Koenning Reviews Offensive Progress In Camp

With eight practice dates done, Mississippi State's staff wanted to see just how well and how much players have absorbed all the instruction. So the Bulldogs devoted part of Saturday's single practice to a little scrimmaging. Not a full game-type, just some full-speed tests.

Overall results will await Coach Dan Mullen's verdict when he meets with media Sunday evening. From the perspective of Les Koenning though it was a productive morning's work. If only because the offensive coordinator could get a more accurate read on how things are progressing on this side of the football with the runners, throwers, catchers, and blockers.

On the whole Koenning is satisfied through nine working dates, four of them devoted to general installation and today to red zone and goal line situations. "Which was good, we needed the work. The one thing about the red zone, it's not different but it really helps you because your thought processes have to speed up. The field starts shortening and now those windows are a lot shorter in your passing game, you've got to get rid of the football, you've got to release it. And it was good for us to see how well the kids could process stuff."

"I'm very pleased with Tyler. He still was a little bit slow at times. There were a couple of times I wish he had pulled the trigger earlier, but he's getting familiar again to going at this speed. Dak is not close to where Tyler is, he's still processing things. You've got one, to two, to three. One….two….and we're sacked! That's the process that we're going through right now with Dak, he's struggling a little bit processing things. But he will get better at it because he just needs to see it. As a quarterback that's the hardest thing to replicate, get those game situations and see it, see it, see it. That's what we're doing right now. It was a really good scrimmage. You get out of the huddle and let the kids lead."

"Some of the biggest things about quarterback play, everybody is excited about a guy that can throw the football, everybody is excited about a guy that can run the football. That's really big. But the major issues are the decision making processes. How quick can you make those decisions and can you make them correctly. I think that's a big part of growing as a quarterback."

Do you expect using Jameon Lewis in red zone? "You've seen us use everybody in there. Dak, Jameon, Bump. We've used everybody in that situation. We always want to give ourselves the flexibility of having a multiple offense. Obviously you don't want to line Tyler up and run the football with him, but you can put him out there with other people that can run the football. That's the thing people don't quite understand about the spread. The spread either means if the quarterback can throw it, you throw it. If he can run it, you run it. So it's very multiple."

Are those situations a Joe Morrow can help? "The issue down there is the field obviously shortens, so separation is not nearly as much. So Now you're starting look at bigger receivers, guys that can body-up people. And receiver play is pretty simple, there's two ways to win on a route. Either one by getting position, or two by turning a guy. Obviously with Joe, getting position is a lot easier than it would be with someone a lot smaller."

Talk about the talents the four running backs bring? "Perk has some quick explosiveness. You watch him when he gets in the hole he can accelerate and get to that second gear really fast. Dixon and Ballard were bigger backs, that would hammer up in there and break tackles and make some things happen. Now we've kind of got a mixture of all of them, with Josh and Milton and all those kids. Each one of them is different and their styles are different when they run."

"We've tried to reduce tackling surface, when people come to tackle us we try to turn their shoulders and reduce it. Well, Josh was born with a reduced tackling surface, he's a bowling ball! Those are things that are attributes to a back."

Milton and Robinson seem to know their roles? "I think that's a tribute to our program. When you come to Mississippi State we're going to work you hard, we're going to try to get you to attain every goal you can possibly. And I think those are the things they look forward to. We're going to push you to be good, and if you don't the next guys is going to step up. That's what our team things and obviously that's important. And they're good kids."

"Obviously when you walk into that room and you want them all to have the opportunity to play. It's really you earn the right to play. I say this to kids all the time, you earn the right to play. Respect is not given, it's earned. Confidence is earned and not given. Can I lay hands on you and give you confidence, that's not going to happen! You've got to gain the confidence of your teammates and your coaches and I think that's critical."

Is a Robinson almost tailor-made for red zone? "Again, it doesn't matter where. It is who can break the tackle. As you well know we can probably get a hat on ten of them, there is going to be one of them that's free. And that is a deal for a back to break a tackle. In the NFL they get a lot of money if they can break a tackle, you know."

Do you see Chad Bumphis approaching the senior year differently? "I think they all are. Again we're making an evaluation on a kid and the season hasn't started. I'm looking forward to the season. As far as the preseason, yes. But the true leaders, it's easy to lead when you're in front. That's easy, what do you do when nobody looks, when nobody is around? That's a true leader."

"You have to have that kind of leadership where they come in and hey, we're going to get it done. One of the issues you find out with successful football teams, the ones I've been around, is the players lead. You can't lead as a coach, you can't get in there and say OK. You can instruct them and put them in the right area but there needs to be some responsibility and accountability upon them."

"There is really no great football plays, wow, what a great play! Well if you don't execute it, it's not going to be a great play. You've got to take that pride, you've got to take that step. Some people like to drive the cart before they hitch up the horse!"

Chris Smith carries himself differently now, is that a reflection of being around Tyler? "They've been together since high school so obviously that's a good connection. But I think it's the same with all our receivers. In practice you don't see Dan and I go over there and…y'all go talk it out. We have no eligibility, y'all go talk it out and let us know exactly what the issue is here."

With a quarterback who throws better does that open up the playbook? "Oh yes. It opens up the throwing game for sure. And it will help your running game. You're going to get reduced boxes, you're going to be able to run the football a little bit better too. There's two ways and two thought processes everybody goes through. If you have a quarterback that can run then he creates numbers with an overloaded box because he is the guy carrying the ball. But if it's a quarterback who can throw then he creates numbers by getting people out of the box."

Does it excite you as coordinator to call some plays you haven't in the past? "Oh yeah that gets you excited. But again I've been through it so long, some of the plays you think are the greatest plays you've ever called…and it's all execution. If you execute and do it you're going to have a chance."

"I tell this to the quarterbacks and receivers and o-line, we point IDs to the o-line all the time. Fellows, if y'all all are on the wrong page you have a chance of being successful! If one of y'all is doing it one way and one the other way we have no chance to be successful. Get together, make sure you're on the same page, then you'll have a chance to be successful."

In spring Josh needed to work on blocking, is he there yet? "It's gotten better. It's still there but it's gotten better. Another part is competition, you've got some really good competition in that room so that is really going to make you good. It's easy to coach when you walk into the room and you've got two or three people biding for one position. And we grade our kids every day, we give them a grade and put it down and show it to them. They want you to be truthful; well, here it is."

What are the expectations for Bumphis' senior year after a disappointing season? "It's hard for me to comment on any of that because the season hasn't even gone over. I'm very happy to have Chad Bumphis on the football team. He can be really dynamic and he's done some really good things for us."

"But again you wish you were a program that didn't have to play freshmen. He came in here and earned the right to play. As you see we're not playing near as many young kids as when we first got here. Because there is a little more depth, we've created that depth. And that's helpful for us."

Lewis got a lot of attention his first game, then had a lot to learn still. What do you expect from him? "I expect him not to catch the ball on the two-yard line on a kickoff! I'm just teasing! You see he's starting to pick up the offense, he's starting to learn more, he's starting to be more dynamic because he feels more comfortable. I mean the poor guy was just trying to make a play against Memphis and catches the ball and runs out of bounds."

"But those are the things he's learning about. You'd much rather have guys that want to make a play than don't want to make a play."

Mullen talked about having him concentrate more on receiver, does that eliminate the wildcat? "There's always chances. Any time Jameon has the ball in his hands, something is going to happen. Quote, something is going to happen; something could be good, something could be bad! But something is going to happen. He's exciting, and the more consistency he gets the better off we will be."

There is more talk about throwing downfield, you have a lot of experience at the slot position? "Those guys have all played, they've been here on the field one way or the other. Jameon we had the opportunity to redshirt early. I think the competition at that position is fierce and is really going to bring out the best in that position. Because when you walk in a game and the kid's having a bad day or something's happening, you've got have to have ways to manufacture playmakers. I can say this from last year, we're two or three plays away from winning two other football games. Everybody in the SEC could probably say that. But it comes down to making the play. You're going to have those opportunities, you've got to make them."

Is it good to have variety at wide receiver? "Yeah it is. Depth has increased too. Depth and variety has increased."

How important is getting the walk-on quarterbacks ready? "Very, very important. Jamil and Steven have done a really good job for us. But they're learning, their heads are swimming. Jamil was really funny today, I mean he threw a bad ball and I thought he had a heart attack, the way he was jumping around and I was like what is wrong? I said imagine what that would look like on ESPN? ‘Oh yeah, it wouldn't look too good'. No!"

"So we're coaching every part of it, boys! It's not just throwing it, it's the reaction afterwards. Body language with those freshmen is something you pick up really quick."

Will Sam Cowart join that group? "Yes, Sam will come in in the fall."

Are you fortunate to get a kid like Golden as a walk-on? "I do. Y'all can't talk to him, but he's absolutely hilarious. And doesn't mean to be hilarious! But he is really, really funny."

"For the first couple of days he took me some getting used to. Because I would ask him a question and his first response to me was ‘who?' ‘Who?' What did he run on that route: ‘who?' What was that play; ‘who?' How many people are out there; ‘who?'! I said we don't have a **** owl in here! But his response for some reason was ‘who?' And I'd laugh, you're not an owl! Ask me the question, who?! But it's funny!"

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