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VOL. 131 | NO. 139 | Wednesday, July 13, 2016

MSU’s Mullen Defends Simmons At Media Days

By Don Wade

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HOOVER, Ala. – In another year and another circumstance, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen might have spent all his time at SEC Media Days answering questions about having to replace Dak Prescott at quarterback.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen defended the decision to accept five-star freshman defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons onto the team after a video surfaced that showed Simmons hitting a woman on the ground.

(Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

But the enrollment of five-star freshman defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, even though he was caught on video punching a woman, led to a media blitz as reporters repeatedly asked Mullen about the decision to accept Simmons onto the team.

Prescott had said at this event last year that violence against women was never acceptable. Mullen didn’t go near saying that, as all his answers wound back to the idea that Simmons was being accepted into the MSU “family” and deserved a chance to move forward with his life. To get an education, and, as a 6-4, 310-pound potential pro prospect, play football for the Bulldogs.

In the video, still available on the Internet, Simmons looks like he initially tries to break up a fight between two women. But he is then seen striking one of the women several times while she’s on the ground. Simmons faces a misdemeanor simple assault charge in connection with the incident.

In various interviews on Tuesday, July 12 at SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – The Wynfrey Hotel, Mullen repeatedly said Simmons should not have his character “defined by 10 seconds of video.”

When pressed about whether he would feel differently about the incident if his wife or daughter was the victim of a Simmons punch, Mullen said: “I’m very strongly against violence toward women – or anybody. That video does not define who that young man is. Knowing him for four years, that was uncharacteristic of him as a young man.”

The university did make the decision to suspend Simmons for the first game of the season vs. South Alabama.

Senior linebacker Richie Brown said Simmons had an “apologetic” attitude about the incident and was working hard, going to counseling, and had been a “good teammate.”

“He’s handled it really well,” Brown said of the way Simmons has dealt with the attention coming from the incident.

New Replay System and Rule Changes

The Southeastern Conference is replacing its old replay systems in all the league’s stadiums and the new replay gear should allow the respective replay officials in the stadiums to get their reviews quicker, according to SEC Coordinator of Officials Steve Shaw.

Last season, Shaw said, the average time of a replay stop was 1:21 and on average there were about two stops per game.

“As part of this new replay process we’re going to have three house replay officials sitting in our video center in Birmingham,” Shaw said. “They’re going to have the live feed and communication to the stadium in every one of our venues.”

Allowing for this “collaborative” process between the replay official at a venue and the three replay officials at the video center is an experimental rule and Shaw emphasized the replay official at the stadium still has the primary determination of whether to overturn a call or not. That official also has the chief responsibility on whether to stop a game for replay or not, although now there will be communication from the video center, too.

Shaw says they have two goals: improved consistency and avoiding incorrect calls.

“If you have a targeting foul in an early game on a day, you want the same outcome in the targeting foul in the last game of the day or from September to November,” Shaw said.

Shaw stopped short of promising 100 percent accuracy, saying, “What this is not is perfection, OK? There are gray plays.”

In other rules news: Medical observers are moving from experimental status to being a regular part of all games at SEC venues. While a medical observer only called for the stoppage of a game one time last season, Shaw said the process proved the medical observer can increase player safety.

“Because the medical observer has the video,” he said. “They can see hits. They can see impacts and they can pass information to our medical people about what happened on a specific play to help them diagnose and get a player back as soon as possible” or to ensure a player is examined more closely.

Shaw also reported that the league’s adding of an eighth official last season did not substantially increase the number of fouls called: 12.96 fouls per game in 2014 to 13.0 in 2015.

Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties averaged less than one per game in 2015, Shaw said, adding, “So we need to continue that trend.”

They Said It

“I need to be more of a dominating specimen, more tenacious this year.” Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams on what he has to do in 2016.

“This football team knows how to compete, OK? It’s not about competing anymore, it’s about winning. We had the great fortune to win one more game. For some in here, that’s not monumental enough … For us, we saw how we let some games slide. We missed some opportunities and that has not gone unnoticed by this football team.” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason on the Commodores improving from 3-9 in 2014 to 4-8 last season.

“It’s been cool that that game has two teams from Mississippi deciding big things. People are paying attention and we’re getting a lot of respect.” MSU linebacker Richie Brown on recent Egg Bowls.

Will Fans Tune Back into College Football Playoffs?

Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, addressed the media and there were just a couple of relevant questions for him.

First, given that ratings for last year’s Alabama-Clemson national title game were down 15 percent from Ohio State-Oregon the previous year and the New Year’s Eve semifinal games had a ratings drops of more than 35 percent, what, if anything, can be done to attract more viewers?

“Yes, were disappointed with the viewership, although millions of people watched those games,” Hancock said. “The semifinal games were among the highest-rated cable games of all time. We know we face some challenges with New Year’s Eve.”

This year’s semifinal games are again on New Year’s Eve – one in the afternoon, one at night. Hancock suggested that last year’s ratings for New Year’s Eve games was perhaps a case of a “sophomore slump.”

Asked if there were any plans to expand the four-team playoff, Hancock said: “There’s no discussion of expanding. We set the four-team tournament for 12 years, and there’s no discussion in our group about any kind of expansion.”

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