Mississippi State

Good vibrations: Mississippi State coaches tout positives at Biloxi's Road Dawgs stop

BILOXI -- Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen, men's basketball coach Ben Howland and women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer visited Bulldog supporters Tuesday night at the Beau Rivage, noting the progress, accomplishments and expectations to fans at the annual Road Dawgs tour.

The Bulldog football team of Mullen is coming off a 9-4 campaign, capped by a 51-28 win over N.C. State in the Belk Bowl. One of the major tasks facing Mullen and his coaching staff is to find a worthy successor to quarterback Dak Prescott. Four quarterbacks -- Damian Williams, Nick Fitzgerald, Nick Tiano and Elijah Staley -- are competing for the starting job. Nothing was settled in the spring, however.

"We've had a bunch of quarterbacks before Dak and we'll have a bunch after him," Mullen said. "He was an outstanding starter for us for two years and did a great job. But we lost a lot of other guys at other positions, and we'll have a young football team.

"I'm excited about this season. Three of the last six years we've had nine-win seasons and gone to bowl games. I think we have the program going in the direction we want it to go in. The next guy has to step up and keep it going. There's no time to rebuild, you have to reload. There isn't a break in this league from week to week."

There are several key Coast players who are expected to help the Bulldogs make a run at the SEC West title -- linebacker Richie Brown of Long Beach, defensive lineman Nick James of Long Beach, and defensive back Lashard Durr, who prepped at Harrison Central.

"Richie is a player you've seen develop, he's done a great job," Mullen said. "Two years ago he was more of a rotator. Last year he stepped into a starting role. In his senior year, I expect him to have a huge year and be an impact player in the league. Nick had a great spring. We expect him to be in that starting role for us."

Mississippi State opens at home against South Alabama on Sept. 3. The Bulldogs visit LSU on Sept. 17 and take on Auburn on Oct. 8. They end the season with a tough stretch against Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss.

Men's basketball

Howland is heading into his second season as the Bulldogs men's basketball coach.

"We had a very good recruiting class in November," Howland said coming off a 14-17 season, 7-11 in the SEC. "We have seven new freshmen coming in. I'm excited about Q (Quinndary) Weatherspoon coming back. He had a phenomenal freshman year.

"We are going to wait and see what happens with Malik Newman. He has entered the NBA Draft. He is preparing to go to Chicago for the pre-draft camp He'll go through that process around the 9th of May. After that, he'll have a 10-day window whether to stay in the draft or elect to go back to college."

Coast connections

Schaefer directed his women's basketball team into the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, beating Chattanooga and Michigan State to get there. They lost to eventual national champ UConn in the Sweet Sixteen.

"I'm proud of our team, our program, our university, and we're doing it with Mississippi kids," Schaefer said. "I'm proud of our kids from down on the Coast -- Jazzmun Holmes and Ameshya (Williams), who will be joining us soon. We have everybody back off our Sweet Sixteen team. She (Holmes) is so fast. She will really be a great player for us, and am excited about her future."

Schaefer projects Williams, an incoming freshman, as a power forward.

"We've gone back to back seasons where we've won 27 and 28 games," he said. "We tied for second in the SEC. We played for an SEC championship in the conference tournament. I'm proud of that."