STARKVILLE -- The only changes made to Mississippi State's coaching staff after Dan Mullen's first year at the helm came on the defensive side of the ball and it's had an effect on all three levels. Manny Diaz left Middle Tennessee State and Chris Wilson left the University of Oklahoma and joined MSU to help retool a young defense that flashed just as much big-play potential as big plays given up. Diaz and Wilson have a spring practice under their belts as they co-coordinate the defense. In addition, Diaz coaches the linebackers and Wilson tutors the defensive line in a system run by some NFL teams.
Rachel Hollivay already is one of the best girls basketball players in the Class of 2012. Ranked in the top 10 by nearly every national recruiting service, the Heritage Academy junior has attracted interest from coaches from all over the country. But Hollivay did something last week that made all of the scouts and coaches take notice.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville Academy and Central Academy posted the only victories Saturday by local teams at the Starkville Academy tournament at the Mississippi State Recreation Complex. Oak Hill and Heritage Academy lost both of their games in the tournament. Starkville Academy opened the day with a 6-4 victory against Central Academy, but it lost its next two games to Leake Academy (2-1) and to Pillow Academy and was ousted from the double-elimination event.
STARKVILLE -- As Starkville Academy's third head coach in the last three seasons, Robert Gardner has the attacking tools to make the Lady Volunteers a postseason threat. But will defense and youth be too much to overcome? One year removed from a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA playoff berth, the Lady Volunteers are unsettled on who'll man the back line. Also, the team has just one senior (Shelby Carpenter), and no juniors.
Former Hamilton High School baseball standout Dylan Earnest has added another honor to his array of accomplishments. In June, Earnest was chosen to the Louisville Slugger High School All-American team. Earnest, a left-handed pitcher/outfielder, led the Lions to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A title series, where they lost in two games to Richton. He is playing with the Pontotoc Red Sox in the American Legion Mid-South Regional in Grand Prairie, Texas. He will attend Itawamba Community College when he returns.
STARKVILLE -- Dan Mullen isn't budging on who he expects to be Mississippi State's starting quarterback. The race between Tyler Russell and Chris Relf, only a week into fall practice, hasn't produced a front-runner and there doesn't appear to be light at the end of the tunnel, Dan Mullen hinted during Saturday's team media day.
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- Dylan Earnest and Philip Tice combined to lead the Pontotoc Red Sox to an impressive victory Thursday in their first game at the American Legion Mid-South Regional tournament. Earnest, a recent graduate of Hamilton High School, threw a complete-game five-hitter to lead Pontotoc, the Mississippi state champion, to a 6-1 win against Texarkana, Ark., the Arkansas state champion, at Quick Trip Park.
STARKVILLE -- Receiving depth is a concern for the Mississippi State football team, but if Thursday's practice was any indication of what to expect, all the Bulldogs need is a bit of patience. Such was the case last year when MSU relied on Chad Bumphis and Leon Berry to assimilate themselves into a new offense at a new level. In just a year, Bumphis and Berry have become the elder statesmen of what passing game coordinator Mark Hudspeth calls "the youngest receiving corps in the country."
STARKVILLE -- Expect more from Mississippi State's volleyball team. MSU coach Jenny Hazelwood believes she has seen enough from the progress the team made last year and the success it had in the spring season to warn of a breakout year for one of the Southeastern Conference's lower-ranked programs. "We've carried over a lot of momentum and will be a better team," Hazelwood said.
STARKVILLE -- Jeff Terrill's positive energy is infectious. And it's a good thing as Starkville Academy's football program is attempting to climb out of the valley and to the top of the mountain. Today's home scrimmage against Leake Academy gives the Volunteers their first chance to play against a different team since Terrill took over at the beginning of the year. Eager, hungry, anxious and antsy, the Vols have been buoyed by Terrill's diligence in creating an expectation to be better than they've been since winning a state title in 2005.
CALEDONIA -- Samantha Brooks loves to build. Three seasons ago, Brooks took over as head coach of the Caledonia High School volleyball program with a stable of sophomores. She realized at the time those players had the potential to help establish the foundation for a program. The best thing about sophomores is they become juniors and then seniors.
STARKVILLE -- Playing as a team is a goal every athlete and coach will list at some point of the season. And as cliché and obvious as the concept might seem, a team won't get far with individual play. Starkville High School volleyball coach Lauren Love has been drilling that concept to her squad since she took over last season. Communication is vital for solid team play, but the spirit of playing for one another can help overcome any deficiencies or lack of experience.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State's soccer team has been re-tooling its attack for the past three seasons, and coach Neil Macdonald believes the firepower issues are a thing of the past. Last year's squad took a step toward contending in conference play, posting a 9-8-2 record and earning draws against ranked sides Florida and South Carolina.
Krisi Boren saw the progress last season. After making it to the Division II state title game in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools in 2008, Boren watched as her team adjusted to playing against Division I competition in '09. The Lady Patriots experienced their share of growing pains, going 6-7 and finishing fourth in their district.
Imagine having to toil in obscurity. It wouldn't matter if you had the fastest feet, the stickiest hands, or the steadiest demeanor. The only ones your talents would delight would be family and friends and, possibly, a lucky fan who happened by the stadium where you played.
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State began football practice Tuesday with two split-squad sessions and plenty of eyes on the team's newcomers. In the first of three practices open to the public, Mississippi State newcomers took the field for the first time this fall in a format head coach Dan Mullen hoped would acclimate the freshman/transfer class to practice routines.
Michael Bradley isn't alone. Like most of his peers, the New Hope High School football coach was elated to start another season. Bradley has an extra bounce in his step because the Trojans are coming off an 11-win season in 2009 and have a team that has the potential to be even more successful this year. But as eager as Bradley is to get this season started, he wasn't very happy about when his team had to begin its preseason workouts.
Chloe Tapley is used to taking the initiative. As a pitcher, Tapley is one of the area's most proficient strikeout artists. At the plate, where she admits she doesn't feel she is as productive, Tapley has learned to slap or to get on base to help her team any way she can.
WEST POINT -- Sometimes it is as easy as sling it or chunk it. Julianne Jackson admits she doesn't have an array of pitches, but Monday she showed a simple approach is extremely effective.
1. Player of Week: Davis, Starkville off to fast start HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Bulldogs turn attention to UAB COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Heritage Academy looks to build on first win HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS