One-on-one With FSN Announcer Bob Rathbun

Gene's Page did a behind the scenes one-on-one interview with FSN play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun, who will be doing the play-by-play for the Georgia-MSU game, which will be shown on FoxSportsSouth television beginning at 6 pm CT Saturday night.

Bob is teamed with former University of Kentucky and National Football League quarterback Tim Couch, who does the color analysis on the show, as well as Jenn Hildreth, the show's sideline reporter.

What's it like for a play-by-play announcer leading up to a game? How do you prepare for the game?
"There are really two kinds of prep. There is the on-going. What I mean by that is last year we did this (SEC football television) package and had Mississippi State two or three times. Due to that, we have a pretty good working knowledge of the Bulldogs from last year. Then, in the off-season, I get stories, magazine articles, clippings, season recaps, etc. that I save all winter. Then, when training camps begin, we start pulling stories for all 12 SEC teams because we never know where we will be headed.

"Last Monday we found out that we had the Mississippi State-Georgia game. And I kind of knew that we would get that game, so I had already recorded the two Georgia games and the two Mississippi State games. And I watched those games.

"Then (Tuesday) and (Wednesday) we will be receiving our information from Mississippi State, which will be a packet of info with all the clippings, stats and press release. We will go through that. Then, Friday, when we get to Starkville, I will have all of that compiled and on my spotting boards for the game. Then, we will meet with Dan (Mullen) and the coordinators on Friday afternoon. They will take us through the week of practice, any changes they have made on the two-deep, anybody that is hurt or sick or anything like that. We also have a conference call with the Georgia coaches on Thursday and we'll go through the same routine with them.

"Then, we will meet as a group, producer, director, Tim Couch and myself. And we'll put our gameplan together for what we want to have as our open, if a storyline who we want to develop during the game.

"Hopefully, we can pull this all off and have a nice seamless telecast for everybody at 6 o'clock on Saturday."

You mentioned spotting board. What is a spotting board?
"I have two spotting boards. It is a 8 1/5 by 14 legal sized folder. If you open it up wide you will see that I have the Mississippi State offense on top and the Georgia Bulldog defense on bottom. And vice versa on the second board. It has the two-deep listed in something like two inch squares for each player. It will also include some third teamers they believe will play. In the white space around each player I will compile notes about each player so we will have different things we can talk about. And it's laid out the same way they approach the line of scrimmage."

You mentioned getting to Starkville Friday. It sounds like it's a completely full day preparing for the Saturday game.
"We will fly in Friday morning. We'll probably get on campus about noon time. I think we are supposed to meet Dan and the guys at one. That will take about an hour. We will meet with each one about 20 minutes. Then, when we are done, Tim and I - Tim Couch, who does the color with me - will go watch film together."

What are you looking for when you watch film?
"We are looking to get a sense about what the two teams are trying to do offensively and defensively. When I watch my tape back here I am primarily just trying to identify players so I can become familiar with their numbers and names. But Tim will look at it from an analyst standpoint, almost like a coach. He'll look at it to see what they are trying to do offensively, what their strengths and weaknesses are, formations, where they are trying to attack."

Do you and Tim practice together to help you develop chemistry for the game or is it more on-the-job training?
"For us, it's pretty much on-the-job training. We had several meetings before we got started. But this isn't a business where you can do things in a one hour meeting or conference call. You have to get out there and just do it. And that's what we had to do.

"On our drive down, I picked Tim up on Friday morning, Labor Day weekend, and we drove to Auburn from Atlanta. In those two hours we spent in the car we went over philosophies, how I work a broadcast and what was expected of him.

"And I think it's tougher for Tim because he's learning as he goes. So, we are trying to bring him up to speed as fast as we can. That first quarter of the first game we are trying to figure each other out and trying to get a sense of where he wants to go and try to teach him the tv end of it. He knows the football part of it. But we are trying to teach him where the things are in the booth, how to work the telestrater, how to work his headset properly so he can talk to the producer and director. But he's a quick learner and has done a terrific job."

This is all new to Tim Couch. You are the television veteran. How do you help him during a telecast?
"I just try to give him some helpful hints to help him through what I can see coming as a potential rough spot more on the open than anywhere else. Being on camera is always nerve wracking for someone who doesn't have a lot of experience doing it no matter what you are. I try to help him on how to say it, how to put his words together to cover the video or a graphic. That's probably where I can help him the most.

"But once the game begins I tell him he's just talking to me, explain football, explain what he sees. And if he does that, and does it in a way my wife can understand it, then he has really accomplished something. If he gets too technical with his terminology, then the fans are kind of lost.

"Tim is a former number 1 (draft) pick in the NFL. He knows football, knows defensive coverages cold. When they walk up to the line of scrimmage, he can probably see it faster than the quarterback can see it. He can call plays almost as fast as they are getting ready to happen. But trying to deliver that message is a challenge for any first-year analyst. But I think Tim is doing a fabulous job because he doesn't talk football lingo, he doesn't talk down to his audience."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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