November 29, 2008

Croom's resignation sends shock waves through state

Fletcher Cox didn't go to the Egg Bowl on Friday or the Iron Bowl on Saturday.

He intended to spend his Thanksgiving weekend "chilling."

Montez Phillips did make the trip across town to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium to see No. 25 Ole Miss' 45-0 pasting of Mississippi State.

Both players had their futures rocked a bit on Saturday morning, however, when Sylvester Croom announced his resignation from his post at Mississippi State. Cox and Phillips committed to Croom and the Bulldogs during the preseason. Both prospects were re-evaluating their status Saturday evening.

"Like I've told a lot of people, it's too early to tell," said Cox, a four-star defensive end from Yazoo City, Miss. "I just have to wait and see what happens and who the next coach is going to be."

Cox said he learned of the development late Saturday morning, adding that he hadn't talked to any Mississippi State representatives since Croom's announcement. "I was surprised. It was kind of disappointing, but it was all right."

Phillips got a call Saturday morning, telling him of Croom's decision to step down following the Bulldogs' 4-8 season.

"I think he shouldn't have resigned," the three-star athlete/wide receiver from Oxford (Lafayette County) said. "I think he should've stuck it out another year. Nobody gave me any indication that it was going to happen. I got called this morning to tell me. I wanted to know why he did it. Did he resign or was he forced to resign?"

Cox said Saturday night he remained committed to Mississippi State, though he planned to take official visits to a couple of the Bulldogs' biggest SEC West rivals -- Ole Miss and Alabama.

"Ole Miss just came out ready to play (Friday)," said Cox, a 6-foot-4, 240-pounder with 4.47-second speed in the 40-yard dash. "Ole Miss was the first school to offer me. Ole Miss is pretty good people. I might take an official down there and check everything out.

"Alabama is pretty good, too. Everybody shows me love up there. I like both of them the same. They're both good schools, but I'll iron everything out at the end."

Phillips is a little more vague concerning his commitment to the Bulldogs. Phillips got a lot of hometown heat when he first committed to Mississippi State, but Ole Miss has done a strong job recruiting him since and the 6-3, 190-pounder with 4.6-second speed has been a regular attendee at Rebel games this fall.

Croom's decision notwithstanding, Phillips has been intrigued by the Rebels' offense this season, and the 45-point display Friday didn't hurt Ole Miss' chances.

"They played real good, it looked to me," Phillips said, adding that Ole Miss has been recruiting him "about the same as it's been with State. They call once a week. They're telling me the same things and asking me about how school is going. They're telling me I would play (quarterback) in the Wild Rebel and play wide receiver, too.

"I'm going to talk to my parents tomorrow and my coach on Monday because I need to schedule my visits."

Phillips said he definitely plans to visit Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

"I might look at Southern Miss too, but it's pretty much down to State and Ole Miss," Phillips said. "People still talk to me but I don't listen to it anymore. It got crazy at the game (Friday) with people from both schools coming up to me, especially after the game, people from State were coming up to me and talking.

"I'm going to wait until National Signing Day this time. When I do it this time, it'll be for real. I'm not taking it back this time. I want to keep things open and make sure I'm 100 percent on my choice."

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