"I'm anxious to get out there. I was at the office until 9:30 last night. I went home and fell asleep and woke up at 12:30, then woke back up at 5:15."
Would you have preferred the Oregon game be played during the day instead of nighttime?
"ESPN wanted it at night. I can tell you being in the hotel all day under an air-condition, then coming out into the hot will be tough.
"I remember when we were at Baylor and stayed in the hotel all day. I remember (after) walking out of the hotel and getting on the bus, I was very concerned because it was hot. That was the first time that I have ever gone out for pre-game warmups without any pads. We would have probably been wasted during warmups."
Status of freshman Rickey Wright and senior Kamau Jackson.
"We have one (freshman), Rickey Wright, waiting to be cleared. (With) Rickey (it) is a matter of getting the correct information. It is nothing that we can control. It is a very simple item that they need. But, until they get that information, they aren't going to clear him. I feel positive that he will be cleared.
"We are waiting for a ruling (on Kamau). There have been a couple of hardship cases in the past with a couple of basketball players, so hopefully we can get him in camp.
"Neither one will come until they are cleared."
[During Kamau's first season at Co-Lin CC, his mother lost her job. After playing in one game, Kamau went home and got a job to help her out financially.-Gene]
What do you think about the NCAA first ruling that ruled Kamau isn't eligible?
"It's not fair. We all think we should have more understanding and compassion. What Kamau did probably wouldn't be any different than what any kid would have done. He shouldn't be penalized for things in his life that he can't control."
When did you know about his situation?
"During and after the spring (2003). It started in the conference. But even the conference felt like it would be ok."
How will the new schedule be different than in the past?
"The camp will be different than any time before. It's like a new era. I like that it gives you more time to coach, gives you more time to evaluate. gives you more time to make sure the young guys have an opportunity to play. In the past you brought them in for those three days, you worked them. Then all of a sudden when the rest of the guys come in your kind of have. forgotten about them. Now you have a good week that everybody is being coached the same. It really helps with the heat. You are going to spend more time in meetings than you normally do. And there is more time for group work.
"This week you have two days in sweats, two days in shoulder pads and one day in pads. Those are the first five days. You have x-number of hours on the field. You will spend a lot more time in meetings than you normally do. You'll spend a lot more time coaching individually with your group on the practice field. This means the defensive line will stay with John (Blake) a lot more than they did in the past. He will get a better field of the defensive line. You will stay on offense and defense and not have scout teams. Because of those aspects, they will have more individually coaching, they will have more time in the meeting rooms. Even the rest will be different. Normally, after you start two-a-days, by the third day you are worn out. I think the rest time, the recovery time will make all of them fresher. You will see a truer evaluation of every player."
Prior to the regular practice, you now have a walk-through type practice. What exactly is different about that compared to a regular practice?
"That is part of the teaching. You actually get to walk through some things. It is part of practice but you will walk through the offense and defense. All of the kids will be able to learn more because of that."
Talk about the quarterback situation with Kevin and Kyle.
"You have two guys that are very competitive. Kevin will start at number two. The great thing about it is the competitive level. After two-a-days the one that has moved the football team in practice and performed better in practice will start against Oregon. That doesn't mean that either one won't play."
Do you feel you are building up the Oregon game too much?
"That's not the only game but we break the season down into months and it's the only game in August. And it is important to have a winning record in August."
Do you think you can turn things around from the past two seasons?
"Absolutely. I think we have more depth. We have some young players. Most of the time players improve the most between their freshman and sophomore years."
Why did you move Kevin Dockery to strong safety.
"We did it to give us the best and fastest athletes on the field. There is a difference between playing inside and corner. To play inside you have to tackle and you have to cover. Corners don't have to tackle like the inside guys. There's times when the inside guys, because of the formations, will have to take on some people who are a lot bigger than they are."
Are there any positions where you feel the freshmen will have a chance to play this year?
"Certainly in the secondary. I think all four guys (Quinton Culberson, Eric Fuller, Adrian Griffin and Jeramie Johnson) will help us. All of them have the ability. On the defensive line there are quite a few that I think will help."
What kind of surgery did Brandon Downing have?
"Brandon had a knee operation. It may be six weeks or it may be eight weeks (before he comes back). One thing that I have always tried to do is to make sure no one comes back until he is ready to come back. If you push a kid too early, then you may not get him back at all."
What position will Jason Clark play?
"He will be able to do both (defensive end and outside linebacker). What we are doing is preparing for the possibility that Kamau (Jackson) might not be here. And it will make us better if Kamau is able to come back."
Talk about kicker Brent Smith.
"There are a lot of thing you like about Brent Smith. One, he is a kid that turned down a lot of scholarships to walk on. That's kind of like (Jackson Prep QB/P Luke) Addison who turned down some scholarships, including one from Southern Miss, to come here. (Brent) sold his truck before he was put on scholarship. He came here to do some things and he has done them. He also is a 4.0 student. He will graduate with a 4.0 point."
How does he compare to the best kickers that you have had here?
"He is as good or better. He not only has the leg strength but accuracy from long distances. He also is able to do things with the ball that my other kickers couldn't. He can kick it right-footed or left-footed. He can put it in different places. He can change his steps at the last minute. That's not easy to do."
Talk a little about Willie Evans.
"The most impressive thing about Willie is he is a very good student. I was not anticipating that he would be as good as he is. School is important to him and he makes very good grades. You don't see him on any list missing class or study hall.
"He has been able to overcome his diabetes to play. When he discovered he had it (in January, 2003), he never let it deter him from playing."
Who will play the most at tailback this year?
"Whoever is hot plays. There is room for both of them (Nicholas Turner and Jerious Norwood). Now, if you had four, five or six, then there's not room for all of them.
"Last year, when Nick (Turner) and Jerious (Norwood) came here, a lot of people said here are two Parade All-Americans who wouldn't have a good relationship. That was far from the truth. As a matter of fact, after Jerious played his first game after Nick's problems, he called him from the locker room right after the game."
Where has (your son) Braxton (Sherrill) transferred to?
"He is probably going to Blinn (Junior College), then go to (Texas) A&M. I guess I can say it this way. Sometimes there is a female that becomes a lot more important than other things. I don't know how else to say it."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.