April 30, 2013 1:27:29 PM
STARKVILLE - So....I'm back and ready to dig into Mississippi State University sports but of course....in order to understand what we're about to see, we have to look back to history.
First of all, I want to thank readers of this blog and MSU fans for having patience with me last weekend as I took a vacation to attend the wedding of a friend of nearly 15 years. I wasn't going to miss that celebration for anything in the world so because as I've said for years, I work for you, the loyal reader - thank you to you, the loyal reader for allowing me to ignore MSU sports for three days to have a personal moment.
Let's take a look back at the weekend I missed and clearly you, the loyal reader didn't.
- Mississippi State's cornerback duo of all-Southeastern Conference selection Darius Slay and Johnthan Banks were selected by the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft Friday night at Radio City Music Hall. Banks and Slay became the first Bulldog teammates selected in the first 50 picks of the draft since James Johnson and Reggie Kelly went 39th and 42nd overall in 1999.
"Detroit and Tampa Bay got better tonight," MSU coach Dan Mullen said in a university release. "Congratulations to both Darius and Johnthan. They're both great players and wonderful young men. Both will continue to make Mississippi State fans - and all of the people of this great state - proud for years to come."
Let's start with Banks - he, like myself and I think a lot of those who follow the NFL, were surprised that Tampa Bay decided to select a cornerback in the second round after trading its first round pick to the New York Jets for former All-Pro cornerback for Derrelle Revis. However, Banks' skill set makes their Cover-2 defense even more strong as they hope Banks can emerge once Revis' career is winding down.
Also I was encouraged that the things I was impressed by with Banks also impressed the Buccaneers' executives.
"He's a very mature 23-year-old that is married with a little one, the Jim Thorpe winner that would take the number one (wide receiver) on in the toughest league so that's a tough calling," Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said.
I also think MSU fans should be happy with the fact that Mullen was willing to quoting NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock "pound the table" for his players because Mullen can give off a vibe as a college guy that doesn't have much time for the professional game. His selling of Banks to Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, who Mullen has known from his time as a graduate assistant on the east coast at Rutgers and Penn State helped tremendously offset the concerns about Banks' 40-time and drill work leading up to the draft.
"Dan Mullen is a friend to our organization and the word 'winner' just kept coming out of his mouth about Johnthan Banks," Schiano said. "We agree. His body of work is very, very impressive."
In 2012, Banks finished with 63 total tackles, four interceptions, seven pass breakups, 2.0 tackles for loss, a fumble forced and a fumble recovery. The first rounder finished his career with 16 career interceptions, tying Walt Harris for the school record.
Next is Darius Slay, who waited two days in New York to hear his name called by the Detroit Lions after running the fastest 40-meter dash time at the NFL Combine.
"That's why we drafted him - he wasn't a throw away pick at the top of the second round," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.
Slay, a native of Brunswick, Ga., and a transfer from Itawamba Community College, was chosen by Detroit with the 36th overall selection. He was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2012, following his only year as a starter for the Bulldogs. Slay intercepted five passes as a senior (six total) and recorded 37 tackles with six pass breakups.
The final MSU player drafted was interesting and in Tuesday's edition of The Dispatch I hit on the fact that Bulldogs defensive tackle Josh Boyd may have to learn to play differently after being selected in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said he started noticing its newest selection from Mississippi State University in 2011 when they started the draft evaluation last year of Fletcher Cox.
"(Boyd) kind of took off right when I'd put the tape on to evaluate Cox because obviously Josh Boyd is a big man that has some explosion to him," Trgovac said. "We think Josh has some versatility to him as well as a defensive lineman and that's why we picked him."
Under MSU coach Dan Mullen, MSU has had 12 players taken in the NFL Draft including the two first-round draft choices of Cox and Derek Sherrod in back-to-back years.
Boyd, who started in 41 of 51 games at MSU earned 33 tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss as a senior without Cox in the lineup after he was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012. With Cox at his side, Boyd led the MSU defensive line with 51 tackles during his junior season.
The interesting element to Boyd's selection by Green Bay is they are one of the few teams in the NFL that play a 3-4 defensive scheme so it's unclear whether Boyd, who has played as a 4-3 defensive tackle his entire career will be asked by the Packers to be a bigger defensive end or a run-stuffing nose tackle.
"I'd like to see whether we can get some nose reps from him when he gets here for camp because sometimes there's a lot of projections especially in this defense," Trgovac said. "His length is a big plus wherever we put him because nowadays with lineman being able to grab you, his arm length can help him create that leverage you need."
Other MSU players that received training camp invitations immediately after the draft was completed Saturday were wide receivers Chad Bumphis (Miami) and Arceto Clark (Seattle) and linebacker Cameron Lawrence (Dallas).
- On the baseball diamond, The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog caught up with MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson to discuss what he called "a missed opportunity" by being swept at No. 2 Vanderbilt this past weekend. Thompson said he still feels confidence in his starting rotation despite sophomore left-hander Jacob Lindgren having another start where the MSU hurler failed to get out of the first inning. Between Lindgren, Brandon Woodruff and Evan Mitchell, MSU has had four starts this season where the starting pitcher has failed to get the first three outs of the game.
"I feel like that's not all on Jacob's shoulders because if we leave him in the game, I really believe in my heart that he'd have found a way to maneuver through a good portion of the game," Thompson said of Lindgren. "The reason we took him out was my competitiveness said this was a crucial part of the game, his pitchers were staying up in the zone and I hadn't used (relievers) Ross Mitchell or Jonathan Holder yet that weekend."
Thompson took Cohen's spot on his coaching radio show Monday at Buffalo Wild Wings in Starkville due to the Bulldogs head coach being on a recruiting trip. The Bulldogs pitching coach stressed MSU hasn't wiped away any of the season goals to host a NCAA regional despite losing its fourth league series.
"I just don't think you relinquish anything out of you glass till it's all gone," Thompson said. "I would say that when you put something up on the board as a goal, you fight for it till there's nothing left to play for."
In the last ten years of NCAA Regional host selections, not a single school tabbed by the selection committee has had an under .500 conference record. The only team that was even just .500 in league & hosted a NCAA Regional was Texas A&M University in 2007 (13-13 in Big 12 Conference) and they won their league tournament in the final weekend.
"The big thing to remember when it comes to NCAA Regional hosts is that it's highly highly unlikely a team with a losing conference record gets an NCAA Regional host," Perfect Game national college baseball reporter Kendall Rogers said. "Obviously, State is one game below .500 in league play. The Bulldogs really need to be very very good down the stretch to nail down a host spot. Winning home series over Alabama and South Carolina is a must."
- Also Monday night marked an historic event for the Mississippi State women's golf program. The Lady Bulldogs third-year coach Ginger Brown-Lemm went from shock to pride to see the words 'Mississippi State' on the screen when the NCAA Regional teams were announced Monday night online on NCAA.com. After being what would be essentially on the bubble as an at-large selection throughout the 2012-13 season, MSU all but solidified its spot in its first postseason appearance since 2006 with a fifth place finish in the Southeastern Conference Championship last week. Monday night, at a selection party at Buffalo Wild Wings in Starkville, MSU learned they would be receiving an invitation to the NCAA's Central Regional to be held at par-72, 6,327-yard Jimmie Austin OU Golf Course in Norman, Okla., on May 9-11.
"That's just a rush of energy you can't get anywhere else in the world," Brown-Lemm said. "I saw the M and then the I and then realized 'wait a minute, that's us'. This is my fifth year of college coaching and I'm so excited to finally be taking a team to NCAAs."
The NCAA Regional format for women's golf splits 72 schools up into three separate 24-team fields and the top eight teams from each field qualify for the 24-team NCAA championships in Athens, Ga. 13 of the 14 SEC schools earned a postseason bid this year, which is by far the most by any league.
MSU's regional field includes No. 3 Duke University, who will be making its 21st straight appearance in a NCAA Regional round, along with No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 9 University of Florida.
Brown-Lemm knows one of the wild cards in her favor when she brings the Lady Bulldogs to Norman, Okla., is she'll have one of the nation's best players in her lineup in McDonald. The sophomore from Fulton appeared in the 2012 NCAA West Regional as an individual and finished tied for 49th. In 2012, she broke the school's individual stroke average record (72.70) previously held by Amanda Mathis by nearly two strokes. McDonald is currently ranked 38th in the country according to the latest Golfweek/Sagarin individual rankings but finished tied for third at the SEC Championships last week and just one stroke off second place.
"Ally McDonald is the flagship of this program there's no doubt about that and once you get your flagship in place you can start to get pieces that you can build an entire program around," Brown-Lemm said. "
The consensus opinion is if MSU had been left out of the NCAA field in 2013, McDonald would've been a easy selection to make it back-to-back appearances as an individual. Now she'll be bringing in reinforcements to help her through the process.
"You get going through this routine throughout the year that your teammates are around you hitting balls and last year playing as a individual was awesome don't get wrong but it was different and kind of lonely," McDonald said. "The experience is what I can bring as a former NCAA participant will be key. I honestly if we play the way we're supposed to, we can qualify for nationals."
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.
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