Opening comments by Coach Sherrill:
"This week we go to a completely different football game. We saw 61 passes last week. This week we will see a team that is very, very large and very good up front (offensively). They have two or three basic plays. They will run an inside zone and outside zone. They will also run the power and the lead. They will get the ball into the hands of the running backs. The running backs that they have are outstanding. They will really make a lot of things happen. They are very productive and don't have a lot of third down situations. If they do, they are all third and short.
"They came out and lost to Southern Cal and Georgia Tech. But they are a completely different football team than they were their first two games. At first, they tried to do different formations, tried to keep certain personnel, tried to have their receivers do some of the blocking for them. They are now completely out of that. Now, they are going to play with one or two tight ends and also, sometimes, with two tight ends and a fullback.
"When you look on the other side of the football, you see their front seven. They have played together for a long time. It seems like (Karlos) Dansby has been there forever. This is a very experienced group and a very talented group. They are probably the most talented front seven in college. Their linebacker corps is picked as the best in the country.
"Their kicking game is very sound. I haven't seen anybody who has created an advantage against them in the kicking game."
What do you think was Auburn's problem during those first two losses?
"They may have tried to get the ball evenly distributed, throwing and running. But I think they went back to doing what they do best."
Expand on their running game.
"They have four backs. At times, you are looking in there and wondering if that is Cadillac (Williams) but it's actually one of their other backs. What is really impressive about their backs is that I haven't seen one guy bring them down. They break tons of tackles. They are spinning and turning. You watch them on the goal line and they may run through three or four tackles and score. They are tough, tough runners and very talented runners."
Would you say your backs and their backs are similar in the fact that they can break the long runs?
"I would say that Cadillac and our backs have the ability to dart back and forth and the ability to really burst. But, when you get the other backs who are bigger, once that train gets full speed, it is really hard to stop it. You can see in some of the films where he really punished some people."
From a defensive standpoint, do you have to put more men in the box and basically say to them, if you are going to beat me, then you are going to have to beat me by passing.
"You would think so, but Arkansas put 9 in there and even 10 at times. Georgia Tech always had 9 and won the game."
Talk about their quarterback, Jason Campbell.
"Jason is a very talented quarterback. He is 6-5 and can really move. He also throws the ball very well. When you look at the passes that he has thrown this year, he has thrown them in holes where there wasn't that big of a window. He has also thrown some with touch on them. Where he is really dangerous is when you make him move. He has great ability to run and to run and throw it forty or fifty yards down the field."
Do you feel you will have to throw on Auburn to be successful against them?
"When you throw the ball you had better be about to protect because those four front guys can put a lot of pressure on your quarterback. They also have the ability to bring five, six or seven guys in if they want to."
Talk about the environment at Auburn.
"Every team in this league has an advantage. Auburn is certainly one. Their fans are vocal and loud. The last time we were there they used the jumbotron, which is ok. They did a great job of choreographing."
Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is known for trick plays. How do you prepare for those?
"You have to make sure you work on them. In this league, he was probably the first one to throw the ball on fourth down during a punting situation. He threw that against Arkansas when they beat Arkansas in Oxford. Also, he has done a couple of things out of his field goal and punt teams. You keep a memory bank and a chart of them and work on them. That is what you do during the Thursday practice."
What are your impressions of your special teams play this season?
"I think we are back to having the kind of special teams that you like to have. One that you are able to attack people with and one that can cover and create field position. Back when we were really good defensively, we turned the ball over one time inside the 50-yard line. So, field position makes a big difference."
How about giving an update on the injured Slovakia Griffith.
"He will practice (Tuesday), which is a good sign. He came in (Tuesday) morning and ran for the trainers. They are going to put him out on the field, so everybody is on the field.
"Whether that means they will all play (we don't know). We have two (Kamau Jackson and Michael Heard) with hands (injuries) that couldn't play (last) Saturday and they still may not be able to play (this) Saturday. We also have two (Darren Williams and ?) with ankle or foot problems."
True freshman offensive lineman Brian Anderson has played tight end this year. What are your long range plans for him?
"He will be an offensive lineman but he is playing tight end for us right now to give us some more power on the backside on certain formations."
You have made a living on having big tight ends in the past. You don't have guys like that right now.
"We have two freshmen that are going to be ok. Size doesn't really matter. You can be 280 pounds and still not be a Reggie Kelly or a Donald Lee. Donald wasn't 280 but he could dominate his guy. If you have tremendous explosion, then you can control the person (you block). That's what a couple of (big) tight ends that we had here early could do. Kendall Watkins could get his foot down very quickly. He had his foot down on the ground a lot quicker than his opponents did. He was very, very quick."
Talk a little more about the two freshmen.
"One of them, Eric Butler, has more striking power because he has more (size). The thing I like about Dezmond Sherrod is he has the ability to explode because he is a really good athlete and he is very quick. If you moved them back 6 inches to a foot, then Dezmond could probably hit you as hard as Eric. I really wanted to play Butler this year, but he wanted to redshirt. He would have been our second team tight end. (True freshman DB) Rickey Wright also wanted to redshirt. In their mind, if that is what they want to do, then you are better off doing that."
Corey Clark hasn't played since the first game of the season. Do you plan on redshirting him?
"We are probably going to redshirt him."
Is it tough to get a team up for so many good teams back to back?
"If you have a good football team, those things take care of themselves. If you have a team that is not as good talent-wise, there are certain things you can do to increase your play. There is no question that Georgia Tech increased their play better than what they were."
Robert Wallis had his best game of the season this past weekend. Did you make some adjustments or did he just have a good game?
"There were a couple of things that he was doing wrong. He has always had the ability to hang the ball up but he was line driving some because he was overstriding and missing it a little bit. But he is getting that ability back."
What do you think about the SEC this year? At one time it looked Auburn wasn't that good early in the season, then you have Florida losing to Ole Miss and you think they are done but they come back and defeat LSU.
"Everywhere today, the talent has pretty well gotten even. You can look at every team in the country and say they have players. The difference between the really good teams and the teams that are trying to get there is probably maturity and they have better offensive and defensive lines than the teams they are playing. That makes a big difference."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.