"First and foremost, we wanted to develop consistency as far as catching the ball and learning how to run routes. We made some progress in doing that, but we aren't where we need to be. I don't think the spring game was indicative of our performance the entire spring, but we are making progress.
I kept up with the drops for the three spring games and you actually only had 4 by your wide receivers during the spring game.
"I think receiver wide we had four drops, but I'm of the opinion that any drop is unacceptable. I want our players to believe that. You have to realize that overall we are young. We have one true senior receiver, Justin Jenkins. Milas Randle is a senior but he hasn't played receiver. From that standpoint, we are doing well."
Switching over to your players. Talk about improvements you saw in each player during the spring.
"I will start with Justin Jenkins. I wasn't here last year, but I think that Justin made great strides. When we charted his drops for the entire spring, it totaled four in 15 practices. And that includes all drills. He showed us that he definitely has the ability to make the big play. He picked up the offense with no problem. I think the key for Justin is going to be to work hard in the off-season and really maintain his confidence level. A lot of times people don't realize that confidence is the key. I'm looking for big things out of Justin. He definitely has all-conference potential. It is just a matter of us developing it."
You've coached some great wide receivers. How does he compare to other receivers that you have coached?
"I have been fortunate to coach nine that have gone on to the NFL. The one thing that Justin does particularly well is his acceleration to the football. Justin is a very short strider which you normally don't see with speed, but his burst is incredible and is very deception. What he gives you that a lot of receivers don't give is he is strong. The one thing we probably have to work on is his foot quickness and running off the ball more instead of relying too much on the jab getting off the ball.
"But, overall, I would say that Justin is as talented as Reggie Barlow who was a second round pick that I coached."
Next up is Tee Milons.
"The first week of spring wasn't what I wanted. The second and third week I thought that he showed some maturity and did well. Tee is a person with a lot of talent. His work ethic isn't where it needs to be. People have to realize that Tee is a true freshman. He didn't have a great spring. It took two hits. Sometimes, it takes a young guy to get going. They can either turn it on and things go great, or, if it goes south, you have to be able to pull it up a little bit. He will be alright. He has to get in the weight room. He just has to work for it. But he has talent and I'm excited about Tee. He has a chance to be a great player."
Talk about Ray Ray Bivines.
"He tore a ligament on his thumb. Before that, he was having a really good spring. I think he is going to do well for us. He will definitely play and be a starter. The key to Ray Ray is keeping him healthy and getting him focused. In order to stay healthy, he is going to have to get after it in the off-season. The stronger you are, the more you avoid the little nixes and injuries. That has been Ray Ray's problem."
It appears Antonio Hargro made improvement during the spring.
"Antonio Hargro came a long way. I know that people expect a lot of him. He was very highly recruited. He showed the ability to do those things. Antonio has, undoubtedly, some of the most phenomenal ability that I have seen as far as a runner. He still has to be more consistent in catching the ball.
"What you can never tell about a person or a player is how mature they are, how they deal with things on and off the field. He's had some problems but has come a long way. I'm proud of him. Now, we just have to keep the progress ongoing. Sometimes we forget these are 18, 19, 20 year old kids. What Antonio becomes will ultimately depend on how dedicated he is to the game of football."
Will Prosser had a good spring game catching the ball.
"Will had a very consistent spring. He is going to help us. The one thing that Will doesn't have is great speed but that doesn't mean he can't play. He showed the ability to catch the ball and had some big catches. What we have to do is put him in a situation where he can be successful. That is what we are going to do because he is going to play. He is a very intelligent player. There is always a place for receivers like that."
Why was he so productive during the spring game?
"I think one thing that benefited him in the spring game was the fact that we ran a lot of what we call the slash concept, where he didn't have to threaten deep. We had a deep receiver over the top and he was able to catch 5, 6, 8 yard passes. If you have a guy that can catch those balls and accept that fact, then there is always a place in the offense for a player like that."
I noticed during the spring that McKinley Scott was moving much better than I have seen him move since before he was injured.
"McKinley did improve. Obviously, he is trying to overcome a knee injury, but I thought in the spring game he played his best. He had three catches and showed that he can catch the ball over the middle. We have to get McKinley confident in the fact that his knee is not an issue. Having had knee injuries myself, I know that is a big mental struggle. The biggest struggle is learning that you can push yourself pass the point of when it hurts. That'll come in time. When he realizes that, he is going to be a great player. I don't just mean a good player, I mean a great player."
Brandon Wright is another one of those true freshmen.
"Brandon, of all the guys that we have, has a great vertical push. He can make you respect the deep ball. Between he and Antonio, you have to respect the deep ball. I said earlier that Justin is sneaky fast but Brandon gets on you so quick because he has such great straight out speed. What Brandon has to do is get in the weight room and he is going to have to work at catching the football. He has to learn to develop natural catching skills. That is not as easy as people think. Catching at the high school level is totally different than catching at the college level because the ball is coming a little harder and the defense is definitely coming up and hitting you harder."
Ty Freeman is another receiver that made a few catches during the spring.
"He is kind of an in between guy. He did some good things. He is not quite as polished as a couple of other guys. He can't stretch the field, but hopefully we will be able to use him in some situations. He is a big body and you can't have enough of those at receiver. He is going to have to work hard to really develop some quickness."
You had another receiver, Ken Topps, who really didn't get to show what he could do during the spring because he was hurt most of it.
"Ken was hurt all spring, but he has some ability. Ken has natural hands and really good quick feet. He is a young guy who has to get stronger. That is going to be a key for him. I would say that all of my young guys have to put the time in the weight room."
Milas Randle surprised some people with how well he played during the spring after moving from DB to WR.
"He is a guy who plays really hard. He has decent hands. What he gives us is a tough mentality. He is a guy who brings a mean streak to the position of receiver. We didn't see enough of that in the spring game. In the first scrimmage, we really saw that. When he gets the ball, he plays really hard and very aggressive. We want (our receivers) to play with an attitude. This is a dirty game. You have to get after it. I tell my guys all the time that I don't like pretty boys. I want guys who will get nasty.
"One thing that we developed was a physical mentality where we went down the field and cut people and block. Anytime a running back made a long run it's because he had the offensive line get him off the line of scrimmage at the start but the receiver had to finish it so that he could run clean."
Yeah, I saw that during the practices. You want you players to be very physcial.
"I always tell my guys that I want to hear skin. Anytime a corner or safety, or whomever it is, is trying to play press man and put his hands on you and jam you, I should hear skin slap. I believe, if you physcially hurt somebody, they will be less likely to put their hands on you the second time around."
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 email@example.com.