ScoutTV: MSU Safeties Coach Tony Hughes Q&A

ScoutTV: Mississippi State safeties coach Tony Hughes talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about how his safety position is coming along.

You lost a few guys to graduation but you have a lot of experience coming back.
"We have five guys who have started SEC games. That is tremendous. They have a lot of experience, a lot of confidence and a lot of knowledge of what we are doing on the defensive side of the ball. So, it has been a great camp so far.

"Kendrick Market, Justin Cox, Jay Hughes, Deontay Evans, and Kivon Coman have really stepped up and had a tremendous camp so far."

Evans and Coman are relatively new guys who did play some last year. What are your overall impressions of them going into this season?
"They are. Kivon played quite a bit last year and Deontay actually started the Liberty Bowl. They have a lot of confidence in themselves and both are very athletic. And they are also playmakers. Like you said they are still young kids, but mixing them with the older kids brings a good chemistry into our room."

Does having so many older guys among your players help you as a coach? Can't you rely on the older guys to help you coach the younger guys?
"It's tremendous because the leadership is so tremendous. Jay, Kendrick and Justin Cox, those three kids have played a lot of football. Cox hasn't played as much safety as the other two but when they go out on the field they have a lot of confidence. And they are able to demand respect from the rest of the group because they have the rest of the group knows that they have played a lot of football and played well in games."

You mentioned that Justin hasn't played a lot of safety. How has he improved at that position since last season?
"He made a tremendous amount of improvement because he played it all spring. We moved him there for the bowl game practice and he played there in the bowl game. It was like he had two spring trainings. And he worked at it all summer long. Now he's playing with a lot of confidence in camp and with a lot more knowledge of what he is supposed to be doing. Everyday that he goes out there, he is getting better."

There is a lot of preseason hype about this year's Bulldog defense. You have been a college coach, an SEC coach, for a long time. What are your thoughts about it as a long-time SEC coach?
"A lot of confidence on defense comes from your ability to make plays. And (our) kids have played a lot of football; Kaleb Eulls, P.J. Jones, Preston Smith, Benardrick McKinney, Jay Hughes, Kendrick Market, Taveze Calhoun. When you start mentioning those names, you are talking about fourth and fifth year guys. They are guys who have been here for four years in this program and played a lot of football. Now, they are going out there with a lot of experience and a lot of confidence in our system. The system has been in place for a number of years. It's not like they have had to start all over. So, they have a belief and confidence in it.

"And a (important) thing about the game of football is confidence, especially on defense. The attitude on defense is contagious. The psychology part of it has a lot to do with it. Plus, they are hard workers and they believe in themselves."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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