MSU Football Scrimmage; Fant Questions Answered

STARKVILLE, Miss. ­ Mississippi State head football coach Jackie Sherrill expressed satisfaction with the progress his team made during the Bulldogs' 15-practice spring period as the off-season program came to a close Saturday with the team's final scrimmage.

"I think we scrambled a little bit offensively today, playing without three tackles due to injury (Richard Burch, David Stewart and James Redmond)," Sherrill said, "but we definitely made progress this spring. Because of the injuries up front, we have become more flexible there. Chris McNeil can play offensive guard and center (and) Brad Weathers practiced at both guard and tackle.

"We have some backs who can play ­ who can go the distance," Sherrill said. "Both Nick (Turner) and Jerious (Norwood) had good springs.

"Defensively, we have made progress," Sherrill said. "We made plays up front, we're quick at linebacker, and we have had some guys step up in the secondary. We have made more progress defensively than anywhere else on the field."

Reid 3 run (Marlin kick)
Andrews 39 FG
Jenkins 41 pass from York (Andrews kick)
Andrews 29 FG
Marlin 46 FG
Andrews 50 FG
Andrews 56 FG
Andrews 30 FG
Turner 12 run (Marlin kick)
Turner 1 run (Marlin kick)

RUSHING - Reid 11-67 TD, Turner 16-64 2TD, Tyler 6-24, D.Jones 3-16, Signaigo 3-10, Bivines 2-17, Mills 4-3, Team 2-3, York 1-2, Nelson 2-(-3), Milons 1-(-9).

PASSING - York 16-30-1-192 TD, Nelson 6-10-0-79, Tyler 6-9-0-60, Topps 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING - Prosser 7-84, Jenkins 5-111 TD, Lumpkin 3-14, Scott 2-22, Freeman 2-15, Hargro 2-18, Signaigo 2-10, Randle 1-21, Turner 1-11, B.Wright 1-9, Bivines 1-8, B.Davis 1-8.

PUNTING - J.Cook 3-46.7, Wallis 5-35.6.

KICKOFF RETURNS - Jenkins 1-46.

TACKLES - Kern 15, Bennett 7, Mawhinney 7, B.Morgan 5, Byrdsong 4, Evans 4, Fields 4, McDougal 4, Moore 4, Sherrill 4, Swain 4, Vinson 4, Cooper 3, Crosby 3, Day 3, Kelly 3, T.Morgan 3, Myers 3, Spivey 3, Clark 2, Dockery 2, Downing 2, Heard 2, Pyron 2, Upton 2, Bradley 1, Hargro 1, Jack 1, Milons 1, Stowers 1, Wallace 1, D.Williams 1, D.Wright 1.

SACKS - Kelly 1-9, Jack 1-3.

TACKLES FOR LOSS - Moore 1-8, Mawhinney 1-1, Upton 1-1.


PASS BREAKUPS - Kern 2, Wallace 2, Day 1, Griffith 1, Heard 1, McDougal 1, Pyron 1.

FUMBLE RETURNS - Downing 1-43.

Scrimmage Notes
  • An estimated 10,000 fans attended Saturday's scrimmage.
  • The scrimmage included 19th series, one of which was a field goals only series. Of the other 18 series, the first-team offense participated in 10 and the first-team defense participated in 5. The scrimmage was structured so that the first units didn't face each other.
  • During the 10 series the first unit offense participated in, 4 resulted in touchdowns (2 passing, 2 rushing), 1 in a field goal, 2 in punts, 1 in a fumble and 1 due to an interception. Total yards amassed bu the first unit was 453. The first unit defense, during their 5 series, performed even better, making the 2nd unit offense punt four times while allowing 1 touchdown on a 23-yard drive. They gave up a total of 108 yards during the 5 series, an average of a little over 21 yards per drive. An interesting tidbit is the first-unit defense gave up less yards each series, 44, 23, 18, 15, 8.
  • Three quarterbacks performed during the scrimmage, sophomore Kyle York and redshirt freshmen Aries Nelson and Justin Tyler. York was in on 8 series, 2 resulted in touchdowns, 1 in a field goal, 1 in a missed field goal, 1 in a fumble, 1 in an interception (not his fault) and 3 in punts. Nelson was in for 6 series, 2 resulted in TDs, 3 in punts and 1 in a field goal. Tyler directed the offense 4 times, 3 resulted in punts and one ended on downs.
  • Dropped passes were a concern last season. During the first two scrimmages, I counted 11 dropped passes, 9 the first scrimmage and 2 the second. During yesterday's scrimmage, out of the 50 passes thrown, I counted 8 drops, 4 by wide receivers, 2 by a fullback and 2 by a tight end. I'm not including balls knocked out of the hands of receivers by defensive backs. York had 4 passes dropped, Nelson and Tyler 2 apiece.
  • The 1 interception during yesterday's scrimmage was caused by a very, very hard bit by 2nd unit middle linebacker Kenny Kern on wide receiver Tee Milons. The ball popped out of Tee's hands and into the air where 2nd unit Drop Linebacker Clarence McDougal grabbed it.
  • The first-unit offensive line consisted of sophomore OT Avery House (6-4, 294), sophomore OG Chris McNeil (6-3, 289), junior C Manuel Dickson (6-4, 286), redshirt freshman OG Otis Riddley (6-1, 246) and junior OT Brad Weathers (6-5, 313). The second-unit offensive line consisted of redshirt freshman OT James Cochran (6-5, 288), junior OG Will Rogers (6-5, 326), junior C Manuel Dickson (6-4, 286), sophomore OG Johnny Wadley (6-2, 348) and redshirt freshman OT Monte Collins (6-6, 375). Three tackles, including the two starters did not participate in the scrimmage (starters out are junior David Stewart (6-6, 304), sophomore Richard Burch (6-5, 302) and redshirt freshman backup James Redmond (6-7, 319)). The starting center, Blake Jones (6-2, 284), is working his way back up the depth chart after suffering an injury during the spring.
  • The first-unit defensive line consisted of sophomore DE Willie Evans (6-2, 257), senior DT Kamau Jackson (6-1, 284), junior DT Ronald Fields (6-2, 303) and senior DE Tommy Kelly (6-6, 296). Backups were redshirt freshman DE Roosevelt Tate (6-4, 260), redshirt freshman DT Markell McKinley (6-2, 294), senior DT Lennie Day (6-3, 291) and junior DE Robert Spivey (6-1, 239). The third-unit defensive line consisted of redshirt freshman DE Stephen Arant (6-3, 232), junior DT Jadice Moore (6-3, 296), senior DE Curtis Stowers (6-1, 240) and junior DE Jeramy Jack (6-4, 240).


    "The best thing about today's scrimmage was it was the first day we signaled. I was impressed with the guys picking up the signals and being able to call the correct plays."

    "I thought the player that played the best today was Justin Jenkins. He really made some catches and did some excellent things. He can run. He had a very, very good spring. He has been very consistent. He is the leader that you are looking in that corps."

    "Today, we had too many drops."

    "We found some players. (Redshirt freshman OG) Otis Riddley looks like he is going to be able to help us. Playing Chris McNeil at guard and center has helped us."

    "Upfront, we will end up being able to go two-deep. What we don't have upfront is the tight end like Donald Lee and other players that we have had at tight end before. Hopefully, we have a couple of kids coming in who can give us a boost there. If not, then we can take one of our tackles, Richard Burch has enough foot-speed and quickness to play tight end for what we want him to do."

    "We have three running backs (Jerious Norwood, Nick Turner, Fred Reid). It looks like we have three fullbacks (Darnell Jones, Nick Signaigo, Bryson Davis). What we don't have is the big back. We have a kid coming in (signee Jason Jude) that will hopefully give us that size back there. These backs can play and really have talent."

    "Defensively, we made the most progress of anywhere else on the field. I was really pleased with our defensive front and how much progress they have made. We have quite a few players there that will be able to help us. The linebackers are really athletic and make plays. It was hard to block the middle linebackers, T.J. (Mawhinney) and (Kenny) Kern. Both of those guys will help us. In the secondary we feel like (Odell) Bradley has really stepped up at corner. We still have to find the other corner. The (safeties) looked very, very strong with (Darren) Williams and (Kevin) Dockery. We took (Clarence) McDougal and put him closer to the line of scrimmage. We took (Chris) Swain and put him closer to the line of scrimmage. Those look like good moves."


    Expand on Nick Turner's progress during the spring.
    "He has made a lot of progress. So has Jerious. The first scrimmage Nick busted a 64-yard run and then Jerious did the same thing in the second scrimmage. We have backs that can made people miss and go the distance. That is what we are really excited about."

    Clarence McDougal seems to have made a lot of progress.
    "He really has. We moved him closer to the line so that he can help us. He has really made a lot of progress."

    Expand a little on Otis Riddley's play.
    "When we recruited Otis, I thought that he would be an offensive lineman. He moved so well the defenses coaches wanted to keep him at defense. I wish we had moved him. From the very first day, he showed natural ability. We are working on about four guys that we want to reduce their body fat. He has lost about 8 or 9 pounds in the last week. We are monitoring what they eat. Plus, they are walking every night for an hour."

    Talk about the kicking game.
    "Jared Cook punted well. (Kicker Brent) Smith has an excellent leg, although we didn't kick him because he is not 100% healthy. He has a pulled hamstring and we didn't want to aggravate that. Our snappers (redshirt freshman Russell) Cook and (junior Reggie) Harris have done a very good job. Nick Tuner will be the punt returner. The two deep guys will be Nick and either Justin (Jenkins) or Jerious (Norwood)."

    You mentioned the offensive line as having two-deep. Do you feel the same about the defensive front?
    "We have two-deep there. The front four, Tommy (Kelly), Kamau (Jackson), (Ronald) Fields and Willie (Evans), are a good front four. The guys behind them have made a lot of progress."

    Is Markell McKinley one of those other guys you are referring to?
    "Yes, McKinley had a very good scrimmage today. He and Kamau have probably made the most strides of the whole (defensive line)."

    Talk about the quarterbacks.
    "Kyle (York) has a sore shoulder, so he doesn't have the zip or strength. Aries can move and throw the football. He has a very strong arm. He is still aways away. So is Justin (Tyler). With those two, you have to limit what you are doing and make sure they can handle what they are doing. But I was impressed with both of them because these are not easy plays to call. They are pretty long. Getting the signals and calling the plays was very good by both of them."

    Have you been impressed with how the players have grasped the new offensive and defensive schemes?
    "Very much so. There was a lot thrown in there. Both sides have learned a lot of different things. It is easier to play defensively than it is offensively."

    What is the status of Kevin Fant? I didn't see him out there today.
    "After the first scrimmage, Kevin and I met and we felt it was important for him to spend his time with his studies. Is he on the team? Yes. Is he spending time getting his grades in order? Yes. Other questions such as why he isn't at practice, it's very simple, he has been given that permission. Kevin doesn't have to prove anything to us. He doesn't have to prove how tough he is or whether he can play. But he does have to get his academics in order."

    You just said the plays are difficult. If they are that difficult....
    "They aren't difficult, they are longer. In the fall you are able to wear wristbands and alleviate any of that. You don't have the long signals but end up giving the formations and plays, which are on the wristbands."

    Why was the press conference called off?

    "Frankly, Kevin didn't want to talk to a couple of guys in the media. My job is to protect Kevin and I will. All the players that I have coached, I will make sure I protect the players. I will be the lightning rod. That is my first responsibility."

    Based on whatever happened, there is so much going on....
    "When Kevin wants to talk, he will talk. You don't need to read a lot into it. He has a right to do what he wants to do."

    Will he be in uniform next fall?
    "Well, I think that is probably an affirmative."

    What media did he not want to talk to?
    "That is up to him."

    You said he needed to concentrate on his studies and there was also the comment about the abdominal strain. Was that just a smoke screen or is he really injured?
    "No, he has got some muscle pull there."

    How does his teammates feel about him missing practice?
    "You are asking questions that shouldn't be (asked). Probably the best thing is to do this. I wrote some questions and their answers. Let me say them. I will be glad to do that.

    "Is Kevin on the team? Yes.

    "Why is he not at practice? Kevin doesn't have to prove his toughness. Football is one thing that Kevin can do.

    "Is Kevin your starter? If we played today, Kevin wouldn't start because he has missed (some practices). He would be the first to tell you that he didn't want to start.

    "And I told you why we cancelled the press conference. I think you guys know that and the people I'm talking to know it too.

    We aren't questioning his toughness. I think we are questioning him adjusting to the new offensive coordinator that is here. You, yourself, said some of the things are tough to learn.
    "One, two, three practices aren't going to make a difference. The way things are scheduled in the fall will make a big difference.

    "To answer your question, Kevin has the right - he is not a professional athlete - to talk to whoever he wants to. And I have, as a coach, that right too. I have always protected players and will continue to protect players. Whatever happens sometimes is private, it's not public. (My wife) Peggy probably said it best, this is not cancer, this is not death. Will be play football next year no matter who is here next year? Yes. Will they write in the paper next year? Yes, regardless if any of you guys are writing for them or not."

    May we call Kevin?
    "You can do anything you want to. Whether he will talk to you, now that is something else. When Kevin wants to talk, he will talk and he is not ready right now."

    Don't you think our questions are legitimate?
    "Sure, you are absolutely right. I don't doubt that."

    Have you ever had a situation like this with a player before?
    "Oh, yeah. With as many years that I have been in it, this is not anything new to me."

    Can you tell us if it something personal between him and you?
    "No, that has nothing to do with it. If it did, he wouldn't be coming and talking to me and calling me."

    How often do you two talk?
    "We talked twice this morning and talked two days ago."

    So, you are saying if the people that he didn't want to be at the press conference, if they hadn't been here, he would have been here.
    "I'm not going to answer that."

    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 You can contact him by emailing

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