RB Jerious Norwood

2004 Statistics

Coach: Sylvester Croom
3-8, 1 year
2004 Record: 3-8
at Louisiana State LOST 0-51
at Vanderbilt LOST 13-31
UAB LOST 13-27
at Alabama LOST 14-30
at Mississippi LOST 3-20

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

Few coaches can turn around a program in one year, and Sylvester Croom is no different. While Mississippi State improved slightly over a 2-10 mark in 2003, the Bulldogs didn't take any giant leap(s) forward. But still, Croom has this program headed in the right direction. Some may view 15 players having left since last year as a sign of trouble, but those departures could actually prove to be beneficial - it weeds out the players who can't handle his style.

The players that are still in Starkville will provide another couple steps forward this season. The offense was terrible/inconsistent in 2004, but part of that has to be attributed to Croom bringing in a new system and a green QB. The talent there is now developed, led by QB Omarr Conner and RB Jerious Norwood, and least of all, Conner now knows what not to do. Conner is a multi-dimensional player who has greased wheels and a strong (but raw) arm, while Norwood is a steady performer who can be counted on to rack up some yards. Conner just has to prove he can beat teams deep to keep the box conventionally stacked, and his threat as a rolling hurler will freeze LBs most times.

The defense is what will really make fans happy, though. Croom spent the spring shuffling players, more so on D. With talent across the board, it is a matter of balance and speed that will put them in foes heads early.

Can the Bulldogs take a giant leap forward in Croom's second year? Perhaps. A tough defense gives any team a chance, but so does a schedule that includes seven home games, including dates with Murray State and Houston. The always-tough SEC will make a dramatic improvement difficult, though, especially with Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Florida on the docket in the first six weeks. We see the Bulldogs certainly improving, but it may not be seen so much in wins. They're at least a year away from returning to the postseason, but growing optimism will keep Maroon and White worn for another 110 years.

Projected 2005 record: 5-6
DE Titus Brown
QB - 2 DL - 3.5
RB - 4 LB - 3
WR - 3 DB - 3
OL - 2.5 ..

Passing: Omarr Conner, 206-107-7, 1224 yds., 6 TD

Rushing: Jerious Norwood, 195 att., 1050 yds., 7 TD

Receiving: Will Prosser, 24 rec., 328 yds., 0 TD

Scoring: Jerious Norwood, 7 TD, 42 pts.

Punting: Brooks Crabtree, 18 punts, 36.1 avg.

Kicking: Keith Andrews, 6-10 FG, 21-21 PAT, 39 pts.

Tackles: Willie Evans, 67 tot., 47 solo

Sacks: Willie Evans, 5.5 sacks

Interceptions: Jeramie Johnson, 3 for 35 yds.

Kickoff returns: Jonathan Lowe, 19 ret., 18.1 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Jonathan Lowe, 17 ret., 11.5 avg., 1 TD


OFFENSE: McKinley Scott-WR, Kyle York-QB, Fred Reid-HB, Darnell Jones-FB, Richard Burch-OT, David Stewart-OT, Will Rogers-OG
DEFENSE: Ronald Fields-NT, Kenny Kern-MLB, Marvin Byrdsong-WLB, Rico Bennett-WLB, Darren Williams-SS, Slovakia Griffith-FS, Jared Cook-P

There is excitement at quarterback with Omarr Conner, who is ready for a breakout season. A year ago, the former receiver was moved back to quarterback, where he starred in high school (Mississippi's Mr. Football as a senior). In addition to re-adjusting to the position, Conner had to learn a new West Coast-type offensive system. The results in his first year under center were shaky (6 TD, 7 INT) at best, but the experience will help him. He's also ready shown improvement - he has a strong arm and can elude defenders with his amazing, quick moves. As a field general, he ran hot and cold, so to speak, so consistency will be the key to his own play being the core of any offensive/team improvements.

Running Back
Jerious Norwood is coming off a 1,000-yard season and was the main Bulldog RB. The big back has the speed (4.4) and strength to have his best year. At some point, though, the Bulldogs need to hold auditions for Norwood's replacement, and svelte RS frosh Brandon Thornton is the top candidate. State only runs its fullbacks once per quarter, and, for an (west coast) offense that thinks in short spurts, they should throw to them more, too. Dezmond Sherrod has moved from tight end and was impressive enough to take the starting job from incumbent Bryson Davis' blocking ability and good hands. The entire unit has huge potential, especially as Conner is even more of a ground threat, and especially as/when five other State players run well-thought out patterns for optimal distraction in planned roll-outs/scrambles. This backfield will surprise many, and the ground scores will surely increase to then get the WRs open more in the red zone.

Will Prosser and Tee Milons both return, but the two have to be better. Neither has realized any potential, and each could easily be replaced as real-game reps reveal the up-and-comers for Conner's future. After a strong offseason and spring, Prosser will emerge still as the main target, while Milons needs to become the deep threat he once was. Macon's Joey Sanders (first-team all-state in Mississippi out of high school) has the proven pedigree to be a major weapon, and was atop the depth chart last fall until a leg injury left his flanker slot to less capable WRs. Tyler Threadgill is the other quality underclassman to impact the unit. The rest of the depth is totally unproven, but we will say what we did last season - Conner will wear these guys out if/when the right bunch can come together. Croom should try, without stopping, to stretch the field more than he did in '04, for the entire offensive will only be more balanced as he overworks opposing safeties (keeping them out of the box).

Tight End
Converted wide receiver Jason Husband (ranked the top receiver prospect in Mississippi out of high school) is slotted to start. It's a gamble (listed at 208 lbs.), but he will be a better target than Eric Butler, the incumbent starter. Blake Pettit, a part-time starter in '04, also figures into the mix, but it is highly-touted RS frosh Jeremy Jones (285 lbs.) and his soft hands which should redefine the position for State.

Offensive Line
This is the one group that could stunt the growth of the Bulldog offense. Center Chris McNeil and left guard Brian Anderson are both experienced, and both are among the SEC's best. Unfortunately, the rest of the group doesn't measure up, especially with slated-starter Wadley (RT) still battling leg problems. The Bulldogs are weak at tackle - not a good sign for a team that often isolates its blockers. With only three upperclassmen listed as subs in the three-deep, incoming four-star (sluggish) behemoth tackle Calvin Wilson could impact the unit. Besides the receivers, this group looks to be the marginally weakest team link.

This offense missed hitting anything close to its potential and simply didn't get the job done consistently/often enough. Only three teams in the country scored fewer points, and only 10 produced fewer yards. Experience alone (eight returning starters) suggests the Bulldogs will get better, and we feel that the promise here can now be realized as they exactly what NOT to do. This is still a work in progress, but the passing game will be better, and with Norwood still leading their ground attack, the Bulldogs will have the base-nucleus to expand from there. Still, don't expect miracles in Starkville. As Conner (proverbially) gets his feet underneath him, we will see the ball-moving machine click as the others realize how their complimentary roles complete his efforts. Conner himself just has to play within his talents and not try to overly improvise until then, for this offense flies or dies via his (and the OL's) developments.


C Chris McNeil


Returning Starters in bold
QB Omarr Conner-Jr Michael Henig-Fr
FB Dezmond Sherrod-So Bryson Davis-Jr
HB Jerious Norwood-Sr Brandon Thornton-Fr / Jonathan Lowe-So
WR Tee Milons-Sr Joey Sanders-So
WR Will Prosser-Jr Keon Humphries-Fr
TE Jason Husband-So Eric Butler-So / Blake Pettit-Jr
OT James Redmond-Jr Roland Terry-Fr
OG Brian Anderson-Jr Royce Blackledge-So
C Chris McNeil-Sr Dio Herrera-Fr
OG Anthony Strauder-Fr James Cochran-Jr
OT Johnny Wadley-Sr Avery House-Sr
K Keith Andrews-Jr Adam Carlson-Fr



Defensive Line
With three starters returning, the Bulldogs are stronger up front than their 89th ranking versus the run suggests. Statistically, left end Willie Evans is among the top pass rushers in school history, while his counterpart on the right side, Michael Heard, has great speed (4.4) and penetration. Titus Brown, who started the last half of '04 at MLB, had a strong spring, and will push Evans and Heard for a starting job. Andrew Powell and Deljuan Robinson are solid at tackle, but newcomer Louis Ellis (Jackson) looks to (least of all) add depth and speed inside. Overall, this group will grow into its SEC britches and surpass expectations until foes realize this strengthening unit can/will (more than) hold its own.

The Bulldogs have an athletic and skilled group. Quinton Culberson, a former Parade all-American, came to Starkville as a top rated CB. Since then, he's played corner and safety, as well as at outside linebacker. Now, his prowess to be found any/everywhere makes him the starter in the middle, with a spectacular spring to boot. He will be flanked by Gabe O'Neal, who was adequate in his true freshman year, and Clarence McDougal, who started the first half of '04. A number of (incoming) three-star recruits dot the roster, so depth here isn't an issue. And even though this unit will make big plays, the corps is terribly undersized for the conference. They have the athleticism to overcome this dilemma, but they will have to play over their heads to keep their efforts viable for every game.

Defensive Back
For all the troubles Mississippi State had a year ago, the secondary was their bright spot. Among the top pass-defense units in the country (ranked 11th), State will keep it up. Cornerbacks Kevin Dockery and David Heard both return to their starting roles and will be the anchors of the secondary. A pair of converted cornerbacks - Jeramie Johnson and (SEC all-frosh) Mario Bobo - will start at safety. Both have exceptional talent and will keep the pass defense clicking.

No question, the defense is the key to Mississippi State winning more games. Croom plays musical chairs with personnel here, and by the end of the spring it appears he has found a worthy/winning combination. The front seven is speedy and aggressive and will present matchup problems against many. They'll make plays, which will ease the growing pains of the secondary (new safeties). The Bulldogs had trouble stopping foes in the second and fourth quarters, so adjustments have to be made that are not just consistently countered for end-of-the-half success(es).


DE Willie Evans


Returning Starters in bold
DE Titus Brown-So Willie Evans-Sr
NT Andrew Powell-Jr Corey Clark-So
DT Deljuan Robinson-Jr Avery Hannibal-So
DE Michael Heard-Jr Rob Walker-Sr
SLB Gabe O'Neal-So Fred Akines-Fr
MLB Quinton Culberson-Jr Brad Horton-Jr
WLB Clarence McDougal-Sr Anthony Littlejohn-Fr
CB Kevin Dockery-Sr Jamaal Johnson-Sr
CB David Heard-Jr Keith Fitzhugh-Fr
SS Mario Bobo-So Jonathan Hill-So
FS Jeramie Johnson-Jr Marcus Evans-Sr
P Brooks Crabtree-Sr Andrew Gambrell-Fr




Keith Andrews will once again handle the kicking duties. He had a good first year as a starter, but has to be better with his mid-range field goals (2-for-5 from 30-39 yards). Brooks Crabtree is the new punter, although he does have limited experience. A walk-on to the program last year, Crabtree punted 18 times, but has to improve his average (36.1) now that he's the man. He's also a valuable asset as the holder for Andrews.

Return Game
The responsibility to get the Bulldogs in decent field position falls on Jonathan Lowe once again. He was the main guy on KOs, and the only player to return a punt in '04 and did well enough in both roles to be recognized as one of the SEC's top freshmen (Sporting News). He's got breakaway speed (TD vs. UF). Lowe is listed as the top in each category, but, on KOs, he was outplayed in 2004 by Threadgill - yet, curiously, Threadgill isn't listed anywhere on the three-deep (three RS freshmen back up Lowe). The net results were solid in '04, but they need to be better on KO coverage.