August 14, 2016

............3

.............7

.............9

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2016

FOOTBALL
Collegiate

PREVIEW

2 Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

college football preview

O PState
E N of
HPlay.
OUSE

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The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

college football preview

Sunday, August 14, 2016

3

mississippi state bulldogs

Athletic Website: www.hailstate.com; Twitter: @HailStateFB; Facebook: www.facebook.com/HailStateFootball; Instagram: www.instagram.com/HailStateFB

Coaching staff

2016 Schedule

Sept. 3 SO. ALABAMA
Sept. 10 SO. CAROLINA
Sept. 17 At LSU
Sept. 24 At UMass
Oct. 8
AUBURN
Oct. 14 At BYU
Oct. 22 At Kentucky
Oct. 29 SAMFORD
Nov. 5 TEXAS A&M
Nov. 12 At Alabama
Nov. 19 ARKANSAS
Nov. 26 At Ole Miss
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

Mary Alice Truitt/Dispatch Staff

Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen speaks to members of the media about the 2016 season on media
day on Aug. 1.

bulldogs FACE Questions in 2016
Mullen feels team has potential to make up for loss of Prescott, coaches, other key performers
BY BEN WAIT
bwait@cdispatch.com

STARKVILLE — Dan Mullen
has spent the last eight months
thinking about the 2016 season.
As with every new season, there
are players to replace and questions
to be answered. With the graduation of quarterback Dak Prescott,
who broke 38 school records, and
a new defensive coaching staff, the
Mississippi State football team faces some serious questions entering
Mullen’s eighth year as head coach.
Replacing Prescott is the biggest
one of all. The Haughton, Louisiana, native concluded his MSU
career with the highest career winning percentage by a MSU quarterback (.697, 23-10). He also finished
his career third and fourth, respectively, in Southeastern Conference

.............7

Mississippi State senior wide
receiver Fred Ross
history in total offense (11,897) and
touchdowns responsible (114).
If replacing Prescott isn’t a big
enough task, the Bulldogs will have
to adjust to a new defensive coaching staff led by Peter Sirmon.
But Mullen has faced plenty of

INSIDE

August 14, 2016

............3

“We have a lot of young
guys who are eager to
play and bring a lot to
the table. I can’t wait
to see how it is going to
turn out.”

.............9

.............11

2016

FOOTBALL
Collegiate
PREVIEW

Team
Page
MSU ...............................................................3-6
Ole Miss .........................................................7-8
Alabama .......................................................9-10
East Mississippi C.C. ......................................11
Itawamba C.C. ................................................12
SEC / National.............................................13-14

THANKS / ABOUT US
ABOUT
THE COVER
Ole Miss will look to
continue its success in the
Battle for the Golden Egg without
linebacker C.J. Johnson. It will
look to senior quarterback Chad
Kelly to set the tone on
offense, while Mississippi State
will look to replace standout
quarterback Dak Prescott. The
Bulldogs entered training camp
with Damian Williams, Nick
Fitzgerald, Elijah Staley, and
Nick Tiano competing for the
job.

FOOTBALL
2016
A publication of

The Dispatch
P.O. Box 511
Columbus, MS
39703
(662) 328-2424
Publisher
Birney Imes

Managing Editor
Zack Plair
Sports
Adam Minichino
Scott Walters
Ben Wait
Cover Design
Stacy Clark
Photographers
Luisa Porter
Stan Beall
Mary Alice Truitt
Jim Lytle
David Allen Williams
Graphic Artists
Kelly Ervin
Jackie Taylor
Production
Tina Perry
Anne Murphy

n The Dispatch would
like to thank the media
relations
and
sports
information
departments at Mississippi
State, East Mississippi
Community
College,
Itawamba C.C., Ole Miss,
and Alabama for their
help in gathering all of the
information in this year’s
section.
n Each week during
the season, we will have
special features for MSU
and EMCC, as well as
stories about former local
football players who are
playing football at other
state junior colleges. Every
Wednesday or Thursday,
we will spotlight JUCOs.
Every Friday, we will
preview MSU’s game that
week.
n A special thanks to
Stacy Clark for designing
the cover.
n
Fans
can
follow
Ben
Wait’s
coverage of MSU at www.

cdispatch.com and on
his blog, which you can
access on the website. You
can also stay abreast of
the latest MSU news by
following Ben on Twitter at:
@bcwait.
n
The
Dispatch
encourages all fans to call
us with their comments
and questions. You can
reach us at 662-327-1297
or e-mail information to
sports@cdispatch.com. If
you need to reach sports
editor Adam Minichino,
email him at aminichino@cdispatch.com. If you
need to reach sports writer
Scott Walters, email him at
swalters@cdispatch.com.
If you need to reach MSU
writer Ben Wait, email him
at bwait@cdispatch.com.
n Also, if you know of
any former local high school
athletes playing a sport in
college, call us at 662-3271297 or e-mail us at sports@
cdispatch.com.

BY THE NUMBERS

5

30

n Alabama is the first
Southeastern Conference
school ranked in The
Associated Press’ list of
all-time No. 1 programs.
The Crimson Tide have
held the top spot 74 times.
Only Ohio State, Oklahoma,
Notre Dame, and Southern
California have been ranked
No. 1 more. For more about
The AP’s list, Page 14

n Ole Miss, which was last
ranked No. 1 in the 1964
preseason, is tied for 30th
with Mississippi State with
five weeks ranked at No. 1.

2014
n Mississippi State was
the latest school to join
The Associated Press’ list
of teams that have been
ranked No. 1. MSU spent
five weeks ranked No. 1.

questions in his first seven seasons.
His ability to answer nearly all of
them has helped him raise MSU’s
national profile and its standing in
the SEC. Last season, Mullen guided the program to back-to-back
seasons of at least nine wins for the
first time. The Bulldogs shattered
18 single-season school records
along the way. The ability of Mullen
and his staff to recruit has helped
soften the effects of attrition, which
is why Mullen believes MSU has
the potential to have a successful
season despite all of the questions.
“As players, you put in so much
work, a lot of work before you get to
play the first game again,” Mullen
said. “They go through conditioning
in the winter, spring ball, conditioning all summer and training, trying
to get bigger, faster, stronger and get
See MSU, 6

2015 Results

Sept. 5 W, 34-16

At So. Miss.
Sept. 12 L, 19-21
LSU
Sept. 19 W, 62-13
NORTHWESTERN
STATE
Sept. 26 W, 17-9

At Auburn
Oct. 3
L, 17-30

At Texas A&M
Oct. 10 W, 45-17
TROY
Oct. 17 W, 45-20

LOUISIANA STATE
Oct. 24 W, 42-16
KENTUCKY
Nov. 5 W, 31-13

At Missouri
Nov. 14 L, 6-31
ALABAMA
Nov. 21 W, 51-50

At Arkansas
Nov. 28 L, 27-38

OLE MISS
Dec. 30 W, 51-28

vs. NC State
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

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Head Coach
Dan Mullen
n Brian Baker — Defensive
Line
n Terrell Buckley —
Cornerbacks / Recruiting
Coordinator
n Billy Gonzales —
co-Offensive Coordinator/
Passing Game/Wide
Receivers
n John Hevesy —
co-Offensive Coordinator/
Offensive Line /
Running Game
n Brian Johnson —
Quarterbacks
n Greg Knox — Running
Backs / Special Teams
Coordinator
n Maurice Linguist —
Safeties
n Scott Sallach —
Tight Ends
n Peter Sirmon —
Defensive Coordinator /
Linebackers
n Patrick Austin —
Recruiting Specialist
n Chris Boniol — Special
Teams Quality Control
n Jon Clark — Assistant to
Head Coach / Coordinator
of Football Operations
n Lee Davis — Coordinator
of Football Recruiting
n Rockey Felker — Director
of Player Personnel
n Rod Gibson — Recruiting
Specialist
n John Haneline —
Defensive Quality Control
n Brad Peterson — Director
of Player Personnel / High
School Relations
n Drew Raucina —
Recruiting Specialist
n Nick Savage — Head
Strength Coach
n Neil Stopczynski —
Assistant Recruiting
Coordinator
n Albert Poree — Defensive
Quality Control

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The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

4 Sunday, August 14, 2016

college football preview

mississippi state bulldogs
Athletic Website: www.hailstate.com; Twitter: @HailStateFB

David Allen Williams/Dispatch File Photo

Brandon Holloway was the Mississippi State football team’s second-leading rusher
with 413 yards on 92 carries.

Bulldogs will try to use senior running back’s skills multiple ways
BY BEN WAIT
bwait@cdispatch.com

STARKVILLE

Brandon Holloway has to
be different.
At 5-foot-8, 165 pounds,
the Mississippi State
s e n i o r
running
back has to
find different ways to
get involved
in the offense
to
Holloway
ensure playing
time.
Instead of being a between-the-tackles bruiser, he is more of a finesse
runner who also can come
out of the backfield and
be a threat in the passing
game.
Last season, Holloway
solidified his reputation
as a versatile player. This
season, he hopes to showcase those skills every
game.
“When we get the ball
in his hands he is a very
productive player,” MSU
coach Dan Mullen said.
“We can move him around
and get a great player the
football a lot of different
ways, and that can be very
difficult for defenses to
match up with.”
After
starting
the
2015 season as Ashton
Shumpert’s backup, Holloway started the last eight
games. He was the second-leading rusher with
413 yards on 92 carries,
but he failed to score a
touchdown. He was third
on the team with 33 receptions for 396 yards and
tied for second with five
touchdowns. He returned
24 kickoffs for 567 yards
and a 100-yard touchdown
against Southern Mississippi.
The
best
example
of Holloway’s versatility came in a 51-28 win
against North Carolina
State in the Belk Bowl on
Dec 30, 2015, in Charlotte,

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Brandon Holloway also was third on the Mississippi
State football team with 33 receptions for 396 yards
and tied for second with five touchdowns.

“When we get the ball in his hands
he is a very productive player. We
can move him around and get a great
football player the football a lot of
different ways, and that can be very
difficult for defenses to match up
with.”
Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen,
talking about senior running back
Brandon Holloway
North Carolina. Holloway
caught touchdown passes
of 10 and 55 yards from
Dak Prescott. He finished
the game with 78 yards

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HOLLOWAY IS MR. VERSATILE

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and Stevan Black would
like to wish best of luck
to all area teams on
having a great season!

receiving and 41 yards
rushing.
Holloway plans to build
See HOLLOWAY, 6

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Financial Advisor

512 Main Street • P.O. Box 1276
Columbus, MS 39703
Tel: 662.798.0031
Cell: 662.574.3770
www.ameripriseadvisors.com/stevan.black

Brokerage, invenstment and financial advisory services are made
available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member
FINRA and SIPC.
© 2013 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

college football preview

mississippi state bulldogs
Athletic Website: www.hailstate.com; Twitter: @HailStateFB

Sunday, August 14, 2016

© The Dispatch

#HAILSTATE
WE SUPPORT OUR
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Mississippi State defensive end A.J. Jefferson had 47 tackles (a team-high 13 1/2
for loss) and was second on the team with five sacks last season.

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Jefferson excited to share what he has learned with younger players
BY BEN WAIT
bwait@cdispatch.com

STARKVILLE — A.J.
Jefferson looks at his
phone and sees a text
message from Jeffery
Simmons.
Simmons, one of three
new defensive lineman
for the Mississippi State
football team, wants to
meet with Jefferson and
some of the other upperclassmen to run through
some plays and pick their
brains.
As a senior, Jefferson
has taken on a leadership
role and feels it is his responsibility to get Simmons and the younger
players ready.
“The faster we can
get them ready, the easier it will be for us older
guys,” Jefferson said. “We
can’t play (a lot of) snaps
a game and still do that
throughout the entire
season. Having guys like
that will help relieve us
and save our bodies for
the long run. The end of
the season is going to be
tough.”
Coming out of North
Pike High School, Jefferson arrived at MSU in
2012 and was redshirted.
He didn’t describe himself
as anxious like Simmons,
who played at Noxubee
County High, but the transition was hard for him to
make. He leaned on MSU
coach Dan Mullen and the
strength staff, but he also
had older guys to look to.
The lessons he learned
from them have helped

Jefferson

Sirmon

“I was once that
little guy coming
in here, didn’t
know what I was
getting myself
into. Guys like
Preston (Smith),
Josh Boyd, Kaleb
Eulls, they showed
me the ropes.”
Mississippi State senior
defensive lineman
A.J. Jefferson
him make it to his senior
year. And it only seems
right for him now to be the
beacon that those older
guys were for him.
“Everybody can relate
to everybody,” Jefferson
said. “I was once a freshman. I was once that little guy coming in here,
didn’t know what I was
getting myself into. Guys
like Preston (Smith), Josh
Boyd, Kaleb Eulls, they
kind of showed me the
ropes. I’m thankful for
having them because now

Radio affiliates

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Station Frequency
WWZQ*
1240 AM
WAMY*
1580 AM
WBLE*
100.5 FM
WBUV
104.9 FM
WMJU*
104.3 FM
WROX*
1450 AM
WROX*
96.1 FM
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1350 AM
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107.9 FM
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1010 AM
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103.9 FM
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102.3 FM
WKBB*
100.9 FM
WXWX*
96.3 FM
WTYL*
97.7 FM
WVBG*
105.5 FM
WABO
105.5 FM
WONA*
95.1 FM
WBYP*/WELZ*
107.1 FM/1460 AM

* — Station will carry Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen’s weekly call-in show,
DawgTalk, held from 7-8 p.m. Thursdays from Sept. 1 to Nov. 24. The only exceptions
are Wednesday, Oct. 12, and Tuesday, Nov. 22. Fans can call into the show by dialing
866-998-4893.

NOTE: Back again for MSU football in 2016 will be the relationship between the
Southeastern Conference, its member institutions and Sirius/XM Satellite Radio,
which became the exclusive providers of satellite radio in the SEC in 2007. All 12 of
MSU’s regular-season games will be offered through Sirius/XM this season. For more
information, visit Sirius/XM.

I know how to approach
the younger guys when
they’re feeling down and
they need some inspiration.”
MSU first-year defensive coordinator Peter
Sirmon didn’t hesitate to
name Jefferson the leader of the defensive line.
Jefferson has lettered the
last three seasons and has
matured at MSU.
With a new defensive
coordinator and three other new defensive coaches,
including defensive line
coach Brian Baker, a veteran like Jefferson has
made the transition easy.
He isn’t your typical leader. He’s not stern and serious all the time.
“It’s kind of easy for me
because I’m an outgoing
person,” Jefferson said.
“I’m a people person, so
it’s not hard. I’m more of
a lead-by-example type of
guy. If I have to say something, I will.”
Baker said that laidback attitude has helped
Jefferson relate to the
younger guys.
Jefferson hasn’t been
vocal in the past, but he
is being asked to take on
that role this season. Baker said that has clicked
with him because of the
losses of Ryan Brown and
Chris Jones.
“It has grown,” Baker
said of Jefferson’s leadership style. “I think A.J.
fell into a comfort zone, always having experienced
guys to lead the group.
See JEFFERSON, 6

2015 STATISTICS

MSU
OPP
SCORING
447
302
Points Per Game
34.4
23.2
Points Off Turnovers
48
57
FIRST DOWNS
302
273
Rushing
118
124
Passing
172
132
Penalty
12
17
RUSHING YARDAGE
1873
2270
Yards gained rushing
2163
2675
Yards lost rushing
290
405
Rushing Attempts
427
531
Average Per Rush
4.4
4.3
Average Per Game
144.1
174.6
TDs Rushing
21
16
PASSING YARDAGE
4113
2815
Comp-Att-Int
331-500-5 257-424-13
Average Per Pass
8.2
6.6
Average Per Catch
12.4
11.0
Average Per Game
316.4
216.5
TDs Passing
33
16
TOTAL OFFENSE
5986
5085
Total Plays
927
955
Average Per Play
6.5
5.3
Average Per Game
460.5
391.2
KICK RETURNS: #-Yards
36-773
47-857
PUNT RETURNS: #-Yards 19-214
10-125
INT RETURNS: #-Yards
13-130
5-74
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 21.5
18.2
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 11.3
12.5
INT RETURN AVERAGE
10.0
14.8
FUMBLES-LOST
23-13
13-1
PENALTIES-Yards
53-506
59-516
Average Per Game
38.9
39.7
PUNTS-Yards
54-2226 72-2830
Average Per Punt
41.2
39.3
Net punt average
35.9
35.5
KICKOFFS-Yards
85-5216 63-3810
Average Per Kick
61.4
60.5
Net kick average
41.0
39.5
TIME OF POSSESSION/Game 26:17
33:43
3RD-DOWN Conversions
75/175
71/200
3rd-Down Pct
43%
36%
4TH-DOWN Conversions
11/22
12/23
4th-Down Pct
50%
52%
SACKS BY-Yards
30-209
32-193
MISC YARDS
-13
0
TOUCHDOWNS SCORED 58
34
FIELD GOALS-ATTEMPTS 15-19
21-28
ON-SIDE KICKS
0-1
2-5
RED-ZONE SCORES
(48-53) 91% (33-45) 73%
RED-ZONE TDS
(38-53) 72% (19-45) 42%
PAT-ATTEMPTS
(54-56) 96% ( 33-33) 100%
ATTENDANCE
432490 359361
Games/Avg Per Game
7/61784 5/71872
Neutral Site Games

1/46423

n Percentage of the time
Mississippi State scored
points when it moved into
the red zone.

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BY THE NUMBERS

91

Go
Dawgs!

72

96

n Percentage of the time
the Bulldogs scored
touchdowns on those drives
into the red zone.

n Percentage of point after
attempts Mississippi State
kickers converted last
season. Opponents hit 100
percent.

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5

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

6 Sunday, August 14, 2016

college football preview

mississippi state bulldogs
Athletic Website: www.hailstate.com; Twitter: @HailStateFB

MSU

Continued from Page 3

David Allen Williams/Dispatch File Photo

Brandon Holloway caught touchdown passes of 10 and 55 yards from Dak Prescott in a 51-28 win against North
Carolina State in the Belk Bowl on Dec 30, 2015, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Holloway finished the game with
78 yards receiving and 41 yards rushing.

Holloway
Continued from Page 4

on that performance this season.
Other people took notice, as Holloway was named to the Paul Hornung Award watch list. The award
is presented to the most versatile
college player. Holloway also was
named a candidate for the Doak
Walker Award, which is presented
annually to the nation’s top running
back.
“He can score anytime he gets
the ball and he can do it in multiple
ways,” MSU senior wide receiver
Fred Ross said. “Hand it to him,
kick it to him, or throw it to him.
Anytime he touches the ball he’s a
threat to go the distance.”
With injuries at wide receiver
in the spring, Holloway was moved
to the position to add depth and to
give him some work. MSU running
backs coach Greg Knox always
has felt Holloway has been a good
receiver, but early in his career
there were times when he struggled catching passes. Knox said
the spring helped strengthen Holloway’s hands.
Holloway said working with
Ross, Donald Gray, and former wide
receivers Jameon Lewis and Chad
Bumphis helped him improve.
“I’ve been practicing a lot on
catching and running the ball
through different drills,” Holloway
said. “I just want to be the person
they can count on to make a play.”
Knox has six options at running
back. Along with Holloway, he has

Jefferson

“We try to get him the
ball in as many ways as
possible. We try to
create opportunities for
him to get the ball out
in space where he can
work one on one.”
Mississippi State running backs
coach Greg Knox
Shumpert, who also is a senior,
sophomores Aeris Williams and
Dontavian Lee, and redshirt freshmen Nick Gibson and Alec Murphy.
All of them have more traditional
body types of running backs and
are bruisers. Holloway gives Knox
a chance to go off script and cause
problems for defenses.
“Our other backs are more of our
fastball and Holloway’s that changeup,” Knox said. “He’s kind of the
changeup where defenses have to
play really sound against him because at any point in time he can hit
a home run.
“We try to get him the ball in as
many ways as possible. We try to
create opportunities for him to get
the ball out in space where he can
work one on one.”

But there is a down side to his
size. Playing in the Southeastern
Conference, defenses are big and
linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks are looking to deliver big
hits. Holloway has been hit hard
several times, and there have been
times when Ross didn’t expect him
to bounce back up, but he did.
That’s not surprising to Knox.
“He’s a tough kid,” Knox said.
“Not only is he physically tough,
he’s a mentally tough kid. He’ll
push through the tough times and
he doesn’t mind throwing it in
there. When he gets to that point,
he’ll lower his pads and throw it in
there.”
Knox saw Holloway’s confidence
grow as last season progressed,
which helped him raise his level of
performance.
Mullen said Holloway understands versatility sets him apart
from other running backs and could
help him play professionally. With a
lot of questions on offense, Holloway’s skills could help the Bulldogs
get off to a good start.
“I think it makes it very hard to
defend. The guy is a fifth-year senior who understands the offense
and can actually play multiple positions,” Mullen said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben
Wait on Twitter @bcwait

Continued from Page 5

Now, all of a sudden, he
rolls out of bed and he’s
that guy. It was a slow
process, but I’m really, really excited about him accepting the challenge and
what he’s doing with it.”
After having 20 and
28 tackles as a redshirt
freshman and a sophomore, respectively, Jefferson had 47 tackles (a
team-high 13 1/2 for loss)
and was second on the
team with five sacks last
season. He started all 13
games and solidified his

position at defensive end.
Jefferson’s
maturity
should translate well to
the next level, but he also
wants his play to translate well to the field this
season. With former Bulldogs like Smith, Boyd,
and Fletcher Cox having
success in the NFL, the
blueprint is there for Jefferson to be successful.
He wants to prove it
this season.
“My expectations is
to show people I can play
on the next level,” Jeffer-

AC WORK • OIL CHANGES
TUNE UPS • BRAKES

son said. “Really just be
consistent and show I can
compete with bigger guys
and do the same things
they can do.”
With big expectations
and a leadership role
thrown into the mix, the
pressure will be on Jefferson. But he doesn’t view
it as a one-man battle and
won’t try to be the only
leader or performer because he knows he has
help.
“I don’t feel pressure
because I’ve got guys

Magnolia

their body in shape and
ready to go. If you work
hard for 12 opportunities,
you might get rewarded
for a couple more after
that.”
Mullen has four viable
options to replace Prescott.
Junior Damian Williams,
sophomores Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley, and
redshirt freshman Nick
Tiano have split reps in
training camp and there
still isn’t a clear leader.
Sirmon, who is in his
first year as defensive coordinator and linebackers
coach after coming over
from Southern California,
is introducing multiple
schemes. Sirmon served
as associate head coach,
recruiting coordinator, and
linebackers coach at USC.
MSU’s new quarterbacks will have an experienced hand to lean on
in senior wide receiver
Fred Ross. Last season,
Ross led the SEC and set
the single-season school
record with 88 receptions
(1,007 yards and five
touchdowns). He will be
used at multiple positions,
but Mullen joked he won’t
be listed on the depth
chart because he will be
moved around so much.
The Bulldogs also have
several young receivers
who will make an impact
and a stable of running
backs that is waiting to
burst out.
“We have a lot of young
guys who are eager to
play and bring a lot to the
table,” Ross said. “I can’t
wait to see how it is going
to turn out.”
Along with Sirmon, who
took over for Manny Diaz,
MSU has a new defensive
line coach (Brian Baker),
cornerbacks coach (Terrell Buckley), and safeties
coach (Maurice Linguist).
They all went through
spring drills and have had
time to familiarize themselves with the players at
their positions.
The base defense will be
a 3-4, but the Bulldogs also
will use a 4-3. A hybrid defensive lineman/linebacker
called a viper will be a focal
point of Sirmon’s defense.
“As a new defensive staff,
we need to keep improving,” Sirmon said. “What
we are doing as a staff is a
positive because we are all
new at this together. I’m

thankful for the three other
coaches Dan hired. I think
they are going to be great
additions.”
Mullen
has
been
pleased with how the defensive players have bonded with the coaches and is
confident there won’t be a
drop-off.
Mullen has avoided
peaks and valleys in his
time in Starkville. He led
MSU to a 5-7 finish in
his first season in 2009.
Since then, Mullen has
had nothing but winning
teams and has led the
program to a school-record six-straight bowl appearances. MSU is 4-2 in
those games, including a
victory against North Carolina State last season in
the Belk Bowl. After winning 10 games in 2014,
confidence is high that
the Bulldogs can make
it three seasons in a row
with at least nine wins.
“I said eight years ago
we wanted to change the
expectations of Mississippi
State football,” Mullen said.
“I think we’ve been able to
do that. Our players have
bought in and we’ve built a
culture of winning.”
Being picked last in the
SEC Western Division has
become normal for Mullen
and his teams. Last month
at SEC Media Days in
Hoover, Alabama, the media picked MSU to finish
last in the preseason poll.
MSU never has finished
last in Mullen’s tenure. The
Bulldogs have finished fifth
in the SEC West four times,
including last season.
The first week of
training camp was a roller coaster. Mullen was
pleased with a few days of
practice, but he was disappointed in others. However, a mix of veterans and
talented young players
have given him hope.
“I’m excited about this
year’s team,” Mullen said.
“Guys have been working
hard. The attitude of our
team, the expectations of
the guys within our program, they expect to win
football games, and they
expect to do it by the work
ethic that they have every
single day and showing up
and trying to outwork everybody.”
Follow Dispatch sports
writer Ben Wait on Twitter
@bcwait

Hank’s

like Nick James, Nelson
Adams, Torrey Dale, and
Johnathan Calvin,” Jefferson said. “Those guys
have played a bunch of
snaps here with me. I
don’t feel like it’s just on
me to have to do everything by myself. I feel like
if somebody else is slacking, even if I’m slacking,
they can come pick me
up.”
David Allen Williams/Dispatch File Photo
Follow Dispatch sports Nick Fitzgerald was 6 of 7 for 141 yards and two
writer Ben Wait on Twitter touchdowns in the Mississippi State’s football team’s
45-17 victory against Troy on Oct. 10, 2015, in Starkville.
@bcwait

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college football preview

Sunday, August 14, 2016

OLE miss rebels

Athletic Website: www.olemisssports.com; Twitter: @OleMissFB; Facebook: www.facebook.com/olemisssports; Blog: www.olemisssports.com/blog

Coaching staff

Head Coach
Hugh Freeze
n Corey Batoon —
Special Teams Coordinator /
Safeties
n Maurice Harris — Tight
Ends/Recruiting Coordinator
For Offense
n Grant Heard — Wide
Receivers
n Jason Jones — CoDefensive Coordinator/
Cornerbacks
n Chris Kiffin — Defensive
Line/Recruiting Coordinator
For Defense
n Matt Luke — Co-Offensive
Coordinator/Offensive Line
n Derrick Nix — Running
Backs
n Dan Werner — CoOffensive Coordinator/
Quarterbacks
n Dave Wommack —
Associate Head Coach for
Defense / Defensive
Coordinator/Linebackers
n Barney Farrar —
Assistant A.D./High School
and Junior College Relations
n Paul Jackson — Head
Strength and Conditioning
Coach
n Tom Luke — Assistant
A.D./Player Development
n John Miller — Assistant
A.D./Football Operations
n Chris Rippon — Assistant
A.D. for Recruiting
Operations
n Emmanuel McCray —
Graduate Assistant, Offense
n Pat Jernigan — Head
Athletic Trainer
n Davis Merritt —
Graduate Assistant,
Defense
n Robert Ratliff —
Player Personnel Analyst
n Ben Aigamaua — Player
Personnel Analyst
n Christian Robinson
— Graduate Assistant,
Defense
n Bruce Johnson —
Associate Player Personnel
Analyst
n Sean Patterson —
Associate Player Personnel
Analyst
n Lee Wilbanks — Assistant
A.D. for Player Personnel
n Chris Buttgen — Director
of Football Media

2015 Statistics

UM

OPP
SCORING
531
294
Points Per Game
40.8
22.6
Points Off Turnovers
107
46
FIRST DOWNS
341
278
Rushing
131
99
Passing
182
157
Penalty
28
22
RUSHING YARDAGE
2380
1652
Yards gained rushing
2700
2028
Yards lost rushing
320
376
Rushing Attempts
463
496
Average Per Rush
5.1
3.3
Average Per Game
183.1
127.1
TDs Rushing
29
9
PASSING YARDAGE
4351
3364
Comp-Att-Int
318-489-14 319-533-15
Average Per Pass
8.9
6.3
Average Per Catch
13.7
10.5
Average Per Game
334.7
258.8
TDs Passing
35
23
TOTAL OFFENSE
6731
5016
Total Plays
952
1029
Average Per Play
7.1
4.9
Average Per Game
517.8
385.8
KICK RETURNS: #-Yards
34-602
40-765
PUNT RETURNS: #-Yards 30-112
18-107
INT RETURNS: #-Yards
15-356
14-188
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 17.7
19.1
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 3.7
5.9
INT RETURN AVERAGE
23.7
13.4
FUMBLES-LOST
26-9
25-8
PENALTIES-Yards
79-702
87-695
Average Per Game
54.0
53.5
PUNTS-Yards
52-2170 75-3133
Average Per Punt
41.7
41.8
Net punt average
39.3
39.7
KICKOFFS-Yards
95-6094 64-3974
Average Per Kick
64.1
62.1
Net kick average
41.9
42.1
TIME OF POSSESSION/Game 26:32
33:28
3RD-DOWN Conversions
70/169
88/226
3rd-Down Pct
41%
39%
4TH-DOWN Conversions
7/15
7/23
4th-Down Pct
47%
30%
SACKS BY-Yards
29-197
19-147
MISC YARDS
0
7
TOUCHDOWNS SCORED 68
33
FIELD GOALS-ATTEMPTS 19-25
22-28
ON-SIDE KICKS
0-1
1-2
RED-ZONE SCORES
(52-62) 84% ( 42-50) 84%
RED-ZONE TDs
(37-62) 60% (25-50) 50%
PAT-ATTEMPTS
(66-66) 100% (28-29) 97%
ATTENDANCE
495472
402363
Games/Avg Per Game
8/61934 5/80473

2016 Schedule

Sept. 5 At Florida State
Sept. 10 WOFFORD
Sept. 17 ALABAMA
Sept. 24 GEORGIA
Oct. 1
MEMPHIS
Oct. 15 At Arkansas
Oct. 22 At LSU
Oct. 29 AUBURN
Nov. 5 GEORGIA
SOUTHERN
Nov. 12 At Texas A&M
Nov. 19 At Vanderbilt
Nov. 26 MSU
HOME GAMES IN CAPS
Stan Beall/Dispatch File Photo

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and quarterback Chad Kelly talk to ESPN following the team’s 48-20 victory against
Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl. The victory capped a 10-3 season for the Rebels.

rebels EXCITED, but judgment looms
Kelly returns to lead talented team that faces uncertainty of NCAA investigation, penalties
BY BEN WAIT
bwait@cdispatch.com

HOOVER, Ala. — This
might be the most challenging season for Ole
Miss football coach Hugh
Freeze.
Expectations are high
after a victory against
Oklahoma State in the
Sugar Bowl and a 10-3
finish. Ole Miss returns
several key contributors,
including Chad Kelly,
the top quarterback in
the Southeastern Conference. The Rebels are
ranked No. 12 in the
USA Today Coaches poll
and likely will be in the
top 15 in The Associated
Press poll, which will be
released later this month.
But an NCAA investi-

Stan Beall/Dispatch File Photo

Markell Pack couldn’t come up with this catch, but he
had five catches for 27 yards in Ole Miss’ 23-3 victory
against Texas A&M on Oct. 24, 2015, in Oxford.

gation involving recruiting violations that came
to light in the spring has
tempered some of the
anticipation for the 2016
season.

Radio affiliates

BY THE NUMBERS

City
Station Frequency
Amory*
WAMY
1580 AM
Brookhaven* WBKN
92.1 FM
Corinth*
WXRZ
94.3 FM
Greenwood* WYMX
99.1 FM
Hattiesburg* WFMM
97.3 FM
Hazlehurst* WDXO
92.9 FM
Jackson*
WFMN
97.3 FM
Laurel*
WLAU
99.3 FM
Lexington, Tenn.*WZLT
99.3 FM
Louisville*
WLSM
107.1 FM
McComb*
WMPK
93.5 FM
Memphis, Tenn.*WHBQ
560 AM
Meridian*
WZKR
103.3 FM
Natchez*
WKSO
97.3 FM
Ocean Springs* WOSM
103.1 FM
Oxford
WQLJ
105.1 FM
Philadelphia* WHOC
1490 AM
Prentiss*
WJDR
98.3 FM
Senatobia*
WTMN
93.7 FM
Tupelo*
WFTA
101.9 FM
Vicksburg*
WVBG
1420 AM
Water Valley * WOSF
105.5 FM
Waynesboro* WABO
990 AM
Yazoo City* WBYP
107.1 FM

10
n Ole Miss’ 48-20 victory
against Oklahoma State
helped it record its first 10win season since 2003 and
the fourth-straight season
with a higher win total than
the previous year. The
Rebels also had their
second-straight nine-win
regular season for the first
time since 1962.

Hank’s
Nationwide Satellite
Sirius XM
Worldwide OleMissSports.com
Mobile
Ole Miss Sports Gameday
app
* Carries RebTalk live at 7-8 p.m. Mondays

NOTE: “The Season: Ole Miss Football” will
appear on the following television stations:
Fox Sports South (4:30 p.m. Friday), Cox
Cable (6 p.m. Tuesday), WCBI-Columbus
(10 p.m. Thursday), WMDN-Meridian and
Hattiesburg (6 p.m. Thursday).

64

n The number of team
or individual records Ole
Miss broke or tied in 2015,
including most total yards,
points, touchdowns, and
passing yards in a season.
Quarterback Chad Kelly
and wide receiver Laquon
Treadwell set 17 and 15,
respectively, surpassing
such names as Eli Manning,
Bo Wallace, Donte Moncrief,
and Chris Collins.

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Freeze hopes to strike
a balance between handling expectations and
not letting the investigation be a distraction. Ole
Miss will open the season

at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 5
(ESPN), against Florida
State in Orlando, Florida.
“We will be responsible
and held accountable for
anything that happened
on that day, but until that
day, we’re going to stay
focused on being the best
football team we can and
continue to be relevant
and having convinced in
who we are,” Freeze said.
Ole Miss received a notice of allegations from the
NCAA, which included 28
violations, 13 against the
football program. They
include ACT fraud and a
series of impermissible
benefits to football recruits and players, including cash and hotel rooms
from boosters to former
See REBELS, 15

2015 Results

Sept. 5 W, 76-3

UT Martin
Sept. 12 W, 73-21

FRESNO STATE
Sept. 19 W, 43-37

At Alabama
Sept. 26 W, 27-16
VANDERBILT
Oct. 3
L, 10-38

At Florida
Oct. 10 W, 52-3

NEW MEXICO
STATE
Oct. 17 L, 24-37

At Memphis
Oct. 24 W, 23-3

TEXAS A&M
Oct. 31 W, 27-19

At Auburn
Nov. 7 L, 52-53 OT
ARKANSAS
Nov. 21 W, 38-17
LSU
Nov. 28 W, 38-27

At MSU
Jan. 1
W, 48-20

vs. Oklahoma
State
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

7

8 Sunday, August 14, 2016

college football preview

OLE miss rebels

Athletic Website: www.olemisssports.com; Twitter: @OleMissFB; Facebook: www.facebook.com/olemisssports; Blog: www.olemisssports.com/blog

Stan Beall/Dispatch File Photo

Evan Engram tied for team-high honors with six catches for a team-best 96 yards
in the Ole Miss football team’s 48-20 victory against Oklahoma State in the
Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2016.

bigger role for engraM

Tight end hopes to play integral part in Freeze’s explosive offense
BY BEN WAIT
“We’ve got to get him
bwait@cdispatch.com
HOOVER, Ala. — Evan Engram’s more involved. We’ve got
decision to return to the Ole Miss footto get him more catches.
ball team was easy.
Engram sat down with the coachWe’ve got to feed him
es and wanted to know
what his role was going more because he’s a great
to be moving forward.
Last season, he proved player.”
his worth at tight end,
Stan Beall/Dispatch File Photo

Chad Kelly overcame three interceptions to throw two touchdown passes in the
Ole Miss football team’s 23-3 victory against Texas A&M on Oct. 24, 2015, in
Oxford. Kelly finished with 31 touchdowns passes and 13 interceptions.

Kelly wants big finale
Coming off record-breaking year, senior feels 2016 can be better
BY BEN WAIT
bwait@cdispatch.com

HOOVER, Ala. — After
an up-and-down journey,
Chad Kelly has found his
place on the Ole Miss football team.
Kelly began his career
at Clemson, but a redshirt
season and
a redshirt
freshman
campaign
where
he
saw limited
action fed
his frustraKelly
tion. He was
dismissed
from the squad in the
spring of 2014 for conduct
detrimental to the team.
Kelly went to East
Mississippi Community
College in Scooba to resurrect his career. He accomplished that goal by
helping the Lions win the
2014 National Junior College Athletic Association
(NJCAA) national championship. His success at
EMCC led to an opportunity at Ole Miss.
Kelly is making the
most of it.
Coming off one of the
best seasons for a quarterback in Ole Miss history,
Kelly wants to do even bet-

Stan Beall/Dispatch File Photo

Chad Kelly showcased his versatility in victories
against Mississippi State, above, and LSU, below.
He ran for a touchdown and threw for two against
the Bulldogs, while he threw for two and ran for two
against the Tigers.

ter in his senior season.
“You have to make
the best of the opportunity because you only
get to live it once,” Kelly
said. “I’m in Oxford for
another eight months,
and I want to go out with

a bang.”
Kelly made his impact felt in Oxford last
season. The 6-foot-2,
224-pounder was one of
10 Manning Award finalists for the nation’s top
See KELLY, 15

so he felt ready to take
on a bigger role in his
senior season. Looking
Engram
at the losses the Rebels
suffered at wide receiver, Engram hoped the coaches would
say they planned to call his name more
often in 2016.
After hearing the right answer,
Engram opted against leaving school
early for the NFL draft and returned to
Ole Miss.
“That was most of the conversation
with the coaching staff when I was
making my decision to come back, so
all that stuff is going to take place in
the game plan once we get into the season,” Engram said.
Following a victory against Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl, expectations are high for Ole Miss this season.
The return of several key contributors
on offense — particularly quarterback
Chad Kelly and Engram — and defense
has added to the optimism.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said he
was honored when Kelly and Engram
decided to return to the program. He
has seen players receive bad advice,
leave school early, and go undrafted.
“They are two of the greatest lead-

Ole Miss senior quarterback
Chad Kelly, talking about
tight end Evan Engram

ers on our football team,” Freeze said.
“I’m glad they made the wise choice in
coming back, and glad there’s still a lot
of kids that do that and listen to counsel. We wouldn’t be the same without
them.”
Kelly leaned on wide receiver Laquon Treadwell last season, but the
Minnesota Vikings used the 23rd
overall pick in the NFL draft to select
Treadwell. Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, a senior this season, was the
second-leading receiver with 38 catches for 604 yards and seven touchdowns
in 2015. Engram started 12 of the 13
games last season and had 38 catches
for 464 yards and two touchdowns.
The 6-foot-3, 227-pound Engram
had a drop-off yards wise. As a sophomore, he had 662 yards, 198 yards
more than as a junior. He matched up
well with linebackers and defensive
backs and made plays look easy.
“We’ve got to get him more involved,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to get
See ENGRAM, 15

Stan Beall/Dispatch File Photo

Evan Engram had a team-high five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in the
Ole Miss football team’s 38-17 victory against LSU on Nov. 21, 2015, in Oxford.

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

college football preview

Sunday, August 14, 2016

alabama crimson tide

Athletic Website: www.rolltide.com; Twitter: http://twitter.com/UA_Athletics

Coaching staff

Head Coach
Nick Saban
n Derrick Ansley —
Defensive Backs
n Burton Burns —
Associate Head Coach /
Running Backs / Special
Teams
n Mario Cristobal —
Assistant Head Coach /
Tackles and Tight Ends /
Recruiting Coordinator
n Brent Key — Offensive
Line (Centers and Guards)
n Karl Dunbar — Defensive
Line
n Lane Kiffin — Offensive
Coordinator / Quarterbacks
n Tosh Lupol —
Co-Defensive Coordinator /
Outside Linebackers
n Billy Napier — Wide
Receivers
n Jeremy Pruitt —
Defensive Coordinator /
Inside Linebackers
n Scott Cochran — Head
Strength and Conditioning
Coach
n Justin Dickens — Director
of Football Operations
n Bobby Williams — Special
Assistant to the Head Coach
n Jody Wright — Director of
Player Personnel

2015 Statistics

UA

OPP
SCORING
526
227
Points Per Game
35.1
15.1
Points Off Turnovers
76
51
FIRST DOWNS
330
223
Rushing
158
67
Passing
147
129
Penalty
25
27
RUSHING YARDAGE
2999
1136
Yards gained rushing
3351
1625
Yards lost rushing
352
489
Rushing Attempts
642
468
Average Per Rush
4.7
2.4
Average Per Game
199.9
75.7
TDs Rushing
33
7
PASSING YARDAGE
3407
3009
Comp-Att-Int
301-446-10 250-495-19
Average Per Pass
7.6
6.1
Average Per Catch
11.3
12.0
Average Per Game
227.1
200.6
TDs Passing
22
17
TOTAL OFFENSE
6406
4145
Total Plays
1088
963
Average Per Play
5.9
4.3
Average Per Game
427.1
276.3
KICK RETURNS: #-Yards
37-803
41-779
PUNT RETURNS: #-Yards 47-597
27-279
INT RETURNS: #-Yards
19-462
10-140
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 21.7
19.0
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 12.7
10.3
INT RETURN AVERAGE
24.3
14.0
FUMBLES-LOST
12-7
25-8
PENALTIES-Yards
89-835
90-696
Average Per Game
55.7
46.4
PUNTS-Yards
72-3120 113-4556
Average Per Punt
43.3
40.3
Net punt average
37.0
34.2
KICKOFFS-Yards
101-6379 57-3475
Average Per Kick
63.2
61.0
Net kick average
41.8
39.4
TIME OF POSSESSION/Game 33:35
26:25
3RD-DOWN Conversions
80/214
65/227
3rd-Down Pct
37%
29%
4TH-DOWN Conversions
12/24
7/20
4th-Down Pct
50%
35%
SACKS BY-Yards
53-337
25-189
MISC YARDS
15
-20
TOUCHDOWNS SCORED 65
26
FIELD GOALS-ATTEMPTS 23-33
16-27
ON-SIDE KICKS
2-2
0-2
RED-ZONE SCORES
(51-62) 82% (25-30) 83%
RED-ZONE TDS
(35-62) 56% (14-30) 47%
PAT-ATTEMPTS
(63-63) 100% (21-22) 95%
ATTENDANCE
707786 348365
Games/Avg Per Game
7/101112 4/87091
Neutral Site Games

4/74544

2016 Schedule

Sept. 3 At USC
Sept. 10 WESTERN
KENTUCKY
Sept. 17 At Ole Miss
Sept. 24 KENT STATE
Oct. 1
KENTUCKY
Oct. 8
At Arkansas
Oct. 15 At Tennessee
Oct. 22 TEXAS A&M
Nov. 5 At LSU
Nov. 12 MSU
Nov. 19 CHATTANOOGA
Nov. 26 AUBURN
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Alabama football coach Nick Saban, center, holds the national title trophy with another player to the left, while
running back Derrick Henry watches following the team’s 45-40 victory against No. 1 Clemson in the College
Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 11, 2016, at University of Phoenix Stadium.

TIDE WILL TRY TO COME TOGETHER AGAIN
Saban wants team to develop same chemistry that helped it overcome early loss to Ole Miss
BY BEN WAIT
bwait@cdispatch.com

HOOVER, Ala. — Nick
Saban was unsure how
well the Alabama football
team was going to come
together in 2015.
In 2014, Alabama entered the College Football
Playoffs as one of the favorites to walk away with the
title. But Alabama couldn’t
overcome a strong second
half by Ohio State and saw
its season end in New Orleans with a 42-35 loss.
Ohio State went on to beat
Oregon and win the first
CFP national championship.

Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Alabama defensive back Marlon Humphrey celebrates
after recovering on onside kick against Clemson.

Saban worried how
that loss would affect the
2015 team. After a 43-37

Radio affiliates
City
Station Frequency
Anniston
WHMA
95.5
Apalachicola, Fla. WFCT
105.5
Arab
WAFN
92.7
Ashland
WCKF
100.7
Auburn
WMXA
96.7
Birmingham
WJOX 690/94.5
Brewton
WKNU
106.3
Centre
WEIS 990/100.5
Chattanooga, Tenn. WUUQ 97.3/99.3
Clanton, Ala.
WHPH
97.7
Columbia, Tenn. WMRB
910
Columbus, Ga.
WIOL 1580/95.7
Corinth, Miss.
WADI
95.3
Cullman
WFMH
1340
Decatur
WWTM
1400
Dothan
WBBK
93.1
Florence
WYTK
93.9
Fort Payne
WFPA
1400
Ft. Wltn. Beach, Fla. W TKE
98.1
Gadsden
WAAX
570
Georgiana
WFXX
107.7
Haleyville
WWWH
92.7
Huntsville WUMP, WVNN 730, 92.5

Jackson, Ala.
WHOD-FM 94.5
Jackson, Miss.
WJQS
1400
Jasper
WJLX 1240/101.5
Lewisburg, Tenn. WAXO
1220
Linden
WINL
98.5
McComb, Miss. WHNY
1250
Meridian, Miss.
WALT 910/102.1
Mobile
WZEW
92.1
Monroeville
WMFC
99.3
Montgomery, Prattville, W
DXX, WXFX,
WLWI Selma (all 3 for these 3)

100.1, 95.1, 1440
Nashville, Tenn. WPRT
102.5
Opp
WAMI
102.3
Panama City, Fla. WBPC
95.1
Pensacola, Fla.
WBSR
1450
Rome, Ga.
WSRM
93.5
Russellville
WGOL
920
Scottsboro WKEA, WWIC 98.3, 1050
Spartanburg, S.C. WASC
1530
Tallassee
WTLS 1300/106.5
Tupelo, Miss.
WZLQ
98.5
Tuscaloosa
WFFN, WDGM, WTSK

95.3, 99.1, 790
Vernon
WJEC
106.5

BY THE NUMBERS

3 / 32
n Alabama’s ranks in the Southeastern
Conference and nationally in rushing last
season. The Crimson Tide rushed for
199.9 yards per game. LSU and Tennessee
led the SEC.

1/2
n As impressive as Alabama was running
the ball, it was even better stopping the
run. The Crimson Tide led the nation in
rushing yards per game (75.7) and were
second in yards per carry (2.43).

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loss to Ole Miss in the
third week of the season,
Alabama knew it likely

needed to be perfect if it
wanted another shot at a
championship.
No problem.
Alabama beat Florida
29-15 to win the Southeastern Conference title.
It then defeated Michigan
State and Clemson in the
CFP to win the national
championship.
“I didn’t know we were
going to have that kind
of team chemistry,” Saban said. “I didn’t know
we would have that kind
of commitment. I didn’t
know we would respond
to adversity the way we
did.”
See ALABAMA, 15

2015 Results

Sept. 5 W, 35-17

Vs. Wisconsin
Sept. 12 W, 37-10

MIDDLE TENN.
Sept. 19 L, 43-37

OLE MISS
Sept. 26 W, 34-0
ULM
Oct. 3 W, 38-10

At Georgia
Oct. 10 W, 27-14
ARKANSAS
Oct. 17 W, 41-23

At Texas A&M
Oct. 24 W, 19-14
TENNESSEE
Nov. 7 W, 30-16
LSU
Nov. 14 W, 31-6

At MSU
Nov. 21 W, 56-6

CHARLESTON SO.
Nov. 28 W, 29-13

At Auburn
Dec. 5 W, 29-15
FLORIDA
Dec. 31 W, 38-0

Vs. Michigan St.
Jan. 11 W, 45-40

Vs. Clemson
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

9

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

10 Sunday, August 14, 2016

college football preview

alabama crimson tide

Athletic Website: www.rolltide.com; Twitter: @UA_Athletics; Facebook: www.facebook.com/AlabamaAthletics

Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Alabama tight end O.J. Howard holds off Clemson safety T.J. Green in the fourth quarter in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016,
at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Howard had five catches for a career-high 208 yards to earn offensive MVP honors in a 45-40 victory.

PATIENT Howard poised to take on bigger load
BY BEN WAIT
bwait@cdispatch.com

HOOVER, Ala. — O.J. Howard doesn’t want to use the
word “disappointed” when he
talks about the 2015 season.
After seeing playing time
and
making
strides as a sophomore, the Alabama tight end
thought he was
poised for great
things as a junior. The CrimHoward
son Tide were
looking for a new
quarterback, but they had figured things out in the passing
game with a new quarterback
in previous years, so he thought

“I think he’s someone who is a threat and
should be developed as a threat in our
offense and should be used as such.”
Alabama football coach Nick Saban

things would be fine.
As the season progressed,
though, Howard’s role in the offense was limited and his confidence wavered. But last month
at Southeastern Conference
Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, Howard seemed content
with how last season panned
out.
“I was just trying to stay patient at times,” Howard said.

“You just have to stay patient
because the offense you have,
so many weapons, everybody’s
going to get the ball. When
your number’s called, you just
have to make a play and make
something happen. I just tried
to stay patient and play hard
without the ball.”
Howard’s patience paid off
as he had five catches for a career-high 208 yards and two

touchdowns in a 45-40 victory
against Clemson in the College
Football Playoff National Championship. His performance
helped him earn offensive MVP
honors. His five catches converted first downs and went for
at least 15 yards.
Alabama football coach Nick
Saban has recognized Howard’s patience and called him
a “very unselfish guy.” Saban
said some of the things Howard does go unrecognized and
he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
Even with sophomore wide
receiver Calvin Ridley, who had
89 catches for 1,045 yards and
seven touchdowns, and junior
wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, who had 63 catches for 700

yards and four touchdowns, returning, Saban feels Howard’s
role will increase.
“I think he’s someone who
is a threat and should be developed as a threat in our offense
and should be used as such,”
Saban said. “We want to feature all of the players on our
team that have a chance to be
successful, and O.J. Howard
should be a guy that should
create mismatches and do
some good things stretching
the field.
“He’s a fabulous receiver. He’s
got great hands. He’s got speed to
stretch the field. He can make the
tough catch, and he can separate
from man to man.”
Howard was named to the
See HOWARD, 12

ALLEN MOVES INTO NEW ROLE
Decision to return to school pushes senior into leadership position
BY BEN WAIT
“He is a real savage out there; he
bwait@cdispatch.com
HOOVER, Ala. — plays like a bullet. Anybody that lines
Jonathan Allen didn’t
know what to think about up in front of him, he’s going to give
the upheaval.
After
helping
the him the best.”
Alabama
football
team
cap
the
2015
season with
a national
cha mpion ship, Allen
Allen
watched
as
fellow
junior A’Shawn Robinson
opted to bypass his senior
season and enter the NFL
draft. He also said goodbye to senior Jarran Reed.
The departures of Robinson and Reed left Allen
wondering where he was
going to be play in 2016.
But after talking with
his coaches, Allen felt he
needed to return to Alabama. With mass turnover on defense, Allen’s
decision has landed him
in a leadership role.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the
voice of the defense,” Allen
said. “I’m one of the voices, but there are a lot of
leaders on the team, such
as (senior defensive back)
Eddie Jackson, (senior linebacker) Reuben Foster, and
(senior defensive lineman)
Dalvin Tomlinson.”
Allen’s
leadership
was put to the test in the
spring, when he was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Surgery limited him
in practice and kept him
out of the A-Day Spring
Game.
Allen started the rehabilitation process immediately after the spring

Alabama senior defensive back Eddie Jackson,
talking about senior defensive lineman
Jonathan Allen
game. Speaking with
reporters in July at the
Southeastern Conference
Media Days in Hoover,
Alabama, Allen was positive about his ability to be
healthy.
“The shoulder feels
great,” Allen said. “Our
rehab staff is amazing,
and I’ve been doing rehab
every day. I’m three weeks
ahead of schedule. It was
a little frustrating to miss
a lot of the spring practices, but I have to recognize
the bigger picture and focus on accomplishing the
ultimate goal (of winning
a championship).”
The
6-foot-3,
291-pound Allen played in
13 games as a freshman.
He established himself
as a sophomore with 33
tackles (11 1/2 tackles for
loss) and five-and-a-half
sacks. Last season, he had
36 tackles (a team-leading
14 1/2 for loss). His 12
sacks came against Power 5 opponents, including
three against Ole Miss on
his way to being named
SEC Defensive Lineman
of the Week. He earned
first-team All-SEC honors from The Associated
Press.
“He is one of those
guys who comes in and
works hard,” Jackson

said. “His game speaks
for himself, and you kind
of expect that from him.
He is a real savage out
there; he plays like a bulAlabama Athletic Media Relations
let. Anybody that lines up
Alabama defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, left, looks on as Jonathan Allen rushes
in front of him, he’s going quarterback Cooper Bateman in practice.
to give him his best.”
Allen’s positive attitude will help him be the
leader Alabama’s defense
needs. Without Robinson
and Reed, questions about
depth at defensive line
have surfaced. But Tomlinson, junior Da’Shawn
Hand, and sophomore
Da’Ron Payne are being
counted on to help the defensive line make up for
the losses.
“I’m not worried that
we’ll be able to find players who will be able to
replace the talent we had
last year and continue our
dominance on the d-line,”
said Allen, who last month
was named first-team AllSEC in preseason voting
by the media.
Allen also likes the
addition of freshmen Raekwon Davis and Quinnen
Williams. He said they
have come in and run with
it.
Along with losing valuable players, Alabama
lost defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who was
See ALLEN, 12

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

college football preview

Sunday, August 14, 2016

11

east mississippi community college lions

Athletic Website: www.emccathletics.com; Radio: WFCA-FM 108; Twitter: @emccathletics; Instagram: @EMCCAthletics; You Tube: www.youtube.com/EMCCAthletics

2016 Schedule

Sept. 1 At Jones Co. Jr.
College
Sept. 8 At Miss. Gulf

Coast CC
Sept. 15 NE MISS. CC
Sept. 22 At Itawamba CC
Sept. 29 MISS. DELTA CC
Oct. 6
At Holmes CC
Oct. 15 NW MISS. CC
Oct. 20 At Coahoma CC
Oct. 27 HINDS CC
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

Stan Beall/Dispatch File Photo

ABOVE AND BELOW: The East Mississippi Community College and Mississippi Delta C.C. football teams were involved in a brawl in their
regular-season finale on Oct. 22, 2015. EMCC was declared a 48-0 winner, but the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges
(MACJC) banned the team from the state playoffs, which denied it a chance to win its third-consecutive national championship.

LIONS WANT TO START NEW TITLE RUN
BY SCOT T WALTERS
swalters@cdispatch.com

SCOOBA

East
Mississippi
Community
College sophomore quarterback De’Andre Johnson
is amazed by the talent level
of his team.
“We have Division I
talent,” Johnson
said.
“We could
go out and
beat some
Division
I
teams,
certainly
Johnson
some Division II and
Division III teams. I really
believe that in my heart.
That is how good this team
is.”
Johnson took the long
road to EMCC. After graduating early from First Coast
Academy in Jacksonville,
Florida, in the fall of 2014,
Johnson enrolled at Florida
State. His only appearance
in a FSU uniform took place
in the 2015 spring game.
Johnson was dismissed
from the FSU team the following summer after video
surfaced of him punching a
woman at a bar in Tallahassee, Florida. Two months
later, he enrolled at EMCC
with the agreement he
would attend class and perform other off-the-field duties to earn the right to be
a part of the Lions’ team for
the 2016 season.
While Johnson will play
this season to restore his
image, the Lions will do the
same as a team.
EMCC saw its run of
back-to-back National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national
championships end when
a benches-clearing brawl
against Mississippi Delta
C.C. in the regular-season
finale ended the 2015 season prematurely. Days after
the fight, the Mississippi

WEEK ONE
Thursday, Sept. 1
Holmes at East Central, 6:30 p.m.
Northwest at Hinds, 6:30 p.m.
Pearl River at Northeast, 6:30 p.m.
Southwest at Coahoma, 6:30 p.m.
EMCC at Jones, 7 p.m.
Gulf Coast at Itawamba, 7 p.m.
Mississippi Delta at Copiah-Lincoln,
7 p.m.
WEEK TWO
Thursday, Sept. 8
Itawamba at Hinds, 6:30 p.m.
Northeast at East Central, 6:30 p.m.
Pearl River at Northwest, 6:30 p.m.
Southwest at Holmes, 6:30 p.m.
Coahoma at Copiah-Lincoln, 7 p.m.
EMCC at Gulf Coast, 7 p.m.
Jones at Mississippi Delta, 7 p.m.
WEEK THREE
Thursday, Sept. 15
NORTH — Itawamba at Northwest,
6:30 p.m.
NORTH — Mississippi Delta at Holmes,
6:30 p.m.
NORTH — Northeast at EMCC, 7 p.m.
SOUTH — East Central at Pearl River,
6 p.m.
SOUTH — Copiah-Lincoln at Gulf Coast,
7 p.m.
SOUTH — Hinds at Southwest, 7 p.m.
Coahoma at Jones, 7 p.m.
WEEK FOUR
Thursday, Sept. 22
NORTH — Holmes at Coahoma, 6:30 p.m.
NORTH — EMCC at Itawamba, 7 p.m.
NORTH — Northwest at Mississippi
Delta, 7 p.m.

Association of Comting me here. He has
ties to Florida State
munity and Junior
(played there and faColleges (MACJC)
banned EMCC from
ther coaches there),
the state playoffs,
so it worked out to
making them ineligibe a good situation
for me.”
ble for a bowl game
EMCC has been
and a third-straight
Stephens
known as an offentitle. EMCC was
awarded a victory
sive juggernaut unagainst Mississippi Delta der Stephens and offensive
and finished the season 8-1. coordinator Marcus Wood.
“There is no doubt we The Lions have scored
will do some things differ- 40 or more points in 31 of
ently (this season),” EMCC their last 33 games. The
ninth-year coach Buddy program has produced nuStephens said. “You are al- merous senior college sucways growing and analyz- cess stories at quarterback,
ing. Even in championship including Dontreal Pruitt at
seasons, you find ways to Troy and Chad Kelly at Ole
do things better. Anytime Miss. John Franklin III,
the season comes up short who is projected to be Auat the end, you have a disap- burn starting quarterback
pointment. That makes you this season, hopes to add
not wait until you can blow his name to that list. Frankthe whistle and play again.” lin also was a transfer from
EMCC has won 32 of its Florida State.
last 33 games. Stephens has
“When you talk about
led EMCC to seven MAC- De’Andre you talk about a
JC North Division titles, leader,” said EMCC sophfour state titles, four bowl omore running back Jacwins, and three national ti- quez Horsley, who played at
tles. Those numbers aren’t Starkville High School. “He
leads every day … class
lost on Johnson.
“I didn’t know anything room, weight room, pracabout EMCC,” Johnson tice field, it doesn’t matter.
said. “(EMCC quarter- He knows what to say to
backs) coach (Clint) Trick- each player. It’s amazing
ett was instrumental in get- really.”

Horsley confirms the
belief EMCC will be loaded on offense. A year ago,
Horsley ran for 489 yards
and six touchdowns. Isaiah
Wright ran for 483 yards
and seven touchdowns.
That pair will pick up
the rushing load of D.J.
Law, who signed with Alabama-Birmingham. Both
will add to the bevy of receivers. Former Starkville High
standout Raphael Leonard
is in that group after one
year at Florida Atlantic.
“We have a bunch of
guys who can really go up
and get the football,” Leonard said. “It’s fun every day
in practice competing with
these guys. We have some
great quarterbacks, too.
We just have to get everything together in time for
that first game. The sky is
the limit for this offense. It
is going to be fun to watch
this season.”
Wright said the team
still feels the sting of how
last season ended. After
seeing a 25-game winning
streak snapped with a
second-week loss at Copiah-Lincoln C.C., the Lions
rolled through the North
Division for a third-straight
year. EMCC was ranked

third nationally and back in
the championship picture
before going to Mississippi
Delta.
“It feels like something
was taken away from us,”
Wright said. “I think we
learned from the adversity.
We are a much stronger
team. We won’t take anything for granted this season. Whether it’s a practice
or a workout or a play when
we are ahead big in a game,
nothing will be taken for
granted. We saw how it can
all be taken away in a moment’s notice.”
Former Aliceville High
School standout Mario Lanier is the leading returnee
at receiver. Lanier had 20
catches for 408 yards and
four touchdowns in 2015.
Johnson will be joined in
the quarterback battle by
Vijay Miller from Itawamba AHS and former Noxubee County High standout
Timorrius Conner.
For Stephens, it is time
to go back to making plays.
The scrutiny has been intense in the offseason. The
positives and the negatives
of the program were put on
full display last month when
Netflix debuted the series
“Last Chance U,” which provided a behind-the-scenes
look into the nation’s hottest
junior college program.
“It’s time to play again.
That is the only way we
can put all of this behind
us,” Stephens said. “Are we
going to do some things
differently? Yes. However,
at the end of the day, it is
still about winning games.
We are going to recruit
high-character kids and
take care of them inside
our program. On the field,
we still want to beat you to
sleep. That is the only way
I know how to do things.
That is not changing.”
Follow Dispatch sports
writer Scott Walters on
Twitter @dispatchscott

2015 Results

Aug. 27 W, 69-20

SW MISS. CC
Sept. 3 L, 31-24

At Copiah-Lincoln
Sept. 10 W, 69-0

COAHOMA CC
Sept. 17 W, 56-7

At NE Miss. CC
Sept. 26 W, 48-24

ITAWAMBA CC
Oct. 1
W, 49-7

At Jones Co. CC
Oct. 8
W, 44-28

At Holmes CC
Oct. 15 W, 49-16

NW MISS. CC
Oct. 22 W, 48-0

At Miss. Delta CC
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

Coaching staff
Head Coach
Buddy Stephens
n Marcus Wood —
Offensive Coordinator /
Wide Receivers
n Ed Holley —
Defensive Coordinator
n Clint Trickett —
Quarterbacks
n Justin Sanders —
Secondary / Special Teams
n Davern Williams —
Defensive Line
n Cade Wilkerson —
Recruiting Coordinator

2015 Statistics
EMCC
National
Scoring
456 8th
Points per game
50.7
3rd
Total offense
5287
6th
Yards per game
587.4
2nd
Passing yards
3021
9th
Comp-Att-Int
230-370-4 9th
Passing yards per game
335.7
4th
Passing yards per attempt
8.2
16th
Passing yards per completion 13.1
29th
Passing touchdowns
30
8th
Rushing yards
2266
11th
Rushing attempts
288
53rd
Rushing yards per game
251.8
6th
Yards per rush
7.9
2nd
Rushing touchdowns
28
12th
1st downs
241
9th
Rushing 1st downs
101
13th
Passing 1st downs
126
6th
Penalty 1st downs
14
43rd
1st downs per game
26.8
1st
3rd-down conversions
56-108
16th
3rd down %
52%
12th
4th-down conversions
10-19
22nd
4th down %
53%
22nd
Kick returns (No.-Yards)
24-676
43rd
Kick return average
28.2
2nd
Punt returns (No.-Yards)
15-188
28th
Punt return average
12.5
20th
Field goals
6-11
32nd
Field goal %
54.5%
37th
PATs
58-62 7th
PAT %
93.5%
16th
Punts (No.-Yards)
19-730
66th
Average per punt
38.4
11th
Red zone scores
7-11
16th
Red zone %
64%
28th
Red zone touchdowns
7-11
14th
Red zone touchdown %
64%
20th
Fumbles-lost
8-6 54th
Fumbles recovered
9
29th
Defensive INTs
6
57th
Interception returns (No.-Yds) 6-107
49th
Interception return average 17.8
24th
Defensive TDs
2
30th
Tackles
587 42nd
Sacks
24 45th
Penalties
17 11th
Penalty yards
165
12th

2016 MACJC SCHEDULE
SOUTH — Gulf Coast at East Central,
6:30 p.m.
SOUTH — Jones at Copiah-Lincoln, 7 p.m.
SOUTH — Pearl River at Hinds, 7 p.m.
Northeast at Southwest, 7 p.m.
WEEK FIVE
Thursday, Sept. 29
NORTH — Holmes at Northwest, 6:30 p.m.
NORTH — Coahoma at Northeast, 7 p.m.
NORTH — Mississippi Delta at EMCC,
7 p.m.
SOUTH — East Central at
Copiah-Lincoln, 7 p.m.
SOUTH — Hinds at Gulf Coast, 7 p.m.
SOUTH — Southwest at Jones, 7 p.m.
Itawamba at Pearl River, 6 p.m.
WEEK SIX
Thursday, Oct. 6
NORTH — EMCC at Holmes, 6:30 p.m.
NORTH — Itawamba at Northeast,
6:30 p.m.
SOUTH — Southwest at Pearl River, 6 p.m.
SOUTH — Copiah-Lincoln at Hinds,
6:30 p.m.
SOUTH — Jones at East Central,
6:30 p.m.
Gulf Coast at Mississippi Delta, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 8
NORTH — Northwest at Coahoma,
2:30 p.m.
WEEK SEVEN
Thursday, Oct. 13
NORTH — Coahoma at Itawamba, 7 p.m.
NORTH — Northeast at Mississippi
Delta, 7 p.m.
SOUTH — Gulf Coast at Southwest, 7 p.m.
Copiah-Lincoln at Holmes, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 15
NORTH — Northwest at EMCC, 2 p.m.
SOUTH — Pearl River at Jones, 2 p.m.
SOUTH — Hinds at East Central,
2:30 p.m.
WEEK EIGHT
Thursday, Oct. 20
NORTH — EMCC at Coahoma, 6:30 p.m.
NORTH — Holmes at Northeast, 6:30 p.m.
SOUTH — Jones at Hinds, 6:30 p.m.
East Central at Northwest, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 22
NORTH — Mississippi Delta at
Itawamba, 3:30 p.m.
SOUTH — Southwest at Copiah-Lincoln,
3 p.m.
SOUTH — Pearl River at Gulf Coast,
3:30 p.m.
WEEK NINE
Thursday, Oct. 27
NORTH — Northeast at Northwest,
6:30 p.m.
SOUTH — Gulf Coast at Jones, 7 p.m.
Hinds at EMCC, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 29
NORTH — Coahoma at Mississippi
Delta, 2:30 p.m.
NORTH — Itawamba at Holmes, 3 p.m.
SOUTH — Copiah-Lincoln at Pearl
River, 2 p.m.
SOUTH — East Central at Southwest,
5 p.m.

www.falconlairapts.com

625 31st Avenue North
(Behind K-Mart Off Hwy. 45 North)

662-329-2544
Office Hours Mon-Fri 8-5

Good Luck
To All Our
Local Teams!
© The Dispatch

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

12 Sunday, August 14, 2016

COLLEGE football preview

itawamba community COLLEGE INDIANS

Athletic Website: www.letsgoicc.com; Twitter: @LetsGoICC; Instagram: @LetsGoICC; Vine: @LetsGoICC; Facebook: LetsGoICC
Radio: WAFM 95.7 FM. Pregame show starts 20 minutes prior to game; TV: Online at www.LetsGoICC.com

2015 Statistics
ICC Overall Conference
Scoring
283
224
Points per game
28.3
37.3
Total offense
4155
2852
Yards per game
415.5
475.3
Passing yards
2276
1527
Comp-Att-Int
207-349-10 124-209-4
Passing yards per game
227.6
254.5
Passing yards per attempt
6.5
7.3
Passing yards per completion 11.0
12.3
Passing touchdowns
18
14
Rushing yards
1879
1325
Rushing attempts
337
207
Rushing yards per game
187.9
220.8
Yards per rush
5.6
6.4
Rushing touchdowns
18
14
1st downs
68
68
Rushing 1st downs
32
32
Passing 1st downs
33
33
Penalty 1st downs
3
3
1st downs per game
6.8
11.3
3rd-down conversions
26-47
26-47
3rd down %
55%
55%
4th-down conversions
4-4
4-4
4th down %
100%
100%
Kick returns (No.-Yards)
36-810
18-408
Kick return average
22.5
22.7
Punt returns (No.-Yards)
13-153
7-101
Punt return average
11.8
14.4
Field goals
6-10
5-7
Field goal %
60.0%
71.4%
PATs
37-38 29-30
PAT %
97.4%
96.7%
Punts (No.-Yards)
58-2183 30-1172
Average per punt
37.6
39.1
Red zone scores
6-6
6-6
Red zone %
100%
100%
Red zone touchdowns
5-6
5-6
Red zone touchdown %
83%
83%
Fumbles-lost
7-4 5-3
Fumbles recovered
8
4
Defensive INTs
8
7
Interception returns (No.-Yds) 8-85
7-85
Interception return average 10.6
12.1
Defensive TDs
2
2
Tackles
785 455
Sacks
24 13
Penalties
29 14
Penalty yards
284
114
Time of possession per game 5:16
8:46
Home Attendance
2639
2639
Home Attendance average
528
880

LOCAL FLAVOR

Clark

Forside

Logan

Montgomery

Thomas

White

Indians OUt to build on playoff beRth
From Special Reports

FULTON

The
Itawamba Community College football team will look
to build on the accomplishments of 2015 in 2016.
Coming off a 5-5 season
and a playoff appearance,
one of the most experienced
positions on offense for the
Indians will be at running
back.
Sophomore Octavious
Matthews led the team last
season with 808 yards and
four touchdowns. The Auburn commit also had 13
catches for 147 yards and
two more scores. He added
111 yards on kickoff returns
to total 1,066 all-purpose
yards. Also seeing playing
time last season was Kadarius Forside (West Point),
who rushed for 356 yards
and seven touchdowns.
ICC will have to replace
Southern Mississippi signee Kwadra Griggs at quarterback. Griggs passed for
2,138 yards and 18 touchdowns with nine interceptions on 199-of-333 passing
in his final season in Fulton.
Sophomore Rip Kirk
brings back the most experience from last season
after going 7 of 13 for 127
yards and one interception.
Former Washington State
quarterback Peyton Bender
transferred to ICC during
the summer. Bender was
53 of 91 for 498 yards, three
touchdowns, and four interceptions in five games for
the Cougars last season.
Isaiah Howard and
Dorian Gaston are the top
returning wide receivers.
Howard caught 23 passes for 340 yards and two
touchdowns. Gaston had 19
catches for 231 yards and
two scores.
Sophomores DqMarcus
Shaw and Jadarius Little
will return to anchor the offensive line.

Coaching staff

Head Coach
Sean Cannon
n Nick Coleman —
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
n Ray Williams —
Defensive Line
n Tyrone Fox — Defensive
Backs
n Marcus Windham —
Wide Receivers
n Cody Woodiel —
Offensive Line

2016 Schedule

Lee Adams/Itawamba Community College Athletic Media Relations

Former West Point High School standout Kadarius Forside rushed for 356 yards and
seven touchdowns last season for the Itawamba Community College football team.

Lee Adams/Itawamba Community College Athletic Media Relations

Lee Autry, a Mississippi State commitment, had 21
tackles last season for the Itawamba Community
College football team.
Defensively, ICC will
Sophomore defensive
look to replace 15 of its top tackle Lee Autry and defensive end Kenney Wooten
tacklers from last season.

Allen

Continued from Page 10
hired as the Georgia head coach, and
defensive line coach Bo Davis, who resigned after the spring. Jeremy Pruitt
was hired to replace Smart, and Karl
Dunbar was hired to replace Davis.
Dunbar spent 11 of the last 12 years
coaching in the NFL, including stops
with the Chicago Bears (2004), the
Minnesota Vikings (2006-11), the New
York Jets (2012-14), and the Buffalo Bills
(2015).
“I think he has done a really good job
on and off the field picking up the defense and helping guys understand what
his policies and procedures are, along
with what he expects from us on the defensive line,” Allen said.
The decision to return to Alabama
wasn’t easy for Allen because he was
projected to be drafted in the first or second round. Set to graduate in financial
planning in December, he weighed his
options. The final choice will help the
Crimson Tide’s defensive line, but it also

“I’m not worried that we’ll
be able to find players who
will be able to replace the
talent we had last year and
continue our dominance on
the d-line.”
Alabama senior defensive lineman
Jonathan Allen
will help Allen in the future.
“I don’t feel like it was a certain point,
but after talking about with my family,
coach Saban, and coach Davis, we felt
like it was the best decision for me and
my family,” Allen said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait
on Twitter @bcwait

Howard

Continued from Page 10
watch list for the John
Mackey Award, which
is given to the most outstanding college tight
end. He was named to
first-team All-Southeastern Conference by the
media.
In
three
seasons,
the 6-foot-6, 251-pound
Howard has played in 42
games (24 starts) and has
69 catches for 1,131 yards
and four touchdowns.
He had 38 catches for
602 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Howard is confident
offensive
coordinator
Lane Kiffin will use him
and the tight end position
more.
“Football in general
has become a tight-end
game,” Howard said.
“The tight end can be
a mismatch for a lot of
people. It’s hard to stop
a good tight end in coverage — not only in the
SEC, but overall.”
Howard may find his
niche as an option on
third down. Because of

the problems he causes
for defensive backs and
linebackers,
Alabama
could go to him more
when it needs a few yards
to stay on the field.
“I’m trying to become
that tight end that is a
playmaker on any down,”
Howard said. “Being
a guy to go to on third
down, it’s a good feeling.
With our offense, there’s
different plays we can call
on third down.”
Going into his sophomore year, Howard neglected blocking drills
and it showed. Howard,
who is working on a master’s degree in sports
medicine, said that was a
primary focus last offseason. He plans to continue
to work on those skills
this season.
In a 38-10 victory
against Georgia last season, Howard didn’t record any catches, but he
was an integral part of
the offense because he
opened lanes and helped
the Crimson Tide rush

for 189 yards.
“O.J. has improved
and developed as a blocker each and every year,”
Saban said. “Being an
athletic guy, sort of a
taller, thin-bodied type
guy, that has been a challenge for him. But he has
worked so hard at that
and improved dramatically at that to be a very effective blocker. I thought
last year was his best year
in that.”
Howard’s confidence
is high, but he also is
anxious about replicating
his performance in the
national
championship
game. He hopes the work
he put in in the offseason
has set the stage for him
to duplicate that productivity.
“It starts now, and I
look forward to going out
there and competing every day,” Howard said.
Follow Dispatch sports
writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait

will assume leadership responsibilities this season.
Autry, a Mississippi State
commit, returns with 21
tackles, a half sack, twoand-a-half tackles for loss,
and two pass deflections.
Wooten, an Arkansas
State commit, recorded 18
tackles and two-and-a-half
sacks.
Sophomore Tyler Logan
(West Point) and freshman
Tay Carothers (Aberdeen)
will anchor the linebackers.
Logan had 17 tackles in a
backup role as a freshman.
Sophomore Deon Knox
and freshman Donald Twilley will lead the secondary.
Zach Ellis returns as the
team’s kicker. Last season,
he made 6 of 10 field goals
(long of 27 yards) and 37 of
38 extra points.
Former Starkville High
standouts Rontavis Clark
and Montario Montgomery and former West Point
High standouts Jaylen
White and Roger Thomas
also are expected to compete for playing time.

Sept. 1 Miss. Gulf

Coast CC
Sept. 8 At Hinds CC
Sept. 15 At NW Miss. CC
Sept. 22 EMCC
Sept. 29 At Pearl River CC
Oct. 6
At NE Miss. CC
Oct. 13 COAHOMA CC
Oct. 22 MISS. DELTA CC
Oct. 29 At Holmes CC
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

2015 Results

Aug. 27 L, 26-14

COPIAH-LINCOLN CC
Sept. 3 W, 21-20

JONES CO. CC
Sept. 10 W, 40-14

At Holmes CC
Sept. 17 L, 31-24

NW MISS. CC
Sept. 26 L, 48-24

At EMCC
Oct. 3 W, 49-7

COAHOMA CC
Oct. 8 W, 52-14

At NE Miss. CC
Oct. 15 W, 35-0

MISS. DELTA CC
Oct. 24 L, 38-7

At Miss. Gulf

Coast CC
Oct. 31 L, 49-17

At Miss. Gulf

Coast CC
HOME GAMES IN CAPS

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

college football preview

Sunday, August 14, 2016

13

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

Athletic Website: www.secdigitalnetwork.com; Twitter: @SEC; Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheSECDN; Instagram: @secsports

ALABAMA, LEAGUE TRYING TO STAY IN PENTHOUSE
By JOHN ZENOR
The Associated Press

A postseason rampage
put the Alabama football
team and the Southeastern Conference back on
top last season.
Now, the trick will be
staying there with three
new coaches in the East
and quarterback uncertainty across much of the
league, including at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide is
once again the team to
beat in the league, and
perhaps nationally, after claiming the SEC’s
eighth national title in
10 seasons. That broke a
two-year drought for the
league, which went 9-2 in
the postseason counting
Alabama’s playoff wins
against Michigan State
and Clemson.
Alabama defensive end
Jonathan Allen doesn’t
think coach Nick Saban
will let complacency set in.
“The biggest thing
at Alabama is that if you
don’t have hunger,” Allen
said, “then you’re not going to start this year.”
It’s a luxury afforded
by a string of top-rated recruiting classes, even with
an unproven backfield.
Tennessee and Mississippi, who have the SEC’s
most accomplished returning passers in Joshua
Dobbs and Chad Kelly, are
trying to continue climbing the ranks.
Longtime Tide defensive coordinator Kirby
Smart is now trying to get
Georgia over the hump.
Will Muschamp’s back in
the SEC East at South Carolina and Barry Odom is

Stan Beall/Dispatch File Photo

LSU running back Leonard Fournette, shown above against Ole Miss last season,
was a consensus first-team All-American as a sophomore. He led the Southeastern
Conference and the nation in rushing with 162.8 yards a game. He finished the
season with 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns, both LSU single-season records.

trying to lead a comeback
to division contention at
Missouri.
In the West, Auburn
and Texas A&M are trying to bounce back while
LSU aims for a stronger
finish.
THE FAVORITES
East:
Tennessee.
Butch Jones has positioned the Volunteers, led
by Dobbs, as front-runners for their first division title since 2007. They
have 17 starters back
from a team that went 9-4.
Florida is the defending
champion while three of
the seven teams have new
coaches. Unlike Tennessee, potential challengers Florida and Georgia
entered fall camp without
an established No. 1 quarterback.
West: Alabama. The
defending national champions, as usual, have talent

all over the field. Cooper
Bateman is the only quarterback with college experience, but Blake Barnett
and David Cornwell were
highly rated recruits. The
division is typically loaded
with coach Les Miles and
Leonard Fournette trying
to lead LSU back from
late-season stumbles. Kelly helps make Mississippi
— which has beaten the
Tide two straight years —
a strong threat, too.
TOP PLAYERS
n
Leonard
Fournette, RB, LSU.
Consensus All-American
flirted with a 2,000-yard
season and was a big
Heisman Trophy favorite
early last season. A more
consistent passing game
would help him out.
n Myles Garrett, DE,
Texas A&M. In a league
full of elite pass rushers,
he may be the best. Has

Fournette, Watson should lead
Heisman hype this season
By DAVID BRANDT
The Associated Press

A handful of familiar
faces could make this a
Heisman race for the ages.
Four, count ‘em, four of
the top six finishers from
last year’s Heisman Trophy
voting are back for another
season. Clemson’s prolific
quarterback Deshaun Watson is among them, along
with a trio of stars that includes Stanford running
back Christian McCaffrey,
Oklahoma
quarterback
Baker Mayfield and LSU
running back Leonard
Fournette.
The scrutiny and hype
for the foursome will be
intense from day one. Watson says it comes with the
territory of being one of the
nation’s top players.
“That’s something I already knew before,” Watson said. “I’m a confident
player and I expect to be in
this position. That’s why I
work, that’s why I grind.”
Though it’s uncommon
for so much Heisman-caliber talent to return for
another season, it’s not unprecedented.
A recent example is
2011, when Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Oregon running back LaMichael James, Boise State
quarterback Kellen Moore,
Oklahoma State receiver
Justin Blackmon and Michigan quarterback Denard
Robinson returned after
finishing two through six in
the voting behind Auburn’s
Cam Newton in 2010.
Interestingly, none of
them won. Instead, it was
Baylor quarterback Robert
Griffin III who came out of
nowhere to take home the
trophy. Luck was the runner-up for a second straight
season.
Watson, who helped
lead Clemson to the College Football Playoff title
game before a loss to Alabama, finished third in the

voting in 2015 behind Alabama’s Derrick Henry and
McCaffrey.
Clemson’s team success
was one big reason Watson
was in the Heisman mix.
The quarterback said any
of his individual accomplishments will be directly
tied to what the Tigers do
this fall.
“I wouldn’t be in this position without the coaching
staff and my players, the
offensive line and the skill
guys that make me look
good,” Watson said. “So I
give them all the credit.”
McCaffrey is a Heisman
front-runner since he was
second last season. The
6-foot, 200-pound junior
broke the NCAA single-season record with
3,864 all-purpose yards in
2015.
Stanford coach David
Shaw said to expect more of
the same this season with
McCaffrey being a threat in
the running game, passing
game and on special teams.
A little more on the early
favorites:
n
FOURNETTE:
LSU’s bruising runner was
probably the favorite to
win the Heisman midway
through last season before
his production slipped in
the final month. The 6-1,
230-pound junior still finished with 1,953 yards
rushing and 22 touchdowns. The Tigers return
a talented team, and likely
will play several high-profile games that can showcase his talent to a national
audience. It remains to be
seen if LSU’s passing game
will be good enough to take
some of the load off Fournette.
n MAYFIELD: The
6-1, 210-pound Mayfield
started as a walk-on at Texas Tech before transferring
to the Sooners. After sitting out a season because
of NCAA transfer rules, he
won the starting job last fall

and completed more than
68 percent of his passes for
3,700 yards, 36 touchdowns
and only seven interceptions.
n McCAFFREY: The
Stanford star had one of
the best overall seasons
in college football history in 2015, finishing with
2,019 yards rushing, 1,070
yards on kick returns, 645
yards receiving and 130
yards on punt returns. He
even threw two touchdown
passes. McCaffrey might
be hard-pressed to match
those numbers, but another big season is certainly
expected.
n WATSON: The 6-2,
210-pound junior was fantastic as the Tigers made
it to the national title game.
He completed nearly 68
percent of his passes for
4,104 yards, 35 touchdowns
and 13 interceptions while
also running for 1,105
yards and 12 touchdowns.
Clemson is loaded again
and is expected to have a
great shot at winning the
ACC and making it to the
College Football Playoff
again.
n KEEP AN EYE ON:
Florida State running back
Dalvin Cook finished with
1,691 yards rushing and
19 touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry
last season. ... Ohio State
quarterback J.T. Barrett
had to split time under center last season with Cardale
Jones, but now the position
appears to be his. The 6-2,
222-pounder
completed
63.3 percent of his throws
last season while throwing for 11 touchdowns and
running for 11 more. He
was 5th in the Heisman balloting in 2014. ... Ole Miss
quarterback Chad Kelly,
the nephew of Pro Football
Hall of Famer Jim Kelly,
threw for 4,042 yards last
season, including 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions
last year.

24 sacks in two seasons.
n Cam Robinson, LT,
Alabama. Started every
game in his first two seasons and will be blocking
for a new backfield.
n Chad Kelly, QB,
Ole Miss. Sugar Bowl
MVP had third-most
passing and total yards of
any SEC quarterback in a
season.
n Nick Chubb/Sony
Michel, RBs, Georgia.
Both are trying to return
from injuries, and both
have posted huge numbers when healthy.
n Gregory Little, OT,
Ole Miss. Laremy Tunsil
is gone, leaving an NCAA
mess and a big hole at left
tackle behind in Oxford.
In the 305-pound freshman from Texas, coach
Hugh Freeze hopes he
has another plug-and-play
five-star lineman.
n Josh Dobbs, QB,

Tennessee. The Volunteers are favored to win
the East as coach Butch
Jones’ rebuild appears to
be nearing a peak. Dobbs
has already established
himself as dangerous
dual-threat (2,291 yards
passing, 671 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns accounted for) for a potentially powerful offense.
n Daylon Mack, DT,
Texas A&M. The Aggies
already have maybe the
best defensive end in the
country in Myles Garrett.
Paired with edge pass
rusher Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M has one of the
best combos in the country outside.
n Carl Lawson, DE,
Auburn. It’s a given that
the Tigers need to solve
a quarterback problem
that was a big part of
what ruined last season.
Maybe JUCO transfer
John Franklin is the next
Nick Marshall? But for
the second straight year
Auburn’s defense was bad
(5.37 yards per play allowed and just 19 sacks),
and having a healthy Lawson could help change
that.
n Antonio Callaway,
WR, Florida. The sophomore’s status with the
team is murky. Callaway’s
attorney says he has been
held out due to a university conduct code issue.
Coach Jim McElwain has
said it’s still unclear when
Callaway will be part of
the team again.
NEW FACES
n
Kirby
Smart,
Georgia. The standard
was made crystal clear
when Mark Richt was

fired after winning double-digit games nine
times in 15 seasons.
Smart will be chasing his
mentor, Saban.
n Trevor Knight, QB,
Texas A&M. The former
Oklahoma starter could
be the biggest on-field addition for any SEC team.
Doesn’t hurt that he once
led a Sugar Bowl win over
Alabama.
n Bo Scarbrough,
RB, Alabama. He and
fellow sophomore Damien
Harris are vying to replace Heisman Trophy
winner Derrick Henry.
It’s the first time Saban
hasn’t had an experienced
back returning.
ON THE HOT SEAT
Malzahn,
n Gus
Auburn. Three years removed from an SEC title,
he has been unable to beat
the top teams since. Quarterback struggles held
back his normally prolific,
fast offense last season.
Sumlin,
n Kevin
Texas A&M. An 11-13 record in SEC games over
the past three seasons
and trouble holding onto
quarterbacks could at
least make it lukewarm.
n Les Miles, LSU.
Last year’s groundswell
of support and a talented
roster make him secure
— at least until the next
three-game losing streak.
Mason,
n Derek
Vanderbilt. Two SEC wins
in as many seasons but 16
returning starters, including RB Ralph Webb and
LB Zach Cunningham.
PICKS
Tennessee.
East:
West: Alabama. League
champion: Alabama.

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

14 Sunday, August 14, 2016

college football preview

NATIONAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Ohio State TOPs list of schools that have been AP No. 1
By RALPH D. RUSSO
The Associated Press

In the history of college football, only 44 schools have been
able to make the claim “We’re
No. 1” and have The Associated
Press poll back up the boast.
That means just 15 percent of
the 296 schools listed as having
played major college football at
some point by sports-reference.
com have held the No. 1 ranking for at least one poll. Of those
44 schools, only 21 have been
No. 1 in 10 or more polls.
The first No. 1 was Minnesota in 1936. The most recent
school to make the list was Mississippi State in 2014.
For the first time, AP has
ranked the No. 1s by the number of times a program has held
the top spot. Ohio State leads
the way with 105 times. There
have been a handful of ties at
No. 1 over 80 seasons and each
team in that situation received
one-half point.
For fun, AP College Football
Writer Ralph D. Russo picked
the best of each school’s teams
to hold the No. 1 ranking. There
were some tough calls, so to determine the No. 1 team of the
No. 1s, Russo used the following criteria:
n Championship teams were
given preference.
n Time spent at No. 1 during
a single season was considered
and late-season polls were given greater consideration.
n A metric called simple rating system found at sports-reference.com was referenced to
give some perspective on dominance relative to a team’s era.
The game and its players have
changed so much over the decades that there is no way to
truly compare, say, the 1958
LSU team with the 2007 national champion Tigers.
n Some feedback from reporters and sports information
directors who have covered a
school for decades was used.
No. 1 Ohio State
(105 times)
Championships — Five (1942, 1954,
1968, 2002, 2014)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 1, 2015
Longest
run
at
No.
1

15
straight
polls,
2006
preseason-Dec. 3, 2006
Best decade — 1970s, 32 times at No.
1
Best No. 1 team — 1968
Russo’s reasoning: The recent Buckeyes championships include one of the
great title-game upsets in college football
history (2002) and a team (2014) that produced maybe the most bountiful NFL draft
class ever. But the best Buckeyes team is a
choice between coach Woody Hayes’ first
national champion (1954) and his second
(1968). Hayes himself called the ‘68 team
with Jack Tatum and Rex Kern one of the
best in college football history, so that’s
good enough for me. Those Buckeyes shut
out then-No. 1 Purdue 13-0 early in the
season, thumped No. 1 Michigan 50-14 and
beat No. 2 USC 27-16 in the Rose Bowl.
nnn
No. 2 Oklahoma (100½)
Championships — Seven (1950, 1955,
1956, 1974, 1975, 1985, 2000)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Sept. 18, 2011
Longest run at No. 1 — 15 straight
polls, 2003 preseason-Nov. 30, 2003
Best decade — 1950s, 26 times
Best No. 1 team — 1974
Russo’s reasoning: Bud, Barry or Bob?
The three coaches who have led the Sooners
to national titles all had teams that can make
a case for best in OU history. Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners won a record 47 straight
games in the ‘50s. Bob Stoops’ 2000 champions went unbeaten through the Big 12 at its
best. Still, the Barry Switzer era produced
the best of the best Oklahoma teams in 1974
with a squad NCAA sanctions kept off TV
and out of the postseason. That wasn’t a
problem for AP voters, who never had Lee
Roy Selmon, Joe Washington and the ‘74
Sooners ranked lower than No. 3.
nnn
No. 3 Notre Dame (98)
Championships — Eight (1943, 1946,
1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 18, 2012
Longest run at No. 1 — 11 straight
polls, Oct. 17, 1966-Sept. 25, 1967
Best decade — 1940s, 30 times
Best No. 1 team — 1947
Russo’s reasoning: College football
wasn’t quite as deep in the 1940s when
coach Frank Leahy won four of Notre
Dame’s eight national titles, but he did
have monster teams. From 1946-49, the
Fighting Irish were never ranked worse
than No. 3 — and that was for one week in
1946. Otherwise, it was either No. 1 or 2
for Notre Dame. Which team was best? I’ll
take the 1947 team with Heisman Trophy
winner Johnny Lujack at quarterback and
lineman Leon Hart, who would go on to win
the Heisman in ‘49.
nnn
No. 4 Southern California (90½)
Championships — Five (1962, 1967,
1972, 2003, 2004)
Most
recent
No.
1
ranking — 2012 preseason
Longest run at No. 1 — 33 straight
polls (record), Dec. 7, 2003-Dec. 4, 2005
Best decade — 2000s, 45 times
Best No. 1 team — 1972
Russo’s reasoning: USC football’s
golden ages during the AP poll era came
under coaches John McKay and Pete Carroll. So it’s only fair that the competition for
best Trojans team comes down to McKay’s
(1972) or Carroll’s (2004). The ‘72 squad
with Anthony Davis began the season No.
8, crushed No. 4 Arkansas on the road in
its opener and was No. 1 for the rest of the
season. The ‘04 Trojans of Matt Leinart and
Reggie Bush is one of only two teams to go
wire-to-wire (preseason to final poll) as No.
1. Both had wipeout bowl victories, but ‘72
gets the nod for playing only one game de-

nnn
No. 5 Alabama (74)
Championships — 10 (1961, 1964,
1965, 1978, 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011, 2012,
2015)
Most recent No. 1 ranking — 2015
final
Longest run at No. 1 — 15 straight
polls, 2012 final-Oct. 24, 2013
Best decade: 2010s, 35 times
Best No. 1 team — 1961
Russo’s reasoning: Maybe the most
amazing thing about Nick Saban’s run at
Alabama is that none of his championship
teams stands way above the rest. They are
all sort of equally awesome. So for the best
of the best we’ll look to Bear Bryant’s boys.
Bryant was partial to 1961. That team went
unbeaten behind linemen Billy Neighbors
and Lee Roy Jordan and quarterback Pat
Trammell. The Bear’s first championship
team allowed only three touchdowns and
had six shutouts.
nnn
No. 6 (tie) Florida State (72)
Championships — Three (1993, 1999,
2013)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 23, 2014
Longest run at No. 1 — 17 straight
polls, 1999 preseason-1999 final
Best decade — 1990s, 57 times
Best No. 1 team — 1999
Russo’s reasoning: All the Seminoles
championship teams were led by quarterbacks (Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke and
Jameis Winston) who won the Heisman.
Weinke’s award came in 2000. All were
loaded with future NFL talent. It was Bobby Bowden’s ‘99 team, though, that pulled
off a poll feat that had never been done
before by going wire-to-wire as No. 1 from
the preseason to the final poll. A spectacular Sugar Bowl performance by Florida
State’s Peter Warrick helped lock up the
BCS championship against Michael Vick
and Virginia Tech.
nnn
No. 6 (tie) Nebraska (72)
Championships — Four (1970, 1971,
1994, 1995)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Oct. 22, 2000
Longest run at No. 1 — 15 straight
polls, Sept. 13, 1971-1972 preseason
Best decade — 1990s, 23 times
Best No. 1 team — 1971
Russo’s reasoning: Coach Bob Devaney’s ‘71 Huskers and Tom Osborne’s ‘95
team are not only considered Nebraska’s
best, but they both will get tossed into
consideration for best of their respective
decades. Both crushed bowl opponents to
finish their seasons. The pick here is Johnny Rodgers and the ‘71 team, which started
the season at No. 2, jumped to No. 1 after
an opening blowout, and never gave it up.
Along the way Nebraska beat No. 2 Oklahoma 35-31 in a Game of the Century that
lived up to the billing.
nnn
No. 8 Miami (67)
Championships — Five (1983, 1987,
1989, 1991, 2001)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Dec. 8, 2002
Longest run at No. 1 — 21 straight
polls, Oct. 14, 2001-Oct. 27, 2002
Best decade — 2000, 29 ½ times
Best No. 1 team — 2001
Russo’s reasoning: The second
(though relatively brief) incarnation of the
Miami dynasty produced the program’s
best team after three coaches won four
championships from 1983-91. The 2001
‘Canes’ roster reads like an NFL roster.
Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis and Frank
Gore all at running back. They were No.
1 in all but three polls that season (three
times No. 2) and beat their opponents by
34 points per game under first-year coach
Larry Coker.
nnn
No. 9 Texas (44 1/2)
Championships — Three (1963, 1969,
2005)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Oct. 26, 2008
Longest run at No. 1 — Nine straight
polls, Oct. 14, 1963-1963 final
Best decade — 1960s, 23 times
Best No. 1 team — 2005
Russo’s reasoning: All three championship teams finished unbeaten, and the
‘63 and ‘69 squads spent more time at No.
1 than Mack Brown’s ‘05 team. The last
Longhorns’ national title team was No. 2 all
season behind Southern California before
keeping the Trojans from the first AP title
three-peat. Extra credit to the ‘05 team for
Vince Young’s Rose Bowl performance,
maybe the greatest by an individual in college football history.
nnn
No. 10 Florida (41)
Championships — Three (1996, 2006,
2008)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 29, 2009
Longest run at No. 1 — 10 straight
polls, Sept. 23, 1996-Nov. 25, 1996
Best decade — 1990s, 21 times
Best No. 1 team — 1996
Russo’s reasoning: Steve Spurrier’s
Gators or Urban Meyer’s Gators? Heisman
Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel or Heisman
Trophy winner Tim Tebow? Neither team
finished unbeaten, but the ‘96 team was
No. 1 most of the season before losing by
three at No. 2 Florida State in November.
The Gators then avenged that loss in the
Sugar Bowl, 52-20.
nnn
No. 11 Michigan (34)
Championships — Two (1948, 1997)
Most recent No. 1 ranking — 1997
final
Longest run at No. 1 — Eight straight
polls, Sept. 14, 1976-Nov. 2, 1976
Best decade — 1970s, 12 times
Best No. 1 team — 1948
Russo’s reasoning: The ‘48 team was
a continuation of the dominant ‘47 team,
which went 10-0 with a 49-0 victory against
USC in the Rose Bowl. The final poll was
taken before the bowl games back then,
though a special post-bowl vote (no longer recognized by the AP or NCA A) gave
Coach Fritz Crisler’s “Mad Magicians” the
top spot. Crisler retired and handed the
team to Bennie Oosterbaan in 1948. The
Wolverines rolled to another unbeaten season that included five shutouts.
nnn
No. 12 LSU (30)
Championships — Two (1958, 2007)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Dec. 4, 2011
Longest run at No. 1 — 14 straight
polls, Oct. 27, 1958-Nov. 2, 1959
Best decade — 1950s, 14 times
Best No. 1 team — 1958
Russo’s reasoning: The 2007 Tigers
were talented and fortunate, becoming the
first and only team to lose twice during
the regular season and become AP national champions. So the ‘58 team is an easy
choice as the best for LSU. Those Tigers
had Billy Cannon (who won the Heisman
in ‘59) and a defense nicknamed the Chinese Bandits that allowed more than seven
points in only one game all season.
nnn
No. 13 Michigan State (29)
Championships — One (1952)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Oct. 10, 1966
Longest run at No. 1 — Eight straight
polls, Oct. 13, 1952-1952 final
Best decade — 1950s, 16 times
Best No. 1 team — 1952

Russo’s reasoning: Under coach Clarence “Biggie” Munn, the Spartans won a
school-record 28 straight games, a streak
that started in 1950 and ended in 1953.
The ‘51 Spartans went unbeaten but had to
settle for No. 2 in the final AP poll behind
Tennessee. The ‘52 Spartans, led by Don
McAuliffe, Ellis Duckett and Paul Dekker,
were No. 1 all but one week of the season.
nnn
No. 14 Army (27)
Championships — Two (1944, 1945)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Oct. 20, 1958
Longest run at No. 1 — 15 straight
polls, Oct. 30, 1944-1945 final
Best decade — 1940s, 22 times
Best No. 1 team — 1944
Russo’s reasoning: Both Army championship teams stand among the most dominant in college football history, but coach
Red Blaik’s 1944 Black Knights get the
nod. With two eventual Heisman Trophy
winners (Doc Blanchard, ‘45 and Glenn
Davis ‘46), Army outscored its opponents
504-35 and had four shutouts.
nnn
No. 15 Pittsburgh (21)
Championships — Two (1937, 1976)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 1, 1982
Longest run at No. 1 — Four straight
polls, twice (1937, 1981)
Best decade — 1930s and 1980s, eight
times
Best No. 1 team — 1976
Russo’s reasoning: Led by Heisman
Trophy winner Tony Dorsett, the Panthers
went undefeated and were ranked in the
top three most of the season. Coach Johnny Majors’ team jumped to No. 1 in early
November and completed their championship season by beating Georgia 27-3 in the
Sugar Bowl.
nnn
No. 16 Penn State (19)
Championships — Two (1982, 1986)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Oct. 13, 1997
Longest run at No. 1 — Five straight
polls, Nov. 12, 1985-Dec. 10, 1985
Best decade — 1990s, eight times
Best No. 1 team — 1982
Russo’s reasoning: Joe Paterno had
four teams that went unbeaten and didn’t
finish No. 1 so an argument can be made
the best Penn State team of all time was
not one that won a national title. Maybe the
1994 team, which spent two weeks at No.
1 and finished No. 2 to Nebraska? Neither
championship team reached No. 1 until the
final poll. The ‘86 team went undefeated
and upset Miami in the Fiesta Bowl, but
the ‘82 team with quarterback Todd Blackledge and running back Curt Warner faced
six ranked teams on the way to a title.
nnn
No. 17 Tennessee (18)
Championships — Two (1951, 1998)
Most recent No. 1 ranking — 1998
final
Longest run at No. 1 — Six straight
polls, Nov. 9, 1998-1998 final
Best decade — 1950s, eight times
Best No. 1 team — 1951
Russo’s reasoning: The ‘51 Volunteers would seem to be the obvious choice.
Under coach Robert Neyland, the Vols were
never ranked lower than No. 3 and were
No. 1 six times. Led by Heisman runner-up
Hank Lauricella and future Hall of Famer
Doug Atkins, the Vols had five shutouts.
One problem: The Vols lost the Sugar Bowl
to Maryland, but because there were so few
bowls the final poll was taken before they
were played.
nnn
No. 18 Minnesota (17 ½ )
Championships — Four (1936, 1940,
1941, 1960)
Most recent No. 1 ranking — 1960
final
Longest run at No. 1 — Four straight
polls, twice (1940, 1941)
Best decade — 1940s, 10½
Best No. 1 team — 1941
Russo’s reasoning: Both the 1940 and
‘41 teams went unbeaten under coach Bernie Bierman, but the ‘41 team spent most of
the season as the No. 1 team and was more
dominant, outscoring opponents 186-38.
Halfback Bruce Smith became the first —
and still only — Heisman Trophy winner
for the Golden Gophers.
nnn
No. 19 Georgia (15)
Championships — One (1980)
Most recent No. 1 ranking — 2008
preseason
Longest run at No. 1 — Six straight
polls, Nov. 10, 1980-1980 final
Best decade — 1980s, 11 times
Best No. 1 team — 1980
Russo’s reasoning: Coach Vince
Dooley’s team began the season ranked
No. 16, but fabulous freshman Herschel
Walker led the Bulldogs to an unbeaten
season and the school’s only national championship. Georgia reached No. 1 late in the
season and beat No. 7 Notre Dame 17-10 in
the Sugar Bowl to seal the title.
nnn
No. 20 Washington (14 1/2)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 3, 1992
Longest run at No. 1 — Six straight
polls, Sept. 13, 1982-Oct. 18, 1982
Best decade — 1980s, 10 times
Best No. 1 team — 1992
Russo’s reasoning: The funny thing
about Washington is the best team in school
history never was ranked better than No.
2 in the AP poll. The 1991 Huskies under
Don James finished the season unbeaten
and No. 2 behind Miami, but were crowned
champions by the coaches’ poll. Much of
that team came back in 1992 and spent the
first nine weeks of the season at either No.
1 (five times) or two, before losing three of
its last four games to ranked teams. It was a
disappointing finish for a loaded team that
included quarterback Mark Brunell and
All-America tackle Lincoln Kennedy.
nnn
No. 21 Iowa (11)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Oct. 29, 1985
Longest run at No. 1 — Five straight
polls, Oct. 1, 1985-Oct. 29, 1989
Best decade — 1960s, six times
Best No. 1 team — 1960
Russo’s reasoning: The 1985 Iowa
team was No. 1 for five weeks and ranked in
the top six all season before finishing No.
10, with Heisman runner-up Chuck Long at
quarterback. But coach Hayden Fry’s best
team has to get in line behind Forest Evashevski’s 1960 team that finished 8-1, losing only to national champion Minnesota,
while beating six teams that were ranked
when they played.
nnn
No. 22 Auburn (9)
Championships — Two (1957, 2010)
Most recent No. 1 ranking — 2010
final
Longest run at No. 1 — Three
straight polls, Sept. 10, 1985-Sept. 24, 1985
Best decade — 1980s, four
Best No. 1 team — 2010
Russo’s reasoning: Both the 1957 and
2010 Auburn teams were only No. 1 in the
final two AP polls of those seasons. It’s a
close call. The ‘57 team allowed only four
touchdowns all season, but Cam Newton’s
‘10 national title team went 14-0 against bet-

nnn
No. 23 Oregon (8)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 11, 2012
Longest run at No. 1 — Seven
straight polls, Oct. 17, 2010-Nov. 28, 2010
Best decade — 2010s, eight times
Best No. 1 team — 2010
Russo’s reasoning: Marcus Mariota’s 2014 team never reached 1, so the ‘10
Ducks are the easy pick for best of the Chip
Kelly/Mark Helfrich era. Heisman finalist
LaMichael James led the way for the fastpaced Ducks, who lost the BCS title game
to Auburn on a last-play field goal.
nnn
No. 24 (tie) Clemson (7)
Championships — 1981
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Dec. 6, 2015
Longest run at No. 1 — Five straight
polls, Nov. 8, 2015-Dec. 6, 2015
Best decade — 2010s, five times
Best No. 1 team — 1981
Russo’s reasoning: Clemson’s first
and only championship team ranks among
one of the more surprising titles in the poll
era. The Tigers were unranked to start the
season, made some big jumps to get into
the top five and then took the No. 1 ranking
and unbeaten record into the Orange Bowl
against Nebraska. Quarterback Homer Jordan led coach Danny Ford’s team to a 22-15
victory that still stands as the greatest in
program history.
nnn
No. 24 (tie) Colorado (7)
Championships — One (1990)
Most recent No. 1 ranking — 1990
final
Longest run at No. 1 — Four straight
polls, Nov. 20, 1990-1990 final
Best decade — 1990s, four times
Best No. 1 team — 1990
Russo’s reasoning: The championship was controversial. The 1990 team
benefited from the infamous “fifth down”
game, during which the Buffaloes scored
the winning touchdown on a mistakenly
given fifth down against Missouri. And a
clipping penalty against Notre Dame on Raghib Ismail’s fourth-quarter punt return for
a touchdown helped them win the Orange
Bowl. The coaches’ poll crowned Georgia
Tech its champion. There was no doubting,
though, that coach Bill McCartney’s team
was loaded with players including running
back Eric Bienemy and linebacker Chad
Brown and can comfortably be called the
best No. 1 in school history.
nnn
No. 24 (tie) Syracuse (7)
Championships — One (1959)
Most recent No. 1 ranking — Oct. 3,
1960
Longest run at No. 1 — Five straight
polls, Nov. 9, 1959-1959 final
Best decade — 1950s, five times
Best No. 1 team — 1959
Russo’s reasoning: Led by Ernie Davis, who went on to win the 1961 Heisman
Trophy, the then-Orangemen went undefeated behind coach Ben Schwartzwalder.
Syracuse plowed through most of its competition. The only regular season game decided by a single-digit margin was a 20-18
victory at Penn State.
nnn
No. 24 (tie) UCLA (7)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Oct. 25, 1988
Longest run at No. 1 — Two straight
polls, three times (1954, 1955, 1988)
Best decade — 1950s, four times
Best No. 1 team — 1954
Russo’s reasoning: Coach Red Sanders had a string of top-notch teams in the
1950s, but we’ll take the 1954 team that
went 9-0, beat rival USC 34-0 and finished
No. 2 in the country. Because the Bruins
played in the Rose Bowl the previous season, the Trojans got to go after the 1954
season, which helps explain why the AP
wasn’t doing a poll after the postseason in
those days
nnn
No. 28 Texas A&M (6½)
Championships — One (1939)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 11, 1957
Longest run at No. 1 — Four straight
polls, Nov. 11, 1939-1939 final
Best decade — 1950s, 3½ times
Best No. 1 team — 1939
Russo’s reasoning: Coach Homer
Norton’s Aggies rolled through the Southwest Conference, allowing only eight
points in six games. The final No. 1 ranking
came before they beat No. 5 Tulane 14-13 in
the Sugar Bowl to finish 11-0.
nnn
No. 29 Maryland (6)
Championships — One (1953)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Oct. 31, 1955
Longest run at No. 1 — Two straight
polls twice (1953, 1955)
Best decade — 1950s, six times
Best No. 1 team — 1953
Russo’s reasoning: The Terrapins
had six shutouts in an undefeated regular
season that ended with victories against
Mississippi and Alabama by a combined
59-0. Coach Jim Tatum’s team did lose the
Orange Bowl to coach Bud Wilkinson and
Oklahoma, 7-0.
nnn
No. 30 (tie) Ole Miss (5)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking — 1964
preseason
Longest run at No. 1 — Two straight
polls, Sept. 19, 1960-Sept. 24, 1960
Best decade — 1960s, five times
Best No. 1 team — 1960
Russo’s reasoning: Coach John
Vaught reigned over the most successful
era of Ole Miss football and the 1960 team
stands as the best of the bunch. Quarterback Jake Gibbs and the Rebels had three
weeks at No. 1 and only a 6-6 tie against
LSU kept Ole Miss from going unbeaten.
The Rebels finished No. 2 in the country.
nnn
No. 30 (tie) Mississippi State (5)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 9, 2014
Longest run at No. 1 — Five straight
polls, Oct. 12, 2014-Nov. 9, 2014
Best decade — 2010s, five times
No. 1 team — 2014
Russo’s reasoning: Mississippi State
had never been ranked higher than No. 7
before the Bulldogs surged to the top of
the AP poll in 2014 and stayed there for five
weeks. Quarterback Dak Prescott and the
Bulldogs stumbled some down the stretch
and finished 10-3 and No. 11.
nnn
No. 30 (tie) Northwestern (5)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking —
Nov. 5, 1962
Longest run at No. 1 — Three
straight polls, Nov. 2, 1936-Nov. 16, 1936
Best decade — 1930s, three times
Best No. 1 team — 1936
Russo’s reasoning: The first year of
the AP poll, the Wildcats spent three weeks
at No. 1 and beat eventual national champion Minnesota 6-0. A 26-6 loss to Notre
Dame in the season finale dumped coach
Pappy Waldorf’s team to 7-1 and a final
ranking of No. 7.
nnn
No. 30 (tie) Purdue (5)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking — Oct. 7,
1968

Longest run at No. 1 — Five straight
polls, 1968 preseason-Oct. 7, 1968
Best decade — 1960s, five times
No. 1 team — 1968
Russo’s reasoning: After finishing
ninth and being a top-10 team most of the
1967, the Boilermakers were No. 1 for the
first time to start the 1968 season and stayed
there for the first five weeks. Purdue won a 1
vs. 2 matchup against Notre Dame in September and running back Leroy Keyes went on to
finish second to O.J. Simpson in the Heisman
voting, but the Boilermakers lost at Ohio
State and Minnesota to finish 8-2.
nnn
No. 34 (tie) California (4)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking — Oct. 15,
1951
Longest run at No. 1 — Three straight
polls, Oct. 18, 1937-Nov. 1, 1937
Best decade — 1930s, three times
Best No. 1 team — 1937
Russo’s reasoning: The Golden Bears
under coach Stub Allison were either No. 1
or No. 2 all season, with only a scoreless tie
against Washington blemishing their record.
Cal finished off the season beating Alabama
13-0 in the Rose Bowl.
nnn
No. 34 (tie) Cornell (4)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking — Nov. 4,
1940
Longest run at No. 1 — Four straight
polls, Oct. 14, 1940-Nov. 4, 1940
No. 1 team — 1940
Russo’s reasoning: The only Ivy League
team to hold the top spot in the AP poll,
though it should be noted that the Ivy League
didn’t become an official NCAA conference
until 1954. Big Red beat Army, Syracuse
and Ohio State by a combined 99-13 during a
three-week stretch but lost its final two games
to Dartmouth (3-0) and Penn (22-20).
nnn
No. 34 (tie) BYU (4)
Championships — One (1984)
Most recent No. 1 ranking —1984 final
Longest run at No. 1 — Four straight
polls, Nov. 20, 1984-1984 final
No. 1 team — 1984
Russo’s reasoning: The Cougars were
the only undefeated major college team in
a strange season that gave coach LaVell Edwards his only national championship. The
only ranked team BYU beat was in its opener
against No. 3 Pitt, but the Panthers finished
3-7-1. A hobbled quarterback Robbie Bosco
led the Cougars to a 24-17 victory in the Holiday Bowl against Michigan (6-6) to cap a 13-0
season.
nnn
No. 37 Virginia (3)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking — Oct. 30,
1990
Longest run at No. 1 — Three straight
polls, Oct. 16, 1990-Oct. 30, 1990
No. 1 team — 1990
Russo’s reasoning: The Moores (quarterback Shawn and receiver Herman) had the
Cavaliers No. 1 in the country when they lost
a thriller 41-38 to Georgia Tech, which went
on to an unbeaten season. The Cavaliers’ season came apart as they lost their final three
games to finish 8-4 and ranked No. 23.
nnn
No. 38 (tie) TCU (2)
Championships — One (1938)
Most recent No. 1 ranking — 1938 final
Longest run at No. 1 — Never ranked
No. 1 in consecutive weeks
No. 1 team — 1938
Russo’s reasoning: Led by quarterback
Davey O’Brien, the guy who now has a trophy
named after him, the Horned Frogs went undefeated, including a 15-7 victory in the Sugar
Bowl against Carnegie Mellon.
nnn
No. 38 (tie) SMU (2)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking — Oct. 23,
1950-Oct. 30, 1950
No. 1 team — 1950
Russo’s reasoning: A 5-0 start to the
season that included victories against Georgia Tech, No. 11 Ohio State and No. 15 Rice
put the Mustangs coached by H.N. Russell on
top of the polls in late October. They finished
the season losing four of five to Southwest
Conference rivals and ended up 6-4 and unranked.
nnn
No. 38 (tie) Missouri (2)
Championships — None
Most recent No. 1 ranking — Nov. 25,
2007
Longest run at No. 1 — Never ranked
No. 1 in consecutive weeks
Best No. 1 team — 1960
Russo’s reasoning: The 1960 and 2007
teams were No. 1 for one week late in the season, With a chance to win a national championship — or at least play for it — both Tigers
teams lost. The 1960 team, which lost 23-7 in
its season finale against rival Kansas, gets
the close call as the best Missouri No. 1 team
over quarterback Chase Daniel’s 2007 squad.
Coach Dan Devine’s ‘60 team won five road
games, including at No. 20 Penn State and
No. 18 Colorado, and dominated its competition until losing to the Jayhawks at home and
finished No. 5 in the nation. The ‘07 team lost
to Oklahoma twice and finished No. 4.
nnn
No. 41 (tie) Boston College (1)
Championships — None
No. 1 ranking — Nov. 23, 1942
No. 1 team — 1942
Russo’s reasoning: The Eagles started
8-0 and had allowed only 19 points when they
reached No. 1, but the most memorable thing
about their stay was probably how it ended.
BC was upset 55-12 by a Holy Cross team
that was 4-4-1. Boston College also lost to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and the closest the
Eagles have been to No. 1 again was No. 2 in
2007 with Matt Ryan at quarterback.
nnn
No. 41 (tie) North Carolina (1)
Championships — None
No. 1 ranking — Oct. 11, 1948
No. 1 team — 1948
Russo’s reasoning: The Tar Heels
opened the season with wins against Texas
and Georgia and quickly rose to No. 1, led
by halfback Charlie Justice, who was the
Heisman Trophy runner-up. Coach Carl Snavely’s team kept winning but still slipped to
No. 3 after wins by Notre Dame and Michigan. A 6-6 tie with William & Mary dropped
UNC to sixth before finishing No. 4. The
Heels ended up losing the Sugar Bowl to
Oklahoma 14-6.
nnn
No. 41 (tie) Wisconsin (1)
Championships — None
No. 1 ranking — Oct. 6, 1952
No. 1 team — 1952
Russo’s reasoning: The Badgers beat
No. 2 Illinois 20-6 for their second win of
the season and jumped from No. 8 to No. 1
for the only time in school history. The very
next week they lost 23-14 at Ohio State. With
sophomore running back Alan Ameche, who
would go on to win the Heisman in 1954, Wisconsin finished the regular season 6-2-1 and
played in the school’s first Rose Bowl. The
Badgers lost 7-0 to Southern California.
nnn
No. 41 (tie) Arkansas (1)
Championships — None
No. 1 ranking — Oct. 18, 1965
No. 1 team — 1965
Russo’s reasoning: The Razorbacks
reached No. 1 by beating top-ranked Texas
27-24, but they didn’t stay long even though
they kept winning until facing LSU in the
Cotton Bowl. Arkansas lost 14-7 to finish
10-1 and No. 2 in the country under coach
Frank Broyles.

The Dispatch • www.cdispatch.com

college football preview

Sunday, August 14, 2016

15

Alabama
Continued from Page 9

Stan Beall/Dispatch File Photo

Ole Miss wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo tied for fifth in the Southeastern
Conference and 62nd nationally with seven touchdown catches. He ranked seventh
among SEC players and 69th nationally with 15.89 yards per catch.

Rebels

Continued from Page 7
offensive lineman Laremy
Tunsil’s family. The ACT
is a standardized test that
colleges use to gauge the
aptitude of prospective
students.
Of the 28 violations,
16 are Level I, the most
serious. Nine of those
levied against the football
program occurred under
Freeze. Four were Level
I violations, two Level II,
and three Level III.
Ole Miss self-imposed
the loss of 11 football
scholarships, beginning
with one last season and
running until 2018.
“If you are a coach and
you have the rocky times,
trials, and tribulations
and it causes you to lose
all of the joy that comes
with working with relationships you have within
your building and your
team, you’re going to be
a roller coaster,” Freeze
said.
Kelly was draft eligible after last season, but
he decided to return to
school. Kelly’s decision
was one of the few positives for Freeze in the
offseason. Kelly began
his career at Clemson, but
transferred to East Mississippi Community College in 2014. He arrived in
Oxford for spring practice
in 2015 and was immediately thrown into the mix
for the starting position.
He won the job in the fall
and went on to throw for
4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Poised for a big senior

Engram

season, Kelly said the investigation hasn’t entered
his mind very often.
“We don’t talk about
it at all. We’re focused on
Florida State, and that’s
all that’s on our minds,”
Kelly said.
Kelly wasn’t the only
key performer who opted
to return to school. Tight
end Evan Engram decided to come back for his senior season after catching
38 passes for 464 yards
and two touchdowns last
season.
Engram said the investigation wasn’t a distraction for the Rebels in
spring drills or summer
conditioning.
“We don’t worry about
outsiders,” Engram said.
“It doesn’t matter. We
have people taking care of
that. We just worry about
football. We show up to
work every day to get better and work toward our
goals, which are winning
in Atlanta and competing
for a national championship.”
With a tough opener
and a brutal SEC schedule, a small distraction
could be disastrous. Ole
Miss plays host to Alabama and Georgia in
September. Alabama has
three losses in the last
two seasons, including
two to Ole Miss. Ole Miss’
first road game is Oct. 15
at Arkansas. The Razorbacks won a crazy 53-52
overtime game last season in Oxford. Ole Miss
travels to Texas A&M and

Saban faces similar
uncertainty this season.
With another quarterback battle on his hands
and key playmakers gone
on both sides of the ball,
there are some tremendous challenges. One of
them will come in the season opener against Southern California at 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 3 (WKDH-WTVA), in Arlington,
Texas.
Saban feels the biggest
challenge the 2016 team
will face is building chemistry and working toward
a common goal. But he
believes the Crimson Tide
will rise to the occasion.
“When we have a critical mass of players that
buy into the team, the
principles and values
of the team, make good
choices and decisions
relative to the team, the
rules of the team, we
seem like we’ve done pretty well in the past,” Saban
said. “When we have a
lot of people preoccupied
with other things, like
how much they’re going
to play, or who their agent
is going to be next year,
we don’t seem to do nearly
as well.”
With a solid spring and
good conditioning work
in the summer, Saban
feels like steps were taken
to ensure success. Saban
said it’s a process and not
an overnight fix.
Senior tight end O.J.
Howard
said
Saban
doesn’t have to say much

because the players understand what’s at stake
playing at Alabama. Expectations are always
high and a national championship is expected.
Howard and the other
players want to live up to
that. They already have
forgotten about last season’s championship.
“This team hasn’t done
anything yet,” Howard
said. “We’re a new team.
We have to establish ourselves. Everyone is working hard, and no one is
complacent. New players
have bought into the process. The older guys are
doing the things. I think
we’ll be fine this season.”
Howard had 38 receptions for 602 yards and two
touchdowns last season.
He shined against Clemson with five catches for a
career-high 208 yards and
two touchdowns. His role
is expected to increase, and
he could be a safety blanket
for a new quarterback.
Junior
Cooper
Bateman, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, and
sophomore David Cornwell are vying to replace
Jake Coker. Bateman
started one game last
season, but he became
Coker’s backup. Bateman
was 37 of 52 for 291 yards
and
one
touchdown
against two interceptions.
Saban said all three
have made significant
progress, but nothing is
settled.
“I would love it if one

of them separated themselves sooner rather than
later, but I don’t think this
is something that you can
force to happen,” Saban
said. “If you try to do that,
you put a guy in there and
it doesn’t work, you’ve got
to make changes, so you
create more controversy sometimes doing that
than just trying to let it
happen.
“Somebody has got to
become the leader, the
guy that can go out there
and execute and win the
confidence of his teammates and the players he
plays with on offense.”
Coker, a transfer from
Florida State, became that
leader. He threw for 3,110
yards and 21 touchdowns
(eight interceptions).
Saban, who has won
four national championships at Alabama and one
at LSU, has a track record
of inspiring team chemistry. He feels the 2016
squad has enough leaders
to help build those bonds,
but he also knows it is up
to the players to make it
happen.
“I think everybody
needs to buy in to the
things that are going to
help them play the absolute best football on our
team to create an identity
for this team,” Saban said.
“What we’ve done in the
past is not going to help
us.”
Follow Dispatch sports
writer Ben Wait on Twitter
@bcwait

Vanderbilt and plays host
to Auburn and Mississippi State in the Battle for
the Golden Egg.
Since the SEC split into
Eastern and Western Divisions in 1992, Ole Miss
never has won the West
outright and competed in
the SEC championship in
Atlanta.
“I like to call it the
gauntlet,” Engram said.
“It’s powerhouses week
in and week out. With our
schedule this year, it’s
really tough at the beginning. But that’s competing in the SEC, and that’s
why it’s so successful. We
take pride in it and we
work each and every day.”
Last month, the media
picked Ole Miss to finish
behind LSU and Alabama
in the SEC West in the
preseason poll. Freeze
and the Rebels feel differently and intend to prove
people wrong.
Freeze knows he will
have to contend with the
uncertainty of the timing
of the NCAA investigation, but he and his players are ready for the challenge.
“How can you not be
motivated to go to work
every day, to help prepare
them for life, for academic life and to compete at a
high level? It’s really not
as hard as it may seem,”
Freeze said.
Alabama Athletic Media Relations
Follow Dispatch sports Alabama’s victory against Clemson in the 2016 College Football Playoff National
writer Ben Wait on Twitter Championship Game helped Nick Saban join Paul “Bear” Bryant as the only two
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Continued from Page 8
him more catches. We’ve got
to feed him more because he’s
a great player. Not only is he
a great player, but he’s a great
leader, too, and can really help
the offense.”
Engram is Ole Miss’ all-time
leader in catches (97) and yards
(1,394) for a tight end. He ranks
fourth among returning SEC
players in career yards receiving.
Behind Engram is seniors
Hunter Thurley and Taz Zetter-

Kelly

gen. The two have combined for
seven catches.
Engram is expected to work
with Adeboyejo and junior Damore’ea Stringfellow to form a
deadly trio. Former Starkville
High School standout A.J.
Brown also will compete for
playing time.
Stringfellow had 36 catches
for 503 yards and five touchdowns last season. Kelly spoke
highly of senior Derrick Jones,
a former standout at Eupora

High. He began his career splitting time between defensive
back and wide receiver, but he
played solely at wide receiver
last season. He had six catches
for 120 yards.
“We’re just building chemistry and working on basics
and attacking our workouts together,” Engram said. “We’re
getting the team ready and the
team chemistry levels up working as an offense, defense, and
as a team.”

Last month, the media
named Engram second-team
All-Southeastern Conference.
Alabama tight end O.J. Howard
earned first-team honors.
That doesn’t bother Engram
because he has high expectations for his team. One of the
reasons he returned was to
compete for a SEC title and a
national championship. He feels
the Rebels can accomplish both
goals.
Engram also returned to

Ole Miss for personal reasons.
He wants to improve his stock
in the NFL draft. Although a
team player, winning the John
Mackey Award, which is given
annually to the nation’s most
outstanding tight end, will be a
constant motivator.
“That’s a huge honor I would
love to receive at the end of the
season,” Engram said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer
Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait

Continued from Page 8
quarterback. He was the
first quarterback to lead
Ole Miss to five victories
against top-25 ranked
teams, and the first QB
to lead Ole Miss to wins
against Alabama, Auburn,
and LSU in the same
season.
Kelly
accomplished
those feats with a dazzling season that saw him
record the most wins by
a first-year starting Ole
Miss quarterback (10)
since Jake Gibbs in 1959.
He led the Southeastern
Conference in passing
(310.9 yards per game,
10th in nation), total offense (349.4 ypg., seventh
in nation), passing touchdowns (31, ninth in nation), and points responsible for (246, seventh in
nation). His accomplishments earned him second-team All-SEC honors
from the coaches and The
Associated Press.
Kelly didn’t stop there.
He gained national notoriety with 302 yards and
four touchdowns in a 4820 victory against Oklahoma State in the Sugar
Bowl. Kelly became the

first Ole Miss player to
win Sugar Bowl MVP
honors since Archie Manning in 1970.
Kelly finished the season with 4,042 yards,
31 touchdowns, and 13
interceptions. He also
rushed for 500 yards and
10 touchdowns.
“I love Chad Kelly’s
work ethic,” Ole Miss
coach Hugh Freeze said.
“He is a gym rat and studies more film than probably the coaches do. He’s
going lead our football
team very, very well.”
Kelly wouldn’t have
had a chance to do that
if he didn’t work through
trouble early in his career. Prior to arriving
at Ole Miss, Kelly was
arrested after an altercation outside a nightclub in
his hometown of Buffalo,
New York. He reached a
plea agreement and the
criminal charges were
dropped. He participated
in spring drills with the
Rebels in 2015, but didn’t
win the starting job until
fall camp.
Some worried Kelly would encounter the

same problems he faced
at Clemson, where he
butted heads with Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney.
Those issues played a role
in his dismissal.
Kelly’s
relationship
with Freeze also started awkwardly following
an incident in practice.
Neither Freeze nor Kelly
would go into detail about
it, but it changed how they
worked with each other.
“We went through our
ups and downs,” Kelly
said. “I really didn’t know
what type of coach he was
with his sarcasm and the
way he speaks with this
and that, so we had to
kind of get a feel for each
other. Since that little incident we had with each
other, not saying it was a
big incident, it has definitely made us grow closer to each other.”
Kelly didn’t need a lot
of time to adjust to the
SEC. He had no problem
leading Ole Miss into Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and
beating Alabama 43-37,
throwing for 341 yards
and three touchdowns
(no interceptions).

But Kelly threw 11
touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his next six
games against Vanderbilt, Florida, New Mexico
State, Memphis, Texas
A&M, and Auburn. Ole
Miss lost to Florida and
Memphis.
In the final three regular-season games against
Arkansas, LSU, and Mississippi State, Kelly had
seven touchdowns and no
interceptions.
Kelly hopes to build
on the momentum from
those games and the victory against Oklahoma
State. Many expect him to
pick up where he left off.
Last month, the media selected him first-team AllSEC. He also was named
to the Walter Camp (best
player), Maxwell (best
player), Davey O’Brien
(best quarterback), and
Johnny Unitas Golden
Arm Award (best senior
quarterback) watch lists.
Kelly’s athletic ability has opened up the
Ole Miss offense. With
enough size and speed
to run when the pocket
breaks down, he has giv-

en SEC defenses trouble.
The read option, something Freeze wants to use
often, has given Kelly an
edge.
“They have to bring
another guy into the box,”
Kelly said. “When teams
start doing that, it opens
up the passing game even
more. That’s kind of what
it showed, us passing it
down the field with them
bringing an extra guy in
the box.”
Kelly is the nephew of
former Buffalo Bills quarterback and Pro Football
Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Chad said his uncle’s
battle with cancer has inspired him to be a better
person and a better quarterback. They talk almost
every day and Jim played
a role in developing Chad.
But Chad said his father,
Kevin, has been the biggest influence on his
growth as a quarterback.
“Ever since I was about
8 years old, he was out at a
park with me every single
day, 365 days. He never
missed a day,” Chad said.
“Whether it was eight
o’clock at night or eight

o’clock in the morning,
he was always there, just
trying to get me better.
He learned that from his
six brothers and from my
mom. All they knew is to
work hard and be as great
as your work ethic. That’s
really what’s helped me
get to where I am today.”
Kelly’s ability to make
the most of his chance at
Ole Miss likely will help
him earn a shot to play
professional football. Being Jim Kelly’s nephew
has been a blessing and
a burden. But Chad Kelly doesn’t want to be remembered as “Jim Kelly’s
nephew,” so he wants to
have an even bigger season and move on to the
NFL.
“I want to be remembered as the greatest
quarterback to ever play,”
Chad said. “You have to
go out and prove it first
and you have to work
hard, too.”
Follow Dispatch sports
writer Ben Wait on Twitter
@bcwait

16 Sunday, August 14, 2016

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