State Stars Will Make All-Conference Cases

Pernell McPhee

How does the proviso put it: past results do not guarantee future performance? Well, perhaps downplaying expectations is necessary in some fields. But not on Scott Field this fall, and not for a number of Bulldogs projected to earn all-star honors in 2010.

Two Mississippi State players begin their senior seasons listed on the watch-lists for a pair of major national awards, while a couple of fellow upperclassmen join them as All-Southeastern Conference candidates. Then there is that impressive corps of sophomores who already have one all-league honor on their Bulldog resumes, and will try this season to make the regular All-SEC roll call.

Not surprisingly the forecasts are high for defensive end Pernell McPhee, coming off an impressive junior-transfer season. He was voted second-team All-SEC by both media and league coaches in 2009 and will state his case for first-team status as a senior. That will require a little more convincing because in both of the pre-season pollings McPhee remained on the second-team by both writers and coaches.

However, he has also been listed by the Rotary Lombardi Award organization as one to watch in their selection of the nation's top defensive lineman. Technically, the top interior defensive lineman; but even as an end in State's schemes McPhee does as much damage inside as any true tackle.

Joining McPhee on the pre-season all-league lists are classmates offensive tackle Derek Sherrod and linebacker K.J. Wright. Left tackle Sherrod is coming off a Coaches second-team All-SEC junior season himself, and now goes into the final college campaign projected to repeat that status by both media and coaches. Wright was named second-team by the media but overlooked by coaches in their voting. He will get no lack of their attention in game-planning, of course, especially after moving to weak-side linebacker where his pass rushing skills should be even more evident.

Not making any pre-season conference list is senior center J.C. Brignone. But folk outside the region certainly know his name because it shows up on the initial watch list for the Rimington Trophy given to the college game's top snapper.

Meanwhile there is a roster of precocious pups who made their all-conference marks as 2009 rookies and are playing for higher stakes their second times-around. When the dust from Coach Dan Mullen's debut season settled no less than four Mississippi State newcomers were All-Freshmen. And one, cornerback Corey Broomfield, even picked up a Freshman All-America mention. Broomfield was a redshirt freshman last fall.

The other three were new-for-'09 true frosh and all made instant impacts worthy of award. Safety Johnthan Banks, receiver/returner Chad Bumphis, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox all earned membership on the Coaches Freshman All-SEC squad with Broomfield. It was the largest collection of all-league frosh from State since 2005 when four rookie Dogs made the Coaches' list.

These '10 sophs join elders safety Charles Mitchell and offensive guard Quentin Saulsberry (both 2008 honorees) as Dogs who have made the All-Freshman team.

It may be a little more difficult for the rookie class of '10 to score all-conference status given the much-improved strength of the overall lineup. Only a few redshirt freshmen are being counted on, pre-camp, for significant playing time. On defense they are end Johnathan McKenzie and safety Nickoe Whitley; and on offense the pair of redshirted runners Montrell Conner and LaDarius Perkins. But based on spring results, there should be opportunity for, say, an incoming receiver to follow the example set by Bumphis in 2009.

Among the veterans who should deserve closer attention by voters the obvious candidates are tight end Marcus Green, middle linebacker Chris White, and of course second-year standouts Bumphis, Banks, Broomfield, et.al. Should the entire team make the sort of progress anticipated in Mullen's second season there would have to be a handful of Dogs achieving post-season stature. Mississippi State has produced a single first-team Coaches All-SEC selection in the last three years, with record-setting running back Anthony Dixon completing his career with that 2009 honor. But with their initial momentum gained in year-one under Mullen's direction, come this December it will be harder for voters to overlook the achievements of the 2010 Bulldogs.

The full Bulldog team had their formal 'report' date today, though practically the entire roster has been on campus this summer. The last expected arrival is freshman receiver Michael Carr, whose clearance comes too late for July enrollment. He was to report with the cleared roster Monday according to MSU staff.

Practices begin Tuesday with a split-team schedule set around this week's final exams. One portion of the team will hit the practice field at 9:00am, while the rest get to work at 4:00. Tuesday and Thursday (there is no Wednesday session) will be non-pads; Friday's split-session is partial pads. And full contact begins Sunday in a closed practice.

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