Video and Transcript with Bulldog Defensive Coordinator

Mississippi State defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon met with media to go over impressions from the first August scrimmage and the status of some specific players and positions.

What did you see from the defense in the scrimmage? “I thought the guys were a lot better prepared. If you take away the spring game where it was kind of pared-down, our last real full scrimmage we had in spring the guys were obviously better prepared, a lot more experienced, and more repetitions in the defense. That really showed.”

“I was very pleased with our alignments. Attacking is something we always need to improve on. But with overall consistency of getting lined up and communication, I was real pleased.”


Did you do a lot of ones, twos, threes, or did you mix and match? “Nah. Some of the reps you get some ones with some twos, some twos with some threes. For the most part that’s how we kind of practice a little bit anyway. There’s a little bit of blending, especially when you’ve got guys playing multiple positions like you guys know we’re doing.”

“But we got a ton of reps in there and a lot of good film. Some really good preliminary assessments of where we’re at individually and as we get going forward.”


What is it like as a coach to see Josiah Phillips and Kelan Chairs going on scholarships? “That’s great. They’re both, talk about good people. Just take the football stuff away, they’re really nice young men and guys you enjoy to be around. So when you see people do things the right way and rewarded for that it’s really fulfilling. Not just as a position coach but just kind of general in life.”


How has J.T. Gray stepped up at the star position as a leader? “J.T. is handling his business well. Everyone has different things they’re focused on. If it’s technique or scheme or overall consistency. But we’ve talked and he’s really taken a lot of pride into getting better.”


J.T. has said ‘star’ works well with ‘viper’ and they’re really the same positions. How are they different? “Well, they’re a little bit different. And really to me it’s the spacing of the offense. To the field traditionally you’re going to give more field bubbles and more pass game. Where traditionally if you watch the college game…and it’s really has to do with the hashmarks.”

“The hashmarks really change the game significantly from the pro game. The pro game the ball is essentially in the middle of the field every snap. That’s not the case with the width of the hashmarks here. And you’ll see more physical run game into the boundary because of the reduced space. That’s basically what you’ll see in terms of differences and the style of play they have to defend.”


How have the cornerbacks been coming along? “T-Buck’s been doing a great job with them. We’re trying to develop as many as we can. That’s a position that is very technical and I know T-Buck is doing a great job and we’ll just keep getting those guys better.”


Maurice Smitherman said last week he expected to go back to corner after the first scrimmage. Is he there or still at safety? “We’ll assess that, we might make a decision on where we get him some reps tomorrow. In the spring he took all his reps exclusively at corner. He missed a few days with some injury. So he has a good background there. Now he’s 17 practices in and basically it’s close to 50-50 in his overall work experience in the defense. Now we get the opportunity to see where he is at and where he can help us best.”


What do you want to see from this next scrimmage? “Improvement. Like I said, I was pleased with the comprehension and getting lined-up and communication. We always need to play more physical. We can give up zero yards and zero points and I’ll want them to be a more physical defense.”

“So those are things that are a mindset. We’ve got to continue trying to take the ball away, play physical. It’s great getting in scrimmage situations because you have first down, second down, third down, red zone. You get a lot more situational football where you can take the time to educate them, get them on film and go through some of those things. In practice it gets going so fast those are hard things for them to be aware of. So it’s more situational football and more physical all the time.”


Torrey Dale has been on the verge of breakout season, do you see it coming together for him in this scheme. “Torrey has gotten a lot better. He’s got good technique. I don’t know what a breakout season is, I’m looking for those guys to play to the best of their ability. I haven’t gone back and seen what they did in the past to measure what a breakout season would be for anybody.”

“But I’m happy that he’s playing on our defense. He’s a valuable guy to our team and I hope he keeps improving.”


Everyone knows about Leo Lewis, what kind of player is Tim Washington? “Tim played some stand-up in high school. So he’s really still in that developmental process of understanding what the game looks like with everybody around. Defensive guys I think it’s easier to play outside-in, and you eliminate half the field like the vipers and stars do.”

“The mikes and the wills, it takes I think a significant body of work to feel comfortable; seeing these two guys on the side of me while I’m still looking at you. So I think that’s where he’s at right now and getting comfortable with playing inside, and seeing more than he’s used to.”


With Leo playing inside in high school does he have an edge? “Yeah, I think so. Some of those things, they’re honed for years and years and years and years. Some people call them instincts. I think those instincts are still developed. And the more reps that you get the more comfortable you become at seeing a lot of that picture.”


With a couple weeks left has everything gone as expected, and what do you expect leading to the first game? “Well, I can’t say I had everything defined, my expectation. We were going to try to get as much of the defense in, identify our strengths and weaknesses. Which we’re still in the middle of. We’ve put a lot of wrinkles in and I think the kids really accepted it and did a good job that first scrimmage.”

“We’ve still got to find the guys that are going to win games for us. I say all the time, it’s about production not participation. I can put 11 guys out there, but what 11 are we going to find that are going to produce to help us win football games?”

“We’re still in that phase. And it’s still very competitive. Coach Mullen says all the time we’re still in camp-mode, camp-mode is compete-mode. Guys are still jockeying for positions, they’re trying to put themselves in a situation where they’re invaluable to the team and they need to be on the field.”


How do Nelson Adams and Nick James complement each other? “Nelson is obviously a veteran guy, being here a long time. He’s picked up the defense. We talk some of our line moves together because he can line up the front, he knows the linebackers. So he’s a guy in there that does a great of communicating with basically those five people in the box with fours and the two inside ‘backers.”

“Nick is a guy that when he plays physical and is ready to go, he can be very disruptive. So they both have different strengths and weaknesses. But again both those guys are going to play a lot of snaps for us and hopefully they’re both very, very productive.”


You said ‘ready to go’, how have you and Brian Baker tried to pull that out of him? “I think Brian has done a great job of being in the system. I think anytime you want to improve somebody with where they’re at there needs to be a consistent approach. I think there needs to be a long-term approach and a non-emotional approach. That’s the way Brian and myself have taken to try to get him to where he’s more consistent and can give us significant playing time.”

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