Editor's Mailbag: What do we make of Oxford, West Point after spring game?
Hello, and welcome back to the Editor's Mailbag. This is the second installment of the mailbag this offseason, and this will be a weekly occurrence this fall when high school football season rolls around.
In these stories, I answer questions from you, the readers, given to me on Twitter on a variety of subjects with a heavy focus on Mississippi high school football and sports in general.
Although we are about 90 days away from the beginning of high school football, there are still plenty of topics to discuss as kickoff draws near. With that being said, let's dive in.
Which team wins 1-6A this year? (@DLMiddleton8)
This question actually came during the first mailbag installment last month, but since I forgot to include it then (oops), I decided to include it now, given that it's still relevant.
My early pick for this division title is Oxford, which, in fairness, was my pick before their showing in their spring game against West Point (which we'll get to shortly). I believe that Chris Cutcliffe put forth one of the greatest coaching performances in Mississippi high school history last season after it appeared that his Chargers were dead in the water after a 56-7 loss to Starkville in August. Cutcliffe got the most out of his young roster and finished the year at 9-3 and went toe-to-toe with Horn Lake, who went on to win the 6A state title, for three quarters.
Now, Oxford's roster is more experienced, and the program has momentum after last season's run. You can never overlook a reigning state champion like Horn Lake, but I believe they will take a small step back this season after losing talent in Nakobe Dean and Raydarious Jones. I like the Chargers to get it done this fall.
Will they bring the NCAA football game back? (@B_dub1815)
The NCAA is reviewing its policy on players receiving compensation (or the lack thereof) for their likeness, which could potentially open the door for the return of the NCAA Football video game franchise, one of the best video game series of all-time, in my humble opinion.
The NCAA has never been one to put the student athlete first, regardless of whether or not they claim to do so, so I'm not holding my breath that they'll change their tune on player compensation for video games and autographs, but if they do, we will party in the streets across this great nation with hopes that EA Sports revives the franchise.
Oxford beat West Point 31-0 in their spring game last week. Does the result tell us more about West Point or Oxford this upcoming season? Or do we not take anything from it at all? (@SESWalkerBailey)
Spring games are weird.
Am I worried about West Point after their poor performance against Oxford? Not really. Will Mississippians keep a closer eye on the Green Wave in August and September as a result of this game? Probably.
I think Oxford is really good, as stated above in the first question, but I also think West Point is poised to win the 5A state title once again if they play their cards right. That being said, I think we're foolish not to take anything from a spring game, but I also think you have to take very little from them. Kids know they don't count towards any record or championship, and their format can make for some weird scores and upsets. I still like both the Chargers and Green Wave heading into the summer.
If you were building a football team (any level), and you were told every football coach in the world was available, who are you hiring? (@SawyerByars)
I pondered on this question for days, and I think I've narrowed it down. Here's my "short" list:
- Chris Jones (head coach, Starkville High School)
- Chris Cutcliffe (head coach, Oxford High School)
- Dabo Swinney (head coach, Clemson)
- Lincoln Riley (head coach, Oklahoma)
- Bill Clark (head coach, UAB)
- Kirby Smart (head coach, Georgia)
- Sean McVay (head coach, Los Angeles Rams)
Now for my reasoning.
I obviously know a lot of high school football coaches in the state, so I just stuck with high school guys in Mississippi for this exercise. What do all of these coaches have in common? They're all young, have experience building up a program, are good recruiters, win pretty much everywhere they go and have led their program to new heights through strong coaching performances. All seven of these coaches have experience at their position without having lost their energy and excitement for their job, and I think any of them would be successful at building a new football program, at least at one level.
Better fictional quarterback: Sunshine ("Remember the Titans"), Paul Crew (Adam Sandler in "Longest Yard"), Lance Harper ("Varsity Blues") or Bo Callahan ("Draft Day")? (@ngabler4)
Of these four films, I have only seen one, which is "Remember the Titans" (I know, shoot me). So my answer, by default, is Sunshine, but that doesn't mean it's the correct answer by any means. Feel free to flame me on the Twitters because of this.
Waffle House, "O Brother Where Art Thou?," Gaither Vocal Band: one has to leave your life forever. What you choosing? (@SawyerByars)
"O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is film perfection and my favorite movie of all-time, but I would probably choose that. Waffle House has brought about so many good meals and memories with friends and family (although not in Oxford), and the Gaither Vocal Band has fueled my love for Southern Gospel music since my childhood. I would just have to make do without "OBWAT."
Would you rather build an offense around Tua [Tagovailoa] or (the magical) T-Law [Trevor Lawrence]? (@loganredwine2)
I have a love for left-handed, mobile quarterbacks (shoutout to Ole Miss and Tennessee legend Brent Schaeffer) because I believe they are harder for defenders to read and defend. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea. My brief jr. high career as a free safety didn't feature many (if any) left-handed signal-callers. I also believe that Tua could be one of the most accurate passers in the history of the game by the time his career at Alabama is over.
That being said, Trevor Lawrence is an incredible athlete and competitor and has a certain grittiness that I believe Tua has lacked so far in his career. Tagovailoa has also been somewhat injury-prone in his brief career with the Tide, so I think I would choose Trevor Lawrence, although it's close.
In your opinion, is it more beneficial to split division games throughout the year like most other states, or put them all int he backend of the schedule in football? (@JoshCro93592907)
I believe there are pros and cons to both formulas, which isn't a cop-out answer, but I would need to gauge more coaches' opinions on the matter before I gave a definite answer. I will say this, however: having all of your divisional games at the end of the season can be cumbersome and awkward, especially as injuries pile up as the games carry more weight.
1A schools have the lovely benefit of having up to eight region opponents each season (which is absolutely ridiculous, but we'll touch on that another time) and in a classification where almost every player has to play all three facets of the game (offense, defense and special teams) injuries definitely pile up throughout the course of a season. That being said, it's kind of hard not to group these games together since there are so many, and after the first weekend of September, 1A schools are typically playing division games for the majority of the remainder of their schedule.
Outside of 1A, you still have the issue of injuries late in the season, but if you were to scatter divisional games throughout your schedule, you could wind up facing divisional opponents early in the year before your team really settles into a groove and establishes its identity. I have always viewed the early non-divisional portion of the season as somewhat of a trial run for divisional play where coaches can figure out what they have on their roster and get the pieces in place to be successful in the home stretch of the season. Putting divisional games, say, in weeks two and three of the season for these teams could potentially be a hinderance to their success, especially if they are a young team going through somewhat of a rebuild.
This obviously just touches the surface of this debate, but it's a very interesting question nonetheless and a conversation that will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
Why do I care about sports? They suck. (@jdGollihar19)
I ask myself this question every day. My sports teams and franchises have brought me a constant onslaught of pain and disappointment with the occasional surprising season in which they win a decent amount of games, only to fall short of a title. Still, it's that hope of "maybe this year will be different" and the tradition, pageantry and camaraderie that comes with sports that keeps us coming back year after year, and this is the case for all levels from pee-wee to professional.
Sports unite us, and as we celebrate together, we also mourn together. Best of luck, Joshua, as your Texas Rangers rebuild and rally behind the rising legend that is Joey Gallo.