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Mathieu To Enroll At LSU Today, According To Family Member

According to ESPN.com’s Joe Schad — somewhere Dan Mullen scoffs — Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu will enroll at LSU today as a plain ol’ student.  At least that’s what Mathieu’s adoptive father, Tyrone, told Schad yesterday.

Mathieu was dismissed from LSU’s football team last month for a third and final violation of the school’s drug policy.  He immediately went to former NBA star/coach John Lucas’ Right Step recovery clinic in Houston to begin working on his dependency issues.  Now he’s ready to enroll in school and pay his own way.

So does that mean Mathieu can return to LSU’s football team next season, in 2013?  According to his adoptive mother, Sheila, yes.

“Tyrann is a lot better, thank God.  He’s strengthening himself and he continues to do so.  He’s focused on academics… (Rehab is) an ongoing process.  It’s not a done deal but a work in (progress).”

If Mathieu can return to LSU’s team next year after overcoming his addiction issues and hitting the books as a regular student, it will be quite the victory story.  The kind of story we rarely see make headlines in college sports.

Here’s hoping this time next year Mathieu’s return to the Tigers will be exactly what we’re all writing and talking about.

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MSU WR Coach Mirando Resigns Two Weeks Before Opener

With less than two weeks to go before a season-opener there are many things a fan doesn’t want to hear:

 

* A star player has been injured in practice.

* A star player has been arrested out on the town.

* A star player is going to drug rehab (LSU).

* A freshman has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA (many, with Auburn being the latest).

 

One thing that doesn’t go through a fan’s mind is the possibility that an assistant coach might up and quit.  But that’s just what Mississippi State fans are coming to grips with today.  Receivers coach Angelo Mirando resigned his position on Dan Mullen’s staff yesterday… with the Bulldogs just 13 — now 12 — days away from their opener with Jackson State.

A statement was released by MSU yesterday.  In it, Mirando cited “unforeseen personal issues” as his reason for departing:

 

“I have enjoyed my time at Mississippi State as a graduate assistant and as an assistant coach.  I have made friends that will last a lifetime; however, due to unforeseen personal issues, I believe it is in my best interest to resign from Mississippi State.  I want to stress that these issues are personal.  I look forward to pursuing other opportunities in the future.  Finally, I want to thank my friend and mentor Dan Mullen for giving me this chance.”

 

Odd?  You bet. And when a team spokesperson was asked if legal or family issues brought about the resignation, the response was simply: “Personal reasons.”

Here’s Mullen’s portion of the statement regarding the exit of a coach who moved up from the GA ranks just last year:

 

“We appreciate Angelo and the work he did, and wish him the best in wherever the future takes him.  We’ll take some time to evaluate what our next steps will be with that staff position, but I’m confident in our veteran group of wide receivers and know they’ll be focused and ready to go Sept. 1.”

 

A last-minute curveball like this would be a hit to any team, but it could be particularly troublesome for State.  The Bulldogs — with Tyler Russell at quarterback — are expected to become a pass-first team in 2012.  But, on the bright side, the Bulldogs will be lead by four seniors at the wideout position, so if anyone’s going to be able to deal with a twist like this, they should be able to.

On the recruiting front, Mirando had five receivers committed to MSU as of last night.

Stay tuned…

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Kentucky’s Phillips At The Podium – 7/18/12

When discussing the usual SEC yawners (Gene Chizik and Dan Mullen) earlier today, I left someone of the list.  Joker Phillips.  In itself, that should tell you just how entertaining Kentucky’s coach usually is at these events.

Well, he’s up next to talk about his Wildcats.  Here’s hoping for a Mullenesque improvement over last year’s session.  (Not that media Q&As have a thing to do with winning football games, of course, but if we’ve got to listen to them… they might as well be interesting.)

* Phillips says he’s excited for 2012 after finishing the 2011 season with two wins and two losses.  A lot of young guys made plays for UK in those last four games.

* He said UK’s win over Tennessee allowed his team to achieve one goal on the season — win its last game.

* Oops.  I already nodded off.  Phillips seems like a nice guy and who knows what he’s like one-on-one in a living room, but he’s just brutal.  He wanted to talk about his two new assistants and for a second it seemed he forgot their names.

* Phillips says he’s got some good young talent on his team.

* Listening to Phillips, I wonder if he’s brought in as a motivational speaker in Hell.  Again, he might be great in every other aspect of the job, but yikes this is brutal.

* The coach says “the best league just got better” with Missouri and Texas A&M coming into the SEC.  Asked about further expansion, Phillips said that’s up to the SEC’s “unbelievable commissioner.”

* Phillips said the way UK beat Tennessee last year was more important than beating Tennessee.  That low-scoring win showed his team that they don’t have to win by putting up 500 yards and 35 points.

* He said the success of Kentucky basketball has helped sell his football programs.  “We want to hitch our wagon to our basketball program?”

* Phillips said that John Calipari has been helpful to him.  He said Calipari actually called him on speaker phone recently to talk to the coach and a two-sport athlete Phillips had on campus.

* Asked about his hot seat status, Phillips said, “Well, I’m not sitting down right now, so ain’t nothing hot.”  Drew a few laughs.  Good line.  “I don’t have time to listen to that stuff.”

* Phillips says to take care of his program at Kentucky, he’d be against a nine-game schedule.  (Why are people asking this of coaches?  Of course they’re against it.  The SEC’s coaches were against a seven-game schedule at one time.  Then against an eight-game schedule.  And against an SEC Championship Game.  Nick Saban may be the one guy who’ll say he’s open to playing nine.)

 

Our overall grad for Phillips’ “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 2 on a scale of 1-5.  He just doesn’t seem comfortable in these types of settings.  He comes across as a nice guy who you really want to do well, but overall he’s right down there with Chizik in terms of stiffness.

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Mississippi State’s Mullen At The Podium – 7/18/12

There are two coaches each year I usually dread hearing from — Dan Mullen and Gene Chizik.  That doesn’t mean they’re bad guys, bad coaches or that I hate their schools/teams/etc.  It does mean they’re sort of bland.  (In Chizik’s case, bland is an understatement.)

Mullen might be the fastest talker in the league (though Will Muschamp and Gary Pinkel certainly have given him a run for his money this week).  Let’s see how he does today…

* Mullen says he’s excited for the season.  Though he doesn’t have a veteran team, he likes the squad’s attitude.

* The coach also talked up his team’s GPA early in his opening remarks.  He also praised MSU’s administration and mentioned the new facilities going up in Starkville.

* Quick opening statement from Mullen… quicker than his usual approach.  He seems a bit more comfortable this year.  Heck, this is his fourth Media Days event.

* Asked about his sometimes shaky relationship with quarterback Tyler Russell, Mullen credited the player and his family for dealing with “outside pressures” from fan and media expectations.  “I expect him to have a huge year,” the coach said.  Mullen said he knows the system and that the staff will give him “the keys” and lot of play-calling responsibility at the line of scrimmage.

* It didn’t take long for the “you’ve only beaten Ole Miss in the West” question to pop up.  In response, Mullen said the first SEC game — against Auburn — is always important because it’s a two-game lead for the winner over the loser.

* Mullen says you have to bring “your A game” every week regardless of division, when asked about the strength of the West Division.

* MSU’s coach is clearly more comfortable this season.  He’s not rushing as he has in year’s past.  He seems friendly and upbeat.  Big improvement over past year’s performance.

* Asked about tougher academic standards, Mullen says he’s sorry that some players won’t be rewarded.  He says it takes depth away.

* Mullen said there will probably be some billboard plans for the fall.  He claimed he only sees the billboards after they’ve already been designed.  Ole Miss fans are scoffing at that.

* Mullen says Russell compares to Alex Smith in terms of style — more passer than runner.  He says only a portion of MSU’s playbook will be used, which is normal.  But this year the percentage used might differ from what’s been used in past seasons.

* “I try to play nonconference games within our region,” he said when asked about a nonconference game at Troy.  Mullen said he wants players’ families to be able to see them play.  He said taking a bus to a game saves money.  MSU doesn’t have to spend “millions and millions” to jet across the country.  A novel spin.

* Mullen’s really doing a good job this year.  Relaxed.

* The coach says the secondary is the strength of State’s defense, especially with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox now gone.  State will have to adjust to his departure and the secondary will have to pick up some of the slack.

* Asked if the gap between State and Alabama/LSU/Auburn/Arkansas closing, Mullen said his teams has had fourth-quarter chances against those teams.  He said he just needs someone to make a play at crunch time.  Mullen said that shows that his team is close to those West foes “which means we’re not very far from the national title.”;

* “As much as we always try to prevent head injuries, in the game of football that’s always going to happen.”

 

Our overall grade for Mullen’s “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 5 on a scale of 1-5.  Totally different Dan Mullen this year.  As noted above, in his fourth Media Days he seems much, much more relaxed and friendly.  This wasn’t a Rat Pack show at The Sands, but in past years, Mullen’s seemed to have a bit of an edge to him — not unlike Gary Pinkel yesterday.  That was not the case today.

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Saban’s On Top Of TSN’s 124 Football Coach Countdown

Earlier this week, Matt Hayes of The Sporting News posted his rankings of the SEC’s 14 football coaches.  Nick Saban was on top, Derek Dooley was on the bottom and second-year coach James Franklin was ranked all the way up at #5.  You can find that list here.

But now The Sporting News — Hayes with fellow writer Steve Greenberg, in fact — has ranked all the college football coaches in the country from #1 all the way to #124.  Some anonymous coaches also weigh in on their colleagues in some of the breakdowns of each.

Below we’ll show where each SEC coach fell in their rankings as well as who is above and below each coach:

 

1.  Nick Saban, Alabama

Just above him: No one

Just below him: Chris Petersen, Boise State

 

4.  Les Miles, LSU

Just above him: Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Just below him: Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

 

8.  Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

Just above him: Gary Patterson, TCU

Just below him: Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

 

14.  Mark Richt, Georgia

Just above him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Just below him: Bronco Mendenhall, BYU

 

25.  James Franklin, Vanderbilt

Just above him: Brady Hoke, Michigan

Just below him: Gary Pinkel, Missouri

 

26.  Gary Pinkel, Missouri

Just above him: James Franklin, Vanderbilt

Just below him: Dabo Swinney, Clemson

 

36.  Gene Chizik, Auburn

Just above him: Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

Just below him: Bo Pelini, Nebraska

 

46.  Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Just above him: Mike London, Virginia

Just below him: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

 

47.  Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Just above him: Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Just below him: Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

 

59.  Will Muschamp, Florida

Just above him: Dave Christensen, Wyoming

Just below him: Paul Pasqualoni, UConn

 

74.  John L. Smith, Arkansas

Just above him: Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette

Just below him: Todd Graham, Arizona State

 

77.  Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Just above him: Terry Bowden, Akron

Just below him: Larry Coker, Texas-San Antonio

 

90.  Joker Phillips, Kentucky

Just above him: Doc Holliday, Marshall

Just below him: Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State

 

99.  Derek Dooley, Tennessee

Just above him: Norm Chow, Hawaii

Just below him: Garrick McGee, UAB

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Former MSU QB Favre Busted For Pot Possession

What would Uncle Brett think of this one?  “Vicodin’s easier?”

Former Mississippi State quarterback Dylan Favre — nephew of NFL great and off-troubled quarterback Brett Favre — was arrested this morning on a charge of possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) with intent to distribute.

It’s one thing to have it or smoke it… it’s a different level of dumb to sell it.  Here’s hoping the kid learns from this one and moves on in a different direction.

Favre transferred from State to Pearl River Community College last December.  Somewhere, Dan Mullen just breathed a sigh of relief that this one’s not his concern.

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MSU’s Mullen Mentioned As Texas A&M Candidate

Mississippi State fans, get ready for another rumor regarding your coach.

According to AggieYell.com — the Rivals site covering Texas A&M — in addition to the names Larry Fedora, Charlie Strong and Kevin Sumlin that have been kicked around, “there have been a number of surprising candidates that have expressed interest” in the Aggies’ head coaching job:

 

“Two of them are current Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. Mullen was rumored to be a candidate for the Penn State coaching position.”

 

The site — behind a paywall, so you’ll need to subscribe — spends more time discussing Swinney than Mullen.  No surprise, Swinney played for Gene Stallings at Alabama and Stallings still has influence in College Station.  Also, Swinney just won the ACC and is heading to a BCS bowl while Mullen is 6-6 and heading to the Music City Bowl.

Mullen will deny any contact with A&M shortly — start your clocks — but with his name popping up in connection with every job in America the last two years, it’s clear that his agent is pushing his client’s name anywhere and everywhere.  If a school has interest, then Mullen can decide to follow up on it or not.  If a school doesn’t have interest or if Mullen doesn’t want the job, then he can deny any contact.

All the while, the brand “Dan Mullen” is being connected to Miami, Penn State and Texas A&M when, in reality, his resume doesn’t yet demand that type of fawning from athletic directors.

And if Mullen does wind up in East Texas?  Well, then A&M will have its first blood feud with a member of its new conference.

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ESPN’s Schad: Mullen Is Penn State’s Top Candidate

First came reports on blogs and messageboards.  “Dan Mullen is a candidate at Penn State.”  Now ESPN.com’s Joe Schad is taking things a step further:


“Penn State has begun arranging meetings in the search, and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen is at the top of (the) candidate list, a source told ESPN’s Joe Schad.”


ESPN analyst Matt Millen was asked about Mullen being a possible fit at his alma mater and it sounded very much like Millen didn’t know a thing about Mullen.

Meanwhile, MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin has already tweeted the following regarding the reports:


“Deja vu … Everyone take a deep breath and pre-order bowl tickets.  Speculation of this nature is the price of success.”

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Mullen Puts Some Spin On MSU’s Disappointing Season

If you’re Nick Saban and you take over at Alabama, then it’s possible to go from seven wins to 12 to a national title in three short years.  But if you’re Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, the odds of going from five wins to nine and then on up are a bit longer. 

For that reason, this recent comment about his program’s overall rebuilding process may well be true:


“I’ve said all along, this is one of the most important seasons in school history, and we’re battling through that right now.  We get ourselves to a bowl game this year, and hopefully a really good bowl game, you know what, we’re going in the right direction we want to go with this program.”


Yes, but fans don’t want to hear that.  In a big picture view, if the world looks back in 10 years and sees that Mullen’s record at MSU looked like this — five wins, then nine, then seven, then 10, then eight, then a title — then, sure, this year would be viewed as part of the building process.

But in the here and now, Mullen will have a hard time selling a 1-4 SEC record as progress.

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Mullen Heard The Boos On Saturday Night

With their team struggling late against Louisiana Tech and its 17-year-old quarterback, Mississippi State directed more than a few boos at the Bulldogs’ sideline.  Dan Mullen heard ‘em, too:


“I was pretty frustrated at times during the game, too.  So they probably were using more polite words than we were.  We’re working, trying to get better as a football team and as a program.  It’s good that our fans have high expectations.  They want to win football games, too.  And we did.”


Actually, Mullen has raised expectations high enough now that just winning is no longer good enough.  MSU fans want wins, sure, but they also want to win easily against non-BCS foes who they view as inferior.

Mullen had no problem creating a “we can do it” attitude at State.  But he may eventually have a problem dealing with the attitude he created.

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