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Apparently Tiring Of MSU Talk, Nutt Adds Fuel To Egg Bowl Fire

Houston Nutt knew just what to say to a gathering of Ole Miss fans last night in Jackson.  The Rebel coach looked ‘em in the eye, apologized for a subpar 2010 season… and then took a couple of shots at Mississippi State.

First, Nutt’s apology:

“I was wondering if you really wanted to come tonight after those last few ballgames.  I want to apologize to you.  We didn’t play with that passion and that intensity of the Ole Miss Rebels.”

Mea culpas never hurt.  And firing barbs at MSU — a school that’s been throwing all the verbal punches in recent months — always helps.

Nutt said that this year’s Egg Bowl game with the Bulldogs is “personal.”  According to Ross Dellenger of The Jackson Clarion Ledger, Nutt then “took a not-so-subtle shot at an MSU video called ‘Golden Days: A Day in the Life of the Egg Bowl Trophy.’”

UM’s coach said that after whipping State 45-0 in 2008, “Nobody had to carry around the trophy to show everybody.”

He then said — as he did at SEC Media Days last week — that Ole Miss’ recruiting class in 2010 was “the best in the state… the best.”  (He was channeling his inner-Kenny Bania, apparently.)

Sounds like Nutt has grown a bit tired of answering questions about those “Welcome To Our State” billboards MSU put up around the Magnolia State. 

Nutt also chose to tell the story of linebacker CJ Johnson’s recruitment.  The in-state prospect had been committed to Dan Mullen’s program for more than a year heading into the home stretch.  According to Nutt, Johnson told Lance Pogue — a Mississippi high school coach who was coaching Johnson at the US Army All-American Game — that he might like to open up his recruiting again.  Pogue gave Johnson Nutt’s phone number.  Naturally, that story has spread quickly on the internet today and upset more than a couple of Bulldog fans in the process.

Brandon Marcello of The Clarion-Ledger tracked down Pogue today for comment:

“I’m a Mississippi guy.  I’m not Ole Miss, I’m not State.  I’m for this state.  I graduated from Delta State and Holmes Community College. 

We’re out at San Antonio, Texas, and there’s a kid from Mississippi who I’m kind of partial to because he’s from my state.  We’re at the all-star game, the coach who’s recruiting him from Mississippi State (Manny Diaz) leaves (for Texas) and he says, ‘I’m kind of unsure.’  I said, ‘If you’re unsure, check them all out,’ and he wanted to talk to Coach Nutt.  Here’s the thing: I’ve got Dan Mullen’s phone number, he’s got mine and I’d do the same if it would have been the other way.”

The coach went on to point out that his own top player from the past two seasons is now at State.  You have to wonder, though, if he appreciates Nutt bringing up his name in the first place.

Either way, for the first time in a long time, Nutt set the day’s sportstalk agenda in the state of Mississippi.  Mullen has been winning games and marketing his program with his mouth for the better part of two years.  Perhaps yesterday’s comments show that Nutt is ready to do a little talkin’ too.

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MSU Linebacker Skinner Arrested

Mississippi State linebacker Deontae Skinner is facing a charge of simple domestic assault following an incident with his girlfriend back on June 5th.  His girlfriend was also arrested.  The pair have a child together.

Both Skinner and Jasmine Foote had “physical marks” on their bodies when police arrested them at an apartment complex in Starkville.

Dan Mullen told The Jackson Clarion-Ledger that Skinner has not been suspended and that any punishment will be “handled internally” after the “legal process runs its course.”

Skinner recorded seven tackles in 10 games last season.  He will be a redshirt sophomore this fall.

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MSU’s Thames Dismissed From Football Team

Reserve safety Dennis Thames has been dismissed from Mississippi State’s football team according to Dan Mullen.  No reason was given for the dismissal, but Mullen tell The Jackson Clarion-Ledger that “this was not a first-time violation” (in the paper’s words).

The redshirt sophomore was listed as the backup strong safety on State’s spring depth chart.

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Mullen Ready For Heightened Expectations At MSU

Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen knows that expectations will be higher in Starkville this year than they were last year.  And he’s ready for them.

“It’s a very different year for us — for our team, for our fanbase,” Mullen told a Biloxi booster club yesterday.  “We have expectations this year.  Last year we went out to prove people wrong — we wanted to prove we could be better than what they expected of us.  Now we have high expectations.  Now we have to prove people right this year.”

Mullen also praised Bulldog fans for their help in building State’s program.  “It’s fun to be out here and thank everybody.  Our fanbase has a lot to do with us winning in my two years here.  But we still have a lot to do.

“Are we improving from year to year?  It will be a challenge for us, and how we handle the adversity of success.  Everybody is patting our kids on the back.  We need to take that to the next stop and not be satisfied with where we are.”

Dogs fans must be rejoicing in the fact that while they are reveling in optimism, the main story surrounding rival Ole Miss these days is what it would cost to buy out yet another coach’s contract.  For now at least, it seems that MSU fans are having their cake and eating it too.

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MSU WR Smith Breaks Jaw In Altercation

Just a week after Chris Bumphis injured his ankle in the Mississippi State weight room, another Bulldog receiver has suffered an off-field injury.  This time, State wideout Chris Smith broke his saw in “an altercation” in Meridian, Mississippi on Saturday, according to The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Smith — a rising junior — caught 24 passes for 264 yards and a touchdown last season. 

As for how Smith broke his jaw, Dan Mullen said, “We’re still investigating all the events around what happened.”  Police in Meridian told The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that there are no records of an arrest or citation for Smith.

Smith is scheduled to undergo surgery on his jaw today.  Now MSU will be without two of its most-proven receivers heading into the summer.  Bumphis is still on crutches due to his ankle injury.

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SEC Headlines – 4/25/11 Part Two

1.  Ole Miss shuffled its 2012 football schedule on Friday and here’s a look at Rebels’ future non-conference opponents.

2.  Here’s a look at UM’s defensive line after spring drills.

3.  As it turns out, Sylvester Croom didn’t leave the cupboard bare for Dan Mullen in Starkville.

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Mullen Kiffins Again With Shot At Ole Miss

Each time I compare Dan Mullen to Lane Kiffin I get a slew of angry emails from Mississippi State fans.  Trouble is, Dan Mullen is comparable to Lane Kiffin.

He’s young.  He’s cocky.  He’s mouthy.  And he likes to throw a barb at the competition whenever he can. 

If your coach does that, you love him and there’s nothing wrong with it.  If your rivals’ coach does that, you hate him and he’s just being classless.  And if you’re an objective outsider you say, “Hey, that guy acts like Lane Kiffin.”

Yesterday, an animated Houston Nutt began his post-signing day press conference by excitedly mentioning the fact that Ole Miss had signed the top five players in the state of Mississippi and eight of the top 12.  He took no shots at Mississippi State — from the clips I watched — and simply stated facts, just as any coach would have.

But it appears Mullen made the mistake of reacting to a reporter’s version of the events.  Again.  Last summer, a reporter at SEC Media Days baited MSU’s coach into taking a shot at Nick Saban when, in fact, Saban had said nothing that should have riled up Mullen in the first place.

This time around, someone apparently told the coach that Nutt “bragged about the amount of in-state talent he bagged.” Mullen replied as follows:

“That’s good.  I thought we did pretty well, too.  I guess we’ll find out next Thanksgiving, just like the last two Thanksgivings.”

Well, that’s just nasty.  It’s Kiffinesque.  And while MSU fans will no doubt rally ’round their coach’s defiant tone — Hell, yeah! — it’s that kind of talk that makes what a Miami trustee said about Mullen in December seem so utterly believable.  The Miami Herald at the time reported that a UM trustee revealed that Mullen had turned off the search committee with his “big ego” saying that “he acts like he invented the game.”

No kidding.

And I’m sure Mullen’s gums wouldn’t have been poppin’ had he signed the top five players in Mississippi and eight of the top 12.

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Franklin To Vandy. Really.

My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.  Or something like that.

Vandy fans meet James Franklin.  James Franklin meet Vandy’s fans. 

A source has told’s Joe Schad that Maryland’s offensive coordinator does plan to accept the Vanderbilt head coaching job. 

No word on whether or not the source was Dan Mullen’s wife.

Schad + The Washington Post = Reality?  Maybe?

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Weekend Winners In The SEC

Fans across the Southeastern Conference are smiling this morning.  Some have good reason.  Some are just doing what fans do.

Here’s a list of who’s grinning today:

* Arkansas fans — Bobby Petrino is putting down roots in Fayetteville.  Fresh off a BCS bowl berth, Arkansas inked its coach to a seven-year extension that will pay him $3.56 million per season.  That makes Petrino the nation’s seventh-highest paid coach and the conference’s third-highest paid.

Toss in a $25-$34 million football facility being built at Petrino’s request and a mutual buyout that will stand at a whopping $18 million the next two seasons and it’s clear that the coach and the school are committed to building Arkansas long-term.  (Petrino’s SEC West non-compete clause has also been extended to the entire SEC.)

* Mississippi State fans — Dan Mullen was high on Miami’s list of potential hires.  His name then surfaced as a possibility at Florida, too.  That’s a lot to worry about.

But in the end, the worrying was for nothing.

Did Mullen turn down Miami’s advances or did UM drop him from its list of candidates assuming Florida would chase him?  Either way, Al Golden is the new coach in Coral Gables.  And Mullen was apparently never a candidate at all for the Florida job.

* Florida fans — If you’d asked Florida fans which coach they wanted last week:

a) Bob Stoops
b) Chris Peterson
c) Dan Mullen
d) Will Muschamp

… you’d have heard a lot of pro-Stoops and pro-Peterson talk.  However, now that Muschamp is the man, Muschamp is The Man.  We’ve discussed the risk factors involved in hiring a first-time head coach, but let’s look at the positives.  Florida just stole Texas’ coach-in-waiting.  Florida just landed a guy with the kind of personality that fans and recruits love.  And they got one of the brightest defensive minds in the country to boot.

Two schools’ fanbases are still waiting to learn whether to grin or grimmace:

* Vanderbilt fans — Commodore fans wanted a proven head coach.  Golden, Troy Calhoun, Ken Niumatalolo were names that popped up early and often.  None were interested.  But landing a hot name in Gus Malzahn would be pretty darn good, too.  In fact, most Vandy fans are now wishing, hoping, praying for Malzahn.

Think of the exposure for Vanderbilt if their new coach is running Auburn’s offense in the BCS Championship Game — which he would likely do.  That’s publicity on a national stage that can’t be bought.  And it would show the world that Vandy is finally getting serious about football.

Yes, Vandy.

* Auburn fans — Tiger fans are just as nervous as Commodore-backers today.  First, they don’t want to lose the coordinator who — along with a lot of help from Cam Newton — has the Tigers playing for a national title.  And they sure don’t want to lose him before the BCS title game.

Even if Malzahn accepts the Vanderbilt gig, it’s unlikely that he would leave AU before the game.  There is no player-caller-to-be waiting in the wings for Auburn.  And VU would likely want Malzahn to coach in Glendale for the free exposure we mentioned above.

Obviously, the best outcome for Tiger fans is for Malzahn to stick around The Plains for another year.  Better to rebuild that offense with its original architect than to start from scratch with someone else.

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Shocker: Muschamp New Florida Coach

There had been rumors of a “mystery candidate” on Jeremy Foley’s list.  But Bob Stoops, Bobby Petrino, Chris Peterson, Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong and even Jon Gruden were the names folks kept hearing.

No one was projecting Florida would hire a coach with no head coaching experience — and a Georga man at that.

Texas defensive coordinator and — former — coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp has accepted Florida’s offer to become the Gators’ next head coach.  And it didn’t take two-and-a-half weeks to land him, either.

“Coach Muschamp is someone we targeted from the beginning and he is the guy we wanted.  He is the only person we met with and the only person we offered the job to.”

If that’s the case, all those Bob Stoops stories really were pure nonsense just as Stoops had said.

Muschamp said in a UF release: “This is a dream come true to be the head coach of the Florida Gators.  I grew up watching the Gators and whatever other SEC team was on television.  I have great memories watching SEC football with my father on Saturdays and playing football in the backyard with my two brothers right here in Gainesville.”

It’s an amazing hire.  Here are a few immediate reactions:

* Muschamp is a hot, hot name in the coaching business.  In the last round of coaching changes, Muschamp was Tennessee’s first choice to replace Lane Kiffin but he turned the Volunteers down.  (Think Gator fans don’t love that?)

* Muschamp’s move also signals that either a) Mack Brown figures to be at Texas a lot longer or b) Muschamp believes Florida is a superior job to Texas.  (Think Gator fans don’t love that?)

* There are probably a lot of Georgia fans who are upset tonight.  As a Georgia grad, Muschamp was viewed as a “someday” coach of the Bulldogs.  You can bet the folks who wanted to blow out Richt and hire Muschamp this offseason are bummed.  (Think Gator fans don’t love that, too?)

* On the flipside, there is a high “Zook factor” with Muschamp.  Sure he’s well thought of and well respected.  But he’s never been a college head coach.  Everyone’s gotta start somewhere and Foley’s rolled the dice that this inexperienced head coach will perform better than the last first-timer he hired — Ron Zook.

* Interesting timing by Florida, by the way.  As millions sat down to watch former Gator Cam Newton win the Heisman Trophy, Foley and crew put out a press release naming Muschamp as their coach.  They didn’t do it at 7pm.  They didn’t wait and do it at 9pm.  They did it right as the Heisman presentation was getting under way.  Now maybe that was a coincidence… but I wouldn’t bet on it.

* With Bobby Petrino and Dan Mullen staying put, it looks as though Gus Malzahn’s choices just became a lot more limited.  But wait… what if Muschamp and Florida come after Malzahn as offensive coordinator? 

The dominoes aren’t done falling yet.

A stunning hire by the Gators.

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