Q&A with Gene Swindoll - MSU Publisher

Earlier this week, GoJackets.com collected questions on Mississippi State for Gene Swindoll, publisher of Scout.com's Mississippi State affiliate. Here are the questions and answers.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: Given both the physical and mental stress of the LSU game, how do you get the team up and ready to play at a high level?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: That could be a concern since the players took the loss so hard. They pretty much dominated LSU on both sides of the line of scrimmage but probably feel like they gave the game away due to too many turnovers and a couple of poor plays on special teams. The players know that and as one player told me Monday after the Dan Mullen press conference the loss was like losing a family member. But Coach Mullen seems to have gotten their attention away from the loss and toward Georgia Tech. And I really believe he is making this team hungry for a victory and will use both the LSU loss and the Georgia Tech massacre of State last year as motivation tools.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: I would like to know about the change between the old coach (Sylvester Croom) and the new one (Dan Mullen) from the University of Florida?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: Coach Croom, for the most part, built a very good defensive team but wasn't able to develop a good offense. However, Coach Mullen is known as a great offensive mind and a great developer of quarterbacks. And he has brought as defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, who seems to have a very good defensive mind, to lead the defense. And Dan has allowed Carl to do that, although he's not afraid to, shall we say, offer a few words of encouragement to his coaches when he feels it is needed. He did that after the Auburn game and the defense responded with two very good defensive games against Vanderbilt and LSU. Dan has also taken over the coaching of the special teams and seems to have done a good job of that, although it doesn't hurt to have two juco All-Americans transfer in.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: What is your opinion of the Mississippi State offensive and defensive lines?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: The MSU offensive line (which consists of 1 senior, 2 juniors and 2 redshirt sophomores) is fast becoming a strength of this team. The leaders on the line are the two juniors, center J. C. Brignone and left tackle Derek Sherrod. Sherrod has the potential to be All-SEC this year. Other than a new right tackle, Addison Lawrence, this group is going into their second year of playing with each other. And while talent is a requirement for any position on the field, playing together is just a notch below that, especially on the offensive line.

The defensive line, which is young but very talented, is sometimes a three-man front and other times a four-man front. In the two-deep depth chart there are only two seniors in the group, DTs Charles Burns and Kyle Love. Behind those two are two true freshmen (Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd) who could have sign with just about any team in the nation. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they both ended up All-SEC and candidates for All-American honors by the time they are juniors. State also has a juco defensive end, Pernell McPhee, who would start on any SEC team. He's going to be an All-SEC candidate this year. State also starts a redshirt freshman, Nick Bell, on the opposite side to McPhee. He's probably not as talented as McPhee (very few in the country are) but the defensive line coach likes him because he's reliable and plays smart. Backing him is Sean Ferguson, a sophomore who was a starter last season. Another guy to keep an eye on is redshirt freshman, Devin Jones, who plays noseguard in the three-man front. While only 260 pounds, he's tremendously strong. The State defensive coaches aren't afraid to put any of these guys in at any point during the game.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: How effective is the Mississippi State downfield passing game?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: The downfield passing game is Mississippi State's weak point on offense. Starting QB Tyson Lee is a smart field general, a solid runner and a good short pass thrower, but is not known for the deep pass. His backup, sophomore Chris Relf, has a strong arm and is a big guy who runs very well, but he is not very accurate throwing the deep pass. Also not helping is the fact that State's fastest wide receivers are redshirt and true freshmen. They are still learning to play college football and the Dan Mullen spread offense. But State's running game is such a strength, downfield passing is not as much of a concern as it would be for a team with a less effective running game.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: Does the MSU fanbase like their new uniforms?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: Like with any fanbase, there are fans who like them and fans who don't. The uniforms are probably one of the most debated things on my forums. The bottom line is MSU fans will like them more and more if the team wins in them. Winning always makes everything look better.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: How will the MSU coaches try to stop Steve?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: Sorry, not sure who you mean when you say Steve.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: How did they keep LSU to 30 yards rushing and Vandy to 33? Do they think they have a outstanding rush D that will work against anyone? Do they stack the box or do it primarily with down linemen?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: The MSU defensive coaches ran a three-man front against Auburn with very little pressure from the linebackers and safeties. And Auburn had a field day against that defense. Against Vanderbilt and LSU more pressure was applied by the MSU defense, hence the much better results. Plus, don't forget that LSU and Vanderbilt don't have nearly as good of an offense as Auburn.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: Croom seemed to recruit pretty well, but was better at building defenses than offenses. How well do Croom's athletes fit into the offensive and defensive schemes of the new coach?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: There are a lot of similarities between the defensive schemes. The biggest change has probably been the terminology. And the players seem to have picked that up.

On the offensive side of the ball, starting QB Tyson Lee ran a spread offense in junior college so it hasn't been that big of an adjustment for him. And the rest of the offensive players seem to have caught on fairly quickly. I guess evidence of that is the fact that MSU is scoring almost two times as many points this season compared to last year's team.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: Will MSU's defensive practice against a spread attack during spring practice have any benefits when going against GT's offense?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: Scheme-wise, I don't think it helped the defense. But with a Dan Mullen offense, each defensive player has to really concentrate on his assignment or he will get beat. And that is also something that is very, very important when you go against an offense like Georgia Tech runs. So, I guess you could say it helped mentally, although not physically.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: Is Mississippi State running a 3-4 defense or some other defensive scheme?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: They run a three-man front and a four-man front at different times.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: What is the vibe of the MSU fanbase right now about Georgia Tech? Do they think they have a good chance of winning this game or do they feel that the Georgia Tech offense will be too much for the Mississippi State defense?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: The word fan is short for fanatics. And fans always believe they are going to win. State fans are no different. But putting that aside, I think MSU fans, due to this team's play against Vanderbilt and LSU, are fast becoming believers in Dan Mullen and his team, so, yes, I really believe MSU fans think their team is going to win this game.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: Who do you think is Mississippi State's second biggest rival behind Ole Miss?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: If you ask Dan Mullen, I think he would say State's main rival - whether it be the first, second or third rival - is Ole Miss. When Coach Sherrill and Coach Croom were coaching at State I would probably say it was Alabama since both were former Alabama football players. And I think percentage-wise, more MSU fans consider Alabama their second rival.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: What is the parking like at Mississippi State as far as visitors are concerned?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: During normal times, visitors, RV and regular vehicles, park to the east of the Mississippi State vet school, which is located on the south side of the campus. You can also park at the Horse Park and downtown Starkville. Mississippi State has a great shuttle system that will take you to the game free of charge. But these aren't normal times due to large amount of rain the state of Mississippi has gotten the past few weeks. I truthfully don't know what to tell you about parking other than your best bet is to find parking somewhere down town then take the shuttle to the game. You should also check my page daily as well as the official Mississippi State athletic department site.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: One curiosity question about LSU/MSU game: Were there second thoughts about the play-calling at the end of game?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: Fans and media think Dan probably should have run RB Anthony Dixon all four plays but on the third and fourth downs the plays were there to be made. I was in the back of the endzone looking straight at the plays, and I can say with no hesitation it was simply a case of poor execution on State's part. As Coach Mullen said in his press conference, he wouldn't have changed a thing as far as the calls were concerned. He said he was hired to first-guess, not to second-guess.

The Hive GoJackets.com Subscribers: Can we get an explanation of the QB rotation? It seems that Relf and Lee both play a lot, so I'm wondering how it breaks down to who plays when (situations, every other series)?

Genespage.com Publisher Answers: While they started out the first game rotating quite a bit, Tyson Lee is playing more and more and Chris Relf less and less as the season has progressed. Relf is a very good runner and a much bigger guy than Lee but Lee seems to have a better grasp of the offense, so I don't see anything changing as far as how the QBs are used. My personal opinion is I see Lee playing about 70 to 80% of the time for the rest of the season if things continue as is.

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