What did you think about your team's overall performance in today's scrimmage?
"I really do hate to try to evaluate people until after I look at the film. We had a few delay of game penalties, but I expected that. I told the officials to count them even though we don't have our signals in for offensive plays. But, for the most part, we did pretty well. We'll start signaling plays in when we get back (in the fall). We just didn't have time to work on it in the spring. We lined up in our formations pretty well even though we weren't as multiple as we normally will be. (There were) some things that are new to the offense that we just decided not to show. I thought that the first teams on both sides of the ball did pretty well. Even in the goal line stuff I thought that we were better. I think our intensity was better. I was disappointed with our second offensive line. We didn't get much done there. We've got some injuries and some of the guys who would normally be seconds are actually in our first unit right now. We have some individuals in that group that do have ability, but they haven't quite made up their minds that they want to do the things that we have asked them to do."
What were your impressions of the first unit defensive line?
"I thought their pursuit was better. The main thing I was looking at on defense was our pursuit. That was good. Normally, I look at the backside corner and see how we are running there. (Defensive tackle) Ron Fields is the most glaring person on our defense. When he is on the attack, I think a lot of people are going to have problems with him. I was impressed with (linebacker) Avery Hannibal's pursuit on a couple of plays. This is a young man who has been playing defensive tackle and made all kind of plays through the course of scrimmages before we moved him to linebacker. He may be the greatest effort player that we have on this football team. We are looking at him at middle linebacker. We are going to find somewhere for him to play even if we have to put him in the secondary. The guy makes plays. We have to find somewhere for that young man to be on the field."
What was your assessment of your running game today?
"We didn't do a lot of it today because we wanted to throw the ball. But running the ball is one thing I do feel confident about. We were very vanilla in what we did today. Jerious Norwood showed some running skills he has. He is a very fine player. If he stays healthy, we will be in good shape there. Fred (Reid) ran well. I thought that (redshirt freshman) Jason Jude showed some things. Even (redshirt freshman) Carlton Rice did. We have four guys that we feel can run the football. We also have a couple of guys coming in. And we are going to be recruiting (running backs) every year, because we have to be able to run the football."
How did your receivers do today?
"(Redshirt freshman) Jason Husband stepped up and made a few plays. He is a guy who hasn't had much work. We are looking forward to working with him. We know that McKinley Scott can play. He had an excellent spring. (Redshirt freshman) Joey Sanders didn't get to play today due to a hamstring. I would say those are our top guys right now. Tee Milons has had some good days and some not so good days. We'll wait to see where he is right now. We also have some guys coming in who are different type receivers than what we have. We hope that group will really step up this fall. Right now, though, we have a ways to go there."
This was the shortest of your three scrimmages. What was the reason for that?
"It was the end (of the spring). And we have been very fortunate of not having (major) injuries. I wanted to get some work done but not stretch our luck too much."
You sat down and talked to Ronald Fields about his goals beyond Mississippi State. What were some of the things you talked to him about?
"One of the things I mentioned to Ron is every day he comes out to practice he is making an investment in his future. I know he wants to be a good football player and I really believe he wants to win for the school. I impressed upon him how much his leadership will mean. Quite often, when a new coaching staff comes in, seniors feel like they are left out because they are not going to be around. I told him that is not the case. Regardless of what happened in the past, the seniors on this football team, whatever we do this year or two, three years down the road, they will be a critical part of getting this thing turned around. There is no question that a couple of years from now when we hit stride, Ron Fields will have had a lot to do with that because he has shown our guys how to work and how to practice. The other motivation is, from being in the NFL, I told him he is a rare talent. For a guy that can line up on the nose and play a three technique, rush the passer, play the running game and be able to run sideline to sideline, everything he does to improve himself as a football player between now and the draft is just a little more investment in his pocket and the welfare of himself and his family."
How would you assess your first spring?
"I think we got the core of our systems in on offense, defense and kicking. We established how we are going to practice and what is expected of the players. We got to know the players better. They got to know us better. We know more about their abilities and what kind of people they are. They know better that we have a genuine concern for their welfare other than just the x's and o's of the game. We are concerned about their education, their families and about them. They know we care about them beyond the four or five years that they are here. We will be following these players' lives and careers as long as I'm alive. I will be monitoring how they do and how their families are doing."
Do you feel your pass coverage improved throughout the spring?
"Yes, we got better in coverage. A lot of that came from the rush that we had. When we have Ron (Fields) and Deljuan (Robinson) in there, our strength should be our defensive line. When they are playing well, everything else looks a lot better."
How did your tight ends do this spring?
"Dezmond Sherrod and Blake Pettit had good springs. They held up very well. They are evolving as blockers. They did some good things as receivers. I think we are in pretty decent shape there."
Marvin Byrdsong has played middle linebacker for a week or so. Is that just an experiment?
"No, we are moving him there. We wanted to experiment in every way, shape, fashion and form with our linebacker crew because I was very disappointed in them the last scrimmage."
Where would you say sophomore quarterback Omarr Conner stands right now?
"Omarr, based on what I have seen in spring practice, is definitely ahead and will go into the fall as our number one guy. But I'm not making any declarations until we see Kyle York and we see our (incoming) freshman Michael Hening."
What position would you say is the best right now?
"I don't know if we have one that is head and shoulders above any of the others. I don't think there is any question that Ron Fields is the most dominate player that we have. So, if I had to say one position, I would say (the defensive line) due to having him there."
Are you comfortable with the depth that you have right now?
"No. But if you ask me that in the fall of next year, I would still not be comfortable. I am never comfortable with the depth, but I think we will be able to put 11 on the field that can compete on both sides of the ball. But, beyond that, we are going to be thin at a lot of spots unless some of our freshmen really step up and play better than freshmen normally play."
Scrimmage Scoring and Stats:
Griffin 38 interception return (Andrews kick)
Norwood 24 run (Andrews kick)
Andrews 28 FG
Wright 37 pass from Wilcutt (Andrews kick)
Nelson 1 run (no PAT attempt)
Reid 3 run (no PAT attempt)
Reid 3 run (no PAT attempt)
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING-Norwood 7-27 TD, Reid 2-6 2TD, Mills 3-5, Conner 5-4, Rice 3-4, Rivers 1-(-2), Jude 3-(-3), Team 1-(-3), Wilcutt 2-(-6), Morgan 3-(-24), Nelson 9-(-31) TD.
PASSING- Wilcutt 2-4-1-45 TD, Conner 4-8-1-42, Nelson 1-4-1-30.
RECEIVING-Husband 2-38, Wright 1-37 TD, Milons 1-17, Reid 1-13, Sherrod 1-8,
TACKLES- Fields 5, Arant 3, Hannibal 3, M.Heard 3, McDougal 3, Clark 2, Ma.Evans 2, Fuller 2, Hampton 2, Jack 2, Kern 2, Robinson 2, Swain 2, Byrdsong 1, Cooper 1, Horton 1, Je.Johnson 1, Dockery 1, McKinley 1, Tate 1, Upton 1, Williams 1, Yarbrough 1.
SACKS-Arant 3-(-33), M.Heard 3-(-23), Fields 3-(20), Robinson 2-(-15), Swain 1-(-9).
TACKLES FOR LOSS-Fields 4-(-21), Arant 3-(-33), M.Heard 3-(-23), Robinson 2-(-15), Hannibal 2-(-3), Swain 1-(-9), Jack 1-(-4), Hampton 1-(-3), Clark 1-(-2),McDougal 1-(-1).
INTERCEPTIONS-Griffin 1-38 TD, Ma. Evans 1-0, Hunter 1-0.
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.