The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Column: A new MSU sports culture

From a sports fan perspective, there has never been a better time to be a freshman at Mississippi State University than this upcoming 2018/2019 school year. My freshman year was the 2009-2010 school year, and the sports outlook was not very bright based on the year before I arrived.

The football team was coming off a 4-8 season, and the first year of the Dan Mullen era was about to begin. The men’s basketball team had talent, but had underachieved losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament. You may know the women’s basketball team as a perennial powerhouse now, but back then, they were just a decent SEC team.

My freshman year, the Lady Bulldogs were coming off a second round 16 point blow-out loss in the NCAA tournament. The baseball team was a laughing stock, finishing 23-33 and 9-21 in the conference. The soccer team was 5-15, and volleyball was 6-25. The highlight of the women’s sports was the softball team, who finished 41-23.

To sum it up: MSU athletics was mediocre at best in the national grand scheme during the 2008-2009 school year.

My classmates and I, however, were fortunate enough to witness a rejuvenation in MSU athletics during our time at the university. After graduating in 2014, I was pleased when I returned a few years later in 2017 as a graduate student, and found MSU athletics continuing to make strides.

Here is the landscape of MSU athletics for this year’s freshman class. The football team is coming off a 9-4 season where the team overachieved, and like me, you too get to start as freshman during the beginning of a new coaching era as former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is taking over as head coach.

Based on early top 25 rankings by ESPN and Athlon Sports, the Bulldogs have a good chance to open as a preseason top 25 team, as both websites have the Bulldogs in their top 20. Also, the Bulldogs have three legitimate NFL prospects in defensive tackle: Jeffery Simmons, outside linebacker/defensive end; Montez Sweat, and center/guard; Darryl Williams.

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will be a dark horse Heisman candidate, and like Dak Prescott before him, who was not on draft boards coming off a monster junior year, Fitz can play his way onto draft boards with improved accuracy and more consistency from the pocket.

The football team is not the only sport with a bright future. Both basketball teams should be locks to make the NCAA tournament. The men’s team dominated in the NIT tournament, making it to the championship game. Coming into the 2018-2019 season, the Bulldogs should be a top 25 team as they are returning all starters, and have 3 potential NBA prospects in Lamar Peters, Nick Weatherspoon and Quinndary Weatherspoon.

Those three will also be joined by Reggie Perry, the no. 27 ranked 4-star recruit from Georgia, who should come in and have an immediate impact at power forward. Lead by head coach Ben Howland, who once coached the UCLA to a final four trip, the men’s team should be primed for a deep tournament run this upcoming season.

The women’s team will be coming off back-to-back national title game appearances. Although the lady dogs are losing four good seniors, Teaira McCowan is back for her senior year to lead a new group. She is currently expected to be a top five pick in next year’s WNBA draft.

Head coach Vic Schaefer has recruited extremely well and has proven himself to be an excellent coach, so expectations are still high for next season, despite losing four starters. Expect Jazzmun Holmes, Jordan Danberry and Chloe Bibby to all play key roles in replacing the production lost from last season’s great team.

As for the other major team sports on campus, most of them are in a period of transition. Most likely by the time next year’s baseball season starts, there will be a new head coach. The baseball team is coming off a down year, but do not forget just a five years ago in 2013, MSU was playing in the College World Series. Dudy Noble is freshly renovated and is better than ever, and I expect a quick turnaround from the baseball program.

The softball team struggled some during conference play, but did spend time ranked in the top 25 last season and showed flashes of great play. With most of the best hitters on the team returning, the softball team should be strong in 2019.

The soccer teams appears to be headed in the right direction after first year head coach Tom Anagnost lead the Bulldogs to a record of 9-5-4, which was MSU’s first season over .500 since 2009.

The volleyball team is under new leadership with new head coach Julie Darty looking to turn things around.

One of the programs still improving is the men’s tennis team who won an SEC championship this season, and a strong women’s tennis team should also be contenders next season.

With all the nationally-ranked teams, pro prospects in multiple sports and quality coaches now in Starkville, one thing is for sure: the 2018-2019 freshman class definitely has it better than many past freshman classes when it comes to sports at MSU.

So, get yourself a cowbell, be grateful and look forward to an all-around very good sports year from our many different sports teams. Welcome to Starkville, kids, and enjoy your first year as a Bulldog! HAILSTATE!   

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Column: A new MSU sports culture