MWN Mailbag: Happy New Year Edition


Picture courtesy of @mstategraphics

The calendar has rolled over to 2015, and in doing so, there are a lot of things people want to know about. Football is always the number 1 topic, but the women’s basketball team is off to a great start, so we have lots to cover. Time to crack open the mailbag and get to it.

Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State Bulldogs /

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Lots of Defensive Coordinator questions. I answered some of these questions in my Great Debate segment on Tuesday, so I’d encourage you to go read that if you haven’t already. But to get more specific to these questions and recap that piece, I don’t think it is a bad hire. Diaz has done well every where but Texas. The fan reaction has been lukewarm, but had he not already been at the school once, and if Texas hadn’t gone so poorly, I’d bet people would be a lot more excited about it. As for the DBs, I don’t imagine that it will be much worse, so we shall see.

I hate to oversimplify it, but you can really sum it up to tackling. The Bulldogs just didn’t tackle well in either game. Some of the runs that made the yardage pile up were mostly a result of poor tackling. They were both out of character performances for the defense. How much of that can be contributed to Collins departing, I don’t know, but I think it definitely played a factor.

Knowing CD like I do, this could very well be a tongue in cheek question, and he already knew the answer to it. If you don’t know, Ohio State lost last year’s Orange Bowl to Clemson 40-35. Ohio State will be playing Oregon for the National Championship this Monday after upsetting Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. They’re doing pretty well for themselves. Many thought that the loss to Clemson was awful because no one was that high on Clemson entering that game. They picked themselves up and rebounded nicely, and there is no reason to believe that Mississippi State can’t do the same.

There are a lot of people to choose from on both sides of the ball. For offense, I think the guy to look to will be incoming JUCO All American Donald Gray. He lit up the stat sheet in his two years at Co-Lin Community College, and he will be needed to step up to fill the shoes of Jameon Lewis. On defense, I think the guy to look to will be Richie Brown. He didn’t get a chance to play as much because McKinney was there, but when he did, he made the most of the opportunities. The best performance he gave was against Texas A&M when he intercepted 3 passes.

I talked about all of this in two separate posts. I hit on whether or not Collins checked out some in my offseason to do list, and I talked about how good of a coordinator in my Great Debate segment after Collins left.

The first part of the question: I think Collins had made the decision to leave shortly before the season was over. I firmly believe that Collins and his agent decided he’d never get the pay day he wanted coaching at Mississippi State, and that if the season fell apart, his defense was going to receive most of the blame. He wanted to strike while the iron was hot, and I think he decided that around the Alabama game.

The second part of the question is simple: Do we really believe that McElwain wanted to put a bad coordinator on his first staff at Florida? The team gave up a ton of yards, but if you go back and read the Great Debate segment I did after Collins left, you’ll see that the defense was more efficient. The two games where this didn’t jive was the Egg and Orange Bowls. His defense wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but it was good.

I think we are going to be okay on the offensive line. I feel much better about this group since we landed JUCO standout Martinas Rankin. Look for him to play Left Tackle and plugged in with the two returning starters Justin Malone and Justin Senior. There is a strong group of players that are going to compete for those two starting spots. The O line will be alright. There might be some bumps in the road, but I think the O line will be fine in 2015.

I think he will. Everything I have heard on the rumor mill is that as soon as Manny Diaz was hired back, he started making a strong push to get Lewis in Starkville. Until Leo Lewis decommits from Ole Miss, I’m not expecting him to put on any other uniform besides an Ole Miss uniform in September. But Lewis has already decommitted from Alabama, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see if he does it again.

Here are the seniors that won’t be on the team next year.

Jay Hughes DB
Jameon Lewis WR
Jamerson Love DB
Malcolm Johnson TE
Nick Griffin RB
Robert Johnson WR
Brandon Hill TE
Matthew Wells LB
Christian Holmes LB
Archie Muniz OL
Dillon Day OL
Ben Beckwith OL
Blaine Clausell OL
Damien Robinson OL
Preston Smith DL
Kaleb Eulls DL
P.J. Jones DL
Curtis Virges DL

Obviously we have to add Josh Robinson to the list. He signed with the agency run by Drew Rosenhaus, so any hope of him changing his mind evaporated once he signed with an agent. We don’t know for certain, but we will likely add McKinney to this list as well. He has a really good chance to be a first round pick, but no worse than a second round pick. I doubt he comes back. Nobody seems to have a good idea about what Dak will do.

Which seniors could get drafted? A few of them. Matthew Wells is an outstanding athlete, so I think he does. Ben Beckwith could, and it would be a great story if he did. I think the senior with the best chance of being drafted though is Preston Smith. Some thought he might have been a late round pick last year, and he did nothing but elevate his stock in 2014. He should get picked by someone.

I think it is going to be Williams or Shumpert. Shumpert will get the benefit of the doubt because he has already played and knows the offense better than anyone else on the roster. But if you go by what has been written and said about both players, Williams will have a hard time being kept off the field. The dream scenario I’d like to see is where we have a two headed monster like we did in 2000. Dicenzo Miller and Dontae Walker combined for almost 1800 yards that year, and if we could get that kind of production from Shumpert and Williams, Dak will more likely stay healthy and be even more effective as a passer.

The Women’s basketball team is having a phenomenal year, and I am really glad to see that people are starting to take an interest in them. To answer the first question about their potential, I guess it just depends on how you measure potential. They’ve won all of their games, and you can’t do any better than that. But you can tie this question to the second one about why they aren’t ranked higher.

The Bulldogs aren’t high up in the polls simply because of perception. People complain about bias in college football all the time, but it is worse in women’s college basketball. There’s good reason for it too since the same 4 or 5 teams always seem to be the ones to win the National Championship. So don’t look for the Bulldogs to climb to high in the polls for the next month. If you want to know when the Women’s team can make their biggest statement, look to February.

Starting February 1 and going through February 26, the Bulldogs will play 6 games, and 4 of them will be against teams currently ranked in the top 10. To make that stretch even more difficult, three of those four games will be played on the road. And that brings me to our third question about the Women’s team.

Mississippi State should enter their game on February 1 with 7th ranked Tennessee with no more than two losses. It wouldn’t surprise in the least if they played the Lady Vols undefeated. If the Bulldogs could win that game and come back to Starkville to play the 10th ranked Aggies in Humphrey Coliseum, it gets sold out. So yes, I firmly believe that the Women’s team is going to outdraw the Men’s team. The only way that doesn’t happen is if the win over FSU is a precursor of things to come and not a blip on the radar.