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Football fans looking forward to 2001 kickoff

With eager anticipation, college football fans are lookingforward to kicking off the 2001 campaign. Here in Mississippi,there is much excitement about the season ahead. Ole Miss,Mississippi State and Southern Miss all went to bowl games lastyear and Delta State won a Division II National Championship.

Can it get much better than that?

Well, let’s see. Jackson State could win the SWAC and AlcornState could win one game. That would definitely be an improvementfor the Tigers and Braves.

Closer to home, Copiah-Lincoln Community College, under thedirection of new head coach Dave Cross, is hunting a winningseason. The Wolves want to improve on their 3-7 record and competefor the South Division title.

Jackie Sherrill’s MSU Bulldogs are early favorites to win theSEC West Division title. They are led by 4-year starter WayneMadkin at quarterback and a herd of talented running backs. Lastyear Madkin became the fifth back in MSU history to rush for over1,000 yards.

Madkin, center Tommy Watson, safety Pig Prather, tailbackDicenzo Miller and defensive tackle Dorsett Davis are the fivesenior captains for the 2001 campaign. Watson, a transfer fromCo-Lin, started every game at guard last season. He made the switchto center in the spring and has received rave reviews from thecoaches.

MSU’s offense should be impressive. How well defensivecoordinator Joe Lee Dunn can fill all those vacancies on defensewill determine the success level for the Bulldogs this fall.

On the defensive side, former Co-Lin linebacker Kamau Jackson isexpected to make a big contribution as an incoming junior. Jacksonplayed exceptionally well at Co-Lin and he accomplished histeam-high tackle statistics despite a partially torn ACL.

The defensive line will be a key. Junior college products PaulBroussard (6-4, 300), of Blinn (Texas), Ronald Fields (6-3, 295) ofHargrave (Va.), Tommy Kelly (6-6, 280) of Hinds (Miss.) Kahill Nash(6-4, 265) and Dannie Snyder (6-3, 285), both of Arizona Western,are being counted on to step in and play well.

State’s kicking game has some question marks but Sherrill shouldhave the answers before the Sept. 1 season opener against Memphis.Justin Spencer, a junior walk-on from Brookhaven (Loyd Star),punted exceptionally well for Co-Lin. He and redshirt freshmanJared Cook are the top candidates for the job.

Placekicker will feature some newcomers. Sophomore John MichaelMarlin is the leader.

At Ole Miss, Rebel fans are singing the praises of Eli Manningat quarterback. Manning showcased his skills in the bowl game lossto West Virginia. Manning has a solid offensive line and a flock oftalented wide receivers for targets.

Defense will be the key to the number of victories inVaught-Hemingway Stadium and on the road. New defensive coordinatorDon Lindsey is going to have to produce some instant miracles. OleMiss head coach David Cutcliffe says, “I have always thought(Lindsey) was one of the most innovative, aggressive defensivefootball coaches in the United States.”

The Rebels host Murray State Sept. 1.

At Southern Miss, Jeff Bower is expected to spoil Golden Eaglefans with another Conference USA title contender. Bower has anoutstanding quarterback returning in senior Jeff Kelly and atremendous running back in senior Derrick Nix.

At wide receiver, the Eagles return a star in Leroy Handy, the2000 GMAC Mobile Alabama Bowl Offensive MVP. Kenneth Johnson,another wide receiver, earned Freshman All-American honors.

In the defensive secondary, Chad Williams returns All-C-USAlaurels. Linebacker Chad Davis earned Freshman All-Americanhonors.

The Eagles host Oklahoma State Sept. 1.