Bulldog Defense Will Get Scrimmage Test Thursday

He will have had nine days of installation, practicing, and some short testing. On Thursday evening now Peter Sirmon will really see how much his Bulldog defense has absorbed during preseason, as Mississippi State holds its first full scrimmage.

Sirmon today talked of his impressions on camp so far, commenting on a versatile group of Bulldog linebackers and linemen and progress at cornerback.

Now in the second week, how has the defense progressed in building off what they learned in spring? “Certainly we’ve progressed a lot in terms of understanding what we’re doing. I think the investment of time they’ve put in in the summer has really paid dividends in terms of the technique and fundamentals of what we’re asking them to do.”

“I think we’ve had some good practices, and we’ve had some better practices. But every time they’ve come on the field they’ve brought a good mindset of working and kind of getting through some of the mental aspects of camp. And I’m proud of where we’re at right now.”


Are you still in installation? “We are. We’ve got one more install, we did some this morning. We had a big emphasis on red zone. I think we had almost 90 plays within the nine-yard line. So we got of good red zone work in today.”


What’s your biggest thing to watch for in the scrimmage? “It’s watching the guys perform. We talked about ten days ago it was about moving some guys around, trying to find the best group of guys. I think we’re starting to see those guys start to shake out a little bit. And some of the young guys are starting to come along.”

“Now its outside of the practiced setting where things are controlled, a little more situational football. And see if these guys can kind of make some adjustments on the fly and really perform when we’re going live.”


Where do you see Jonathan Calvin fitting best? “We’re still playing him inside and outside. He’s a guy that the way he finished spring on a real high note, he’s really come into camp and started off the same way. He’s a guy that is good on the edge. He’s strong on the point of attack against tight ends and tackles. So he gives us a little bit of a different pitch out there in terms of his physicalness. And then he’s still very productive playing inside.”
“I’d expect to see him move around a little bit, and third down hopefully get after the quarterback.”


Are Trevor Jung and Gerri Green primarily at viper or moving around? “Trev started off camp at star (linebacker) and he’s playing star and viper. Which to me we’re asking them to do the same things, it’s just the amount of space they’re doing it into the field or to the boundary.”

“They’re both playing. And Gerri is taking some inside reps as well. In the last three or four practices we’ve started to integrate him and develop what he did in spring. He’s having a really nice camp, I’m proud of Gerri and handling the viper position and continued to improve at inside linebacker.”


The other three defensive coaches talk about how accepting ideas from them, how has that helped the transition? “Well, it’s about people. Being a coach is managing people and bringing people together. I’ve been around some really fine coaches and I think I’m very firm in what I want to do, and I’m very flexible in how I want to get it done. I think it’d be unwise to not take good counsel from Bake and Mo and T-Buck.”

“We’re all collaborating on trying to get this thing right. When our product is on the field everyone’s signature is on it. So I think it’s only right and appropriate to use their professionalism and try to get this thing right. It’s not about me. It’s not about the coaches. It’s about the kids trying to put the best product on the field. We have to put that to a standard and we need to be proud of what we’re working towards.”


Has that made it easier for the players to transition to new defensive coaches? “I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that. I don’t think me being open to the defensive coaches helps the players necessarily. I think it helps the players that we can get the best scheme and the best way to each things, I think that helps the players.”


What suits Nelson Adams for playing over the ball now? “Nelson is a very, very intelligent player. He’s done a good job. He understands what we’re doing. I was joking with them, we were doing a walk the other day and he was calling out some of the route-concepts, of curl-flat spot and he was laughing about it.”

“So he’s a guy that understands where the linebackers are doing. He likes coaching up the linebackers sometimes, and he does my job for me every once in a while where he tells the linebackers where they’re supposed to go. He’s got a good spirit about him, guys enjoy being around him. He’s one of those guys that is a good ‘glue’ for the team. And he’s playing well.”


Then you go to a real free spirit in Nick James? “Yep. Nick is like all the guys trying to get better. Nick has challenged himself to be more consistent and in the last few practices he’s starting to rise to that challenge. So hopefully we can continue to help him and Nick can continue to develop and be more consistent on the field.”


Brian Baker said there’s not enough time to describe how recruiting has changed. As a pro guy yourself what do you try to tell him about how the game has changed? “Well, recruiting is so relationship-based. There’s an evaluation aspect to it. But even at the NFL level with the time and resources they put into they’re at 50% on the first round and you have three to four years of body of work in a structured system with pretty darned good coaching at the college level no matter if it’s Division I or Division II. I mean they’re having good structure in their life.”

“It’s the recruiting, how fast do I identify the kids that might fit you? I guess that’s not something that you take lightly, of hey I can’t get that kid but it’s not a talent thing. It’s a culture thing where certain kids, I mean you watch kids come on campus and you end up recruiting the same kids you have on your team. Because when the kids come there they feel comfortable with those kids. The likeability and feeling comfortable, that ultimately is what gets the kids to your school I think.”


As you script the scrimmage do you want a lot of ones, two, and threes or could you mix and match? “We’ll continue to mix and match. I don’t anticipate any of the threes maybe going with the ones. I think we’d like to keep some of calls, obviously the ones should be able to handle a little more, a greater volume of what we’re doing defensively than the kids that this is their ninth practice.”

“So I think we’ll be smart that way. I’d like to get a good amount of works on the ones, twos, and threes. And give everyone a good opportunity to show what they have done. And as much as anything it’s a barometer. If you see repetitive mistakes in certain techniques and certain calls then I need to identify how we’re coaching it. Or if it’s one group and its not in another then it’s more about that particular player understanding and we need to take more time with that young man.”


How has Leo Lewis progressed from spring to now? “Leo’s doing a really nice job. He has up and down days in the spring, where he’d flash some things and then that didn’t come up for a couple of days. He’s been consistent. He’s another guy I’m excited to see. It’s when you go live, and I’m not hollering at you every play.”

“Tomorrow we have a good emphasis of coaching letting the players play. Sometimes you’ve got to take the training wheels off and you’ve got to let them communicate and you’ve got to let them kind of figure their own issues out. So that will be a good opportunity for a young player like Leo to get on the field and really understand the tempo and some of the communication we’re asking him to be a bigger part of. Because Richie (Brown) makes all the calls but that’s something Leo needs to understand. And it shouldn’t be a burden for Richie but it needs to be a collective thing for both inside guys that are playing.”


With Lewis and Tim Washington at that position (weak side LB) could Gerri go there occasionally because he has experience? “Yeah, Gerri’s a bright young man. With his size and the way he moves, he’s got a good background of inside linebacker. Then playing on the edge he’s doing some really nice things as well. He’s a guy that can scratch a lot of itches.”


What have you seen from the cornerbacks? “I like the way, the temperament in which they’re playing. I think that has a big reflection of T-Buck. They’re being very physical at the line of scrimmage, ‘Lando, Ced, Lashard, Chris, Smokey, those five guys are really standing out.”

“We’re trying to be very smart in how we’re building this thing, that we have opportunity to go up and put our hands on people. We need to be good at that but you can’t throw a fastball every time. As you know there’s going to be a lot of opportunities that they throw that ball up and we need to help those corners. Not give them a down off but give them a little bit of help, because that’s a tough game to play one-on-one for 80 plays and not give a play up.”

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