Wednesday, August 18, 2004
The state's college football teams have reported for preseason practice. Millsaps and Mississippi College play their annual grudge match at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Sept. 2. The rest of the state's teams start their seasons on Sept. 4. Here's a quick update on the state, and the city's, college scene.
Jackson State: To hear some Tiger fans tell it, second-year coach James Bell is hard at work figuring out how to misuse his players. (He couldn't misuse them more than he did in 2003). Bell loves to run the ball (even if his team is better passing, like last year). The good news is that the Tigers appear to have a strong corps of running backs.
And give the guy credit for what appears to have been a successful offseason program. The Tigers reported to camp looking bigger, faster and stronger, so they figure to be more physical this season.
Sadly, Bell spent much of the offseason feuding with a JSU radio analyst rather than trying to figure out how to avoid another 2-10 season. Great priorities, Coach.
Southern Miss: The Eagles took a big blow when backup running back Timmy Blackwell was ruled academically ineligible. The senior from Mize will be missed because the Eagles need a solid running game to take pressure off quarterback Dustin Almond. Coach Jeff Bower says he's using the Eagles' flop in the Liberty Bowl to motivate his players. OK, but isn't being picked to finish fourth in Conference USA motivation enough?
Ole Miss: If you're going to have a good football team, you have to expect a few arrests. Exhibits A and B: The University of Miami and Florida State. Based on that, the Rebels should be good again this season. Three Rebels have run afoul of the law in a big way since January. Before practice started, Ole Miss suspended two of the players and kicked the third out of school.
Linebacker Ken Bourne, who pleaded guilty to a gun-related misdemeanor in Memphis, was dismissed from the team. Before you give Ole Miss too much credit for its "tough" stance, you should know that Bourne was academically ineligible and wouldn't have been able to play for the Rebels, anyway. Tailback Jamal Pittman, who was arrested with Bourne and also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge, was suspended for six games. And fullback Rick Razzanno was suspended for one game. Razzanno is facing an October trial on a felony charge related his role in a tag-team brawl between him and his wife and three law students outside an Oxford bar.
ESPN was on hand to film the Bulldogs' first practice under new head coach Sylvester Croom, the Southeastern Conference's first African-American head football coach. Croom has received a lot of love in the national press for his role as a trail blazer. To his credit, Croom has largely avoided talking about race and concentrated on football.
Early reviews say Croom appears to be running a much tighter and tougher camp than predecessor Jackie Sherrill. The cast of "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" could run a tougher camp than Club Jackie. But Croom knows what really counts is what happens when the Bulldogs start playing games.
Millsaps: The Majors are preparing for their second season under Coach David Saunders. Job 1 will be avoiding starting this season with seven straight losses like the Majors did in 2003.
There's some big news over on North State Street. First, Fred "The Original Air" McNair has been hired as quarterbacks coach. Fred's little brother Steve became an Alcorn State and NFL star, but Fred was a star QB on The Reservation first. Fred replaces former Ole Miss QB Romaro Miller, who accepted a job at Millsaps but then decided he wanted to go back to Canada to play football.
On Oct. 23, Millsaps will rename its football stadium for former Majors coach Harper Davis. Davis spent 25 years coaching the Majors (1964-88), compiling a record 138-79-1. And you will never meet a nicer man.
Belhaven: The Blazers will play their second season under coach Scott Highsmith. The goal is to duplicate the record-setting offensive numbers of 2003 while finding a way to win more than four games.
Mississippi College: The Choctaws have been picked to finish eighth in the American Southwest Conference. Good thing they get to play Millsaps first.
Hinds CC: A number of players who failed to qualify to play as freshmen at NCAA Division I-A schools have joined the Eagles. Looks like Hinds is a contender again.