FS Darren Williams

2003 Statistics

Coach: Sylvester Croom
1st year
2003 Record: 2-10
at Tulane LOST 28-31
at Houston LOST 35-42
at Auburn LOST 13-45
at Kentucky LOST 17-42
at Tennessee LOST 21-59
at Arkansas LOST 6-52

2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2004 Outlook

Mississippi State will be better, period. What most recognized were marginal problems within personal/off-field issues, and they all revolved around the over-extended tenure of Jackie Sherrill and his system(s). Respectfully dismantled, his regime is over and, oh boy, are Bulldog fans excited about their future. Sylvester Croom has to prove he can handle the college ranks again, for his stay in the pros was long. Croon has essentially re-staffed the coaches, and he will make sure this ship runs as smooth as an SEC program should.

Ok, now onto QB Omarr Conner. Thin of Michael Vick without the polish and you have Conner. A bit raw, he will dazzle and wonder. His progress is the true barometer of this squad's plight. The better he does, the better all (other players and fans) will do as they begin to believe in football again in Starkville due to Omarr. Croon is the lucky inheritor of such a potential weapon, and he will know how to develop and use him at the right pace. Other offensive areas are already developed. Struggles early will mean victories in fourth quarters and in latter stages of the campaign.

Can the defense make enough improvements? This is the other big question we have. The line will hold up, but the back-seven looks marginal, so much so that they will possibly cost State a .500 season. Check the season-ending national team rankings to find MSU in the top 50 for offense, but bottom 30 for 'D'. Croon is about to find out just how tough the SEC really is.

They have a good chance versus Mississippi as the squad develops by then (11/27 in Jackson). But look for Auburn, and then (at) LSU - both in September - to make the Bulldogs dig deep and build character, both good things at an early juncture. When they keep up with these guys, it will show the country that these guys have righted the ship. That great cliché of "wait until next year" genuinely applies to these guys.

Projected 2004 record: 3-8
RB Jerious Norwood
QB - 2.5 DL - 1.5
RB - 2 LB - 2
WR - 2.5 DB - 2.5
OL - 1.5 ..

Passing: Kyle York, 42-20-4, 273 yds., 1 TD

Rushing: Jerious Norwood, 121 att., 642 yds., 2 TD

Receiving: McKinley Scott, 29 rec., 391 yds., 1 TD

Scoring: Jerious Norwood, 2 TD, 1-two pt. conv., 14 pts.

Punting: Jared Cook, 41 punts, 41.5 avg.

Kicking: none

Tackles: Kevin Dockery, 59 tot., 33 solo

Sacks: Willie Evans, 3 sacks

Interceptions: Eric Fuller, 2 for 13 yds.

Kickoff returns: Fred Reid, 25 ret., 23.1 avg., 1 TD

Punt returns: Omarr Conner, 1 ret., 2.0 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Justin Jenkins-WR, Aaron Lumpkin-TE, Blake Jones-C, Kevin Fant-QB, Nick Turner-TB, Brent Smith-K
DEFENSE: Tommy Kelly-DE, Lennie Day-DT, Kamau Jackson-DT, Jason Clark-SLB, T.J. Mawhinney-MLB, Odell Bradley-CB, Robert Wallis-P

The QB experiment with Kevin Fant (and his 21 INTs) has ended.. When a talent like Omarr Conner chooses your school, waiting until his second year to start him is about all fans will tolerate. Conner was named Mr. Football in the state of Mississippi following his senior prep season at the quarterback position. Omarr has to start with his level of potential, no matter how rough the break-in period. Good news is that he won the outstanding offensive player award in spring ball. He could easily be in the national spotlight by year's end. He can throw it (coaches swear) 80+ yards in the air! He isn't just strong-armed - he has a lightning-quick first step and a pension for the endzone. The rough edges will be evident, but the up side to his learning period will be well worth it. His "pocket presence" is uncanny, too. To paraphrase Kenny Rogers…Omarr knows when to hold it, and knows when to throw it. His health is essential for State to succeed. The drop off in depth is bad, as stated, for Kyle York has proven he can often be a liability and Aries Nelson most noted playing time has been on special teams while a shoulder injury has held him back during the off-season.

Running Back
Gone is highly touted and promising youngster Nick Turner, who was dismissed from the team by new coach Sylvester Croom, after he led the team in rushing just one season ago. Jerious Norwood will inherit the starting spot after splitting time with Turner last fall, but expect smallish senior Fred Reid to be tapped, too. Both saw plenty of action as the second and third backs, with 5.3 and 4.9 per carry averages, respectively. Though Norwood is taller, he isn't much stronger (in all-important hip power.) Expect new head coach Sylvester Croom to rotate size with RS-freshmen Carlton Rice and Jason Jude. Likely, too, is the utilization of the FB more, something the Sherrill days lacked. Fooling 18-22 year old kids with plays featuring FB-misdirection's keep defenses honest and flat-footed, and Croon is a master of this ploy. If the QBs prowess can be offset/complimented by such a dimension, the running game will produce more than the aerial assault. Watch for this, and more running than passing under Croon.

This is an area mixed with size and speed, but will be lacking in experienced depth. NationalChamps.net has been waiting for senior SE Ray Ray Bivens to become the Bulldog's breakout receiver. Well, this is the last chance they have to capitalize on this burner. Counterpart McKinley Scott is a bit bigger and will start in front of Bivens. Sheesh, there has to be times with both on the field simultaneously if this unit is to reach its potential. RS freshmen Joey Sanders, starting at flanker, represents the Bulldog's future - he is one of several large underclassmen who are sure to see time, as Conners will wear these guys out. This unit will shine by campaign's end.

Tight End
Blake Pettit leads a group that is green enough to be a liability, if not fostered properly. Pettit is a sophomore, so he has been around longer than the other TEs. Look for these guys to stay home more often in the beginning. This is another area to watch as a barometer, for once you see the TE being utilized in multiple ways, the entire offensive squad will be making progress.

Offensive Line
Don't judge these guys on MSU's 2003 results. Too many variables have changed for the line to only be worth allowing 36 sacks and a modest 3.8 yards per try average. The Bulldogs return a strong unit that has two juniors on the left to go with two seniors on the right. RT Dave Stewart won the "Bulldog Award" this spring, given to the player most exemplifying leadership and work ethic. One concern here is mobility. The new QB needs quick-footed protection when moving, something Conner is sure to keep doing. Every one of the starters (and most of the second string) is 300+, so lateral movement here will be another critical development for balanced success on this side of the ball.

Sylvester Croon is an offensive guru Mississippi stole from the NFL. He learned from Bear Bryant, and has championed a ground-oriented approach, as listed on his extensive résumé. This will translate into wins, period. Look for Croon to use the line's size in the running game. The option is something we will see, but Conner's health has to be protected. The running game's development will naturally open up the pass, and Conner has the weapons to hurt even the best SEC secondaries. Disparaging time-of-possession and third-down conversion rates will not be repeated.


OT David Stewart


Returning Starters in bold
QB Omarr Conner-So (6-0, 203) Aries Nelson-So (6-2, 213)
Kyle York-Jr (6-0, 207)
FB Darnell Jones-Sr (5-11, 247) Bryson Davis-So (6-1, 240)
HB Jerious Norwood-Jr (6-0, 192) Fred Reid-Sr (5-9, 184)
WR McKinley Scott-Sr (6-0, 197) Ray Ray Bivines-Sr (5-11, 176)
WR Joey Sanders-Fr (6-1, 205) Brandon Wright-So (5-9, 157)
TE Blake Pettit-So (6-4, 242) Dezmond Sherrod-Fr (6-3, 238)
OT Richard Burch-Jr (6-5, 315) James Cochran-So (6-5, 300)
OG Johnny Wadley-Jr (6-2, 341) Otis Riddley-So (6-1, 352)
C Brian Anderson-So (6-5, 309) Avery House-Jr (6-4, 308)
OG Will Rogers-Sr (6-4, 339) Royce Blackledge-Fr (6-3, 269)
OT David Stewart-Sr (6-6, 317) Donovan Davis-So (6-7, 315)
K Keith Andrews-So (6-0, 199) ..



Defensive Line
The inside of the line looks solid, literally. Corey Clark was redshirted (toe injury), but joins senior Ronald Fields to form one of the SEC's best tackle tandems. They will (eventually) penetrate and disrupt. Junior Willie Evans will make his rush end spot one that shines. Deljuan Robinson bookends well with Evans, for teams are foolish to run plays Robinson's way with his size and deceptive speed. But Robinson is young and rough still. The depth drops off somewhat, but will rotate in and learn. Only two upperclassmen means the front-four's ability to gel will go a long way in defining this defense. Allowing foes 4.3 yards per carry again would mean disaster.

This unit will be a marginal liability. We say that because the leader of the group, junior MLB Marvin Byrdsong, has been competent, but not spectacular. He is billed as a run-stopper, but only had two TFLs in his 55 tackles. MLBs have to do more, so it is up to his two smallish outside guys to cover (his proverbial butt and the actual butts of possible receivers). Byrdsong can tackle with competence, but obviously has to step up for this crew to hit its stride. Reserve Chris Swain will provide quality depth, but he too represents just how undersized the whole group really is. Quality SEC linemen should eat these guys up, though quality coverage underneath will make up for some of their lost battles in the trenches.

Defensive Back
This was, and still is, a work in progress, at best. MSU downright stunk up the field with their pass defense. Ranking next to last for all I-As, new coordinator Ellis Johnson brings much promise of a turnaround. With nowhere to go but up, junior Darren Williams will lead this fresh, regrouped group. Junior Kevin Dockery has been bumped up to corner, which will make a difference since he is a bit small for his old safety spot. Dockery tackles well, so this/any shuffle can only make it better, trust us. With talent and some experience, all these guys have to do is to keep the play in front of them to make their unit an asset.


LB Marvin Byrdsong


Returning Starters in bold
DE Deljuan Robinson-So (6-4, 295) Stephen Arant-So (6-3, 262)
NT Ronald Fields-Sr (6-2, 321) Markell McKinley-So (6-2, 307)
DT Corey Clark-Fr (6-1, 310) Andrew Powell-So (6-2, 309)
DE Willie Evans-Jr (6-2, 255) Michael Heard-So (6-2, 241)
SLB Clarence McDougal-Jr (6-1, 215) Chris Swain-Sr (5-11, 202)
MLB Marvin Byrdsong-Jr (6-2, 247) Avery Hannibal-Fr (6-1, 250)
WLB Brad Horton-So (6-0, 225) Rico Bennett-Jr (6-0, 211)
CB Adrian Griffin-So (5-10, 170) Quinton Culberson-So (6-0, 216)
CB Kevin Dockery-Jr (5-10, 185) Eric Fuller-Sr (6-2, 174)
SS Jeramie Johnson-So (6-0, 197) Marcus Evans-Jr (5-11, 185)
FS Darren Williams-Jr (6-2, 199) Slovakia Griffith-Sr (5-11, 197)
P Jared Cook-Sr (5-10, 191) ..




A new kicker should mean trouble, but sophomore Keith Andrews brings a great leg and high expectations. We won't see many games where he is the difference, but he will be able to deliver. Punter Jared Cook is a senior who will give them field position victories, but more has to happen on coverage. Kick coverage is decent, and both areas will pick up with the new coach Amos Jones (who is also the LB coach, so…tackling won't be an issue.)

Return Game
Fred Reid will now do more than be a RB and KR, both jobs he does well. Punt returns will turn around with Reid running those back, too. Undeveloped depth within the WR and DB units mean this dimension can either shine or suffer, so expect some of both.