MSU alumni gather: Dunn sockless in Brookhaven

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Joe Lee Dunn felt right at home Tuesday night when MississippiState University alumni and friends gathered at the BrookhavenCountry Club. As usual, Dunn didn’t wear socks for the gathering ofmaroon and white faithful. Leather loafers separated the soles ofhis feet from Lincoln County turf.

“I complained because I had no shoes until I met a man whohad no feet.”

Looking back to the 2000 Independence (Snow) Bowl for amoment, Dunn recalled the freezing temperatures and blizzardconditions encountered by the MSU Bulldogs and Texas A&M Aggiesin Shreveport, La. “I think I had five pairs of socks on but myfeet were still cold. I’ve coached out west in Utah, New Mexico andWyoming but I’ve never felt as cold as I did that night inShreveport.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Dunn, State’s highly regarded defensive coordinator, hasbeen one of the keys to the Bulldogs three straight postseason bowlappearances. His defensive staff has been a secure unit for fiveyears, giving them the most seniority in the SEC.

A native of Columbus, Ga., and a 1968 graduate ofTennessee-Chattanooga, the 54-year-old Dunn has become head coachJackie Sherrill’s right-hand man. Dunn moved toStarkville after coaching at Ole Miss for two years.

“This is my first time in Brookhaven and I’m happy to behere,” said Dunn, addressing a large crowd of 150 plus who jammedthe banquet room last night. “I’ve been to a lot of places in thisarea, like Magnolia, McComb and Natchez.”

Dunn introduced special teams and defensive line coachJohn Hendrick to the crowd. Hendrick, a 1981 Pittgraduate, came to MSU in 1995. His main recruiting area issouthwest Mississippi.

“We’ve been blessed in the kicking game,” said Hendrick.”Our kickoff coverage has been excellent. We have a great kickoffreturn team.”

Hendrick mentioned speedsters Korey Banksand Ray Ray Bivens as the two primary returnspecialists this fall.

Dunn shared the podium with running backs coachGlenn Davis, calling him “one of the bestrecruiters in college football.”

Davis is a familiar face to this area. A 1982 Delta Stategraduate, he coached two years at Copiah-Lincoln Community College(1995-96), serving as offensive coordinator.

State has a bushel of talented runners and quarterbacksreturning for the 2001 campaign, led by 4-year starterWayne Madkin at quarterback. Dontae Walker and DicenzoMiller should make the headlines as star tailbacks this fall.Justin Griffith returns at fullback and redshirt freshman Fred Reidhas shown plenty of potential at tailback.

“We challenged every player to try and improve,” said Davis.”Our first priority was to replace Michael Fair atcenter.”

Tommy Watson, a former Co-Lin standout, has beenmoved from right guard to center. Watson looked good during springpractice.

Bivens and Antonio Hargro, the 1-2offensive show from Gautier High School, sat out last season asfreshmen. Both of them, along with redshirt freshmanMcKinley Scott, should catch plenty of passes forlong gainers this fall. Hargro is a hurdler in track and possessesoutstanding speed. “He can flat-out fly,” said Davis.

While State’s offense could average a point a minute, thedefense is what concerns Dunn the most. “We were not very good attimes last year. We can’t win with what we have on campus rightnow.”

Pig Prather, a standout linebacker, missedthe spring drills recovering from knee surgery. Prather should beready for the Sept. 3 home opener against Memphis.

Dunn said he expected 14 newcomers to the defense to reportfor preseason drills in early August. “We will have 29 practices toget ready for Memphis.”

Among the late arrivals on campus will be Co-Lin linebackerKamau Jackson. He led the Wolves in tackles andearned All-America honors despite playing most of the season with apartially torn ACL. He’s from Decatur, Ga.

Dunn said Korey Banks, a transfer fromGarden City (Kan.) Community College, is the top candidate toreplace Fred Smoot in the secondary. Smoot was taken in thesecond round of the NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins lastweekend.

“We have a young group on defense,” said Dunn. “It’sa wait-and-see situation. We should be good the next threeyears.”

Dunn preaches an aggressive, punishing style ofdefense. The Bulldogs have been the most penalized team in the SECthe last two years. With Dunn leading the way, the Bulldogs alsohave been one of the most successful teams.