Turner Tuning Dog D-Line For Liberty Bowl

He certainly didn't mind the four days spent primarily practicing the reserves and redshirts and such. All that December tape will be handy prior to spring drills. Still, Coach David Turner was ready for Wednesday. "It's kind of back to normal grind, normal routine."

Normal, as in grinding away with the varsity defensive linemen. Turner and his unit were, well, reunited today when Mississippi State transitioned to specific AutoZone Liberty Bowl preparations. They've begun seriously looking at opponent Rice, and regaining the end-of-season rhythm which was so key to the Bulldogs earning bowl eligibility for a record fourth-consecutive year.

Now Turner will tune everyone back up before their short holiday break. Though, he said, the past few days were productive in the longer-term for the entire defensive line. "We've had a lot of good work with some of the younger guys who didn't get a whole of reps this year," he said.

"Today was the first day really to zero-in on Rice. And I liked the guys' attitudes, they came out and got a good day's work. Great weather, a perfect time to practice. And we got some good work done."

What did you think of the younger linemen working the last four days? "Well, it was good. It was good for me because I get a chance to work with those guys, and I don't get to see them a whole lot over working scout team stuff. So it's good I get a chance to coach Jordan Washington, a chance to see Nick James, a chance to see John Harris and all those guys. So it's been good for me."

How has James handled his situation once it was explained to him? "I think Nick is starting to mature. Which is good. He understands the situation he's in, he put himself in. and he can work himself out. So he's starting to mature. He's still got a ways to go but he's starting to take some steps in the right direction."

How has playing at defensive tackle been for Kaleb Eulls' development this year? "Well Kaleb has kind of been a ‘grind' guy. He's there every day, he's been hurt and doesn't say a word; he just keeps going about his business. It was a situation we were just trying to get the four best guys on the field, and he's one of them. So I think with his size, his strength, he's a pretty good technician it was a pretty smooth transition."

"It was rough the first part of the spring but I think I told you at the end of spring you could tell a big difference and he's getting more comfortable. And he's been a valuable asset, he's played some at end for us. So he's been able to handle that and kind of a rock-solid guy inside."

Chris Jones said he's going to petition to play some defensive end? (laughing) "Yeah, there's no question that is a never-ending saga! I'm going to try to stick him out there some just to keep him happy. But he brings a different dimension out there, I mean he's a hard matchup for some tackles in terms of speed and power. And we try to mix him up and try to create a miss-match with him out there at times."

How do you help a young guy realize this is best for the team and yourself? "Well, you answered the question. It's best for the team, best for himself. And it's all about trust. And Chris is a young man, he wants to play. He has the right attitude, he says Coach wherever I can help the team. That's the attitude he's had and the way he's approached it. He's a team player."

"For a guy that was as highly-recruited as he was, he came in and had the right attitude, he's starting to mature a little bit in terms of understanding the speed and what he has to do to get himself better. And he's an unselfish guy."

After a year around him, what is Jones' ceiling? "Oh, shoot, if I knew that…he doesn't have one! He can be as good as he wants to be. He's big, he's strong, he's athletic, he's powerful, he's fast. I mean he's a freak, he can be as good as he wants to be. He still thinks he knows a little bit more than I do at times! But he's coming around on that. He's a coachable guy. I think today he had one of his better practices. Matter of fact I asked him afterwards and he said Coach I'm just trying to work and get better. So his mental approach has been good. He's still young, sometimes he gets tired and he lets that get to him. But I like the way and the direction he's going."

What is his biggest change since August? "Oh, technique. No question. He's doing a better job keeping his pads down, doing a better job getting his hands up. And he's working at it. He knows he's got to do that. In high school he could just overpower people; you don't just overpower people in this league. He's starting to work at it and get better and those are the things he's got to do to be a really good player, just fine-tune his technique."

A couple of guys who had regular roles this year, how are Ryan Brown and A.J. Jefferson developing? "Well, Ryan just shows up every day and works. A.J. has a great personality, hasn't been as consistent as I would like to be. He still works at it, I'm pleased with his progress. Ryan is a little bit different, he just shows up and works, goes about his job every day, grinds at it. And he's got a chance to be a really good player, I really believe that. A.J. has got to work at it a little bit more and he's got to mature a little bit. But I love what those guys are and wouldn't trade them anybody."

P.J. Jones should be ready for the bowl game? "Yeah. P.J. has been the same all season, I mean he got hurt August 3rd and he ain't missed a beat! So he's had a week off and is going to have another week off so he should be ready."

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