FS Darren Williams

2002 Statistics

Coach: Jackie Sherrill
73-65-2, 12 years
2002 Record: 3-9
at Oregon LOST 13-36
at Louisiana State LOST 13-31
at South Carolina LOST 10-34
at Memphis WON 29-17
at Alabama LOST 14-28
at Mississippi LOST 12-24

2002 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2003 Outlook

Jackie Sherrill heads into his thirteenth season in Starkville. But he is still reeling after leading his team to a 3-9 record in 2002. He totally revamped his coaching staff, making five changes during the off-season. This new blood will provide a jolt of energy to the program that was sadly lacking. Change, indeed, is the operative word for the Bulldog football program. The MSU taskmaster is hoping change within his program will shake his charges from the consecutive three-win seasons that marked 2001 and '02, and return it to the bowl-eligible level of the four previous years (1997-2000). Bulldog fans will see a more aggressive team on both sides of the ball. Watching Mississippi State games should not be tedious, like in last season.

MSU may not have the best players in their conference, but the new coaching staff is now loaded with quality ex-head coaches John Blake, Ron Cooper, Rocky Felker, Curley Hallman, and Morris Watts. Each has been given a difficult chore of revamping a once proud program. The talent level is high enough, though, so that a "team play" approach could make them worth much more than the sum of their given positions.

The most noticeable immediate changes come from a new defensive set and overall philosophy (something that had to emerge for the Dawgs to make any significant improvement). Many unanswered questions still remain that only a fairly difficult September slate can answer, including a crucial opener against Oregon (once again) - a lost battle that set a dark tone early in 2002.

The big problem for the Bulldogs is the improved overall quality and balance of the SEC West - they could improve significantly and still finish last. That is exactly what 2003 dictates if one breaks their schedule down honestly. Although they should manage a conference win or two, this does not really translate into a winning season. Just what is acceptable for 2003? An overall winning record appears out of reach, with 5-7 being a more realistic expectation. If reached, this level would have to be considered an improvement. But that is still an unacceptable performance for most SEC programs, and MSU is no exception…Jackie Sherrill just cannot seem to get off the current hot seat to which he has recently built. But does the school have the guts to finally pull the proverbial chair out from under him if he again fails? So, if the new recruiting class doesn't shine, it could be unlucky year 13 for Jackie's tenure.

Projected 2003 record: 5-7
WR Ray Ray Bivines
QB - 1.5 DL - 2.5
RB - 3 LB - 2.5
WR - 3 DB - 3
OL - 2.5 ..

Passing: Kevin Fant, 311-163-12, 1918 yds., 10 TD

Rushing: Jerious Norwood, 66 att., 394 yds., 0 TD

Receiving: Ray Ray Bivines, 40 rec., 511 yds., 4 TD

Scoring: Brent Smith, 16-20 FG, 16-16 PAT, 64 pts.

Punting: Jared Cook, 48 punts, 42.2 avg.

Kicking: Brent Smith, 16-20 FG, 16-16 PAT, 64 pts.

Tackles: T.J. Mawhinney, 88 tot., 31 solo

Sacks: Jason Clark, 2 sacks

Interceptions: Darren Williams, 3 for 44 yds.

Kickoff returns: Fred Reid, 18 ret., 24.5 avg.

Punt returns: Ray Ray Bivines, 9 ret., 7.9 avg.


OFFENSE: Terrell Grindle-WR, Darius Tubbs-WR, Justin Griffith-FB, Dontae Walker-TB, Donald Lee-TE, Carl Hutchins-OT, Michael Allen-OG
DEFENSE: Kahlil Nash-DT, Josh Morgan-LDS, Michael Gholar-RDS, Korey Banks-CB, Mario Haggan-RLB

written by James Johnson

In 2002, Mississippi State seldom threw the ball downfield while managing 3.4 yards per rush. At least one of those facts must drastically change for the Bulldogs to avoid another winless season in the SEC. Head Coach Jackie Sherrill has revamped his coaching staff to help accomplish that.

As with any offense, the foundation for success starts with the offensive line. This is where Mississippi State has their best opportunity for improvement. All five starters saw 2002 playing time.

Returning to anchor the line is senior center Blake Jones. Jones has progressed from a walk-on to a player who has started 18 consecutive games. Three other starters, sophomore tackle Richard Burch, junior guard Brad Weathers, and sophomore guard Chris McNeil, missed time with injuries in 2002. Burch, highly touted out of high school, should benefit from an additional year of experience and play close to his full potential. Weathers and McNeil should develop into a solid guard tandem. They should all benefit from the tutelage of new offensive line coach Steve Campbell, who worked for four years at LSU.

2002's offensive scheme involved a lot of power running by big backs. Look for new offensive coordinator Morris Watts to feature quicker runners in more of a cutting/slashing running approach. Fred Reid fits into that style very well. The 5'9", 180-pound junior has the speed and quickness recently lacking in the Bulldog running game. Reid gained 338 yards and caught 19 passes in limited duty, but he is primed for a big year in the new offense. Looking to unseat Reid as the starter is a former high school Parade All-American in Nick Turner, who was limited to four games by injury and suspension last year, but showed flashes of brilliance in limited fall work that continued throughout the spring. Adding another Parade partner in Jerious Norwood gives the Dawgs a super deep pool of talent in the backfield.

Leading the blocking is junior fullback Darnell Jones. He has played in every game during his first two seasons, is a powerful blocker, and will be the first option on short yardage situations. He was the starter in 2001, but found job as a back up last fall as Justin Griffith came back from injury.

The passing game was mediocre and does not look much better this year. Senior Kevin Fant started 10 games, but threw more interceptions than touchdown passes (12 vs. 10), completed only 52% of his passes (not good in their short passing scheme), and is not much of a running threat.

Fant missed the final two weeks of spring practice to deal with some personal problems and was bumped down the depth chart, replaced by sophomore Kyle York. York's numbers last season were worse across the board than Fant's, and it's hard to imagine either quarterback leading a prolific offense.

Sophomore Kyle York won the starting quarterback job for Mississippi State when they open their fall camp. Kevin Fant hasn't attended practice or talked to the media since taking part in the team's first spring scrimmage March 29. What happens next may not get answered until August practice gets underway.

Ray Ray Bivines does give the quarterbacks a dangerous target at which to throw. As predicted by this site last time around, he led the team with 40 catches and four touchdowns and should emerge as a deep threat when coach Watts opens up the offense. The other projected starting wide receiver, Justin Jenkins, showed little improvement from his sophomore to junior seasons, but has slowly become York's favorite target through the three spring scrimmages. Tight end Aaron Lumpkin should emerge as an option. The TE position should be a good barometer for the entire team's success.


C Blake Jones


Returning Starters in bold
QB Kyle York-So (6-0, 200) Kevin Fant-Sr (6-2, 207)
FB Darnell Jones-Jr (5-11, 240) Nick Signaigo-Jr (6-3, 241)
TB Nick Turner-So (5-10, 182) Fred Reid-Jr (5-9, 180) / Jerious Norwood-So
WR Ray Ray Bivines-Jr (5-11, 176) Tee Milons-So (5-9, 165)
WR Justin Jenkins-Sr (6-1, 210) Brandon Wright-So (5-9, 149)
TE Aaron Lumpkin-Sr (6-4, 252) Blake Pettit-Fr (6-4, 238)
OT Richard Burch-So (6-5, 302) James Redmond-Fr (6-7, 319)
OG Brad Weathers-Jr (6-5, 323) Otis Riddley-Fr (6-1, 340)
C Blake Jones-Sr (6-2, 284) Manuel Dickson-Sr (6-4, 275)
OG Chris McNeil-So (6-3, 280) Johnny Wadley-So (6-2, 349)
OT David Stewart-Jr (6-6, 295) Avery House-So (6-4, 294)
K Brent Smith-Sr (5-10, 203) Keith Andrews-Fr (6-0, 193)



written by James Johnson

New defensive coordinator Ron Cooper is charged with putting in a more aggressive scheme. Pass defense was a strength, and it will be again. Their talented secondary is led by sophomore free safety Darren Williams. He won the starting job early and finished with three INTs, and should become an outstanding player with another year of experience. Senior Demetric Wright and sophomore Kevin Dockery are other key veterans in State's secondary. If healthy, Wright will be the team's best in pass coverage (he was slowed in 2002 by knee and arm problems). Depth is a concern here - the second string is either inexperienced or fighting injuries.

The new defensive coordinator can rely on Jason Clark. His 33 games (with 16 starts during his career) make him a pillar for this squad. He was named second-team All-SEC last year by the Associated Press. Clark miraculously makes the transition from defensive end to one of the strong side linebacker positions in Cooper's scheme.

The Bulldog linebacking corps faces the daunting task of replacing the ever-present Mario Haggan, yet they will still be an effective unit. Senior T. J. Mawhinney returns and will steady this unit. He was second on the team with 88 tackles and five passes defended. His role will grow even larger this season to fill Haggan's departure.

The soft spot of Mississippi State's 2002 defense was their line. They were often dominated by opposing offenses, allowing over 170 yards rushing per tilt, and totaling an amazingly low total of only 10 quarterback sacks. New defensive line coach John Blake has his work cut out for him, but he does have some talent. Until this group gels and/or matures, the defense will continue to offer opponents different dimensions at which they can succeed.

Returning starters Tommy Kelly and Ronald Fields will switch positions in a move that should play to both players' given strengths. Kelley will move to end in hopes of applying more QB-pressure from the edge. Fields moves inside from end to tackle. He doesn't have great speed, but he is good at stopping the run, a skill that will make him effective and hopefully double-teamed.


LB T.J. Mawhinney


Returning Starters in bold
DE Tommy Kelly-Sr (6-6, 296) Roosevelt Tate-Fr (6-4, 260)
DT Ronald Fields-Jr (6-2, 296) Markell McKinley-Fr (6-2, 294)
DT Kamau Jackson-Sr (6-1, 276) Lennie Day-Sr (6-3, 261)
DE Willie Evans-So (6-2, 263) Robert Spivey-Jr (6-1, 245)
SLB Jason Clark-Sr (6-1, 240) Clarence McDougal-So (6-1, 215)
MLB T.J. Mawhinney-Sr (6-1, 230) Kenny Kern-So (5-11, 230)
WLB Marvin Byrdsong-So (6-2, 240) Rico Bennett-So (6-0, 209)
CB Odell Bradley-Sr (5-10, 180) Demetric Wright-Sr (5-10, 175)
CB Slovakia Griffith-Jr (5-11, 190) Bernard Vinson-Sr (6-0, 200)
SS Kevin Dockery-So (5-10, 181) Chris Swain-Jr (5-11, 197)
FS Darren Williams-So (6-2, 204) Gabe Wallace-Jr (5-11, 196)
P Jared Cook-Jr (5-10, 184) Robert Wallis-Sr (5-10, 180)




The kicking game is the most settled spot for Mississippi State and one of the best in the SEC. Senior placekicker Brent Smith returns after a season where he made 16-of-20 FGAs, including 12-of-12 from inside the 40-yard line. Junior punter Jared Cook averaged over 42 yards per try, so the coverage unit is their only real concern here.

Fred Reid figures to be the primary kickoff returner. Ray Ray Bivines will join him on the kickoff team and also run back punts, both of which he did on a limited basis last season. If explosive while the offense isn't, look for Ray Ray to garner both jobs by mid-season in search of fast solutions to point scoring problems.