Will Eli leave

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 27, 2003

mark like brother, dad?

His first name is Eli, but it’s his last name that gets all the attention. It’s Manning, that’s what it is, and his dad Archie and older brother Peyton stamped the name in football circles pretty good when they played for Ole Miss and Tennessee, respectively.

Not that it’s news to anyone.

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Just 60-odd days ago coach David Cutcliffe’s not-so-well-established Rebels upset Nebraska in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport. At least 17-18 players with solid experience are back in Rebel camp and rarin’ to go behind Eli and some pretty good backup hands, along the front wall and elsewhere.

Whipping Nebraska hopefully starts his 2003 charges off on the right foot, or so Cutcliffe has remarked. Good motivation, I guess, because coming off a big bowl victory has to be a plus. It gives the team momentum at the very least. And the experience gained under bowl fire is one of the best daily practice ingredients coaches can call on as they prepare for next season.

But Ole Miss has glaring weaknesses, they’re saying around the league. But that’s &uot;they,&uot; not necessarily the Rebel staff, which has decided not to talk negatives that much.

If you brag too much and lose, you’re a dodo. If you’re careful not to be too chesty and have a good season, you’re a hero.

Cutcliffe, his players and coaching staff whistled in 2003 spring practice thinking things fall in a few months. There I’ve said the magic word: Fall &045; the coming of college football kicks off everywhere.

In our state, Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State and Ole Miss will be going after it in college football ranks this fall. I would say that things are looking up pretty good for all three. I probably wouldn’t say differently, though, even if I had an inkling. Let’s just say I’m thinking positive at this point.

LSU must have written the head in one newspaper because it went something like this: &uot;Tigers extend Rebels’ skid.&uot; Talkin’ about college basketball now, and the cagers have been hoggin’ the spotlight right lately

It’s noteworthy, though, that USM was able to put Tulane away at home in Green Coliseum Sunday before 3,461 fans. USM head coach James Green credited Clement Carter with a good all-around performance and leading the team to victory.

Meantime, the Kentucky (basketball school) Wildcats were nailing Mississippi State to the wall, 70-62, in Lexington. There was a time when basketball was State’s game, but not for a while. Even so, the Bulldogs aren’t doing so badly this season &045; not at 17-6 overall and 7-5 through the weekend in the conference.

Meantime on national TV, Mississippi State, as I have already noted, hung with nationally ranked Kentucky before losing. You don’t give a Kentucky basketball team an inch &045; you just don’t. The Wildcats were 22-3 overall and 12-0 in the SEC after bumping off State’s battling Bulldogs.

&uot;Drats,&uot; a Bulldog fan remarked to me on Monday, bemoaning the fact that State and Ole Miss both usually lose to Kentucky. So many others as well, I might remind

I guess turnabout is fair play: Ole Miss and State usually defeat Kentucky in football. And it’s the Southeastern Conference that’s followed so closely in these parts.

It’s sports, ain’t it?

Glenvall Estes is a longtime columnist for The Natchez Democrat.