CATEGORY: FOC College Football

AUTHOR: PARRIS

HED:MSU's jumbotron has tough first assignment

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

STARKVILLE The first show on Mississippi State's Sony Jumbotron end zone entertainment center will be a big one.

Bennie Ashford and members of his electronic media department have put together a tribute to tailback Keffer McGee, who drowned Aug. 5 in a pool at a Starkville apartment complex.

"Our video people have put something together that will be shown before the game," MSU coach Jackie Sherrill said. "I won't bring the squad out, because it will be too long to stand there in one place."

Kick off for Saturday's season opener against Memphis is 2 p.m. at Scott Field. MSU officials are expecting a crowd of slightly more than 30,000 for the game, which will also be televised by Fox Sports South.

Sherrill said his coaches and players have worked to put McGee's death and other off-field distractions behind them. Just last week a team of federal investigators left campus after spending more than a week reviewing financial aid documents in connection with possible Pell Grant fraud on a national level.

The absence of McGee, however, will linger with some players all season.

"I guess things are about as normal as they can get," starting tailback Robert Isaac said. "Without Keffer it will never be normal again. This would have been his senior year."

McGee would have begun the season 1,173 yards from becoming State's all-time leading rusher. Instead, the season begins with Isaac as the No. 1 tailback and juco transfer James Johnson as No. 2. Johnson and third-team tailback Chris Rainey are expected to see plenty of action against Memphis with Isaac being used as a receiver as well.

The Bulldogs will honor McGee all season long with his name on their jerseys and helmets. Original plans called for the initials K.L.M. to be worn, but now the jerseys will have a patch that says "Keffer."

"That's what the players wanted," Sherrill said. "There's going to be some emotion this week, but that's OK."

Bulldog Bites: Matt Wyatt is the starting quarterback, but his backup, Rob Morgan will play, and freshman Wayne Madkin will be redshirted, Sherrill said. ... True freshmen expected to play include offensive tackle Floyd Womack, defensive tackle Ellis Wyms and linebacker Jamaal Dinkins. Defensive lineman Kenric Fairchild is expected to be redshirted. ... Nose guard Eric Dotson has been bothered by shin splints in the preseason, as he was much of last year. ... The Bulldogs lead the series with Memphis 24-11 and won 31-10 in Memphis last year. Memphis' last win in the series was in 1993 45-35 in Starkville.

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