August 29, 2009 11:33:00 PM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State junior tight end Thomas Webb knows about homesickness.
After graduating from Starkville High School in 2005, Webb saw an opportunity to leave home and play for coach Jeff Bower at Southern Mississippi.
Webb had an offer to attend MSU, but he didn''t think it was the right thing to do and was ready to leave town.
"The whole intention when I signed (with Southern Miss) out of high school was to get out of Starkville," Webb said. "I thought Southern was my best fit. I wanted to play as a freshman, and they told me I could play, so that''s where I wanted to go."
Webb had limited chances to contribute for the Golden Eagles in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. When Bower and his staff left the program after the 2007 season, Webb decided to transfer after his sophomore year.
A handful of schools were interested in Webb, but there was only one place he wanted to be.
Webb missed Starkville, so the opportunity to play in front of his family and friends again was too good to pass up.
"Mississippi State was definitely No. 1 on my list," Webb said. "Being from Starkville, this was a chance to come back home.
"When you get away from home, you realize you had it much better than you did. That''s one of the main reasons I wanted to come back. I considered other schools, but when it came down to it, I wanted to be here."
After sitting out the 2008 season as a redshirt, Webb is listed among the 2009 walk-ons for the Bulldogs. He figures in the team''s plans on special teams and with the tight ends.
Webb said tight end is an important position in the spread offense that coach Dan Mullen has installed. He has lost 15 pounds to be better suited to do the things asked of him.
"There are a lot of assignments and sets we can be in," Webb said. "There are multiple things I could be doing. I could block or go out wide as a receiver. I want to do whatever I can to contribute to the team and the offense."
MSU tight ends coach Scott Sallach likes having Webb in the mix just because he''s from Starkville.
"Having a local guy is always good," Sallach said. "People in town like to have someone they recognize as opposed to someone further away. That''s what makes it good having so many people from Mississippi on the roster."
Webb came in during the final year of coach Sylvester Croom''s tenure. He had to endure another change when the Bulldogs decided to hire Mullen to lead the program.
Webb said it caught him by surprise when Croom left because it seemed like the same situation with Bower and Southern Miss. He once again be introduced to a new coaching staff, but it couldn''t have worked out better for Webb.
"I love coach Mullen and his staff," Webb said. "This is the best coaching staff I''ve been around. This is great and a good change for the program."
Sallach said Webb and the other tight ends had a tough time at first grasping how important catching the football was in a spread offense.
The tight end wasn''t as much involved in the passing game with the West Coast offense as it will be in the spread.
"I think it was something the guys weren''t quite used to in the previous offense," Sallach said. "Not to say they couldn''t do it, but it wasn''t something they were asked to do. They are really starting to get a handle on it. That''s what coach Mullen is looking for out of that position."
Sallach said sophomores Marcus Green and Kendrick Cook have made the most improvement at tight end.
Entering game week
The Bulldogs held their final practice of the preseason Friday night, and will begin preparations Tuesday for Jackson State.
MSU focused on game situations in a workout that lasted well into the night.
Mullen sent his team through a mock game in the last several periods, and had the players work on substitutions and formations.
Junior center J.C. Brignone had the boot removed from his foot and is expected back at practice next week, while freshman receiver Chad Bumphis (mild foot sprain) also is expected to return.
The Bulldogs play host to the Tigers at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU).