Bye-Week Bulldog Talk with A.J. Jefferson

Any time A.J. Jefferson drops by the Seal Complex media room, fun surely follows. Much of it, not-for-recording or –reporting. There is no more question who has taken first place among press corps favorites among these 2015 Bulldogs.

Fortunately for work purposes, Mississippi State’s standout defensive end has his serious side. That’s true on the field, where Jefferson is on a fast-track to All-SEC status; and even off it when asked about the Bulldog defense. Which he was this open-date week, beginning with…


What is the emphasis this open date, evaluating yourselves? “Yeah, Coach (Manny) Diaz, we had a defensive meeting today and kind of went back and looked at some stuff that we could have done a lot better. Basically our focus right now is just tackling. We’ve got to get better at tackling. I mean, we tackle good but we could do a lot of stuff better when it comes to tackling. I feel that’s our main emphasis right now this bye-week.”


What do you see that you can do better? “It’s just being smart, knowing what you’ve got to do. Bringing your tackling shoulder up and just running-through, not gathering your feet. And a bunch of that stuff is coming from young guys. I did miss a tackle in the backfield, and he told me that made him sad when he saw that play! It’s just stuff we know we can do, we have to keep reminding ourselves that we have got to do it every play.”


After eight games how do you assess your play? “I feel like I’m playing pretty good. I’ve still got guys that push me, all of us trying to get to the play first. Chris (Jones), Ryan (Brown), Nelson (Adams), especially when Nick (James) will start. He’ll get down there and grunt! We all kind of feed off each other, so we’re all trying to get to the play first.”


What has Chris done to impress you? “I’ll have to say his effort. You know, he loves to eat. I’ll watch him come in some days he’ll be 10 pounds overweight, just come in and slop during practice. But game time, he’s just a different person. I think he’s matured a lot as far as taking care of his business. So on game day he’s a different person.”


Do you still see the talent he came in here with, the next big thing? “Oh, yeah. I mean, this past Saturday he had a gap, he was a three-technique. We watched it on film, the guard pulled and the d-line being wrong. I shot off the edge, I’m thinking I’m fixing to catch Chris. To me, I want to say he was chasing after the quarterback, but it felt he saw me and didn’t want me to pass him up! He shot past and dang! Who was this?!”

“So he still kind of flashes it sometimes. I mean, the big boy can roll.”


Have you seen Taveze Calhoun take on a leadership role? “He spoke to the team last Friday about us having to play every play like it’s our last, because you never know. He said the first thing Will Redmond said to him was I can’t believe it’s over. So I feel he’s done a great job.”

“And we all saw he was going to have a great game this past weekend because during practice somebody only caught one pass on him, I think that was like an out-route or something like that. Other than that, he was locked-down all last week in practice. I think he did a great job with that, the younger guys see him doing things like that and I feel he’s picked it up a whole lot.”


You go against the offensive line in practice, how much better has that group gotten? “I feel like a lot better. We had a couple of guys first-time starting, Jamaal (Clayborn) and Rufus (Warren). Justin Malone, he was a starter last year. Justin Senior was a starter. Devon Desper started like two games last year.”

“As far as those guys communicating together I feel they’ve done a great job as a whole. A big part of that is Coach Hevesy of course. He fusses at them all the time but they work. I think they’ve come a long way.”


You are top-ten in career tackles for losses, did you set any of those as goals? “I didn’t. I’m just out there trying to do what I can, to show what I can do. It kind of caught me off guard when Coach Turner said it in the meeting room the other day. It’s fun though to know my hard work is starting to pay off.”


What do you think about being up for the Hendricks Award? “I heard about it today. Obviously that’s a huge honor, and I’m thankful. Like I said, my hard work is starting to pay off. It’s just an honor and I’m thankful.”


Last week the sideline seemed to be having more fun, a lot more edge. What do you attribute that to? “Everybody just loves playing football. I mean, we’ve got a bunch of characters on the sideline. From our strength coaches to our coaches to the players. Everybody loves playing football, the process is hard to get to game day but once game day gets here…”

“Coaches always tells us practice should always be harder than the games. So once you get to the game it’s easier, you’re out there having fun, you’re out there flying around, the d-line we don’t have to have our knee braces on, everybody having a good time.”

“Coach Mullen tells us all the time it’s always fun to beat somebody. You want to have fun? Just go out there and just beat somebody physically. It’s always fun doing that.”


Did this bye week come at the right time? “I think so. It has been a long eight games. But I feel it came right on time. Because we’ve got what, four SEC games left and all of them…Arkansas obviously has a big offensive line, they want to run the ball. Alabama is going to be Alabama. Missouri, they’ve got a strong offensive line. So I feel it came at the right time.”

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