Itawamba Community College’s football team found themselves in a tough spot last Thursday night.
The offense was struggling and down six points they needed a big play. Enter Darius Slay.
“He’s just a game changer and that’s just what he did in that game for us,” ICC head coach Jon Williams said.
Slay returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown to give his team the lead and give Starkville fans a taste of what the MSU commit intends to be once he puts on the maroon and white colors.
“Every coach in America focuses on special teams and takes it very seriously so I feel like I should too,” Slay said. “If my team needs me to help them out with that, I’m always there for them.”
Slay was named Co-Special Teams Player of the Week by the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
Slays’ favorite athlete is Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, somebody Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen guided when he was an assistant at Florida, but Bulldogs fan can expect him to first tried at cornerback next year to add to the youth in the secondary of MSU defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
“First what we do as best we can is talk to the counselor of the kid we’re recruiting to get continual academic updates to make sure we’re getting the right character kid,” Mullen said. “You’re evaluated them on film, in a practice setting, evaluate them in a game for demeanor purposes and then certainly evaluated them in school with the community.”
The junior-college talent has already seen Southeastern Conference talent during his 2010 season when in that same game against Mississippi Delta Community College he essentially performed the perfect task of keeping former Ole Miss wide receiver Pat Patterson from touching the football. The former Rebel, who was covered by Slay all game long, did not catch a single pass.
“I thought he would do better than that seeing as how they threw an awful lot but I was happy to hold him like I did.” Slay said.
Williams says that since Slay reconfirmed his original commitment to MSU this past offseason, the Bulldogs staff checks in about once a week with his office to monitor how their prospect is doing.
“We do our deal here but they monitor everything about him so they know what do with him once he gets to Starkville,” Williams said. “It’s never been much of a mystery with Darius though. They’re getting a multi-skilled athlete.”
Mullen to possibly face third QB he previously recruited
Terrance Broadway simply decided to go play for the system that could best help him fill up the stat sheets with yards and touchdown passes.
The Cougars freshman quarterback will get that chance Saturday night when he faces one of the coaches and programs he turned down last offseason when Mississippi State comes to town for a non-conference game (7 p.m., CBS College Sports).
Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin has kept the quarterback decision secret this week saying Broadway and fellow true freshman David Piland is "very close right now" and the starter against Mississippi State will be a game-time decision.
“No matter who the trigger man is they are going to move the ball and score points,” Diaz said.
If Sumlin decides to start Broadway like he did so in a victory over Tulane two weeks ago, Mississippi State will be very familiar with the dual-threat skills possess because Mullen tried to bring them to Starkville.
Mullen admitted during his Sunday teleconference he spent offseasons unsuccessfully recruiting the Baton Rouge, La., native to be his quarterback but less than months after stepping foot on the University of Houston campus, he is in position to finish the 2010 season as the starter.
After losing Hesiman Trophy candidate Case Keenum to a season-ending injury to his right knee and then having backup Cotton Turner going down with a season-ending injury in the same game (a loss at UCLA) Broadway got the keys to the high-powered passing spread offense.
“It was 31-3 when Broadway entered the game at UCLA and he led them to two scores right off the bat,” Mullen said.
Broadway, who had 174 yards passing but one interception in the start against Tulane, was rated as a four-star prospect in last year’s recruiting class and was the fifth-best dual threat quarterback in the country. A knee injury during his senior year of high school didn’t even stop schools like Alabama, MSU, UConn and Oregon from offering him a scholarship.
Mullen attempted to sway Broadway when he came to Starkville for an official visit last July but the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder had already made up after touring the Houston campus.
“He said that’s the place he wanted to be,” Connie Broadway told the Baton Rouge Advocate on July 28.
Mullen was asked Sunday what he remembered from last season’s 31-24 loss and the answer wasn’t anything positive. The second-year head coach referenced the fourth-down penalty called on quarterback Tyson Lee for stepping over the line of scrimmage before he completed a lengthy pass to Leon Berry and Mullen blamed himself for not challenging the call.
“We had the lead and gave it up in the second half,” Mullen said Sunday. “When adversity hit, they rebounded and made the play. When adversity hit us, we made it worse.”
Cougars receiver suspended for Saturday’s game
The University of Houston football program announced Monday that senior wide receiver James Cleveland will be suspended for Saturday’s game against Mississippi State.
The team's co-captain and leading receiver is being disciplined for what Cougars head coach Kevin Sumlin is calling a violation of team rules. Cleveland has 20 catches for 324 yards and three touchdowns for the Cougars, who take a 3-1 record and 18-game home winning streak into Saturday.
"James made a mistake, which is uncharacteristic of him," Sumlin said in a statement released through the school. "I am disappointed because up until now he has done everything we have asked of him. He is very remorseful and hopefully will use this as a learning experience and be ready to go next week."
Cleveland was not only the 2009 Conference USA Newcomer of the Year last year but more importantly to MSU fans had a team-high 11 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns in Houston’s 31-24 victory at Davis-Wade Stadium last year. UH lists junior Justin Johnson (three catches, 39 yards this season) and freshman Kenneth Bibbins Jr. (one catch, 12 yards) as Cleveland's primary backups at inside receiver.