week 7 Power Poll rankings

Results are below:

RANK TEAM POINTS 1ST PLACE
VOTES
PREV HIGH
VOTE
LOW
VOTE
1 Alabama (13 – 1) 325 25 1 1 1
2 Georgia (13 – 2) 300 0 2 2 2
3 Auburn (10 – 4) 255 0 3 3 5
4 Texas A&M (7 – 6) 253 0 4 3 7
5 LSU (9 – 4) 231 0 5 3 7
6 Mississippi State (9 – 4) 179 0 7 4 12
7 Kentucky (7 – 6) 165 0 8 6 9
8 Florida (4 – 7) 161 0 6 6 9
9 South Carolina (9 – 4) 151 0 9 6 10
10 Ole Miss (6 – 6) 77 0 13 9 13
11 Tennessee (4 – 8) 67 0 10 10 14
12 Arkansas (4 – 8) 65 0 12 9 13
13 Vanderbilt (5 – 7) 32 0 11 10 14
14 Missouri (7 – 6) 14 0 14 10 14

This week’s voters:

Alex Hickey (SEC Country)
Alex Martin Smith (SEC Country)
Andrew Astleford (SEC Country)
Ben Wolk (SEC Country)
Blake Morgan
Brandon Walker (SEC Country)
Chris Kirschner (SEC Country)
Christopher Walsh (SEC Country)
Eric Bolin (SEC Country)
Hale McGranahan (SEC Country)
Jeff Sentell (DawgNation)
Joe Mussatto (SEC Country)
Jordan Mcpherson (SEC Country)
Justin Ferguson (SEC Country)
Ken Bradley (SEC Country)
Marq Burnett (SEC Country)
Mike Bambach
Mike Griffith (SEC Country)
Nick Suss
Pete Scantlebury
Ryan Young
Sam Spiegelman
Thomas Neumann (SEC Country)
Trent Shadid (SEC Country)
Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country)

The post 2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 7) appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country

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2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 8)

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Nick Fitzgerald was on his game Saturday against Kentucky in Starkville.

The Mississippi State quarterback ran for 115 yards with touchdown runs of 3 and 40 yards, and he threw for 155 yards and a 10-yard TD toss as the Bulldogs routed the Wildcats, 45-7. On the season, Fitzgerald has 569 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns and is completing 56.9 percent of his passes for 1,169 yards, 11 TDs and 7 interceptions.

“I thought he did a really good job. He made some great plays. I think he missed a couple,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said of Fitzgerald after the game. “I told him it was one of those six-to-12 inch days. He had great reads, great checks, got us into the right plays. He managed the game.

“On a couple of throws we were about six to 12 inches off. In fact, you could take that ball and move it about six to 12 inches in a different direction and he probably would’ve had a couple more touchdown passes. I think that is the consistency and performance that he continues to improve on, but I was pleased with his decision and play making all day.”

The Bulldogs improved to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC after the win. They remained No. 6 in the Week 8 SEC Country Power Poll. The 25 voters awarded Mississippi State 215 total votes — LSU and Texas A&M tied for fourth place just in front of the Bulldogs with 232 votes.

The top 5: Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, LSU and A&M.

Mississippi State has a chance to move up next Saturday when it travels to College Station, Texas, to take on Texas A&M (Saturday, Oct. 28, 7:15 p.m. ET). The two teams have split their past four meetings. The Bulldogs won last season in Starkville, 35-28, and the Aggies won at Kyle Field in 2015, 30-17. This is just the 11th meeting between the two, and A&M has won the only two games in College Station.

Check back here every Sunday for the latest installment of the SEC Country Power Poll.

Your Week 8 Power Poll rankings

Results are below:

RANK TEAM POINTS 1ST PLACE
VOTES
PREV HIGH
VOTE
LOW
VOTE
1 Alabama (13 – 1) 325 25 1 1 1
2 Georgia (13 – 2) 299 0 2 2 3
3 Auburn (10 – 4) 263 0 3 2 5
4 LSU (9 – 4) 232 0 5 3 7
5 Texas A&M (7 – 6) 232 0 4 3 7
6 Mississippi State (9 – 4) 215 0 6 4 9
7 Florida (4 – 7) 174 0 8 5 8
8 South Carolina (9 – 4) 142 0 9 6 10
9 Kentucky (7 – 6) 140 0 7 7 9
10 Tennessee (4 – 8) 76 0 11 10 13
11 Ole Miss (6 – 6) 72 0 10 10 14
12 Arkansas (4 – 8) 51 0 12 8 14
13 Vanderbilt (5 – 7) 47 0 13 9 14
14 Missouri (7 – 6) 7 0 14 12 14

This week’s voters:

Alex Hickey (SEC Country)
Alex Martin Smith (SEC Country)
Andrew Astleford (SEC Country)
Blake Morgan
Brandon Walker (SEC Country)
Chris Kirschner (SEC Country)
Christopher Walsh (SEC Country)
Eric Bolin (SEC Country)
Jeff Sentell (DawgNation)
Joe Mussatto (SEC Country)
Jordan Mcpherson (SEC Country)
Justin Ferguson (SEC Country)
Ken Bradley (SEC Country)
Marq Burnett (SEC Country)
Mike Bambach
Mike Griffith (SEC Country)
Nick Suss
Pete Scantlebury
Ryan Young
Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman
Seth Emerson (DawgNation)
Thomas Neumann (SEC Country)
Trent Shadid (SEC Country)
Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country)

The post 2017 SEC Country Power Poll: Where Mississippi State is ranked (Week 8) appeared first on SEC Country.

Ken Bradley – SEC Country

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Mississippi State recruiting: With Jalen Mayden commitment, Dan Mullen is on a roll

They say success breeds success, and that’s especially true in the fickle world of college football recruiting. Exhibit A: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, who is tapping into a gold mine of it when it comes to finding quarterbacks.

His winning streak began with former 3-star prospect Dak Prescott (maybe you’ve heard of him), who Mullen helped mold into a standout NFL quarterback for the Cowboys. Prescott’s successor, another overlooked gem by the name of Nick Fitzgerald, broke out as a first-time starter under Mullen’s tutelage last season. This past recruiting cycle saw touted 4-star Keytaon Thompson, a true high school star from the highly competitive New Orleans area, sign with the Bulldogs and enroll early.

The newest stud to fall in love with Mississippi State is Jalen Mayden, a 4-star from Sachse (Texas) High School who is the No. 12 dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class. He committed to Mississippi State over Tennessee, Nebraska, Louisville and Baylor on Tuesday night.

Mullen’s track record for development reaches well beyond his years at Starkville, and it had to factor heavily into Mayden’s decision. Mullen most notably coached No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith at Utah and guided Heisman Trophy-winner Tim Tebow at Florida. But, at least to outsiders, the imposing reputation of Urban Meyer cast a shadow over Mullen back then.

Now that Mullen proved he can win by himself, quarterbacks like Mayden are flocking to Starkville.

How huge is Mayden’s commitment? Consider this: Of the top 21-ranked 2018 quarterback prospects, only two are committed to SEC schools — Mayden and Tennessee pledge Adrian Martinez. Only four of those players are uncommitted, too. And here’s Mississippi State, beating out the school that just turned Lamar Jackson into a Heisman winner.

Mississippi State only has two scholarship quarterbacks on its roster — Fitzgerald and Thompson —so Mayden’s pledge helps the numbers situation, as well. By the time Mayden enrolls, Fitzgerald will be a senior and Thompson would be a true sophomore, so the Texas product could redshirt in 2018 and then theoretically take over for Thompson in 2020 if all goes according to plan. That’s in the distant future, though.

The Bulldogs will likely take a second quarterback in this class, but having a 4-star prospect already in the fold is a sure-fire way to help coaches breathe a bit easier.

As of Wednesday, Mississippi State’s class is nine commitments strong — headlined by Mayden and 4-star receiver Malik Heath — and is No. 4 in the SEC, according to the 247Sports composition rankings. Granted, it’s only late May. With the early signing period now in effect, however, the 2018 finish line will creep up on us faster than ever, and Mullen is in good position to be smiling on the other side of it once again. One reason? He could for the first time sign a 4-star quarterback in back-to-back classes.

At this point, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Mullen is the second-longest tenured coach in the SEC, behind only Nick Saban, and his teams have made seven consecutive bowl games. His overall record: 61-42 in eight seasons. It figures that as the wins come, recruiting success is starting to follow. It’ll be interesting to see where Mississippi State goes from here.

RELATED: Mississippi State receives late 2017 commit from TE Powers Warren

The post Mississippi State recruiting: With Jalen Mayden commitment, Dan Mullen is on a roll appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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Mississippi State football: Kickoff times announced for Egg Bowl, LSU matchup

Mississippi State recruiting-2018-national signing day-decommitments

Mississippi State football fans can look forward to at least two night games being played in Davis Wade Stadium this upcoming season.

On Thursday, the SEC announced that Mississippi’s 2017 Egg Bowl game against Ole Miss will take place on Thanksgiving night for the 22nd time in the rivalry’s history. The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised by ESPN.

The other game time of note revealed by the conference is Mississippi State’s SEC opener against LSU, which will begin at 6 p.m. CT on Sept. 16. Either ESPN or ESPN2 will televise the game.

The rest of the Bulldogs’ conference schedule will be announced at a later date. Already known is the start time for their Week 2 matchup at Louisiana Tech (6:30 p.m. CT).

The post Mississippi State football: Kickoff times announced for Egg Bowl, LSU matchup appeared first on SEC Country.

Alec Shirkey – SEC Country