"I think they understand it fairly well. I was pleased with how far they came, but we are by no means where we have to be. I think we made enough advancements with all the terminology and new schemes, that, if these kids do a good job over the summer studying tapes and then have a good two-a-days, then we will be ok. We can't do anything with them during the summer but they can take tapes and study our offense."
How much of your offense did you use during the scrimmage?
"I would say we only used 60% of what we have been doing, offensively. Some things we held out so that other schools couldn't see what we will do and also trying to help the younger quarterbacks who haven't quite caught up with everything that we are doing. That gave them a better chance to be successful in the spring game.
What did you think about Kyle's play during the spring game?
"I don't think that Kyle had his best day. His shoulder was hurting him so he wouldn't raise his shoulder. He was throwing almost three-quarter. If his injury had been in the shoulder joint, we would have never scrimmaged him. I just felt like he needed the game situation.
"I was surprised with the long pass that he hit for the touchdown. I was surprised that he got it there because he couldn't get his arm up. But he has plenty of arm. If people had seen him in the other two scrimmages, that you saw, people wouldn't question whether he has enough arm strength.
"If I had been watching the spring scrimmage, I would have questioned him because he was struggling getting the ball to the receivers. There were several routes where his passes bounced before it got there. That was strictly due to him throwing side arm because his shoulder was sore."
Watching the scrimmages, I noticed that your offense uses a lot of receivers. For example, you line up your tight ends out wide during some plays. Is what I saw in the scrimmages the type of offense you have been known for over the years?
"It's according to where I have been. You always try to fit what you do based upon your personnel. I didn't do quite as much creating four wide-out looks out of two tight ends in a game at LSU as I did when I went back to Michigan State. We used our two tight ends in different ways but we never created four wide outs out of it. We created trips out of it where there was a tight end, wing and flanker to one side but we didn't do the exact same thing that I'm doing now.
"A lot of this has evolved. As they say, I'm trying to stay a step ahead of the defense and create some problems for them."
Then, what you are doing now is brand new for you.
"No, I did it in 1999 when I went back to Michigan State. I had done it even before then. For an example, at LSU I pretty much used the two tight ends as tight ends on the line with two wide outs. Or, I would take (not sure how to spell the player's name) and make a wing out of him, but not exactly the same way I'm doing now. I started what I am doing now when I got to Michigan State and had what we call our H and our the two tight end set. I had a kid named Chris Baker who was almost like a wide receiver. I could move him around and use him at a lot of different places. That got me into more 3 for 1 trips and 2 by 2 wide out looks."
Some folks have said your offense appears to have a lot of horizontal plays in it and not as many vertical plays. Is that something you are trying to key on?
"A little bit. What we are always trying to do is get the ball down the field to a degree. But, if we can dink the ball into 12 yard or under throws and let the receivers run, then your percentages go up on those type completions."
You expect those to be close to 100% completions, don't you?
"For very short ones, I try to make sure our kids know those should be 100% even though I know it will never be that. But that is our goal.
"When you have a back swinging out of the backfield, there is no reason that isn't completed everytime. When you have a guy running the flat and he is open, there is no excuse not to hit those guys 100% of the time. That doesn't mean that they will be open all the time, but when you run those short routes, the quarterback has to hit a very high percentage of them because you are throwing short passes that you want to turn into good gains. To not complete one of those and come up 2nd and 10 puts you in situations that you don't want to be in. On first down you are throwing passes that have a higher percentage completion rate so that you can put yourself in second down and third down situations that don't get you beat. If you have 3rd and 7 or higher, you have problems. The more of those you have during a game, the less chances you have of winning against the really good teams.
"As teams attempt to do something such as jumping the underneath routes, we have something to go with that and if they give it to us we will throw the ball deeper.
So, it comes down to the fact that you are always attempting to take what the defense gives.
"Yes. You always are trying to get the higher percentage plays but you can't be stubborn if they are taking that away from you. You have to have a way to get to the other play if they are cutting you off on what you want to do."
Dropped passes were a problem the past several years. Have you seen improvement in that area of the offense?
"I know that was a big concern of the people. I think we have advanced in that. We haven't had nearly the drops that folks said they had last year. I really think we have progressed in that area, although we didn't show that during the spring game.
"I think if they will dedicate themselves over the summer to catch a lot of balls, we will make the improvement that we need to make. You just can't drop balls. The way I look at it, you don't drop any balls and you make some catches that are really tough catches. Then, you are where you want to be."
Talk about the three quarterbacks that participated in the spring game, Kyle York, Aries Nelson and Justin Tyler.
"Kyle picked up the offense very well. It turned out that Kyle ran some of my offense in high school. His high school coach came to LSU and studied the offense and ran it at his high school. I remembered that he came and spent about a week with us, studying our offense. Some of the things we run-check to, (Kyle) has done that before at his high school.
"Kyle is not only an intelligent young man, but also has great work ethic. A lot of kids work hard but they don't always know how to work with purpose. Kyle understands how to do that. He is grasping things as he works hard. Some guys work hard but don't catch hold of what is happening out there. They may get better physically but they don't get better mentally."
How close is Kyle to understanding it 100%?
"He is a ways away but it is not something that he can't understand. I've told all three of them that they will be better the first day you start in the fall than you were at the end of the spring. You may ask how could that be. If you do a good job over the summer studying the tapes that were given you and throwing the ball on your own to the receivers, your knowledge will be so much greater than it was during the end of the spring.
"Here's something that the quarterback has to go through. Somebody might ask them if they can draw up all the passes that you are running. They would say yes and would then draw every pass. That is knowledge of the offense. Knowing not only the offense but understanding it is something else. Could they draw every pass and show me what they would run if the defense call a blitz? Who would be the receiver that they would go to? Who is the guy we aren't blocking in that protection. What would make you have to get rid of the ball quickly. There are a lot of things that start coming up. When those come in, that is what separates quarterbacks."
That sounds complicated to me.
"It sounded hard to them when we started the spring. But, it is not as hard as it sounds. It is not that complicated. It is something that you have to study week to week. Most (teams) are the same way."
What do you think about Aries Nelson?
"Aries has plenty of ability to play at this level. Both have the ability to play here. I would say that Aries and Justin are at about 50% of understanding what we are doing. Both are working their fannies off to understand our offense."
Justin Tyler really impressed me during the spring game. I saw him in the second spring scrimmage and he looked much better in the last one. Were you surprised how well he did during the game?
"I would have to say that he did surprise me some. But I would also say, after thinking about it, it shouldn't have surprised me. He has been getting better in practice.
"The thing that helped all of the quarterbacks was that we weren't blitzing. The main thing about that scrimmage is we were trying to help the young kids who haven't really learned everything have a chance to show what they could do.
"The biggest thing about our offense is we want to always give our kids a chance to have success."
Final question: Are you known in the college football world for something. If so, what is it?
"We try to do as many things as we can out of our offense. We are not just locked into one certain thing."
Thanks for your time, Coach.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.