Get ready for some spring football

Published 12:24 am Thursday, April 16, 2009

While baseballs continue to fly at parks across the nation, some athletes are already donning their helmets and pads and getting back on the gridiron.

This weekend starts spring football games, one of the most anticipated times in college football.

These games are a chance for schools to showcase its new talent and those that redshirted the previous season.

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And it’s a chance for fans to preview the excitement to come in the fall.

For LSU, last year’s spring game was a celebration of the Tigers’ national championship win and an expression of the hopes of a repeat title.

Because the Bayou Bengals didn’t quite live up to expectations this past season, Saturday’s 5 p.m. scrimmage between the purple and white teams at Tiger Stadium will demonstrate of a rebuilding of sorts.

Andrew Hatch is no longer an option at quarterback, having transferred back to Harvard, so the signal-calling controversy is narrowed down to Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson.

Lee struggled during the past season, recording 16 interceptions. But with eight starts, he has more experience than Jefferson, who started two games but appeared in 5 more in 2008.

Charles Scott will showcase his running back prowess, and despite a concussion suffered in practice, wide receiver Terrance Tolliver is expected to catch some passes Saturday.

Mississippi State’s Spring Game will be new head coach Dan Mullen’s official coming out party.

The game, which will kick off at 5:30 p.m. as the centerpiece of Super Bulldog Weekend, marks a new era for the Bulldogs of Starkville.

MSU had two scrimmages in the past couple weeks, and Mullen said he liked what he saw.

Chris White intercepted Tyson Lee on the second drive of the second game, but Lee then led his team on a 40-yard scoring drive, including a 13-yard touchdown by Anthony Dixon, on the team’s next possession.

Lee was 11-25-1 for 113 yards passing and had two 7-yard touchdown carries in the game.

Ole Miss fans are pumped about Houston Nutt’s second season in charge.

The Rebels took a one-point win against eventual national champion Florida and scored wins against LSU, Arkansas and Auburn. They finished the regular season with a 45-0 Egg Bowl win against the Bulldogs and beat Texas Tech 47-34 in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic.

The Grove Bowl will kick off at 1 p.m., and projected first-round NFL draft picks Michael Oher and Peria Jerry will be honored.

Nutt has praised the defense’s improvement all spring.

He praised the strong play of running back Brandon Bolden and fullback Andy Hartmann but said he is frustrated with the inconsistency of the other backs.

Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora received a contract extension with the Golden Eagles’ 30-27 win in the New Orleans Bowl, and fans are anxious to see how the team will fare this year.

The Golden Eagles finished 7-6 in 2008, including a double-overtime loss to UTEP.

Aside from Fedora, Natchez fans should be excited about the future of signees Jamie Collins and Alex Smith from Franklin County High.

The Black and Gold Spring Game starts at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The Golden Eagles’ first game of the season is against Alcorn State, whose spring game will be at 2 p.m. Saturday.

While the Purple and Gold Game is not the first for Earnest Collins as a Braves coach, it will be his first as the head coach.

Collins said the team is working to reinstall the offense and must learn to understand assignments on defense to improve upon its 2-10 record from last season.

Krysten Oliphant is a sports reporter at The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at