Banks, Bulldogs Busy With Practice Scheming

There's been no lack of 1999 references already. So why not call upon the wisdom of one of the greats from that Bulldog bunch to help today's team regain their 2012 stride? John Banks certainly knows who to quote. "Like Fred Smoot said, we've got to have all-timers around here. I mean, you have to let stuff go sometimes. We lost and we're trying to put it behind us and get ready for Texas A&M."

#17-ranked Mississippi State must turn all attention to Saturday's home meeting with the #16 Aggies. Meaning, the first setback of the season should be consigned to history and the Bulldogs focus. Or re-focus, Banks said Tuesday following practice. Literally, immediately following practice as the senior quarterback was still in shoulder pads and shorts for interviews.

It's cliché but true, too; the Dogs have to prevent that initial loss from turning into another. Or another. At 7-1 and 3-1 SEC Mississippi State can still chase many remaining 2012 goals. Banks did like what the squad did in their first full practice for Texas A&M.

Even better was how they did it.

"We're back to old ways when I first got here. Grinding it out, going hard, everybody excited, competing, going out there and flying around."

As Banks has been here four falls now, he and senior classmates also have a perspective with which to approach November's gauntlet of Western Division games. Coach Dan Mullen said following the 38-7 final at Tuscaloosa he was counting on team leaders to set a tone. Banks understands why and says Alabama is already over for everyone. Especially the seniors.

"We're old. We've been here four or five years, ain't no panicking. Our coaches are going to coach with poise, we're going to be poised. Stuff happens, (Darrelle) Revis got scored on, Patrick Peterson got scored on last night. I mean stuff happen, its football. Nobody's perfect."

That was in reference to a pair of first-half touchdowns tossed by the Crimson Tide. Each time the TV picture showed Banks as the victim but that was far from the whole story. Breakdowns in supporting coverage left openings for those throws. Still as the unit's spokesman Banks assumed general responsibility for secondary mistakes.

He's also using the (painful) replays as motivation for this week. Because the Bulldog defense is about to face a truly electrifying playmaker in Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel, a quicksilver runner with a fast trigger as well. While Banks reminds that every SEC weekend shows a capable quarterback on the other side of the line, Manziel has some special qualities to scheme for.

"That kid, he's an athlete playing quarterback and a really good quarterback," Banks said. "He makes stuff happen for the team and we're going to have to try and contain him." First though State has to practice containing this playmaker, and there isn't really a scout team quarterback on the roster that fits the description. So, redshirting freshman receiver Brandon Holloway is being pressed into service.

"Brandon is probably the fastest man on the team, he's a 4.2, 4.3 guy. He's giving us a great look getting back there and scrambling." In fact Holloway ran the ball very well in high school last year as a small back when not out on routes, so he offers that scouting dimension. Passing? Welllll… "I don't think he ever played quarterback," Banks deadpanned.

A few Bulldog linebackers have though, and their experience should come in handy as well. Mullen makes it clear one defender must always account for Manziel, but it need not be the same Dog each time. Not based on practice plans so far, per Banks. State has options here.

"Oh, it's great. Matt Wells runs a 4.3. Deontae Skinner runs like a 4.5, Cam (Lawrence) runs like a 4.6. So hey, we've got speed at linebacker. Benardrick McKinney is a 4.5 guy. So I think we'll do a great job containing him."

"No matter who it is, I trust all our guys. No matter if it was Josh Boyd had to spy, I'd trust him to go out and give 100% and do his job." Not that the defensive tackle is drawing James Bond duty of course…right?

Personnel aside, Banks said approach counts too this week. They've watched how the two SEC teams with wins over A&M to date handled the Aggie offense in general and quarterback in particular. There really is not much deception involved at this point. "Yeah, Florida and LSU did a great job on him. But we're going to go out and play our defense and try to execute," said Banks.

"Go out and play hard, be smart and be physical. We're going to try to get after him, try to make him go fast. But go contain him, play our defense and go out and have fun."

Fred Smoot wouldn't have had it any other way.


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