“They’re All 1s When They’re Playing”

Coach Manny Diaz: “We’re getting more comfortable with changes in the scheme. It’s hard for the veteran guys to get taken out of their comfort zone, which is really what happens. So they’re kind of fighting their way back through in some of the different things we’re trying to communicate and get done.”

“And I think having some time now as we’re getting into the third full week offspring, I think they’re starting see that their reps stack on top of the reps, and things are becoming more natural for them.”

What are some things you took them out of their comfort zone? “There’s a variety of things. It can be as simple as a communication. It can be a technique. There are many, many things we’re doing that are the same because obviously what was here was good.”

“But like anything else what we’re trying to do is we’re trying make it better. So there’s some different techniques and different ways that we’re going about doing things in terms of sort of ‘under the hood’ of how we play. And sometimes you’ve got to fight a lot of habits, a lot of reps in the opposite direction to get those habits broken and go to the new way of doing things. Hopefully that will be something that will help us out in the fall in terms of making us harder to move the ball against.”

How have your linebackers progressed? “I think they’ve done well. Again, I think they’re learning. The experience of Beniquez Brown counts, obviously he’s further along than anybody else because of the reps he’s had, and he’s got such a mental capacity for learning the game.”

“Behind him, Richie Brown and Gerri Green have both done really nice things on the inside. And then really the big battle for us right now is sam linebacker. Zach Jackson and J.T. Gray both flash up there. Dre Ward is a guy who can help us there but he’s done some good things at will this year.”

“So they’re all making a case for themselves. And I think our big battle cry, not just at linebacker but everywhere, is our blessing and our curse is we have a bunch of guys here that can make plays and have made plays in big-time games. The issue is to take the plays of the guys that have walked out the door. They have to be able to do it consistently.”

“So if we couldn’t do it we’d have a built-in excuse. But we can, so now the issue is what stops us from doing it consistently? And a lot of times the enemy is us. So that’s been the big things, is trying to get ourselves more comfortable with understand what it takes to bring it every down, every series, and every day.”

What were your overall impressions from the scrimmage? “I would say it was a pretty strong butt kicking. You know? It was by far our worst day, but as coaches it wasn’t completely unexpected. It just looked like our offense knew what they were doing, and our defense thought that they knew what we were doing. And that’s what showed. So I thought we made mistakes in stadium that we hadn’t made in the first seven days out here on the practice field. And things just get sped-up in the stadium, that’s why you have to go in there and get into that environment."

"But what it did allow us to do is in the time since, the last couple of days, go back, teach it again from square-one from fundamentals. And I think today our guys were a lot more comfortable. They say the game, they were better eye-control, better keys, better leverage, things like that. And I suspect we’ll make a better account of ourselves this Saturday.”

Is the depth at defensive line, especially the interior, being developed this spring as well? “Well, we have no choice. It has to be. Because you can’t survive in this day-and-age without being able to roll two and not really have a drop-off. So again, there are guys in there that have shown that they have the ability to make a play.”

“(Braxton) Hoyette and (Cory) Thomas, they have done enough right now where they know why they’re here and we know why they’re here. But it’s a big ‘ask’ for them to all of a sudden bring it every day. And that’s kind of what that whole sort of young, redshirted class of freshmen, that’s what they’re figuring out right now.”

“It’s like the good news is you’re good enough; the bad news is you’re good enough and we probably need you this year. So you can’t be a young guy any more. I think overall we’re getting better inside but we’re still a work-in-progress there for sure.”

What have you seen from the cornerbacks? “It’s like anything else, same as linebacker. You’re always going to rely first on your more experienced guys. So Will Redmond is a guy we rely on the most. He’s done a nice job so far this spring.”

“Then beyond him I’m starting to sound like a broken record, you know? There’s guys coming out there and are doing good things. But now when you start talking about in the secondary it changes from the front seven, because in the secondary you can’t have a mistake. Mistakes are touchdowns. So in terms of playing with the urgency it takes to play on every snap, to understand that its a no margin for error position; and then just getting comfortable and learning the scheme, those guys are battling. Coach (Deshea) Townsend is doing a great job with those guys.”

“But same thing, that’s something that with (Taveze) Calhoun out we’re trying hard to see. I think Tolando Cleveland has done a nice job jumping in there and playing like a one so far this spring. Beond them it’s been a flash here and a flash there and we’re looking for more consistency.”

In your first spring how much is take what worked (last season) and utilizing that? “There’s a lot of what we’ve already done. Because a lot of what we had our first time here hasn’t changed. There’s a lot of what we’re still doing that we were doing in 2010. So by no means is it a complete re-boot.”

“But at the same time things evolve. You have to look honestly, you have to be a self-evaluator, you look at where we were being attacked and did we have the answers for the way people are attacking our defense? And the kids see it, the kids know. They’re aware of where we had to get better. So they understand that we feel like now we’ve got some answers to help us, where people are trying to pick on us.”

“And so it’s been a challenge. But I think the kids get it. They understand the challenge and rather than be like we talked at the beginning, knocked-out of their comfort zone now so they feel really good about it come August and September.”

Do you see the 1A/1B carrying over or will that be different this year with ones and shuffling in from there? “Well we don’t even know yet. Because it really comes down to the identity of the team. Last year’s team had a lot of guys with a lot of experience and that worked for last year’s team.”

“We have to figure out whether we have eleven that we can line-up with, let alone 22! I’m hoping, you know! But hope and expectation aren’t going to get any stops in the SEC. But that’s really what it comes down to. We have to find out if we have, because they’re all 1s when they’re playing. The other team they don’t care. So they’re all 1s when they’re playing. I think what Coach Mullen’s challenge is, be a 1, and how many 1s do we really have at every position? That’s kind of what we’re trying to find out right now.”

Mississippi State returns to practice with a 3:30 Thursday session.


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