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Monday Morning Coffee Break

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01columnists/gswindoll.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="161"> [Premium Article] Super Bulldog Weekend and Football.


Once again Super Bulldog Weekend is upon us, a time when 1,000's of fellow Bulldog fans come back to campus and enjoy all kinds of sporting events.

Here's the schedule:

Friday, April 11th
6:30 p.m. - Baseball vs. Auburn, Dudy Noble Field/Polk-DeMent Stadium

Saturday, April 12th
10 a.m. - 4 p.m. - Track, Jace Lacoste Invitational, Maddox Track
12 p.m. - Spring Football Game, Scott Field
1 p.m. - Men's Tennis vs. Mississippi, A.J. PItts Tennis Centre
3 p.m. - Baseball vs. Auburn, Dudy Noble Field/Polk-DeMent Stadium
6 p.m. - Soccer Alumni Game, Soccer Field

Sunday, April 13th
12 p.m. - Soccer vs. Team Boca Raton, Soccer Field
1:30 p.m. - Baseball vs. Auburn, Dudy Noble Field/Polk-DeMent Stadium


Well, two spring football scrimmages have come and gone. As you have read in my two scrimmage updates, the defense had the better of it two Saturday's ago while the offense had the better day this past Saturday.

Looking back at the offensive stats, one thing has been constant: Sophomore quarterback Kyle York. Actually, there have been other things that were constant, but the first player that came to my mind after looking at the stats was Kyle York.

During the first two scrimmages, his stats included 33 completions in 50 attempts (66%), 512 yards, 5 touchdowns and 1 interception. Not bad for a guy who is just now learning the Morris Watts system, a system that allows the quarterback to get the ball in the hands of the play-makers.

During the past few years, MSU's offensive coordinator has talked about being more diverse in who the ball would be thrown to. The tight end was mentioned as a position that would see more passes. In the Watts system, that is a fact, not just a rumor. And York has learned that very quickly.

During this past Saturday's scrimmage, York threw to senior tight end Aaron Lumpkin 9 times, completing 5 of them. In case you are wondering about the incompletions, one was not an official pass attempt due to a pass interference call, two were not catchable and the last one was knocked out of Aaron's hands by a DB right after the ball arrived.

And York is not just throwing to the TEs and WRs. In the Watts offense, the running backs - halfbacks and fullbacks - are sometimes pass options. More on that later.

The bottom line is the Morris Watts offense fits Kyle York, a very intelligent football player, to a tee.

More Football....

I mentioned that York wasn't the only constant, just the one that stood out based upon stats alone. Other things - offense first - that were constant from scrimmage to scrimmage were things such as passes being thrown to players other than wide receivers, halfbacks showing excellent hands, wide receivers making big gains on short passes and halfbacks Nick Turner, Jerious Norwood and Fred Reid exhibiting excellent quickness.

As we all know, throwing to tight ends has been talked about a lot the past couple of years by our previous offensive coordinator, Sparky Woods. In the Watts system, it is a fact. Statistics back up that statement. Of the 58 completions during the first two scrimmages, 12 have been caught by TEs, 7 of those by Aaron Lumpkin. Even former MSU tight end Donald Lee, who I was standing beside during one of the practices recently, talked about the new offense and how much he would have loved to play in it. I can understand considering it took him all of 11 games to catch 22 passes last season.

And Coach Watts doesn't just use his WRs and TEs as a passing threat. Halfbacks have caught 10 of those 58 receptions. In fact, during the first scrimmage, all of the passes thrown to the halfbacks were caught. Not a single pass was dropped. Now, I know you like to read that. It just goes to show you what kind of hands Turner, Norwood and Reid have. And don't forget the fullbacks because Coach Watts sure doesn't, as evidenced by the fact that fullbacks have caught 4 passes, all in the second scrimmage.

As for wide receivers making big plays on short passes, you don't have to always throw a long pass to create a long run, especially when you have true play-makers like senior Justin Jenkins and, somewhat surprisedly, at least to me, sophomore Tee Milons. During Saturday's scrimmage, York threw a few passes that were no longer than 10 to 15 yards to Justin Jenkins. Jenkins caught them on the run and wound up with two TD runs of 72 and 53 yards. Tee Milons also had a 65-yard touchdown run that was mostly due to his running after the catch.

Then, you have the running game in the Watts system. While the pass/rush play ratio has been 94/74 (56%/44%) in the first two scrimmages (I didn't include runs by or sacks of the QBs in the rushes), MSU's top two running back play-makers, Nick Turner and Jerious Norwood, have gotten their opportunities. Norwood's (13 rushes for 105 yards and 1 TD) and Turner's (34 rushes for 184 yards and 4 TDs) stats prove that. And not to be forgotten is junior halfback Fred Reid, 24 rushes for 116 yards and 2 TDs. If not for a minor leg injury early in the second scrimmage, Norwood would have probably had another 10 carries.

You hear and read all the time that an offense is supposed to get the ball in the hands of the play-makers. Many talk the talk, but Morris Watts walks the walk with his system.

Of course, Watts is one half of MSU's new system. Defensive Coordinator Ron Cooper has brought a 4-3-4 scheme to the defensive side of the MSU football team.

But what is even more important, is Coach Cooper has brought an attitude of discipline. When players are discipline during practice, that carries over to the game. One of the by-products of team discipline is the cutting down of, as Coach Cooper likes to call them, foolish penalties.

As for his defensive scheme, the four defensive linemen, two defensive tackles and two defensive ends, will now have more opportunities to rush the quarterbacks. There will be more things such as stunts. Quick defensive ends such as Tommy Kelly and Willie Evans will now be allowed to use their quickness more than they have in the past.

In the new scheme, the linebackers appear to be more supportive of the run, with the exception of the linebacker who is called a Drop Linebacker in the Cooper system. He is similar to what Dunn like to call the DOG Safety. Players that will fill that position include senior Jason Clark, Rico Bennett and Clarence McDougal, guys that are in the 210 to 240 range and have better speed and quickness than your normal linebacker.

Then, you have the secondary. In the past, MSU used a DOG Safety in the defensive backfield. As I've already explained, that type of position falls in the linebacker category. In the Cooper defense, MSU will use two cornerbacks and two safeties, strong and free. But, unlike in the past, MSU will use a lot more zone and less of the man coverage that Coach Dunn used most of the time. As we all learned, unless you have a Robert Bean or a Fred Smoot, the man defense made it tough on cornerbacks. Now, each DB will have a area in the zone that is his to cover.

See you at Super Bulldog Weekend.

Until then, have a great Bulldog week!

Gene Swindoll

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 swindoll@genespage.com.

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