April 6, 2012 8:56:31 AM
STARKVILLE - Without further ado:
Item No. 1 - Mississippi State men's basketball coaching news -
Wes Flanigan was announced as the newest addition to the Mississippi State University men's basketball coaching staff after spending the previous two seasons under Doc Sadler at the University of Nebraska.
I got to talk with Flanigan late last night over the phone to discuss his excitement and anticipation to return to Mississippi soon.
"Honestly it was yesterday that he called me and said 'I'm going into a meeting but if you want the job, it's yours'," Flanigan said. "I may not have been on the phone with him for more than two minutes."
Flanigan has had a relationship with Bulldogs new men's basketball head coach Rick Ray for about 12-15 years dating back to him being an AAU coach in his home town of Little Rock, Ark., and an Indiana State University assistant coach was interested in his point guard.
"He was new to the coaching business and so was I so we would see each other in the same gyms," Flanigan said. "He wanted and signed a guard of mine named Gabriel Moore and had a great career at ISU. That's how it started with us and he knew he could trust me as a coach and a friend."
Moore would end up averaging double figures for the Sycamores program in his final three seasons while starting 104 games in his four-year career.
"I was really impressed with him then, and I'm even more impressed now (because) he's exactly what I was looking for," Ray said in a university release. "He has impeccable character. He's tough and he knows how to grind. He's really going to help us in the border states of Arkansas and Alabama in recruiting, and that was a huge criteria for me.
Flanigan has more than a decade of experience in the coaching ranks with stops at Nebraska, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Arkansas at Little Rock and at Northwest Community College in Senatobia.
Flanigan said he hasn't had a conversation yet with Ray about what he's on-the-court primary focus would be but he's already been handed some recruiting responsibilities via a 15-minute phone call Thursday.
"He threw out some things that we need to be doing recruiting and that's the life blood to any program," Flanigan said. "We just trying to reach out to some kids and figure out where we need to spend our time."
Ray's first hire to his staff Thursday morning was in the form of retaining a key member of last year's MSU bench. Ray kept his word when he said he wanted to keep a member of last year's staff with the announcement of George Brooks returning as an assistant coach.
"I always had the intention of keeping somebody from the former staff for continuity, and George was a guy who did a great job of recruiting me to Mississippi State," Ray said. "That showed me how good of a recruiter he is."
Brooks, who played at MSU from 1992-94, returned to his alma mater in 2010 after spending 12 years overseeing the program at Meridian Community College, where his teams won numerous conference championships.
"I really needed someone that can point me in the right direction of recruiting in our state, and I know George is very well connected in Mississippi," Ray said.
Brooks, 38, is noted for having a very good relationship with MSU star guard Rodney Hood, who has participated in offseason workouts and weight training sessions, in his time in Rodney's hometown of Meridian. Hood is the leading returning scorer off this past season's squad.
"I'm just thankful I get to stay at the university I love, and one that is home for me," said Brooks, who was also a student assistant coach for the 1996 Final Four team. "I'm really excited about the opportunity to work with one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the country and continue to build on the tradition at Mississippi State."
Item No. 2 - Mississippi State football news -
Mississippi State football are preparing for a scrimmage this morning after a two-hour practice yesterday in the Palmeiro Center.
Dak Prescott continues to be a mystery for the Mississippi State University football program. Even to Dak Prescott himself.
"I really don't have a role yet," the Bulldogs backup quarterback said. "I'm just trying to push the starter like any backup would be and get better each other."
That starter is junior Tyler Russell as the Parade All-American continues to take the snaps with the first-team offense and will be counted on to lead the Bulldogs offense in the 2012 season.
"Tyler started a couple games and will come out here with confidence," MSU coach Dan Mullen said on March 23. "He's been doing this awhile so he knows what he's doing. I don't see a guy that going to put a lot of pressure on himself to perform at a high level."
Prescott, a redshirt freshman quarterback from Louisiana, is simply trying to learn the spread-option system under Mullen. When asked if he's learning specific packages being developed right now for his running skills and strength at nearly 230 pounds despite coming to campus under 200 pounds in his first fall session, Prescott denied any
complexities in his development.
"I'll leave that to coach Mullen and (offensive coordinator Les) Koenning but right now it's the basic offense and I'll I'm doing is getting in that playbook," Prescott said.
Ben Beckwith was running with the first string offensive line at right guard replacing Justin Malone.
"Nobody has a solid spot right now, so everybody's going to move around until you find the five best to play," MSU left tackle Blaine Clausell said.
Freshman Joe Morrow had a classic freshman day, fumbling the ball after a catch and then dropping a pass that was in his bread basket.
Linebackers Benardrick McKinney and Matthew Wells all saw some first-string snaps with freshman defensive tackle Quay Evans got a few second-team snaps for the first time this spring.
Item No. 3 - Mississippi State baseball news -
In preparation for what must be considered a critical weekend series against Vanderbilt University, Mississippi State University baseball coach John Cohen has made a tweak to his weekend pitching rotation.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin wishes his problems could be easily fixed.
Cohen is putting his two best performances on the mound statistically during the 2012 season in the first two days as right-handed juniors
Chris Stratton (6-0, 2.27) and Kendall Graveman (2-1, 3.05) will get the baseball first against the Commodores (12-17, 3-6 in Southeastern Conference).
In an attempt to downplay the move Thursday morning in his media teleconference, Cohen attempted to suggest the move to remove consistent Saturday starter Nick Routt (1-4, 4.72) was more of a promotion for Graveman to be moved up a day.
"It's not a demotion for anybody, it's a promotion for Kendall Graveman," Cohen said. "We just feel like he's one of our best two arms right now.
MSU (18-11, 3-6 in SEC play) will not officially name a Sunday starter but said if senior All-American reliever Caleb Reed isn't used in either of the first two games, then he'll get his first start since April 23, 2010. If Reed is used out of the bullpen, something the MSU
coaching would prefer because it obviously means they're in position to be Vanderbilt, then opening night starter Ben Bracewell would likely get the nod on Sunday.
"What that does is potentially open the door on Sunday for the possibility of Caleb Reed to start," Cohen said. "We made the decision as a staff that if Caleb can help us win a Friday or Saturday game we'll go ahead and use him and figure out Sunday when we get there."
Routt's status for the weekend is unknown and could very between being a matchup left-handed reliever or a long-relief option if one of the starters gets into early trouble.
"If Routt can help us win a game in a left on left situation or quite frankly with his change-up is better against some right-handed hitters than he is left-handed hitters," Cohen said. "I don't think anything is off the table with him."
Corbin has been in the unenviable position of relying on newcomers and freshman on the mound with one of the most difficult nonconference schedules in the country. The Commodores lost all three weekend starters to either graduation or early entry into the Major League Baseball Draft this past summer.
"Their record doesn't indicate that but they've played some very good non-conference opponents. They played very good Stanford, Oregon and San Diego teams," Cohen said. "They are very solid and young. They lost 31 wins off of their pitching staff a year ago so I think they are a little bit like our club from the standpoint of as time goes on the younger guys are going to get better. They are younger on the mound than we are but we're a little younger positionally than they are."
One of the premier talents that Vanderbilt was relying on early is freshman right-hander Tyler Beede but the first round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays struggled early in his introduction to college baseball.
Beede, who turned down $2.5 million from the Toronto organization to honor his commitment to Vanderbilt, earned his first collegiate win last week against the University South Carolina allowing just two runs on 13 hits with 15 strikeouts in 11-plus innings over his last two starts. In his three Southeastern Conference starts Beede is 1-1 with
a 3.94 ERA while allowing three walks and striking out 21 in 16 innings.
"His birth to college baseball has been Stanford, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin told The Tennesseean.
"Those are all his starts. We've never put, really, a freshman in that position before. Every time he goes out there, he gets better. He's in for a lot of good starts from here on out."
Vanderbilt is 11th in the league in runs allowed, home runs allowed walks allowed and last in fielding coming into Starkville this weekend.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
4. America and the Muslims BOOK REVIEWS