"It's almost over," Buckley said of the spring session. "We still have a couple of days left and I am trying to still see it. I don't like to make assessments until it's over and then you can sit back and think about it."
Buckley has high expectations for his players. While the spring game will provide a progress report of sorts for the personable coach, Buckley is still working to put his brand on the Bulldog corners.
"Knowledge of the game, technique, fundamentals and great effort, relentless effort," Buckley shared as items on his personal report card. "That's all you can ever ask from a ball player. Pay attention, line up properly and always use stance, alignment, assignment and great effort.
"If you do that, then you stand a chance. You can't be upset with that. Make it a physical, athletic contest. Don't get beat mentally or because you're out of shape."
While the Bulldogs lost two tremendous players in Calhoun and Redmond, the Mississippi State cupboard is far from empty. Rising seniors Tolando Cleveland and Cedric Jiles have worked hard to stand out in the new defensive system.
"It's nice having guys who understand what it takes," Buckley said. "Tolando has been awesome. He is one of those guys you would love to have on your team no matter where, because he is going to do what is expected and some. He is going to play hard and he is going to hustle, all of the little things that you want out of a player.
"It's being a leader. It's one of those things where you go through cycles. You have two guys leave, your seniors, how it is supposed to naturally happen is the next guy stands up or the next two guys. That has been really, really encouraging and I am excited about what can happen next year."
Joining Buckley in Starkville is Co-Lin standout Lashard Durr. Durr, also a Mississippi Gulf coast native. is competing for playing time after a solid career in the Mississippi junior college ranks. The transition to the SEC appears to be well under way.
"He has been doing a good job," Buckley said of Durr. "Obviously as a coach you want to push and get more out of him. You see the talent and you see what he has and I am one of those guys who is never satisfied.
"I tell you what. He works extremely hard. He is attentive. I challenge him and I put him on the board. I want to know what you know. I think it's been great, especially his attitude. If you have somebody with a great attitude, you can take them a long way."
While the Bulldog defense will return several talented players, Buckley plans to do all he can to fight complacency and keep his group hungry to get better each and everyday.
"If you have a bunch of picks, I am going to find a way," Buckley shared. "I am going to find a way even if I have to make it up. We are going to find a way to keep going. I had a coach tell me once that if you think you know everything and you're satisfied, then it's time for you to shut it down."
The proving grounds in the eyes of Buckley is the practice field. The NFL veteran reports that he is pushing his guys to be the very best that they can be in every practice, every drill and ever rep.
"I always tell my guys make me want to play you," Buckley explained. "Or you can have me on the sidelines saying, man, I can't take him out. So when I say I that about never being satisfied or holding guys to a higher standard, I don't care who it is.
"They know when they see that finger or that hat, that it's time. I just go with it. I just go until somebody shows me that hey, I have got to be out here all of the time, coach."
The Bulldogs and Buckley are still getting to know each other. At this point there is not a real familiarity on either side. Buckley believes that will come in time as every one becomes more comfortable with each other.
"I don't know. You might have to ask them," Buckley said of the players acclimating to his way of doing things. "You know I will probably find out in the middle of next year. Usually what happens is that they start making fun of you by doing skits and then you will know how they really feel. Right now, I don't know."
In addition to getting to know the players in his meeting room, Buckley has had to spend some time getting acquainted with a brand new coaching staff. With no previous relationship to call on, the Bulldog defensive staff is simply building a bond one day at a time.
"All you can do is spend time with each other," Buckley said. "That and talk philosophy and talk ideas, because we all came from different spots. What was good and what was not, because the bottom line is that we want to win. We want a National Championship here and that is our goal. That's why everybody is here."null