DB Derek Pegues

2007 Statistics

Coach: Sylvester Croom
17-30, 4 years
2007 Record: 8-5
at Tulane WON 38-17
at Auburn WON 19-14
at South Carolina LOST 21-38
UAB WON 30-13
at West Virginia LOST 13-38
at Kentucky WON 31-14
at Arkansas LOST 31-45
UCF WON 10-3

2007 Final Rankings
AP-33, Coaches-34, BCS-UR

2008 Outlook

In an era when coaches are turned over for not winning right away (and also for not winning all the time,) it has been refreshing to see Mississippi State stick and stay with Sylvester Croom as he rebuilt the program. It is obviously that time now when things are reaching fruition and expectations will grow accordingly, especially since Croom turned the corner last year after the four consecutive three-win efforts to start his tenure here. Then the watershed game with Auburn - whom they hadn't beaten since 2000 - instilled the confidence to go with Croom's tenets. On a wing and a prayed, the scrappy Bulldogs then went on a tear to avenge their recent woes. Suffice to say, State has now won two in a row against Alabama for the first time in 10 years. Eight wins has fans and alums excited, so this season becomes pivotal as to where the Bulldogs go from this successful juncture.

Where they go will have everything to do with how the quarterback battle plays out into the season. Wesley Carroll seems like a 'by default' starter - not the top talent, but the most experienced and a solid game manager. Relf and Lee are not the best choices yet, but either could be brought in at Croom's will, a trait he practices at the first signs of trouble. The running game is full of big backs, and the results can only be described as struggling, even with the 40+-yard increase in their per game average from the prior campaign. Like Pitt found out after the recent years of trying to establish their ground attack with big, bulky backs, getting a faster, cut-back type who can still get yards inside the tackle box can solve the problem (LeSean McCoy)...Ducré and Elliot can make defenders miss with pure speed to compliment Anthony Dixon's physical style if coaches are willing to spread the carries around more. But one aspect affecting everything that happens, the line, is missing its best player - Mike Brown is gone at left tackle, so three new sophomore starters will carry the team's destiny without Brown’s leadership. If the spring game's offensive joke is any indicator, much work has to be done still, but Croom doesn't think the 6-0 OT inter-squad result reflects much. "It's not a true picture of where we are. My idea of how we finished spring is how we finished the scrimmage before the spring game." Without much evidence over his tenure of offensive aptitude, let alone explosiveness, we have to think this Bulldog dish is half empty until proof of a change after four years of meager production on this side of things says otherwise.

The defense poses a simple problem for which there are few conclusions. The back seven from their 7th-ranked pass defense is already on the same page, so foes will have to run it if they want to win. If the Bulldogs can keep from committing extra hats into the tackle box, they can win many games through ball and clock control…oh, and through their opportunistic attitude toward turnovers (that led to five defensive scores, all on INT returns.) Risk and reward will rear its tempting head again, and this much quality under second-year coordinator Charlie Hobson should assure wise make-or-break results, ones that help the team way more than they hurt them. The key will be the new DEs hitting on all cylinders like Brown and Hannibal did. The pressure from up front is what allows the secondary to do its thing, and without it, opposing QBs will find their guys much more. The tackles aren't rush types, but the new ends look like they can be up to speed quickly. Without this pressure, expect the win total to dip.

The slate is as daunting as any in the nation's toughest conference. Adding Georgia Tech is a gutsy move, but one that probably means another loss. The other non-cons should be wins if the team is truly playing to its potential, but small schools know they have a shot at beating this unpredictable giant, so each game will be its own challenge. Along with Tech, SEC foes LSU, Tennessee and Bama are all road tests, and the trip to Oxford to close, even with their in-state rivals reeling, is never easy (but sure is fun to watch, that Egg Bowl). With Auburn looking for revenge but also revamping its staunch profile to look more like the modern offenses now termed 'spread', MSU has to think that reaching bowl eligibility is a reasonable goal to start, not trying to pick up where they left off. That would be a 10-3 win over a game UCF team, but still, if winning against CUSA teams is the bar set again for ‘08, breaking even won't occur in the SEC.

Mississippi State had a dubious reputation under former coaches who will remain nameless. That makes winning this time around that much sweeter, knowing it is being done right and with a coach like Croom who is a better role model for shaping the young men under him. Building the program as they have optimizes the impact of student athletics, putting education and fair play above winning, as they should be, but unfortunately aren't in the declining ethics of our time. We tip our hat to Croom, his approach and the university for making the right priorities as they complete many young men's (and women's) minds with quality lessons through their coaches’ trickle-down example. The Magnolia State never smelled so good.

Projected 2008 record: 8-4
WR Jamayel Smith
QB - 3 DL - 3
RB - 4 LB - 3.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 4
OL - 3 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Wesley Carroll, 134-255-7, 1392 yds., 9 TD

Rushing: Anthony Dixon, 287 att., 1066 yds., 14 TD

Receiving: Jamayel Smith, 33 rec., 510 yds., 3 TD

Scoring: Anthony Dixon, 16 TD, 96 pts.

Punting: Blake McAdams, 77 punts, 39.3 avg.

Kicking: Adam Carlson, 10-13 FG, 33-34 PAT, 63 pts.

Tackles: Jamar Chaney, 89 tot., 35 solo

Sacks: Jimmie Holmes, 2 sacks

Interceptions: Derek Pegues, 5 for 120 yds., 1 TD

Kickoff returns: Derek Pegues, 24 ret., 22.7 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Derek Pegues, 27 ret., 9.9 avg., 1 TD


OFFENSE: Michael Henig-QB, Tony Burks-WR, Lance Long-WR, Dezmond Sherrod-TE, Eric Butler-TE, Jason Husband-TE, Michael Brown-OT, Royce Blackledge-C, J.D. Hamilton-OT
DEFENSE: Titus Brown-DE, Avery Hannibal-DE, Gabe O'Neal-SLB, Anthony Johnson-CB, Demario Bobo-FS (NFL)

Not much was established in the modest offense seen last year that will guarantee anything for '08. Look at the statistical rankings, and you see struggles in most areas, especially the passing dimensions. Coupled with what was seen in spring, or a lack thereof when it came to production as the score after regulation was still 0-0 (final score in OT was 6-0), and predictions have to be reserved for what the Bulldogs can muster. One aspect last year was that the highs weren't too high, and the lows weren't so low, and that signals a much more consistent effort upon which to build...slowly, as the case may be.

The quarterbacks are sorted out...well, sort of. The stratum seems dictated by experience, so we find Wesley Carroll atop the depth chart for now. Carroll is a solid sophomore who worked many kinks out in his Freshman All-SEC campaign. With his knowledge of the system, we can't see anyone getting past him before the opener. JUCO transfer Josh Riddell is now gone, as is Mike Henig, and both could have been solid under center. Chris Relf has the gutsy approach many fans like and was the hurler of that game-winner to end the spring scrimmage. But when Relf was “off” in spring practice, he showed it, hence his 2-for-13 (one INT) outing to emphasize that he’s not ready. Still, many have him as the No.2 guy at this early juncture. Junior Tyson Lee seemed the most consistent this spring, but this junior college product is also green to the ways of FBS-level play. There is ample talent in the QB unit, but is Woody McCorvey the right guy (also the coordinator) to elicit the most from his candidates? After McCorvey's team pass efficiency ratings over the past three campaigns ranked 110th, 108th and 117th respectively, we must pose this obvious truth since the QB talent doesn't seem to reach its potential here under this regime.

The running game does a bit better, which is good since Croom's West Coast system runs it twice as often as they air it out. But let's face it...if Anthony Dixon only musters 3.7 yards per carry again, the running game won't bail out the (passing) offense. Dixon is a big back who can move well, but the predictability of his between-the-tackles aim allows foes to stop him too often before he gets going. Christian Ducré is a bit lighter, and it translates since he can bounce outside a bit better. RS frosh Rob Elliot seems poised to make a big splash if his workload this spring says anything about what we will soon see. As last year's No.8 prospect, Elliot is even more svelte than either Ducré or Dixon, but he will have to keep speedy Montario Patterson from becoming the chosen smaller back. Both fullbacks are little more than bruisers, but Hoskins and Hart can both do more than just block if asked to. Given a decent passing game, this group of backs could sustain their part in creating sustained drives.

The receivers will be two seniors who know how to do their part. Aubrey Bell is the biggest body and surest target, using his size to shield DBs and block well downfield. Jamayel Smith is a proven field-stretching weapon, forcing two-deep coverages to commit a safety, or else. JUCO guy Co-Eric Riley was a four-star prize, but he wasn't included in enough plays last year for his paper worth to be realized. The same goes for 6'4 Brandon McRae, a true weapon who needs to be tapped for more than his mere two receptions last year. Marcus Green will be found more downfield than plowing at the line of scrimmage; he’s more of a bulked up WR/RB with speed to burn, and he will be asked to replace the production of three tight ends who were all major parts of the Bulldog offense. Henderson is that pusher needed up front, but he will get his chances in the pattern seeing how the offense here employs many TEs.

The biggest news this off-season wasn't good - Mike Brown is gone (legal troubles) after being expected to anchor the already tenuous OL from his left tackle spot. Four-star prospect Derek Sherrod gets thrust into the spotlight similar to how Brown was placed at the line's most important position and expected to deliver instantly. Mark Melichar plays light like classmates Sherrod and J.C. Brignone. Pass Christian product Brignone did well in his chances, so these three sophs look like they can bolster this OL during its revampings. Brignone is flanked by the two returning starters, and the upperclassmen can help him learn the position the way it needs to be played at this level. Ex-DT Strauder and Pearl-native Jenkins are the keys for the inside running game to stay strong, and that's good news for State fans. Mike Gates is good enough to start, using surprising athleticism to play anywhere needed. Along with Carpenter and Spencer, there is some depth that could step in and keep any injuries from taking production down any notches, but the rest of the unknowns were big reasons the offense had trouble disciplining itself to perform as a tight unit this spring. The OL, regardless, shouldn't be a liability.

If the QBs can prove worthy enough to keep those top SEC foes from cheating eight/nine into the box, this offense can get into long drives and wear down defenses with their physical running style. If the QBs only provide 12 passing TDs like they did last year, expect the offense to again break the 20 point barrier in only about half of MSU's games.


RB Anthony Dixon


Returning Starters in bold
QB Wesley Carroll-So (6-1, 190) Tyson Lee-Jr (5-11, 190)
FB Brandon Hart-Sr (5-11, 240) Eric Hoskins-Sr (5-11, 230)
HB Anthony Dixon-Jr (6-1, 240) Christian Ducre-Jr (6-0, 215)
WR Aubrey Bell-Sr (6-3, 217) Co-Eric Riley-Sr (6-1, 200)
WR Jamayel Smith-Sr (6-0, 183) Brandon McRae-Jr (6-4, 200)
TE Brandon Henderson-So (6-1, 250) Marcus Green-Fr (6-2, 230)
OT Derek Sherrod-So (6-5, 298) Chris Spencer-Jr (6-3, 305)
OG Anthony Strauder-Sr (6-3, 290) Johnny Carpenter-Jr (6-2, 290)
C J.C. Brignone-So (6-1, 290) D.J. Looney-Fr (6-1, 290)
OG Craig Jenkins-Jr (6-4, 315) Michael Gates-Sr (6-4, 305)
OT Mark Melichar-So (6-5, 284) Quentin Saulsberry-Fr (6-3, 286)
K Adam Carlson-Sr (6-4, 195) Eric Richards-Fr (6-4, 227)



These Bulldogs have got some bite seeing how three big conference games were won by the defense, including the one against Auburn and its then-senior-laden squad. That game (Bama result also) was prototypical of what will still be seen this year – State’s iffy run-stopping won't, in turn, open up the defense for subsequent passing success since the secondary is pretty air-tight, and whether State can take advantage of turnovers will again change which team comes out ahead at the end.

A total of five INTs (out of their 18) came back for scores, and opportunities such as these will again be important at those times the offense struggles. The DBs are 2007's No.7 pass defense, which was only good enough to rank them third in the league. Missing will be their best corner, Johnson, and finding a new lock-down type will be the search that tells whether this is another killer secondary or one that struggles to get its results. Marcus Washington did an admirable job after tweaking his back against Auburn, but he wasn't the same and lost his starting assignment by mid-season. JUCO transfer Jasper O'Quinn picked up Washington's mantle and proved why he was so sought after. Tay Bowser is also returning from an injury-plagued year, so a fully healthy set of corners can hopefully pick up where they left off. Then we have the safeties, who are bursting at the seems with both experience and four-star wanna-be's. All-SEC Derek Pegues is a senior who has started at both corner and free safety since he was a true frosh. He therefore knows how to break on the ball with a vengeance from his rear position. The same profile is shared by Keith Fitzhugh, a tough hitting Georgia product who was tapped from day one. Fitzhugh, also a senior, didn't start as much last year after he was a regular in his sophomore campaign, yet he still finished fifth on the team in tackles to prove his effectiveness. Then there's De'Mon Glanton, who will have to earn his starting spot back from Fitzhugh or just be rotated in often so Pegues can step up on third/extra receivers, a specialty of his. Zach Smith is another guy who didn't get a freshman redshirt in 2007 since he was good enough to contribute right away. These four have plenty underneath of them, including two four-star safety prospects who are sure to get a serious look upon arrival. The two departees shouldn't be impossible to replace, so big things are expected of this veteran group. Knowing what to do on ball-fakes and play-action should be "old hat"...well, they have to be.

The linebackers lose one guy, but it might be the best guy on last year's D if solo tackles are the criteria. Senior Jamar Chaney becomes the leader, and he seems ready if the scoreless result from the spring game (regulation time) is any indication of his ability to rally these troops. Chaney earned his All-SEC status after learning both how and where to move much better last year. Chaney is solid now in coverage, but as the biggest MSU LB, he is often needed still along the line. Dominic Douglas enrolled early last year out of junior college (Hinds, MS), and his big spring parlayed into 11 quality starts. Jamon Hughes killed in the West Virginia game, leading the team with 12 tackles, and along with senior Anthony Littlejohn, quite a few guys want Gabe O'Neal's old starting slot. Well, too bad, because K.J. Wright is the new face at strongside linebacker. Wright impressed in the off-season after a mediocre first year, and he has the chops to be one of the greats here. The two freshmen may represent the future, but whether they become weak links or true Bulldogs this year leaves a taste of uncertainty in new LB coach Louis Campbell's mouth.

Also a bit nerve racking has to be trying to find outside pressure with two new starters at end. No one else started last year except Brown and Hannibal, but Tim Bailey was substitute number one, and the JUCO transfer delivered. An Iraq vet (2004-05), Bailey has speed (4.6-second 40 time) and athleticism like few others (41" vertical leap is absurd). His junior year proved the end slots can feature some continuity from the quality seen here last year. In those ever-tough spring position battles, Holmes and McCraney were leap-frogged this spring by Brandon Cooper. After Cortez started four games, who'd-a thunk that Memphis-transfer McCraney wouldn't get the start again, especially with his stout size for sliding into the one-through-nine gaps and losing no push (he started at tackle to start off '07.) The tackles are not lacking skills, but they definitively are "old school" in that they engage a blocker or two so the help behind them can then get the ball carrier. Jessie Bowman was good for only nine unassisted tackles and fellow starter Kyle Love had eight, but their modest tackle totals do not reflect how well they do their job in occupying OLmen and stringing out plays. The No.11 tackle prospect this year is Templeton Hardy; the Sardis native overachieved throughout prep and should make waves instantly on this team that isn't afraid to use its most qualified youngsters right away.

The key to beating this defense will simply be to do it the same way as last year...if the running game works, keep at it and wear them down slowly. Foes that are forced to pass will struggle.


LB Jamar Chaney


Returning Starters in bold
DE Brandon Cooper-So (6-3, 240) Cortez McCraney-Sr (6-4, 272)
DT Kyle Love-Jr (6-1, 320) Reggie Odom-So (6-0, 295)
DT Jessie Bowman-Sr (6-1, 305) LaMarcus Williams-So (6-1, 290)
DE Tim Bailey-Sr (6-3, 241) Jimmie Holmes-Sr (6-3, 235)
SLB K.J. Wright-So (6-3, 215) Anthony Littlejohn-Sr (6-1, 230)
MLB Jamar Chaney-Sr (6-1, 236) Jamie Jones-Fr (6-0, 215)
WLB Dominic Douglas-Sr (6-2, 227) Terrell Johnson-Fr (6-2, 210)
CB Jasper O'Quinn-Sr (5-10, 185) Tay Bowser-Jr (6-3, 185)
CB Marcus Washington-Jr (5-10, 180) Damein Anderson-Fr (5-11, 175)
SS Keith Fitzhugh-Sr (5-11, 206) De'Mon Glanton-Sr (6-1, 190)
FS Derek Pegues-Sr (5-10, 196) Zach Smith-So (6-0, 180)
P Blake McAdams-Sr (5-10, 190) Eric Richards-Fr (6-4, 227)




Blake McAdams has been the punter since his first day here, but the net results during his three years have not been complimentary of his consistency. Adam Carlson has an accurate leg, but not a big one. That's tough on a team where production comes at a premium. Eric Richards does get distance, and we expect last year's No.3 kicking prospect (ESPN.com) will get some looks at both foot-bearing slots. Derek Pegues rules both return jobs and his downfield vision as a top safety allows his runs to be maximized and mistakes to be minimized.