Take Five – Get the big takeaways on sports in Mississippi with our weekly ‘Take Five’ series. Five minutes, five takes, all the insight and information you need to stay plugged in.
By Jon Wiener and “Insider” Joe Simeone
1. Metcalf and Sweat Secure the Bag
The Combine can make or break potential NFL stars. Perform well and you can vault up rounds and income brackets. Perform poorly and you can see yourself start to slide down the draft board. For D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss) and Montez Sweat (Miss. State), it was all about watching their draft stock shoot up. Metcalf, the 6’3” 228 lb wide receiver, needed to answer one big question: with all that size and weight, how fast is he? Metcalf emphatically answered that question by running a 4.33 second 40-yard-dash, the third fastest by Wide Receivers. He followed that up with 27 reps on the bench press — tied for first among receivers. It was a show-stealing day, but Metcalf might not have been the best from Mississippi at the Combine. Sweat, a 6’6” 260 lb defensive end, ran a blazing 4.41-second 40-yard dash. For context, that is the fastest ever recorded by a defensive lineman. He added to that with a 125-inch broad jump (third best) and the fourth-best 3-cone time. Sweat dominated the Combine in every facet and showed why he could be a star pass rusher in the NFL. Futures in football are ever uncertain: but both Metcalf and Sweat turned heads in Indianapolis and undoubtedly secured themselves a big payday come draft day.
2. Mississippi Takes(Over) the Combine
It was a Mississippi takeover at the Combine this year with 17 players participating from State and Ole Miss. Sure enough, the Magnolia state delivered both the star showings and some of the top sleeper prospects. Ole Miss defensive back Zedrick Woods ran a scorching 4.29 40 yard dash time. It made him the fastest player at this years combine. Woods paired that by finishing in the top 10 of his position in every drill. Fellow Rebel defensive back Ken Webster also finished in the top 10 of his position in every single drill, as well posting a 43-inch vertical — best among cornerbacks. Other big names and college stalwarts performed well: tackle Greg Little (Ole Miss) shined in the pivotal broad jump, Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was top 5 among signal-callers in the 40-yard dash (4.64) — the time also would have been Top 5 among tight ends, a potential NFL switch for Fitz. Speaking of tight ends, underused Ole Miss TE Dawson Knox showed off his agility by placing top 5 in the 3 cone drill. It seemed as if there was a Mississippi player in the top 5 of every position group.
— AJ Brown (@Brown1arthur) March 4, 2019
3. Mississippi State women in rarefied air:
Has the best program in Mississippi flown under the radar this season? Maybe it’s the loss of megawatt four-year star Victoria Vivians. Could be the renewed vigor from the men’s side of things in Mississippi. Or perhaps we’ve just gotten used to Vic Schaefer’s bunch of Bulldogs dominating nearly everyone and hollering “Praise the Lord, Go Dawgs” while they’re at it. On Sunday the No.5 Lady Bulldogs (27-2, 15-1) won their second consecutive SEC title outright with a 68-64 win on the road against No.14 South Carolina; had the Gamecocks won, the two would have shared the overall crown. What the Bulldogs accomplished is heady stuff: consecutive conference titles for the first time in school history (31-1 over two seasons). Saturday was the first time State has beaten the powerhouse Gamecocks in consecutive seasons since 2009-10. All this from a team that lost four starters from last year’s Final Four team and then Chloe Bibby early this season. It’s never flashy with Schaefer’s bunch, or star center Teaira McCowan, who finished the regular season at an absurdly efficient 17.3 ppg & 13.4 rebs in just 28.7 minutes. That could be why you haven’t seen Schaefer as a national coach of the year finalist, or the fan and media frenzy that accompanied the Vivians-led breakthrough teams. It’s also why they just hung another SEC banner in Humphrey Coliseum and are in position for a third consecutive Final Four appearance.
4. Ole Miss Hoops Facing Pivotal Finish
NCAA tournament footing can change quicker and with less margin than Steve Spurrier quarterbacks. Just ask Ole Miss, who in the space of a questionable call against Tennessee and a mixed-up inbound play at Arkansas, now finds itself needing a win in the final two games to truly secure its spot. Otherwise it’s a potential must-win scenario in the opening round of the SEC Tournament or anxious Selection Sunday. The Rebels (19-10, 9-7) are still hovering around a nine seed in most projections, but now No.6 Kentucky comes to town. Beat the Wildcats and you’re dancing. And a loss is nothing Joey Brackets will bury you for. But then don’t beat Missouri, and it’s four straight losses, and five out of six, to close the schedule. One big win the Rebels lack will get you in. But late season skids can get you whacked. Our prediction: the Rebels continue to live on the knife’s edge and win one of two close games. Our hope: it’s tonight against Kentucky and the official Big Dance party starts on the Square.
5. MHSAA Tourney Mississippi’s Best Event
It’s state tournament week at the ‘Big House.’ There are bigger sporting events in Mississippi, and certainly more modern venues, even at the high school level. But for our money (or $12 for yours) the MHSAA state tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum is the best sports scene the state has to offer each year. Not just because of the great basketball action on the court. It’s the atmosphere, the emotion, the uniqueness of a week where seemingly every type and territory of Mississippi descends on the Coliseum and gathers together. Talk about telling Mississippi’s sports stories: the great Rick Cleveland once wrote that, “In the Big House, you can throw a paper airplane in the crowd and wherever it lands, you will find yourself an incredible story.” From Olive Branch to Ocean Springs, college towns to the deep Delta, rough-and-tumble country folks to city hoops lovers, black, white, Native American, young, old and legendary…it’s all under one roof this week. That’s the kind of scene that gets our juices going.
Tweet of The Week: When you see the D.K. Metcalf 40 (Connor Rogers)
Our Tweet of the week comes from Bleacher Reports NFL draft expert Connor Rogers after seeing D.K. Metcalf put up a 4.33 40-yard dash.
When you see the D.K. Metcalf 40 pic.twitter.com/QwgfQSo34X
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) March 2, 2019
There is fast and then there is world class fast. Metcalf made it known that he has world class speed this past week at the NFL Combine and turned a lot of heads with his performance.