Langston's one offensive turn on the field at Florida—he did not participate on defense at all--came right after State had held the Gators on 4th-and-1 and Coach Dan Mullen was looking to cash in on the emotional momentum.
"The first play called was a ‘shot' play," Koenning said. "We were going to take a shot deep in plus territory. We'd put Langston in as a matchup, we said that would be a good matchup for us because he can run." Langston didn't get a chance to run really far on the play due to Florida pressure. Look for the senior to get more turns though, in no small part because State needs another fast wideout to match with Chad Bumphis and Brandon Heavens. Most of the other regular rotation receivers rely on moves and hands more than velocity.
"He's adjusting well," Koenning said. "He's a smart young man and he's got some qualities as an offensive player. He adjusts to the ball well. I think he's enjoyed the move, it's only been a week with him. But we've got to create some depth there."
"He's in a role where he's rotating a little bit at corner so he can still do that for us," Mullen said Tuesday. "And we'll try to get him in learning some offense just to add depth at receiver. And he was a good returner at junior college so we're giving him the opportunity to do that."
Langston didn't get a lot more opportunities in Tuesday's practice due to a late afternoon exam. "I missed most of the practice because I had a test at 4:00. So I got out for about an hour of practice." But he isn't taking too long to fit into a role he played as a juco standout.
"I haven't really practiced with the defense since last week, they're trying to let me learn all the offensive plays. Leon is a huge, huge miss for us, but I'm coming in trying to fill that void for everyone. I'd say I've got about 3/4s of the playbook down right. I'm trying to learn everything. I'm not trying to just have a certain amount of plays, I want to be in just like all the other receivers and rotate."
State could even still take the tack of creating that extra depth by activating some younger receivers. As soon as Leon Berry was ruled out after the Houston game, receivers coach Mark Hudspeth began giving so-far redshirting freshmen Malcolm Johnson and Robert Johnson more practice snaps with the varsity. They did not go to Gainesville, but of course the road game roster is limited to 70 players so there was no room for just-in-case additions.
That limit doesn't apply for Alabama-Birmingham at home this week. Koenning said the true rookies and others might be considered for dressing this week…and might not. Much depends on how Langston performs in the new job, as well as progress from true frosh Michael Carr and second-year wideout Ricco Sanders and others. "We're getting our freshmen ready, those guys stepping in. It's tough to step up in the SEC and they're realizing that," Koenning said.
"What we're trying to do is definitely building, but also taking one game at a time. We'll utilize that in practice and find out who is doing well and get them the ball. That's the key to what we do."
Meanwhile Langston looks forward to a lot more turns in his new, make that old, job of catching passes. In fact his season as a cornerback could come in handy now, he grins. "Oh yeah, I know a couple of things! I've got a couple of things up my sleeve I can use against the defenders out there, and hopefully use it to my advantage and make some big plays."
TAKING SHOTS: Of course what State did best at Florida, as well as the week before at Houston, was pound the ground, move the chains, and roll the clock. But that shot-play Koenning described was part of the single stretch where MSU changed approaches. "We had some momentum," Mullen said. "We had the chance to go 17-0 with the great field position." But, the coach added, "We didn't manage the plays great."
That first shot was well covered as noted. "The next one I called a sprint-out to make it simple for Chris to execute," Koenning said. "We just happened to catch them in a wrong look. Now you're in 3rd-and-10." A situation State absolutely wanted to avoid considering how this game matched up. Florida came in leading the SEC in making interceptions, while MSU was worst in throwing them. And the third down throw could have turned disastrous as Koenning related there was confusion between QB Chris Relf, his receivers, and the blocking.
State survived this change-of-character and stuck to safer running plays all but one of the remaining snaps. Though they didn't score more the chains did move often enough and the clock moved fast enough, barely. And a lesson was learned. Mullen admitted he did think, during MSU's time-eating drive in the fourth quarter, he considered taking one more shot as Florida stacked the defensive front.
"I don't know if John Hevesy would have allowed me; Les would have thought about it, John would have tackled me!" The head coach was not entirely joking, either. Nor is he making light of what the experience reminded him of. "You don't have to force things. When something is working, don't just change to change."
Koenning can speak from his own long experience. "One thing about football, you try to trick somebody and you trick yourself! You need to make sure your best play is what your team can do."
INJURY UPDATES: Mississippi State put in the typical Tuesday practice, ending around 6:30. Mullen said that OC J.C. Brignone took a few snaps at his position today after missing the last six quarters with a knee sprain. "He's doing OK." Mullen also said SS Charles Mitchell did some drills with no contact. "We're really protecting guys and trying to get them healthy," the coach said. "The trainers are really not concerned about anybody for Saturday."
"At this point of the season you have the bumps and bruises and we're a pretty banged-up team. What happens is the more injuries you get there's a trickle-down effect. It cuts into your depth and more guys have to get reps. But I liked their attitude today at practice. I thought we worked hard. We cleaned some things up, improved some things. We just have to keep our focus and keep improving. This is a big game for us this weekend."