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March 24, 2017

MSU Research Leads to Football Helmet That Reduces Concussions

By bryanflynn

Football players could soon be safer from concussions and if so, they will have Mississippi State University to thank for that. Researchers at the Bagley School of Engineering are studying ways to reduce concussions.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that the U.S. has an estimated four million concussion each year. Football is one of the sports that has come under fire for concussions after recently retired players started showing signs of brain damage.

Several former players who have allowed scientists to study their brains have been shown to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Scientists are just now discovering the condition and can only make a diagnosis after death. Some of the players discovered to have CTE died of natural cause but other committed suicide to have their brains studied.

The researchers at MSU have turned to nature to look for answers to protect the human brain from concussions, studying the shock mitigation within the horns of big rams and woodpeckers’ beaks to learn how different materials react to shock mitigation.

These researchers have learned that most brain injuries don’t come from that big hit we all cringe at, but instead from the stress waves it causes. The composition of the beak and bone of a woodpecker allows it absorb shocks 10 times greater than those inflicted on football players. Similar, the spiral shape of a ram’s horns help provide an escape route of those dangerous shock waves.

Research has led the scientists at MSU to design a helmet out of advanced materials such as composite and titanium to make the outer shell and facemask, with the facemask lighter. The design shifts center of gravity away from the neck to the nose region while making the helmets stronger and more durable.

Another innovation is on the inside. Researchers have replaced the traditional foam in helmets with foam made out of microstructures similar to a rams’ horns. Tests have shown that the MSU helmet is three times less likely to prevent a concussion.

MSU just isn’t trying to make a better helmet to protect players. Researchers are working on a mouth guard that would record motions and help detect concussions.

The MSU team created a startup company named Rush Predictions Protective Systems and is working with another MSU startup company named Predictive Design Technologies. This research has led to 12 patents with a possibility for more on the way.

These scientists are hoping to use the new helmets during the Bulldogs’ spring training camp this year. MSU’s research could lead to fewer concussions, which could make the game safer for players and help reduce injuries.

March 23, 2017

Payton-Manziel Super Bowl Meet-up

By bryanflynn

One of the more interesting stories this week is that New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton met with former NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel during Super Bowl week.

There are few examples of a player destroying their career the way Manziel has. NFL teams are known to put up with a lot of crap from players with loads of talent. Heck, any sports-related field is willing to put up with a ton from stars because they are stars, including the MLB, NBA and even the WWE. Just check out the stuff that wrestler Shawn Michaels pulled in his younger years, but “The Showstopper” was one of the greatest talents ever in the ring.

The general consensus has been that it is all right to party like a rock star on Saturday if you can deliver the goods on Sunday. Famed New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath partied with the best of them but still could get it done when the game started. So could New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle. Manziel, on the other hand, couldn’t pull off the feat when the Cleveland Browns drafted him in 2014.

It worked for the quarterback when he was at Texas A&M University and made the news for his bad behavior. The same wild and crazy lifestyle didn’t go over well in the NFL, where players are supposed to be prepared on game day.

Since the Browns drafted in the first round with the 22nd overall pick, the former Heisman Trophy winner seemed to be in scandal after scandal. On the field, Manziel’s talent couldn’t eclipse the dumpster fire that he was off the field.

His antics eventually got old, and the Browns cut him in March 2016. No team wanted him during the offseason, and not many teams have shown interest in the quarterback.

If any coach could get a player to straighten up and live up to the talent that he possesses, it would be Payton. Payton and his current quarterback, Drew Brees, wouldn’t let Manziel act the way that he did with the Browns.

New Orleans, as a city, would be the big risk for signing Manziel. Few cities in America have a reputation for being a place to have a good time like The Big Easy. The temptation for Manziel would be great, and that is where Payton and Brees would have to keep him in check.

It doesn’t seem likely that New Orleans will sign Manziel, but Brees is 38 years old and in the final year of his contract. Payton doesn’t hurt anything by kicking the tires on a quarterback who could be really talented if he fixed his work ethic and personal life.

Remember Michaels mentioned above. Most of the superstars in the WWE disliked him when his back issues forced him to to leave the company. He later returned with the company after a four-and-half-year absence as a better person, according ...

March 22, 2017

Saints Sign Te’o

By bryanflynn

While we wait to hear about a possible deal between the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots for cornerback Malcolm Butler, the Saints still are working on fixing their defense, which was one of the worst in the league. It has gotten linebacker help with the poaching of former Carolina Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein.

New Orleans signed former San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o to a two-year deal. No financial details have been released, but it seems like a good bet that the Saints got a good deal.

Te’o missed 13 games last season after tearing his Achilles tendon in week three of the season in a game against the Indianapolis Colts. The 26-year-old has spent a good deal of time on the injury list, as he has missed 26 games in his four-year career.

He is an impact player on defense and started 34 out of 38 games, when healthy, for the Chargers. After San Diego drafted him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the linebacker amassed 221 tackles, 2 interceptions and 1.5 sacks. Te’o was named co-captain of the Chargers for the 2016-2017 season.

New Orleans is starting to get a logjam at linebacker with Te’o, Klein and returning starter Craig Robinson, who all play inside linebacker. The Saints could try to move one player to outside linebacker, but will Te’o have the speed after the Achilles injury?

The Saints, barring another trade, still have two first-round draft picks to use in late April. New Orleans is making an effort to improve its defensive unit.

Te’o was a star at the University of Notre Dame and led his team during his senior season of 2012 to the national championship game. He finished second for the Heisman Trophy that season.

Casual fans might remember the linebacker being misled in one of the more public versions of “catfishing” (when someone pretends to be someone else on the Internet and enters in online relationships with others. MTV produces a show on the subject.)

The linebacker thought he was having an online relationship with a woman, but in truth the woman wasn’t real, and he was being deceived. Things got worse. He told people that his girlfriend, who wasn’t real, had died. In real life, his grandmother had died around the same time.

It was one of the more bizarre sports stories in the last few years. Many believed the linebacker was in on the hoax until it was proven that he had been tricked.

Since entering the league, Te’o hasn’t be involved in any strange stories. The only time he makes the news is for playing or being hurt.

New Orleans doesn’t have to worry about him bring bad press because he has been drama free since joining the league four years ago. But the hoax of a fake-dead girlfriend might be what the public eventually remembers about the linebacker.

March 22, 2017

Bulldogs to Face Huskies in Sweet 16

By bryanflynn

In the first two rounds of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, things went as planned for Mississippi State University. The hosting Bulldogs switched up the starting lineup and rotation, but Head Coach Vic Schaefer made the changes work.

MSU got little resistance from opening-round foe No. 15-seed Troy University with a 110-69 win on Friday, March 17. The Bulldogs won an opening-round game for the eighth time in a row and topped 100 points for the first time in an NCAA Tournament.

The 41-point win is the largest in a tournament game and tied a school record for most three-pointers made in a tournament game with 12. Five players scored in double figures, with Blair Schaefer leading the way with a career-high 21 points. This is also the first time in MSU history that the program has won 30 games in a season.

At no time during that first contest did Troy lead after an 18-0 start by the Bulldogs. MSU got a much stiffer test in No. 7-seed DePaul University in the second round on Sunday, March 19. The Bulldogs’ 92-71 victory is even more impressive considering that MSU only led 32-31 at halftime.

In the third quarter, MSU took over the game and began to pull away. By the midpoint of the fourth quarter, no one could doubt the outcome after the Bulldogs’ offensive explosion.

The victory means the team will finish 12-1 at home and continues to set the school record for victories, now at 31 wins. It also puts the team in the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight year and for the third time in program history.

Six players finished in double figures against DePaul, with Schaefer scoring 18 points to lead the team for second time in the tournament. Dominique Dillingham also scored 10 points in the game to reach 1,000 points for her career.

In the first two rounds, MSU scored a total 202 points.

The Bulldogs had to wait until late Monday, March 20, to find out which team they would play in the round of 16, as MSU will face the winner between the No. 6-seed University of Oklahoma and the No. 3-seed University of Washington.

Washington rolled over Oklahoma 108-82, with Huskies guard Kelsey Plum scoring 32 points and elevating the record for the most points in a women’s NCAA season. She broke Jackie Stiles’ record of 1,062 points back in February of this year, and currently sits at 1,080 points. The Washington star also has the second-most points in NCAA history for men or women, only behind Louisiana State University great “Pistol Pete” Maravich.

The Huskies have been on an offensive roll, just like the Bulldogs, in the NCAA Tournament. Washington has scored 91 and 108 points in its first two tournament games. MSU will have to figure out a way to slow down Plum and the rest of the high-powered Washington offense.

...
March 20, 2017

Busted Bracket

By bryanflynn

It’s WrestleMania season and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament time, so what better way to mark the occasion than mix the two biggest events ending in April? Plus, the NCAA and WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon are two of the most hated things in sports. If you could throw in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, as well, it would be the most hated triumvirate in all of sports.

My bracket started like Super John Cena and didn’t lay down for anyone early Thursday, March 16. Then, little slips began to happen, like No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee State University upsetting the No. 5 seed University of Minnesota, and No. 11 seed Xavier University beating the No. 6 seed University of Maryland.

By Friday, March 17, my bracket had turned from unbeatable into the Undertaker versus Mick Foley as Mankind in Hell in the Cell at King of the Ring 1998. My bracket, playing the role of Mankind, climbed to the top of the cell just to have the tournament, playing the role of Undertaker, throw it from 20 feet in the air onto the announcer's’ table.

Friday upsets included No. 10 seed Wichita State University over the No. 7 seed University of Dayton, the No. 11 seed University of Rhode Island upsetting No. 6 seed Creighton University, and the No. 11 seed University of Southern California taking down No. 6 seed Southern Methodist University.

Just like Mrs. Foley’s baby boy, instead of going up the ramp into the back on stretcher, my bracket decided to climb back onto the cage on Saturday, March 18. Once more, my bracket played Mankind to the tournament’s Undertaker and the poor bracket got chokeslammed through the steel cage.

That exact moment is how I felt when the No. 8 seed University of Wisconsin took down defending national champions and the No. 1 seed University of Villanova on Saturday. Xavier beating No. 3 seed Florida State University seemed like getting another choke slam but this time on thumbtacks. Yes, that is exactly how the match went after Foley lost a tooth and dislocated his jaw after the choke slam from the top of the cage.

By Sunday, March 19, my bracket had turned into Ric Flair with the tournament playing Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania XXIV. The tournament delivered its first Sweet Chin Music to my bracket with the No. 7 seed University of Michigan knocking off the No. 2 seed University of Louisville.

On Sunday night, the teary-eyed tournament looked at my bracket and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry; I love you,” just like Michaels to Flair, as it hit me with a second Sweet Chin Music as the No. 7 seed University of South Carolina upended No. 2 seed Duke University.

Things could have been worse for my poor, poor bracket if not for the Montreal Screwjob that the officials did on the No. 8 seed University ...

March 17, 2017

Pro Day Dates for MSU, JSU, UM and USM

By bryanflynn

Players that didn’t receive an invite to the NFL Combine or didn’t like their performance at the Combine still have a chance to catch the eyes of NFL scouts. Across the country, schools are holding what are known as Pro Days.

Draft-eligible players will workout in front of scouts at their respective universities. There are sometimes Canadian Football League scouts at these Pro Days, as well, looking for players that the NFL might not draft or sign as undrafted free agents.

This is one of the final chances for most players to showcase their skills to the NFL, and it might be the only chance for players at smaller schools to work out in front of scouts. A good Pro Day could get a player’s name called in the later stages of the draft or a phone call to join a team as an undrafted free agent. This is a day that can make or break players’ futures in football.

Four schools in this state have set up Pro Days, according to a schedule released on NFL.com. Universities have been holding Pro Days since March 7, but none of the schools in our state have held their mini-scouting combine.

The first school to hold a Pro Day is Mississippi State University on Wednesday, March 22, at 8:30 a.m. Any MSU players that are eligible for the draft can participate, including wide receiver Fred Ross, who will want to run faster than his 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

Jackson State University will hold its Pro Day on Thursday, March 23, at 10 a.m. JSU didn’t have any players get an invite to the Combine, so this will be their chance to show out for the first time in front of scouts.

The next Pro Day is for the University of Mississippi on Monday, April 3, at 9:45 a.m. Quarterback Chad Kelly didn’t get an invite to the Combine but will still have a chance to prove to NFL teams that he’s worth a shot.

Tight end Evan Engram might not run after a sensational Combine performance but could choose to show of his ability to catch passes to help move him up draft boards. Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo could do the same with pass catching and route-running drills.

The University of Southern Mississippi is the last school to hold a Pro Day, with the Golden Eagles getting in front of scouts on Tuesday, April 4, at 2 p.m. in the lone afternoon workout in our state.

Like JSU, none of the Golden Eagles received invites to the NFL Combine. This will be a chance for quarterback Nick Mullens to showcase his skills. Several other Golden Eagles could work their way into the draft with a good day, including offensive lineman Cameron Tom.

Players who attend a school that doesn’t hold a Pro Day are allowed to travel to one of these four universities. Most of the time, players attend a ...

March 16, 2017

Patriots Butler Visiting the Saints

By bryanflynn

Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler is in New Orleans visiting with the Saints. Normally this wouldn’t be super newsworthy with the NFL in the midst of free agency. But Butler is not a free agent, but a restricted free agent. That means he is free to sign with another team, but his current team, the New England Patriots, have the right to match the offer.

Since the star cornerback is a restricted free agent, New England placed a first-round tender on him. That means any team that signs Butler has to give up a first-round pick if the Patriots didn’t match the offer sheet that another team gave the cornerback.

If he plays for the Patriots this season and signs his free-agent tender, Butler will make $3.91 million in 2017. That means that if the Saints sign Butler to an offer sheet, New England will get New Orleans’ 11th overall pick.

The Saints can also work out the details for a long-term deal with Butler and let the two teams work out a trade after he signs his tender. That trade could include players, draft picks or both.

New Orleans would do better to go the second route and not sign Butler to a long-term deal and watch the Patriots get the No. 11 pick. The Patriots already traded their No. 32 pick to the Saints for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

New England might get its first-round pick back in a trade with the Saints. It seems unlikely that the Patriots would let Butler go for anything less after putting a first-round tender on him.

Butler’s name did come up during the Cooks trade, but he hadn’t signed his tender so he wasn’t under contract and couldn’t be traded. This just might be a long way around to get the deal both teams might have wanted in the first place.

New Orleans could decide also not to work a deal for Butler. The upcoming draft is deep in secondary players and a few potentially great players that can be selected.

Unlike drafted players, the Saints know what they are getting with Butler: a young player who has been named to the Pro Bowl and Second Team All-Pro. He brings two Super Bowl rings to New Orleans with him.

On the flipside, players the Patriots have moved on from generally don’t fare well in their next stop. New Orleans dealing for Butler could end up not being worth the price the team paid for him.

One more thing for the Saints to think about is Super Bowl LI. Butler struggled in coverage against the Atlanta Falcons. On one play, Butler got juked out of his cleats as a Falcons receiver blew past him.

He committed a pass-interference penalty in the game and played just okay enough not to stink the place up. If the Patriots hadn’t come back to win, Butler’s play might have ended ...

March 15, 2017

MSU Makes NCAA, UM and USM Earn NIT Bids

By bryanflynn

Only one men’s basketball team from Mississippi reached the postseason between the NCAA Tournament and the National Invitation Tournament: the University of Mississippi with its bid to the NIT.

Three women’s basketball teams from Mississippi are heading to the postseason. Mississippi State University, which earned a No. 2 seed in the Oklahoma City Region in the Women’s NCAA Tournament, leads them.

The team is in the midst of the best record in school history at 29-4 and broke the school record for most wins for the third straight year. The Bulldogs matched the school record for best finish in the SEC, second place, as they won a school-record 13 conference games.

The best season in school history gives MSU the right to host the first- and second-round games. If the Bulldogs advance to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, teams will play those games in Oklahoma City, and the Final Four will be in Dallas.

In the first round, MSU faces No. 15 seed, 22-10-record Troy University, which won the Sun Belt Tournament to get in the field of 64. If the Bulldogs win, they will face the winner of the game between No. 7 seed DePaul University (26-7), the regular season champion out of the Big East, and No. 10 seed University of Northern Iowa (24-11).

DePaul faces Northern Iowa at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 17, with MSU battling Troy at 1:30 p.m. Both first-round games will be on ESPN2. The winners of round one will play on Sunday, March 19, with the time and viewing platform to be announced.

Both the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi accepted at-large bids to the 64-team Women’s NIT. Both the Golden Eagles and the Rebels will host their first-round games.

USM hosts the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Wednesday, March 15, with tipoff at 6 p.m. The Golden Eagles will face the winner of the University of Alabama versus Mercer University game in the second round.

This is the Golden Eagles’ seventh trip to the WNIT in program history. The last appearance for USM happened after the 2014-2015 season.

The Rebels will host Grambling State University on Thursday, March 16, with a scheduled start of 6 p.m. UM will face the winner of the Tulane University versus the University of Texas at Arlington game.

This will be the eighth time UM earned a bid to the WNIT. The last time the Rebels were in this tournament was after the 2014-2015 season.

Second-round games of the WNIT are March 18 to March 21. Third-round games are from March 22 to March 24.

March 14, 2017

Saints Trade Cooks to Patriots

By bryanflynn

Free agency is off and running in the NFL, and nearly every team is wheeling and dealing to sign or trade players. On Friday, March 10, the New Orleans Saints traded leading receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots.

The Saints got the Patriots’ 32nd pick of the first round and their 103rd pick in the third round. New England received Cooks and the Saint’s 118th pick in the fourth round to complete the trade.

New England is making moves to try to for a couple more runs at the Super Bowl while they still have Tom Brady. The future Hall of Fame quarterback will be 40 years old when the 2017 season begins.

Cooks gives Brady a reliable deep threat that the Patriots haven’t had in recent years. If tight end Rob Gronkowski is healthy next season and Cooks proves his worth, New England could become a matchup nightmare in the red zone.

It is easy, in the short term, to think New England is getting the better end of this trade. Cooks’ salary is $1.56 million this year, but with his fifth-year option in 2018, his salary will jump up to $8.5 million.

New Orleans has shown that it is able to get rid of offensive players and still have one of the top offenses in the in the NFL. The Jimmy Graham trade is one example of how the Saints have moved offensive players while future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton have kept the offense rolling.

The Saints now own two picks in the first round (11th and 32nd overall), one pick in the second round (42nd overall) and two picks in the third round (76th and 103rd overall) in the first two days of the draft. New Orleans picks 196th overall in the sixth round and 229th in the seventh round to complete its draft.

In today’s NFL, first-, second- and third-round picks are supposed to help a team immediately in various ways. The first- and second-round picks should produce starters at some point in the season, and the third-round picks should make contributions early.

The best-case scenario is New Orleans getting five starters in this draft, but getting three starters out of five picks would be outstanding.

This draft is deep in wide receivers, so finding a cheaper replacement for Cooks isn’t out of the question. New Orleans needs plenty of help on defense, and this draft is also deep with pass-rushing defensive linemen and defensive backs, both areas of need for the Saints.

New Orleans could end up the long-term winner of this deal, depending on how well they draft. New England might just get Cooks for one season, and if the season doesn’t end in a trip to the Super Bowl, it could be a letdown.

The Saints’ other moves in free agency included re-signing defensive tackle Nick Fairley with just $9 million in guaranteed ...

March 13, 2017

Rebels Heading to Monmouth in the NIT

By bryanflynn

Mississippi has six Division I men’s basketball teams, but only one made a postseason tournament. The University of Mississippi is heading to the National Invitation Tournament as a fifth seed.

None of the men’s teams reached the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament after the field of 68 teams were revealed on Sunday, March 12. That left the NIT, which the field of which was revealed on Sunday night.

The Rebels reached the NIT after a 20-13 season and reaching the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. This is the ninth time UM has won 20 games under current head coach Andy Kennedy.

In the NIT, the higher seed normally hosts the games, but the lower seed will host if the higher seed can’t host for a number of reasons.

No. 4 Monmouth University from West Long Branch, N.J., will host the Rebels on Tuesday, March 14, at 6 p.m. ESPN3 will broadcast the game.

The Hawks are 27-7 overall and are the regular-season champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Monmouth lost to Siena in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament, but it being a regular-season conference champion guaranteed the team a spot in the 81st NIT.

If the Rebels get past the Hawks, they will play the winner of the Syracuse University and University of North Carolina-Greensboro game. Syracuse is the No. 1 seed in the bracket, and UNC-Greensboro is the No. 8 seed. The teams could play the second-round game on either Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

Syracuse will host any game it plays during until the semifinals at Madison Square Garden. If Syracuse loses, the Rebels have a chance to host a game if they keep winning in the tournament.

In the other half of the bracket, No. 6 seed Georgia Institute of Technology will host number No. 3 the University of Indiana. Normally Indiana would host this game, but the school’s basketball complex began undergoing renovations after the regular season ended.

The winner of the Georgia Tech-Indiana game will face the winner of the No. 2-seed University of Georgia against No. 7-seed Belmont University game. If UM reaches the quarterfinals, one of the four teams in this half of the bracket will be waiting in the next round.

This is the Rebels’ 12th overall NIT appearance and sixth appearance under Kennedy. Overall UM is 13-11 all-time in the NIT and 7-5 in the tournament, with Kennedy leading the team. The Rebels have reached the final four of the tournament twice in 2008 and 2010, both times under Kennedy’s guidance.

Correction: An earlier version of this post had the Rebels facing the lower half of the bracket in New York the semifinals but it should have stated the lower half of the bracket will be hosted by the highest seed remaining in the quarterfinals. Sorry for this error, I read the bracket incorrectly.

March 9, 2017

Thoughts on Day Four of the NFL Combine

By bryanflynn

Defensive backs were on display for the final day of on-the-field workouts at the 2017 NFL Combine. The secondary group is the largest at this combine, as the passing game has become a bigger part of the NFL.

When discussing defensive backs, it is good to know terms like tight hips, good feet, or good movement. Tight hips means a player struggles in turns and quickly changing directions, good feet are quick, up and down with no wasted steps, and good movement is the opposite of tight hips as a player is good or great at making change of directions or quick turns.

The defensive backs were split into two groups, with safeties and cornerbacks working out together in both. The two are vastly different positions, so when evaluating a player, it helps to know if they will be a corner or a safety.

Out of the group-one cornerbacks, Shaquill Griffin from the University of Central Florida, is going to move up draft boards with his 4.38-second run in the 40-yard dash. He did well during the on-the-field drills, showing good movement and speed.

Adoree’ Jackson out of the University of Southern California is a converted wide receiver, and it showed with his 4.42-second 40-yard dash and his ball-catching skills. He will be an instant help in one team’s return game.

Another converted wide receiver is Brian Allen from the University of Utah. He ran the 40-yard dash in a solid 4.48 seconds and showed good feet and ball skills. He will also help in the return game for whichever team drafts him.

Chidobe Awuzie out of the University of Colorado ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, and Sidney Jones from the University of Washington ran it in 4.47 seconds, but both showed some tight hips, when making turns or changing directions. Awuzie and Jones showed some good ball skills and moved well overall.

Marlon Humphrey out of the University of Alabama ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash. He moved well and has good DNA since his father, Bobby Humphrey, played in the NFL at running back.

A group-one safety that stood out right from the get-go was Josh Jones from North Carolina State University who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds. That is an outstanding time for a safety, and he showed good movement and ball skills.

Budda Baker out of Washington and Delano Hill out of the University of Michigan are the top safeties in this draft class, with 4.46-second and 4.48-second runs, respectively. Both moved well and showed good footwork, but they struggled with catching the ball at times.

Jamal Adams out of Louisiana State University ran a slower 40-yard dash than other top safeties at 4.56 seconds, but he has a good family tree, with his father, George Adams, being a former NFL running back. He could still run better on his Pro Day. Adams looked faster than his 40-yard time during the on-the-field drills.

A ...

March 7, 2017

SEC Men’s, SWAC and C-USA Men’s and Women’s Tournaments Preview

By bryanflynn

In the championship game of this year’s SEC Women’s Tournament, the University of South Carolina bested Mississippi State University 59-49. The Gamecocks earned the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Women’s Tournament, but the Bulldogs will get an at-large bid.

This week is when the SEC, Conference USA and SWAC men’s tournaments will happen. The women’s tournaments this week are in C-USA and SWAC.

Starting Tuesday, March 7, is the men’s and women’s SWAC Tournament. A change this year is that the higher seeds will host the lower seeds in the quarterfinals, and only the top eight teams made it. All women’s quarterfinal games in the SWAC Tournament will tip off at 5:30 p.m.

In the SWAC women’s tournament, No. 1 seed Grambling State University hosts No. 8 seed Mississippi Valley State University. If MVSU wins, it will face the winner of No. 4 seed Southern University versus No. 5 seed Alcorn State University, which will be on Friday, March 10, at noon.

Jackson State University didn’t make the women’s tournament after finishing ninth in the league with a 12-16 overall record and 6-12 SWAC record.

Alcorn State enters the tournament with a 9-20 overall record and a 9-9 mark in conference play. At the end of the regular season, MVSU is 10-19 overall and 7-11 in the SWAC. Neither team will make the NCAA Tournament unless they get the automatic bid by winning this tournament.

In the SWAC Men’s Tournament, No. 2 seed Alcorn State hosts No. 8 seed Mississippi Valley State at 6 p.m. The winner of the ASU/MVSU game, which will be on Friday, March 10, at 8:30 p.m., will face the winner of No. 3 seed Southern versus No. 6 seed Jackson State game that tips off at 7:30 p.m.

The Braves enter the tournament with a 16-13 overall record and 13-5 SWAC record. JSU comes into the SWAC Tournament with a 14-17 overall record and a 10-8 conference record. The Delta Devils finished the regular season with a 7-24 overall record and 7-11 SWAC record.

None of the men’s SWAC teams are going to the postseason unless they win this tournament. Alcorn State might have an outside chance at the Men’s Postseason National Invitation Tournament. Fans can hear the SWAC games on the respective universities’ radio stations.

The University of Southern Mississippi is the third seed in the C-USA Women’s Tournament. The team enters the conference tournament with a 21-9 overall record and a 13-5 record in C-USA play.

On Thursday, March 9, No. 3 seed Golden Eagles will face the winner of the No. 6 seed Old Dominion University versus No. 11 seed University of Texas at El Paso game. Fans can stream all the games on Campus Insiders.

Experts say USM isn’t in the NCAA Women’s Tournament. But a strong showing in the C-USA Tournament and having the other bubble team slip up might open the ...

March 6, 2017

Thoughts on Day Three of the NFL Combine

By bryanflynn

Day three of the NFL Combine was all about big men running fast. It is the first day that the term “tweener” (a player who falls between two positions) was used a good bit.

The defensive linemen were split into two groups. Group one featured what could be the top pick in the draft in Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M University.

Garrett ran a great 4.64 second 40-yard dash, and the rest of his measurables were outstanding. He breezed through most of the on-the-field drills and took part in linebacker drills.

There is no way he wouldn’t last past the top five picks in the draft. A team at the top could overreach on a quarterback, but Garrett is going to be special.

Jonathan Allen out of the University of Alabama ran a 5.00-second 40-yard dash. Allen is going to go in the first round at some point, and he showed his skills in measurables and on-the-field drills.

Two former University of Mississippi players were in group one, Fadol Brown and D.J. Jones. Brown ended up with a solid day that wasn’t special, but he didn’t hurt himself with his 4.94-second 40-yard dash.

On the other hand, Jones was impressive for a 320-pound player who will play nose guard and defensive tackle. He ran a 5.04 second in the 40-yard dash. A team that needs some help stopping the run is going to have to go back and watch Jones’ tape. The former Rebel helped himself at the Combine.

Other players in group one who helped themselves were Daeshon Hall out of Texas A&M, Trey Hendrickson out of Florida Atlantic University, Taco Charlton out of the University of Michigan and Carl Lawson out of Auburn University.

Group two featured Haason Reddick out of Temple University. If you don’t know who Reddick is, get to know him because he is a first-round pick with his 4.52-second 40-yard dash.

He worked with the defensive linemen, but at 237 pounds, he will be a linebacker at the next level. He ran well all day, and his measurables were solid as made himself a top pick.

Tim Williams out of Alabama is another player who will be linebacker at the next level with a 4.68-second 40-yard dash. He will be in the mix for a first- or early-second-round pick.

Other players who helped themselves were Stevie Tu’ikolovatu out of the University of Southern California, Soloman Thomas out of Stanford University, Pita Taumoepenu out of the University of Utah, and Derek Rivers and Avery Moss out of Youngstown State University.

Defensive line is going to another position that is deep in this year’s draft.

During the last group of day three, linebackers worked out, but a notable name was missing. Reuben Foster out of Alabama was sent home after getting into an argument with medical staff at the Combine.

That is going to raise questions about the young man, as ...

March 6, 2017

Thoughts on Day Two of the NFL Combine

By bryanflynn

Day two of the NFL Combine was the longest, as the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends hit the field. The quarterbacks and wide receivers broke into two groups, so I’ll give my thoughts on group one and then group two.

Group one showed why this is a weak quarterback class. None of the quarterbacks were terrible, but they all had flaws. This group might be good if it gets a chance to develop and not start right away. It was surprising to see Trevor Knight out of the Texas A&M University was the fastest quarterback in group one with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash.

Many wide receivers in group one, on the other hand, ran fast times. There were several 4.42-second 40-yard dashes.

In that first group was former University of Mississippi wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, who ran it in 4.2 seconds. The former Rebel did nothing to hurt his draft stock, making good catches and running with great speed. If anything, Adeboyejo should have helped himself with his work at the Combine. All he has to do is replicate his performance at the Rebels’ Pro Day.

Group two featured what many believe are the top two quarterbacks in this draft, Deshaun Watson out of Clemson University and Mitchell Trubisky out of the University of North Carolina. Watson and Trubisky couldn’t beat the time that Knight ran in group one.

During the on-the-field drills, Watson, Trubisky and Texas Tech University’s Patrick Mahomes looked like the top three quarterback in this draft. None seemed to be first-round picks, but all three could end up being drafted quickly regardless. If teams draft them too high, it will be interesting to see how those players’ careers turn out.

The wide receivers in group two might have been faster overall than the receivers in group one. Two surprises in group two is that Speedy Noil out of Texas A&M and Mike Williams out of Clemson didn’t run the 40-yard dash.

Social media was abuzz when University of Washington wide receiver John Ross ran a 4.22-second 40-yard dash, though he got cramps and didn’t run his second dash or take part in the on-the-field drills. If Al Davis was still alive, the Raiders would likely have taken a chance on Ross.

Fred Ross out of Mississippi State University didn’t do anything to hurt himself, but he didn’t move up either. He ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash, which wasn’t bad but was middle of the pack.

Overall, this looks like a deep class for wide receivers. There are going to be plenty of good receivers on all three days of the draft. There are plenty of positions in this draft with no clear top three to four players, but the position groups as a whole are deep.

The final group of the day was the tight ends. Most thought this would be a deep class for tight ends, and it didn’t disappoint. Most of the tight ends ...

March 6, 2017

Thoughts on Day One of the NFL Combine

By bryanflynn

Day one of the NFL Combine is in the books. The opening day saw the offensive linemen and running backs take center stage in Indianapolis.

Many sports analysts considered offensive-line class weak going into the Combine, and the athletes didn’t do much to change that perception. There are some good players, but overall, it is not very deep. However, a bulk of players will still hear their names on day three of the draft.

Three players who will go early in the draft are Cam Robinson out of the University of Alabama, Garett Bolles out of the University of Utah and Forest Lamp out of Western Kentucky University. On the field, they did nothing to hurt their chances of getting drafted quickly.

Teams are also going to take a long look at Texas Christian University’s Aviante Collins, who ran a 4.81-second 40-yard dash. It was the best time for the offensive linemen, with Bolles in second place at 4.95 seconds. Lamp was fourth with a 5-second 40-yard dash, and Robinson tied with several players for eighth place.

Collins’ time will likely attract a few teams take a look at his tape and could move him up the draft. He’ll really move up if he can repeat that time at his Pro Day.

Jessamen Dunker out of Tennessee State University finished third in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.98 seconds. He had a tendency to pick his feet up too high, but there is plenty of potential for a team who likes his speed.

Ethan Cooper from Indiana University of Pennsylvania ended up being a small-school participant that caught my eye. He might not go early, but like Dunker, he looked like he had plenty to work with on the field.

Justin Senior out of Mississippi State University ran a 5.55-second 40-yard dash, which wasn’t blazing but was nowhere near the slowest time of the offensive linemen. He had a solid day but tended to not bend his knees or bend at his hips as he got tired. Senior should hear his name called on day three of the draft.

While the offensive-line class in this draft is somewhat shallow this year, the opposite could be said of the running backs. This is one of the deepest positions in this draft, with some potential superstars.

One surprise happened to be that this group only had eight players run a sub-4.50-second 40-yard dash. Most of the running backs didn’t showcase blazing speeding.

Early in the day, a lot the talk focused on Louisiana State University running back Leonard Fournette, who weighs 240 pounds, had a poor vertical jump and didn’t do the broad jump. Those questions started to go away after Fournette ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash. That is an outstanding time for a running back as big as he is.

Fournette did struggle in the passing drills, as he double-caught balls or dropped them. He struggled catching the ...

March 3, 2017

Saints’ Future Could Be Set at NFL Combine

By bryanflynn

The future direction of the New Orleans Saints might take shape over the next five days at the NFL Combine. New Orleans and the other 31 teams will be in Indianapolis to watch the players but also to discuss trades on their rosters or in the coming draft.

Potential trade talks could be important for the Saints with reports that they may soon trade wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Many media sources expect that both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans could be potential suitors for a trade.

The Titans own the fifth and 18th pick of the first round, and could move up and down in the draft if they want to make a deal. New Orleans has the 11th pick of the first round but adding a second first round pick could get the Saints to make a deal.

If the Titans gave the Saints their 18th pick with some other picks thrown in, it could allow New Orleans to rebuild its defense with some instant starters and playmakers.

The Saints need a pass-rusher, cornerback and linebacker help, and could get one of those in the first round if they make a deal. This is a good draft year for defense, and there will be plenty of talent available deep in the first round.

It would be intriguing if the Titans wanted to swap the fifth pick and the 11th pick for Cooks. That fifth pick could mean New Orleans might be looking for a quarterback, but this is a weak draft for that position.

New Orleans could try to get a quarterback to replace Drew Brees, who is 38 and heading into the final year of his contract. That leaves the Saints with two options. First, they could rebuild the defense quickly with this trade and free agency, and second, they could get ready for life without Brees behind center.

Cooks’ speed makes him a great offensive weapon, but he did lash out in the media after getting zero targets in the Saints’ blowout win over the Los Angeles Rams. He made 78 catches for 1,123 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016.

New Orleans found a nice surprise in second-round pick wide receiver Michael Thomas. That doesn’t mean Cooks is expendable, but it does mean New Orleans could find a cheaper player in the draft this year if they make a trade.

The Saints can rebuild their defense through free agency but will do it without 2014 free-agent pick Jairus Byrd. Reports suggest that the Saints plan on cutting the disappointing and often-injured safety, as he was never the same player for the Saints that he had been for the Buffalo Bills.

Currently, the Saints have $21 million to $30 million in cap space, and depending on how they release Byrd, they could add nearly $10 million more to that number. That should give New Orleans the funds to fix its ...

March 2, 2017

Combine Knowledge

By bryanflynn

The top draft prospects will be at the NFL Combine, which runs from Friday, March 3, to Monday, March 6. Players are broken up by position, with running backs on one day and quarterback on another day and so forth.

If you want to watch the Combine but never have, you will need to know a few things. Even if you don’t have a firm hold of everything, it doesn’t hurt to watch and figure it out over the next few days.

The main attraction of each day of the Combine is the 40-yard dash. It can get redundant at times because, let's face it, once you have seen one 40-yard dash, you have seen them all. That is, until someone runs a blazing time for their position. Seeing a 250-pound player running a 4.4-second 40-yard dash is something to behold.

Come for the 40-yard dash, but stay for the on-the-field drills. The football-related drills are a great way to see the differences in players.

Those drills also bring a ton of lingo to the broadcast. One thing you will hear a lot about is hips. Players will have “stiff hips,” “loose hips,” “tight hips,” “good hip movement” and a few more hip-related phrases. Don’t be surprised to hear about ankles, “bubble butts,” legs, thighs and more.

Stiff or tight hips are normally considered a bad thing because football is about a quick change of direction. Loose hips are normally a good thing, as it means that a player is good at moving on the field.

Another phrase that you will hear a good bit is “red flags.” Those can be for medical reasons, run-ins with the law, suspensions from the team or anything that could make a team weary about drafting a player.

One thing that scouts and teams have to worry about are workout warriors, or guys who kill it at the Combine but didn’t necessarily stand out during the past season. These players might drive up their draft stock because of the numbers they put at the Combine, but it might not translate to success in the NFL.

Remember, every player has practiced taking the wonderlic (an IQ test for NFL players), and worked on running the 40-yard dash, the broad jump and the on-the-field drills. The Combine is a job interview that can earn or cost players millions of dollars.

So it is not the player’s fault if a team falls in love with a workout warrior or player that explodes at the Combine. It is up the teams to do their homework on every player they are going to draft. That brings up another point. The Combine should confirm what scouts and coaches have seen on tape. If a player runs a faster time than what is expected, teams should go back and look at the tape to see if they were wrong about the player or if that player has worked on his 40-yard dash ...

March 1, 2017

Howell and Gillom Finalists Announced

By bryanflynn

The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum has announced the finalists for this year’s Howell and Gillom Trophies. Seven players received votes for the Gillom Trophy, which is awarded to the best women’s college-basketball player in Mississippi, and nine players received votes for the Howell Trophy, given to the state’s best men’s college-basketball player. The vote recipients were then narrowed to three finalists for each award.

Brittany Dinkins of the University of Southern Mississippi, Victoria Vivians of Mississippi State University and Morgan William of Mississippi State University are the finalists for the Gillom Trophy. Sebastian Saiz of the University of Mississippi, Devin Schmidt of Delta State University and Quinndary Weatherspoon of Mississippi State University are the three finalists for the Howell Trophy.

Vivians is trying to become the first player to win the Gillom Trophy three straight times. She passed 1,600 points for her career this season and is averaging 17.2 points per game with 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.

Williams will try to dethrone her all-star teammate for the Gillom, as she is enjoying her best season at MSU. She is averaging 10.1 points, 5.4 assists, two rebounds and 1.7 steals per game, and has one of the best assists-to-turnover ratios in the SEC.

No one in the history of USM women’s basketball has played more games than Dinkins, who has appeared on the court 128 times. She is averaging 18.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 3.8 assists per game. She is fifth in the nation in steals and tops in Conference USA in that category.

Saiz will try to make it five Howell Trophy wins in a row for the Rebels. The native of Madrid, Spain, is the first player in school history to achieve 1,000 points, 900 rebounds and 100 blocks during a career. He is averaging 15.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, and has upped his free-throw shooting from 65 percent as a junior to 75 percent as a senior.

Schmidt is one of the best players in the history of Delta State and is 65 points away from becoming the all-time leading scoring in the Gulf South Conference. He is averaging 22.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Despite only being a sophomore, Weatherspoon is a finalist for a second consecutive year following his explosive freshman season in 2016. He was named SEC Player of the Week back in January as he is averaging 16.5 points and 5.1 rebounds.

Fans can vote for their choice for best men’s and women’s player in our state by visiting csopavoting.com and can place votes until 5 p.m., Saturday, March 4. The fan vote will make up 10 percent of the final count, with the media making up the other 90-percent. All the finalists will attend a banquet on Monday, March 6, at 11:30 a.m. at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum (1152 ...

February 28, 2017

MSU Extends Mullen Until 2020

By bryanflynn

While a dark cloud of an NCAA investigation hangs over the University of Mississippi, in-state rival Mississippi State University is working to keep head coach Dan Mullen. The university announced that it and Mullen had come to agreement on a contract extension that could keep him with the Bulldogs until after the 2020 season.

Athletic Director John Cohen announced the four-year extension, which runs until February 2021. Since his hiring in 2009, Mullen has become the second-longest tenured coach in the SEC. University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who was hired in 2007, holds the record for the longest tenured coach.

Since becoming the Bulldogs’ head coach, Mullen has led the program to its first No. 1 ranking in school history in the 2014 season. That season, Mullen was named National and Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year.

Under him, MSU is experiencing unprecedented success on the gridiron. The university has been to a school-record seven straight bowl games, had three seasons of nine or more wins in the last six years, and is one of five SEC school to reach a bowl game every season this decade.

Mullen owns a 5-3 record against the Rebels in the Egg Bowl. He has a 61-42 record as the head coach of MSU and a .692 winning percentage, which is the highest (minimum of three years) since College Football Hall of Famer Allyn McKeen (.764 winning percentage) roamed the sidelines from 1939 to 1949.

Heading into this season, Mullen is four wins from tying with McKeen for second place in school wins and is 12 wins behind program leader Jackie Sherrill for first place. In his nine seasons as head coach with MSU, 109 individual and team, single-game, single-season and career school records have been broken.

The 44-year-old coach has done well developing players to play in the NFL. Last season, 19 former Bulldogs were on NFL rosters including Rookie of the Year quarterback Dak Prescott.

MSU isn’t just winning on the field but also getting it done in the classroom. The Bulldogs had a school record of 31 players, was fifth in the conference and landed on the 2016 SEC Academic Honor Roll. MSU is graduating players and earned an NCAA Academic Progress Rate of 971, which is 12 points higher than the national average and near the top of the conference.

Mullen will earn a base salary of $4.5 million this season, but terms were not disclosed for the next three years. A four-year contract is the longest allowed by state law.

MSU will begin spring practice this Thursday, March 2.

February 27, 2017

2017 SEC Women’s Tournament Preview

By bryanflynn

The regular season is over for the SEC women’s basketball teams. This week the conference will hold its tournament in Greenville, SC., from March 1 to March 5.

Winning the tournament means getting the SEC’s automatic bid into the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament. That automatic bid will be important for a team that is currently outside the projections to make the tournament.

In the latest ESPN Bracketology for the women’s tournament, eight SEC teams could end up in the field. Those eight need to make sure a surprise team doesn’t steal the automatic bid and possibly knock them out of the tournament.

Those teams are Mississippi State University, Texas A&M University, Auburn University, the University of Kentucky, the University of South Carolina, the University of Tennessee and the University of Missouri, which also happen to be the top eight teams in the conference standings.

None of the teams playing on the opening day of the tournament are from our state, so let’s skip to day two when 10th-seed University of Mississippi faces seventh-seed Louisiana State University.

The Rebels might make the tournament if they can reach the championship game, but at 17-12 overall and 6-10 in conference, they more than likely need to win the whole thing. UM is 10th in the conference and behind the University of Georgia, the eighth seed, and ninth-seed Auburn.

The latest Bracketology says Auburn is in the tournament, but the team faces Georgia, which is also 7-9 in SEC play. The Tigers are 17-13 overall and the Bulldogs of Georgia are 15-14. An opening-game lose for Auburn could knock the team out of the tournament and open the door for another one.

The Rebels enter the tournament after a 62-49 win over Texas A&M at the end of the regular season. UM is 4-6 in its last 10 games, which won’t look good to the committee. The team struggled in conference play after going 12-2 in the nonconference slate.

If the Rebels happen to get past LSU, they will have Mississippi State waiting for them in the quarterfinals on March 3. In two games against the Bulldogs, UM has lost by 11 points in the first meeting and 22 points in the second meeting.

But there is hope for the team.

MSU enters the tournament as the second seed but has lost two straight games heading into the postseason. That is not how you want to end the regular season and go into the conference tournament.

Teams want to be peaking at this time of year. Instead the MSU Bulldogs went from playing for the conference title to losing two straight games, ending up as the second seed.

MSU was considered one of the top four seeds overall in the NCAA tournament, but the two straight losses has dropped them to a two-seed in the latest Bracketology. The two ...

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