Miss. State reaping recruiting rewards|[07/24/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2008

COLLEGE FOOTBALL * From staff reports

HOOVER, Ala. – Sylvester Croom and Mississippi State are reaping the dividends of last season’s strong finish.

Croom said Wednesday at Southeastern Conference media days that the Bulldogs are way ahead of where they’ve been on the recruiting trail during his tenure.

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That’s largely due to an eight-win season that included a Liberty Bowl victory and SEC Coach of the Year honors for Croom.

The Bulldogs have 19 verbal commitments from upcoming high school seniors.

“The biggest thing that’s happened for us is we’re now starting to see the residual effects of last season in the recruiting,” Croom said. “As you know, with the nature of recruiting, it’s such now that about mid-season it’s pretty much over and done with. So last year’s recruiting was pretty much in the books before we went down that winning stretch at the last part of the season.”

As for the current season, Croom said he is expecting quarterback Wesley Carroll to be better this season and figures to have a more explosive offense. Carroll started nine games as a freshman.

Croom did say he would be willing to play two quarterbacks if junior college transfer Tyson Lee emerges.

“Hopefully this year we can start off a lot stronger and a lot faster than that we’ve done as far as the season goes and also at the beginning of games,” Croom said. “That’s something we’re really going to work on during the course of our two-a-days. If we do have the intangible qualities as our team had last year, with the talent we have, then we have a chance at some point to be a good football team during the course of this season.”

Mississippi State opens the season on the road Aug. 30 at Louisiana Tech before hosting Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 6.

Quarterback Wesley Carroll, who led the Bulldogs’ run to the Liberty Bowl last season, said he’s confident the team can continue the winning ways that started last season.

“I feel we can compete for an SEC Championship. I definitely believe we can play with teams like Auburn and Alabama,” Carroll said. “Last year we played well against Tennessee and South Carolina but felt like we let those games get away from us late. We believe we can be better and win those games this year.”

Also on Wednesday, LSU coach Les Miles found himself fielding questions about recent comments directed at the University of Alabama.

Miles told fans at an LSU booster club meeting in New Orleans last week “not to make too much of that (Alabama) game, as it seems like a lot of teams in Louisiana beat that team.” It was a reference to the Crimson Tide’s embarrassing loss to Louisiana-Monroe last season.

It wasn’t brought up until the second question: How would Alabama fare against the 12 colleges in Louisiana? This time Miles didn’t bite.

Miles said he has great respect for the Tide and its tradition.