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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2007
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Auburn

AUBURN — As coach Tommy Tuberville praised Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom on Tuesday, he condemned another MSU coach.

Although he never mentioned his name, Tuberville criticized MSU’s former coach Jackie Sherrill, who left the school in shambles in 2003 among an NCAA investigation.

“(Croom) came in and took over a program that was dismantled, out of control, that needed some leadership in their football program, and bring some dignity and character back to it,” Tuberville said. “He has definitely done that.”

Sherrill’s 13-year tenure at Mississippi State was plagued by scandal. Twice the NCAA investigated MSU during Sherrill’s time as coach and twice the Bulldogs suffered NCAA sanctions.

In 1996, the school was found guilty of major infractions and received a year of probation and a loss of scholarships.

In November 2004, during Croom’s first season, the NCAA announced its sanctions from a lengthy investigation that stemmed from Sherrill’s last few seasons at the school.

Mississippi State was put on four years probation, lost eight scholarships for two years and suffered a one-year bowl ban for recruiting violations between 1998 and 2002.

Sherrill has had a dark cloud hanging over him since his days in College Station, Texas.

After the coach was forced out at Texas A&M in 1988, the Aggies were hit with NCAA sanctions for dozens of violations that occurred during Sherrill’s time there.

Although he is the winningest coach in Mississippi State history, Sherrill’s run with the Bulldogs ended in three losing seasons. From 2001-2003, Mississippi State won just eight games.

Sherrill, who also had coaching stints at Washington State and Pittsburgh, finished with a 75-75-2 record at MSU.

In December of 2003, Croom was hired to resurrect a program that in the mid to late 1990s competed in the Southeastern Conference Western Division. In 1998, the Bulldogs won the West and came 10 points shy of beating eventual national champion Tennessee in the SEC Championship game.

But in Croom’s three-plus seasons, the Bulldogs have amassed 10 wins and 27 losses. His tenure has been highlighted by a home win against No. 13-ranked Florida in 2004. UF coach Ron Zook was fired a day later.

Croom’s Bulldogs also beat Alabama last year in Tuscaloosa. At the end of the season, Alabama coach Mike Shula was forced out.

“When you take over a program that was in the shape that one was in when he took it over, I’m sure he’s got a 10-year plan,” Tuberville said. “If Sylvester Croom is on the hot seat, then we need to look around and check ourselves.”

It is unlikely Croom will be fired after this season, no matter the results, but next year may be different.

Mississippi State athletics director Larry Templeton, who hired Croom, is resigning in June 2008. A new director will take over and the pressure to win in 2008 will be high.

“My two kids, growing up, if (Croom) stays there long enough, I’d love for them to play for him because he’s the type of guy you want to coach your kids,” Tuberville said.

  • Following his blocked field goal during Saturday’s loss to South Florida, defensive end Sen’Derrick Marks raced off the field with his hands held high in jubilant celebration.

    Once he got to the sideline, the Auburn sophomore headed straight for defensive ends coach Terry Price.

    “I told him to check out that vertical,” Marks said, laughing.

    According to Marks, Price picks at the 6-foot-2, 290-pounder about his lack of jumping ability.

    “Every time I jump on film, coach Price pauses it (and says) ‘I can’t slide my folder under that,’ ” Marks said.

    But after he blocked USF kicker Delbert Alvarado’s 37-yard field goal, he won’t be hearing much more from Price. Marks also tipped Alvarado’s missed attempt from 45 yards just a minute earlier. The ball sailed dead left to the corner of the end zone as soon as Alvarado connected.

    The two misses kept Auburn in the lead at 17-14 heading into the fourth quarter.

  • Tuberville told reporters after practice Wednesday that he doesn’t expect true freshman Kodi Burns to play against Mississippi State this week.

    Players said Tuesday that Burns was practicing with the team in a role similar to how Florida used Tim Tebow last season, but Tuberville told reporters that they “might be surprised” if they expect Burns to play this week.

    “Blake Field is our No. 2,” he said.

    Starting safety Aairon Savage (ankle) and linebacker Tray Blackmon (ankle) both practiced Wednesday, but Tuberville told reporters “they’re still not 100 percent. We’ll just have to wait and see before the game if they’re going to play.”

    Tuberville said cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hamstring) “should play” against Mississippi State.

    Ross Dellenger,
    Daily Sports Writer

    Alabama

    TUSCALOOSA — Javier Arenas had just ran back a 69-yard return off a Vanderbilt punt in the first quarter Saturday.

    As he got up from being tackled, he pounded his heart just to let his friend, Kwane Doster know that he was thinking of him.

    Doster, a former Vanderbilt running back and 2002 SEC freshman of the year, was shot and killed Dec. 26, 2004, in Tampa, Fla. He and Arenas both played football at Robinson High.

    “When I made a big play my senior year of high school, I would do something to show my recognition to him,” Arenas said. “I just put my hand to my chest. Hit my heart a couple of times to signify I was doing it for him.”

    Before the game, Arenas said he prayed briefly and talked to Kwane’s younger brother Jermaine, a freshman running back at Vanderbilt. After the game, he talked with Kwane’s family that were attending and said a few more words of prayer.

    “The whole course of playing, being on the sidelines at Vanderbilt, I thought about him and I tried to remember him playing there,” Arenas said.

  • Quarterback John Parker Wilson said that his less-than-stellar passing day Saturday had nothing to do with the Vanderbilt defense or his own throwing motion. He said that he just wasn’t hitting his receivers.

    Wilson was 14 of 28 for 150 yards and one interception.

    “I looked good mechanically, I just missed a couple of guys,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t anything read wise. It wasn’t any total break down that we are going to have to go back to ground zero and repair. We’re just going to keep getting better. You are not going to throw 100 percent every game.”

  • In last season’s Alabama-Arkansas game, left tackle Andre Smith pancake blocked Arkansas defensive end Antwain Robinson and made almost every highlight tape in the country.

    This year, Smith isn’t predicting another huge block, but knows that Robinson might be a little more aware of him.

    “It felt really good when I did that. But that was last year, this is this year,” Smith said. “I’m sure he’ll have his head on a swivel this time.”

    Josh Cooper,
    Daily sports Writer

    Southern

    BATON ROUGE, La. — Southern University’s fifth-year senior quarterback, J.C. Lewis, has left the team.

    Head coach Pete Richardson confirmed Lewis’ departure Tuesday. He had met with the quarterback Monday, two days after Lewis stayed on the bench for the second straight game.

    Southern returned to the practice fields Tuesday without Lewis for the first time since he came to school in 2003.

    Kentucky

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will likely be without two of its top defensive tackles Saturday against Louisville, and Ricky Lumpkin’s injury will sideline him indefinitely.

    Coach Rich Brooks said Lumpkin has a serious hip injury and Myron Pryor strained a pectoral muscle in last week’s victory against Kent State. Pryor is listed as “questionable to doubtful” for Saturday’s intrastate rivalry.

    West Alabama

    LIVINGSTON — West Alabama officials have canceled the Oct. 6 game with North Carolina Central, which had been scheduled for Birmingham’s Legion Field.

    The university cited problems with the game’s promoter, Varsity Sports Marketing Group.

    “We want all of the UWA and NCCU fans to know that our great universities really wanted to play this football game and we did everything possible to salvage it, but we were unable to resolve the contract difficulties with the game’s promoter,” West Alabama athletic director E.J. Brophy said.

    West Alabama will have an open date Oct. 6.

    Arkansas

    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas football players spent some time in their indoor practice facility Wednesday, working out with the volume turned up high on speakers surrounding the team, as staff tried to prepare the Razorbacks for what they will face when they play Alabama on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium at Tuscaloosa

    Coming off a season-opening 46-26 win over Troy, Arkansas had an open date last weekend.

    Central Florida

    ORLANDO, Fla. — Central Florida’s inaugural game in a new stadium Saturday against No. 6 Texas also will be the first sellout in school history.

    UAB

    BIRMINGHAM — The UAB football team continued preparations Wednesday afternoon for its 2007 home opener against the Alcorn State Braves on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Blazers practiced in shoulder pads for 18 periods, and coach Neil Callaway likes where his team is entering this weekend’s contest.

    “It was a little bit better today,” Callaway said. “The weather has been cooler over the past two days and that probably helped us a little bit. We are just finalizing the game plan and getting kinks worked out.”

    From Staff, Wire Reports

    Copyright 2005 THE DECATUR DAILY. All rights reserved.
    AP contributed to this report.

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