October 27, 2009 10:42:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Johnthan Banks had two teeth removed last week ago, one for each of the interceptions he returned for touchdowns Saturday night in a 29-19 loss to the University of Florida.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen joked Monday at his weekly press conference that the freshman defensive back from East Webster High School in Maben might want to consider pulling more teeth if it makes him play better.
"He comes out and has two picks, so we might have to pull four teeth this week," Mullen said. "Maybe he''ll have an even bigger game."
It will be hard for Banks to top what he did against Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and the Gators.
Banks returned his first interception 100 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. He returned the second one 20 yards for a score in the fourth quarter. It''s the first time a player has intercepted Tebow twice.
For that performance, Banks was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week.
Banks hasn''t let the recognition change him.
"I''m the same person I was last Friday," Banks said. "I''m old enough and mature enough to handle it."
Banks said East Webster High coach Jimmy Carden helped teach him how to be humble. He said MSU defensive coaches Carl Torbush, Melvin Smith, and Tony Hughes are helping to make sure he stays that way.
Mullen didn''t notice any change in Banks on Sunday when the Bulldogs regrouped for practice. If anything, Mullen said Banks seemed to have a little more confidence.
Coming into preseason camp, Banks was thrown into the mix at cornerback, but was later moved to safety.
Senior quarterback Tyson Lee, of Columbus, could tell Banks had a nose for the football early in practice.
"I knew he was an athlete and I knew he could make plays," Lee said. "He''s done it since the beginning. It showed at the game the other night he''s capable of doing that."
Mullen said Banks "has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, but is still a skinny young guy that hasn''t gotten to go through an offseason program to really mature his body."
Not long after he was informed of his SEC honor by his uncle and a friend, Banks decided to move forward.
"I''ve got to stay focused, keep working hard, and try to get our team going so we can get to a bowl game this year," Banks said.
The Bulldogs (3-5, 1-3 SEC) travel to Kentucky at 6 p.m. Saturday (Fox SportsNet South).
The Southeastern Conference reprimanded Mullen on Monday for his public criticism of officiating during Sunday''s teleconference.
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive issued a statement saying Mullen violated the league''s code of ethics.
"SEC Bylaw 10.5.4 clearly states that coaches, players and support personnel shall refrain from all public criticism of officials," Slive said.
It was the second reprimand Slive issued on Monday as he had to warn Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin for a second offense. Last week, Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was reprimanded.
Mullen didn''t take any questions Monday concerning officiating or the pending reprimand.
"Since practice yesterday, my focus has really been finding a way to beat Kentucky," Mullen said.
Mullen had plenty to say Sunday in the teleconference. He was critical of several offsides calls on kickoffs that weren''t called against Florida. He also criticized the replay official in the press box didn''t review what could have been ruled a fumble by Dustin Doe at the 1-yard line. The Bulldogs recovered the loose ball.
The SEC examined video of the play and said there wasn''t enough visual evidence to rule any differently.
MSU Athletic Director Greg Byrne had "no comment" on the situation when contacted late Monday afternoon.
Redshirt freshman offensive guard Tobias Smith, of Columbus, hasn''t responded from his preseason ankle injury to earn significant playing time.
Mullen said Smith''s status remains day to day and that he would use the open date to give him time to heal further.
"If we don''t think he''s going to be ready to go, we''ll put the breaks on it and give him the two week rest where he''ll be 100 percent," Mullen said.
Senior defensive tackle Charles Burns (knee) returned to practice Sunday, while junior kicker Sean Brauchle (leg) dressed out for the Florida game and was available to kick short range.
Mullen was hit in the ankle on a play near the sideline and joked he might be "the only one questionable this week."
"I might have to put a boot on my ankle," Mullen said with a grin.
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