Opening comments by Coach Sherrill:
"The game Tennessee had last week against Miami of Florida was very, very impressive. They really dominated the line of scrimmage. They were able to keep Miami from scoring (a touchdown). They looked very, very quick on both sides of the football. What really stood out were the two running backs (Cedric Houston and Jabari Davis). We knew they were good but we haven't watched Tennessee that much until now. After watching them on film, they have a lot more speed than I thought they had. They were able to run the ball inside, but they have been able to do that very well all year. The speed they had that allowed them to jump outside, especially against Miami - and you know what kind of speed Miami has - that is impressive. (Quarterback) Casey Clausen is throwing the ball very, very well and has excellent touch, especially on the deep ball. Colquitt, the punter, has really been kind of dictating punt returns because he puts it on the sidelines or puts it out or puts it in hard places to return it. Teams that play them need to try and block the punt instead of returning it.
"The schemes that they run are the same ones they have (always) run. Back in 1991, when we went up there and played them, the thing that I remember back then is they were a lot better chipping off and combination blocking with their offensive line than we anticipated. When you see them on film, they probably do the best job of anybody that we have played where the guard and center chip or the guard and tackle chip off and block two levels of the defensive line and come off and block the linebackers at the same time.
"There are three or four things you have to do to give your (team) a chance. The first one is not come out until they come out. 104,000 people can't boo and yell at the same time. Find the speaker wires and cut them (laugh). We'll make sure those two things are done. I'm just kidding on the speaker wires. The last time we went up there, we went out on the field in pre-game warmups and a guy came up to me and pulled my shirt and said you aren't going to cut my speaker wires today. I told him I didn't really know where they were because I have never cut them. He was very serious."
Q and A:
How big of an advantage does Tennessee have with their stadium?
"Every stadium in the league has an advantage in some way. They have an advantage because of the number of people (they have) and they have a sound advantage because they have the 28 Peavey speakers around the stadium."
Do you do something during practice to prepare for that?
"You play it on the (practice) field so (the players) get accustomed to hearing it."
Are Tennessee and Alabama similar teams?
"Tennessee probably has more speed at wide receiver. Their running backs are probably more physical but have the same speed. Tennessee's offensive line is probably better. Their punter is better."
Talk about Tennessee's Parys Haralson, a player who played high school ball at Madison Central HS in Madison, Mississippi.
"He plays defensive end for them. Size-wise, he is not a big defensive end but he is very quick and very active. Haralson is about 240. He is very similar to (MSU DE/LB) Jason Clark. Probably their best player on the defensive line is senior defensive end (Constantin) Ritzmann. He has dominated and is really good. He is about 6-4, 270.
"All of their linebackers are 235 to 240, so they aren't as big up front as they have been in the past. But, they have the same amount of speed as they had in the past. (Senior Gibril) Wilson, one of their defensive backs, is really good, too. He plays strong safety. They'll put their corners in man coverage and make you beat them that way. They will put 8 or 9 in the box and try to force you to throw the football."
What kind of things can you do to motivate your team?
"There are quite a few of them that are excited and motivated. Just like Odell Bradley, after the first play, he played very well. I was very, very impressed with how well he played after he got hurt.
"The biggest thing is to take the edge off of them because of the disappointment of not having a good season or the disappointment of one or two plays."
Are you the fiery type coach who says things prior to the game to get your team ready to play?
"I have always wanted to play those kind of (coaches) because that is really not reality. It is kind of like saying we are going to war, but we will wait until right before we send you out there to get you fired up.
"I have always had the philosophy that you do it in progression throughout the week because if you wait until Saturday and jump up on the table and holler and scream, that goes out the door very quickly. It goes out the door as soon as they line up and the guy on the other side lines up and slaps him on the head. They could care less what the coach on the sideline says, then."
Is there anything you can do to get more pass protection for your quarterback?
"We had some busts and we had some guys who missed some assignments. One of the things you want to go into each game with is sound pass protection. When you get one-dimensional in a game, then the advantage goes to the defensive rushers very quickly because they aren't concerned about stopping the run or rushing lanes. All they are concerned about is getting to the quarterback."
Justin Jenkins has had an outstanding season, so far, but against Alabama he was kind of quiet.
"It wasn't what they did. We just didn't get the reads or get the ball to him. We have to make sure we do that. In the last three games, we need to get the ball into our playmakers' hands."
You are redshirting Brad Weathers due to an injury. How is he doing?
"That injury just takes time. He is certainly recovering, but it sometimes takes a full 6 to 12 weeks."
How are the rest of your injured players doing?
"They are all banged up but I think everybody should be ready to play (against Tennessee). The one question mark would be (starting cornerback) Odell Bradley. But I'm pretty sure he will be ready to play, although he will have to wear a shield."
Aaron Lumpkin missed the Alabama game due to an injury. What is his status?
"He could have played (Saturday), but I didn't know how much. I felt it was better to get three games out of him rather than one and then him coming back later. He should be ready to play. We have to be smart this week and make sure he doesn't get hurt (in practice)."
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 email@example.com.