Oh, well. A lifetime breaking up passes in high school, college, and the National Football League hasn’t gone too badly. Townsend’s stellar playing career certainly prepared him well to become a coach, too. Now in his second season with Mississippi State’s defense, he is honing Bulldog cornerbacks for a trip to Kentucky. There #1-ranked State will take on a Wildcat offense that not only is much improved but much more versatile.
And, Townsend said, which has a definite deep-strike capacity missing in recent years. So the coach has been flinging it a lot this week in cornerback drills. At least he’s still fresh in that aspect despite so many seasons in uniform…and turns at quarterback at South Panola too.
“We ran the wing-T, we didn’t get to use the arm I had!”
How does your experience in the NFL help you keep your guys focused? “It just keeps you grounded. One game at a time, it’s the most important. Like I talk to the guys about all the time, it doesn’t matter about the next game; you have to take care of what’s in front of you. I think that just keeps you grounded, keeps you focused on the task at hand. And we have a lot of guys who are saying the same thing.”
Are you pleased with your cornerbacks’ progression? “Oh yeah. I think it’s we want to be going up as the season goes along. You know, guys are going to make plays, technique changes. But for us we got it going at the right time. We want to be peaking as the season goes and I think our guys are doing that right now.”
Will Redmond caught flack early in the season but has really been a standout? “That’s the life of a corner! You know, if you have a bad (game) and let it dwell on you you’ll never bounce back. One thing I try to let the guys do is let them know it’s not a panic situation. Our job is to make plays, and if you’re hounding them, hounding them too much they’ll never get their confidence. In our position is so confidence that you’ve got to know how to keep grinding, keep playing, keep trusting what you’re doing. If you do that you’ll be fine.”
Will said his film study has really gotten better? “Oh yeah, that’s one thing that is going to make you great, that mental side of the game at corner is the key. Everybody runs 4.4, 4.3; what are you doing mentally that’s going to make you a step faster on the field? It’s always film study.”
Early in the year your guys were in position but didn’t make the plays, how do you drill that down? “Well, we’ll do a lot of different drills. We’ll pin the hips in playing the deep ball, to judging the deep ball. And a lot of it is just the more reps you get the better you are.”
“I talk to guys all the time, nowadays kids don’t play catch in the back yard like we did. They play the Playstation. Most guys, I think the more sports you play the better you are. If you played baseball in the outfield it’s going to help you judge the ball. If you catch punts, things like that, it just makes you play the ball better. So for us we have do as many drills as we can where the ball is 40, 50 yards down the field. A lot of times I’ll put them down as far as I can, throw it in the air so they have to judge it. It’s easy to catch it when it’s five yards in front of you, it looks good. But when you get in that situation where the ball is 40 yards and realizing you have to track it, it’s a little different sometimes.”
“So we drill a lot of drills to get better. And the main thing is doing whatever it takes to get the ball on the ground. That’s something that will always be the end-all of our job.”
He hasn’t been playing but what kind of progression is Cedric Jiles making? “Ced just told me in the cafeteria, c’mon Coach, put me back out there! But he’s walking, he’s riding the bike which is good. For him, Ced is in such good physical shape he’ll bounce back fine. It will be great to have him still out there with us because he most definitely is a player that has the ability to go out there and play at a high level in the SEC.”
Kentucky’s quarterback is a veteran, their receivers are more athletic, what do you see in their passing game? “He does a good job. One thing about it, he throws a great deep ball, puts a lot of air under it. He has a great touch on the ball, and he has a good job of understanding the offense. The one thing that surprises is how well he moves around with his legs on things like that. But the way he can throw it, he has some young guys at receiver but he’s able to make every throw. He can make the field-out throw, the field-one throw, so that makes him impressive to watch.”
How much pressure does this defense put on its corners with the front seven so focused on the line of scrimmage? “Oh yeah. One thing we always say is every defense we have is a eight and nine man front. So somebody has some work hazard. For us a lot of times we have some eight-man fronts and nine-man fronts where the corner is going to be on an island. That’s just the job description, so if you’re scared of it don’t play it!”
Kentucky likes to make plays outside the numbers in vertical passing, how do you prepare your guys for that? “We’ll look at the releases, we’ll look at a lot of things like that. We’ll look at how they hold their feet or where their hands are, also when they’re doing it, all that type of stuff helps us. But the main thing is just checking the release, always protect the end zone. That’s always our goal, to make them go the long route. A lot of times it’s just knowing the splits and tendencies and when they want to do it.”