A few players have told me you are one of the leaders in the secondary even though you are just a sophomore. Have you always been the leader type?
"I have always been a leader but there are two different types of leaders. You have a vocal leader and a leader that leads by actions. I say things when I feel like I need to but most of the time I let my actions speak for me."
I get the impression you are a very confident player who is really in the middle of the two leadership type personalities. You seem to be an action player who also can be a talker. You may not be as vocal of a leader as Chris Swain but you are more vocal than another leader on the team, Brad Weathers.
"Yeah, I bring a little of both to the table. Sometimes you have to talk and sometimes you have to just show them because if you are talking and not getting it done, there is a problem."
Now that you've gotten a year of college play under your belt, do you feel you are close to being the Darren Williams everybody saw in high school?
"Well, it is another year of learning a new playbook and a new scheme but I've had longer to learn it. I feel this season I will be a lot better but I don't think I will reach my full potential on this level this season because I feel the sky is the limit for me."
There are actually two secondary coaches this year, Coach Hallman and Coach Cooper. Talk a little about how each one has influenced you.
"Coach Hallman is the type coach who wants you to have all of your fundamentals and techniques down. Everytime you mess up just a little bit on technique, he is going to get on you because he wants you to be the best player that you can be. Because of that, he will stay on you a lot. He coaches with a lot of intensity. Coaches like that you love to be around, but you know they will get on you.
"Coach Cooper has taught me a lot. He got me out of my backpedal because I was taking false steps. I think that will help me a lot this year. Coach Cooper knows a lot about football and his schemes are amazing. He does a good job of mixing up his schemes."
How is his scheme different than Coach Dunn's scheme particularly for the secondary?
"There is a big difference. Last year, in Joe Lee's scheme, you only had two coverages, man-to-man and zone. In Coach Cooper's scheme, you probably have between 11 to 15 coverages."
That many? Has it been difficult to learn that many coverages?
"When we came out in the spring, they threw it all at us. At first, the players were getting kind of frustrated, but I told them this was what we needed. You were complaining about Joe Lee's two coverages and how we were getting picked apart. I told them we need to learn this because this will make us better."
How close would you say the DBs are to having learned the coverages so that they can react and not have to think?
"The part that we learned, most of us are now reacting. But, we still have a lot to learn."
Do the secondary guys try to get together on a voluntary basis and work on coverages?
"We do it occasionally in the turf room, but the second session of summer school is when we will pick it up since everybody should be here, including the high school players. That will allow them to learn the schemes also."
After watching him during the spring and talking to him today, I really feel Chris Swain will be one of the true leaders on this team. Is it surprising to you to see a newcomer like Chris come in and take on a leadership role?
"No, that's Swain's personality. When he was on his visit, he came in talking a lot. I didn't want him to change being him when he came here. He has been a great leader. Chris Swain is the type guy who will come in at every workout and give you everything that he has. He is a hard worker who will motivate the next man.
"We were out here covering and I was wondering why I couldn't jam the receivers on the line of scrimmage, Chris, who was just out of junior college, came over to me and told me that my base was too wide and to narrow it. I listened to him and every since then, I have continued to learn from him and even teach him a few things."
Off the top of your head, who are some of the players that you feel have really worked hard during the summer workouts?
"Clarence McDougal, Tee Milons, Chris Swain, Jason Clark. Tommy Kelly has really impressed me this summer. I can't leave myself out because I have been getting up and giving all I have every morning. I see Justin Jenkins working real hard trying to get better...."
I know there are probably others but I'll leave it at that since I know you've got to go. Thanks, Darren.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org