Turner Likes Early Look Of Dog Defensive Line

This working a double-shift on consecutive days can be tough on a coach. At least David Turner says so. "I'm getting to be an old man now!" Seriously though, Turner has welcomed a split squads approach yesterday and today more than most Mississippi State staffers, because he has a whole lot of defensive line Dogs to grade and a short preseason to do it.

Turner, who returned to Mississippi State in January as part of Coach Dan Mullen's revamped staff, had the first- and second-team defensive linemen on the practice field Saturday morning. This afternoon, around 2:30 or so, the other backups and freshmen will have their turns. This way everyone gets enough reps for faster evaluations.

Turner met with media after the morning session to discuss his unit's early-camp showings.

"Today's the first day we had in shoulder pads. We split practices, took half the group and have the other half this afternoon. A lot of good, a lot of good. I think a lot of guys made a step forward today, I don't think it was any question. They were battling a lot, they had the shoulder pads, they added a few pounds, it's hot out there, it's easy to start feeling sorry for yourself. You just have to keep grinding."

"I'm pleased with the mental aspect. We've still got a lot of technical stuff to get but the guys are trying to fight through adversity. Every day we just talk about trying to get a little bit better, just a little bit better. Don't worry about anybody else, don't worry about yesterday, don't worry about tomorrow. Let's handle today."

Several of your linemen seemed to treat today like full-contact? "Well, it is, except for the tackling. I mean with shoulder pads now because you've got to stay up, you have to practice smart. We expect it to be everything but down on the ground. So you've got to be athletic, you've got to stay off the ground, you've got to be able to play with technique, and you've got to basically play a game standing up."

With Denico Autry and Preston Brown do you have some ‘coaches on the field'? "Well I'm not ready to callthem that yet. We've got Ryan Brown, and he's coming along, A.J. Jefferson. So I feel good about the group. Denico has played but you've got to understand Denico's first year in the SEC was last year. So really he's no different than a freshman, just he played some junior college ball and the competitiion has been a little bit better than high school. But he's still got a long way to go, he's making progress. The thing about Denico is he shows up every day and he works hard. That's the one thing I ask guys to do. Preston is making progress in that area, right now he's having more good days than bad days which is good. Those guys have played, they should know what to do, and I want them all coaching each other."

Are P.J. Jones and Kaleb Eulls taking leadership in the middle? "Well, I would expect them to because they're the guys that have played the most football in there. And they know what it's about and they've played well in this league. So to answer your question yeah."

"Kaleb got a little bit banged-up today, P.J. stepped up today. But I tell you, Curtis Virges stepped up today, he got better. He's a guy that's got to play better for us up front. We've got to get more productivity out of him, he's got to play better, he's got to show up more."

Are things clicking with Quay Evans more? "Well, he's still young, he's still immature in some things. It kind of goes with the whole deal with the group, we're just trying to get better. Just do a little bit better than you did yesterday. So yes, he took a step forward today."

P.J. Jones was hobbled at one point, he got back up and was going at it? "I'm going to tell you guys, d-line is the only position on the field that is going to get hit every single play. I've been doing this for 28 years, you talk to anybody I've coached. I give them the first talk the first day every year, today is the last day you're going to feel good! From that point on something is going to be bothering you, you've got to learn to play well when something is bothering you."

What do you expect from the backups and younger guys this afternoon? "The tempo will probably be slowed down because it will be a whole lot more teaching, because they're the younger guys, a little more inexperienced, we've got to make sure we do a good job with fundamentals, try to get better. We're going to have competition where we're to touch them up a little bit. But we're going to try to do a good job teaching. We've got some guys that don't know what to do, and teach them how to do it."

With so many linemen does this split practices schedule really help you? "I love it, I really do. It's hard on me, I'm getting to be an old man now! But I get the chance basically to cut the group in half and coach all the guys, get my eyes on all of them and give them some good coaching. Hopefully!"

Do you have goals for new kids like Chris Jones? "I want them all to come in with the idea that they're going to play. And then we'll go from there. In this day and age with so much in terms of training and eating right guys are coming in with bodies more prepared than 20 years ago. So I want them all to come in think I'm going to play. We'll see where they fit in."

Is there an ideal weight for Jones to play at? "Whatever he can play and run at. I don't know. He's a big man, he's a little bit of freak of nature in terms of what he can do athletically. I'm not really worried about it, if I think he's getting too heavy I'll let him know; if he thinks he's getting he'll probably let me know!"

This defense stresses juice, mayhem, how does the defensive line bring that? "The mentality is if big guys go hard everybody goes hard. Who is it hard on? It's hard on the big guys, the 300-pound guys out here in this heat. I was a skill guy, I know that's hard to believe, when I was in college I could run all day long. Skill guys that's what they do, big guys it's a little bit different. So if the big guys go hard they set the tone and they kind of bring everybody else with them." Has Eulls gotten comfortable as a tackle? "There's no question. I said it the last half of spring ball, he's getting a whole lot more comfortable in there. And every day he gets a little bit better. Kaleb has a great attitude. Kaleb is going to show up and work every day, he's the same guy every day. His girlfriend breaks up with him or whatever he is the same guy every day. He's going to work hard and give a full day's work for a full day's pay."

Has his girlfriend broken up with him? "Not that I know of! But I wouldn't know, he wouldn't show me on the field so I wouldn't know!"


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