WR Tony Burks

2006 Statistics

Coach: Sylvester Croom
9-25, 3 years
2006 Record: 3-9
at UAB WON 16-10 (OT)
at Louisiana State LOST 17-48
at Georgia LOST 24-27
at Alabama WON 24-16
at Mississippi LOST 17-20

2006 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2007 Outlook

Few will doubt the coaching prowess of former-NFL assistant Sylvester Croom, the fourth-year head man here still struggling to get this team to turn a corner. Former Alabama teammate and Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome’s praise says it all – “He led that huddle (at ‘Bama). He was impressive at a lot of things, but mostly as a leader.” So, that begs the question: after three years of mere three-win seasons, why hasn’t Croom been able to elevate the Bulldogs even close to the levels seen here just seven years ago? Especially suspect is how the offense – and especially the RBs, Croom’s focus – has/have yet to genuinely improve under Croom. This year has to be seen as a pivotal one for the Tuscaloosa product, for with his entire front line returning and a bevy of young, hungry backs looking to climb the depth chart, State’s 104th-ranked rushing attack has to average closer to four yards per try to give alums the feeling like Croom is worth giving more chances. Again saddled with a QB issue, the choices this time look better than last time, when they barely kept their collective heads above water. The defense has to improve its secondary. With a revamped look there and a strong LB corps, the back seven should improve while the line should only drop off a bit due to losing three of its first-teamers. But if the line cannot, at times, stop those top SEC rushing attacks on their own and/or pose a serious pass rush, the domino effect will devastate the D. A major factor buoying fan spirits is how much better the team played in the last six games of 2006; the Bulldogs went just 2-4, but they allowed only Kentucky to bust through the 30-point barrier during that run. In losing three of those last six by only three points, a vast improvement from the previous two years was seen (they only lost two games that entire time by one score or less). With only one win during Croom’s tenure over a winning I-A program and only six wins over any I-A teams (three wins over I-AA’s), the hook has to be considered if he again struggles like he has. LSU (to start their slate) and Auburn (two weeks later) will again test Croom’s ability to have his guys learn from early mistakes in order to improve. Really, this is basically a replay for State since Tennessee (which replaces Georgia) is the only change from last year’s schedule, though, all of 2006’s away games are now at home and vice-versa (except non-IA Jacksonville). That means we can truly see if Mississippi State has improved or not. We will keep our expectations low and be pleasantly surprised if State can finish over .500, but expect these Bulldogs to be the hardest hitting and most organized since 2000. We hate to see him go, but losing eight or more again should light the “exit” door for Croom if this school wants to get back to those glory days.

Projected 2007 record: 4-8
DB Derek Pegues
QB - 3 DL - 3
RB - 2.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 3 DB - 3
OL - 3.5 ..

Passing: Michael Henig, 74-169-9, 1201 yds., 7 TD

Rushing: Anthony Dixon, 169 att., 668 yds., 9 TD

Receiving: Tony Burks, 35 rec., 850 yds., 5 TD

Scoring: Anthony Dixon, 9 TD, 54 pts.

Punting: Blake McAdams, 68 punts, 38.2 avg.

Kicking: Adam Carlson, 6-12 FG, 27-27 PAT, 45 pts.

Tackles: Jamar Chaney, 66 tot., 35 solo

Sacks: Titus Brown, 7.5 sacks

Interceptions: Derek Pegues, 4 for 95 yds., 2 TD

Kickoff returns: Derek Pegues, 29 ret., 23.7 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Derek Pegues, 25 ret., 14.0 avg., 1 TD


OFFENSE: Omarr Conner-QB, Bryson Davis-FB, Will Prosser-WR, Brian Anderson-OG
DEFENSE: Michael Heard-DE, Andrew Powell-DT, Deljuan Robinson-DT, Antonio Johnson-DT, Quinton Culberson-MLB, David Heard-CB, Jeramie Johnson-FS

For an area that seems to be the specialty of their head coach, the Bulldogs have struggled on this side of the ball since Croom took over. But better times just might be soon to come. Yes, State will still be seen struggling to produce yards and/or points, but with the new façade of the quarterback unit, things could change. Mike Henig broke his collarbone twice in ’06; questions surrounding his durability have to be seen as still valid since he is a dual-threat and weighs in under 200 lbs while playing in the toughest conference. Henig isn’t the most accurate passer (43.8% completion), either, yet his knowledge of and experience within this system gets him the start. Tray Rutland is still listed as backup, but his weak numbers after being thrown into the fire as a RS frosh prove he still needs work. JUCO-transfer Josh Riddell has the arm strength and savvy to succeed at this level; with Rutland still showing signs that his ACL injury from last year wasn’t quite ready for full-contact drills, Riddell has gotten lots of reps with the first team. Croom seems worried about what will happen when Riddell sees his first real game scenario, but we think a few mistakes will eventually equal big things for this Salem, Oregon product. In their traditional formations, running proves difficult as MSU couldn’t even average 100 yard per game (95.2). But with starters returning at every position on the line (including TE), we will truly see if Croom can inspire them to better group play. Anthony Dixon definitely isn’t the running game’s problem, and the hulking back proved much by carrying his team to wins over Alabama and Ole Miss. Tony Thorton moves to DB, so Justin Williams and Arnil Stallworth will also get the rock, but expect Dixon to again be the workhorse. Fullback Brandon Hart needs to step up if MSU is to average more than three yards per carry (2.9 in ’06). Royce Blackledge is the senior center who has to lead his group to an SEC-level of plowing. J.D. Hamilton did well as he bumped up from junior college; he moves inside for ’07, though. Junior Tony Strauder reinforces the inside to give MSU three upperclassmen to lead block for the larger RBs found here. RT Craig Jenkins is sure to improve after earning the start as just a RS frosh, and ex-Gator Mike Brown is ready to prove why he was so highly touted out of H.S. The reserves all have promise, but only Mike Gates offers worthy experience to go with that. This is the leanest the line has looked in some time, and along with TEs Eric Butler and Dezmond Sherrod, who also go into pattern with effectiveness, the outsides seem well contained. Jason Husband is more like a big WR who lines up inside. Receiver Tony Burks led the SEC (and was second in all of I-A) in yard per catch (24.3); foes cannot stop the 6’4 former-JUCO All-American since he wins so many “jump balls”. Jamayel Smith is a decent second option, but JUCO-transfer Brandon McRae, another large target, gets the other start in their healthy competition. Accomplished coordinator Woody McCorvey seems like the right guy to spearhead the offensive strategy, but we wonder how much overriding by Croom is tangling the chain of command and is therefore (ultimately) responsible for their 103rd (total) offensive ranking.


C Royce Blackledge


Returning Starters in bold
QB Michael Henig-Jr (6-1, 190) Josh Riddell-Jr (6-1, 195)
Zack Harrington-So (6-0, 185)
FB Brandon Hart-Jr (5-11, 235) Jeremy Jones-Jr (6-2, 275)
HB Anthony Dixon-So (6-1, 240) Justin Williams-Sr (5-10, 207)
Arnil Stallworth-So (5-10, 205)
WR Brandon McRae-So (6-4, 200) Aubrey Bell-Jr (6-3, 220)
WR Jamayel Smith-Jr (6-0, 183) Tony Burks-Sr (6-4, 217)
TE Eric Butler-Sr (6-3, 255) Dezmond Sherrod-Sr (6-3, 245)
Jason Husband-Sr (6-3, 230)
OT Mike Brown-Jr (6-3, 300) Mark Melichar-Fr (6-5, 275)
OG Anthony Strauder-Jr (6-3, 295) J.C. Brignone-Fr (6-1, 290)
C Royce Blackledge-Sr (6-4, 293) Johnny Carpenter-So (6-2, 285)
OG J.D. Hamilton-Sr (6-4, 295) Michael Gates-Jr (6-4, 305)
OT Craig Jenkins-So (6-4, 315) Roland Terry-Jr (6-7, 298)
K Adam Carlson-Jr (6-4, 195) ..



The defense held its own against most of last year’s foes. They had some troubles with their secondary, but the line, which ranked 36th in rushing defense and was solid, loses three of its four starters. The biggest loss is the three tackles who rotated so effectively (totaled over 100 tackles and 25 TFLs together). Stepping in is Jessie Bowman, a well-sized, first-team JUCO All-American who represents no drop off in the middle. Memphis transfer Cortez McCraney is ready to start after his fallow 2006 season has this DE/DT hybrid hungry. Backup Kyle Love proved he can make the rotation strong again, so this isn’t a weak spot by any means. The Bulldog’s top man in sacks and TFLs, ex-LB Titus Brown will again earn all-conference due to his size-speed combination. Like other defensive units, the SEC demands that the DL be able to hold its own, when necessary. The rest of the DEs have clocked some real game reps, but it will be a wait-and-see proposition for how well they can contain RBs who can get outside effectively. True soph Jamon Hughes had five tackles versus LSU - the WLB spot is his, but oft-used Anthony Littlejohn will prove why he started last year (on the strongside) as he pushes for reps. Gabe O’Neal will remain a starter after his strong showing, but Dominic Douglas doesn’t agree after he led in-state JUCO/CC defenders with 77 solo stops. But the corps’ leader is Jamar Chaney, who moves into the middle after starting on the weakside. Chaney will likely be the defensive captain and the glue of the defense’s best unit. The secondary struggled to keep the play in front of them in ’06, so things have been shaken up back there with so many lost lettermen. The new sophomore corners impressed this spring with their ability to play man-to-man, and each promises marginal improvements. Two newly converted receivers are their backups, so Johnson and Washington have to stay healthy for this area to remain at the needed SEC-level(s). The team interception leader, Derek Pegues, moves to the free safety position, a move that allows the most experienced Bulldog DB to oversee coverages and play development. Another junior returning starter, Keith Fitzhugh, also will help lead the secondary in the same ways (ostensibly when Pegues is out). But the biggest DB change of the spring was made when De’Mon Glanton jumped ahead of Fitzhugh and proved why he was so often seen in his former reserve role. “Glanton really made a move…he could have had the best spring of all the safeties,” said coordinator Ellis Johnson. The solid defensive play usually seen - the kind of play that kept South Carolina, Georgia, ‘Bama and Arkansas under 30 points - has to displace the inconsistencies that too often cost the Bulldogs the weekly win. The talent is here for this to be one of the leagues better D’s, but the new-look DBs, along with the lack of depth at end, likely means MSU again has trouble stopping the conference’s top 25 teams.


DE Titus Brown


Returning Starters in bold
DE Titus Brown-Sr (6-3, 250) Charles Burns-Jr (6-3, 262)
DT Cortez McCraney-Jr (6-4, 262) Kyle Love-So (6-1, 320)
DT Jessie Bowman-Jr (6-1, 315) Quinton Wesley-So (6-4, 300)
DE Avery Hannibal-Sr (6-1, 245) Brandon Cooper-Fr (6-3, 240)
SLB Gabe O'Neal-Sr (6-1, 220) Dominic Douglas-Jr (6-2, 217)
MLB Jamar Chaney-Jr (6-1, 236) Tim Bailey-Jr (6-3, 241)
WLB Jamon Hughes-So (6-0, 230) Anthony Littlejohn-Jr (6-2, 225)
CB Anthony Johnson-So (5-10, 194) Keon Humphries-Jr (5-10, 180)
CB Marcus Washington-So (5-10, 180) Tay Bowser-So (6-3, 185)
SS De'Mon Glanton-Jr (6-1, 190) Keith Fitzhugh-Jr (5-11, 206)
FS Derek Pegues-Jr (5-10, 196) Demario Bobo-Jr (6-0, 180)
P Blake McAdams-Jr (5-10, 190) Adam Carlson-Jr (6-4, 195)




Punter Blake McAdams has to control his chances more so State doesn’t again end up with so many poor net results (107th in ’06). Adam Carlson’s two misses cost against Ole Miss, and going 6-for-12 again won’t feed the Bulldog. That make Pegues (and his double return status) the top special teams player for MSU. His 4.4 speed in the 40 means he is a threat to go to the house every time (one return for TD in ’06).