New Coordinator Puts His Squad on Scott Field for First Time Against South Alabama

He has the full 2015 season worth of game video to break down returning Jaguar stars. There are also segments of their new full-time starting quarterback. So Peter Sirmon and Mississippi State defensive staff will evaluate all that material, then “we’ll make educated guesses” about the rest.

Sirmon does not have to guess how he will feel Saturday morning when he finally puts his squad on Scott Field for the first time. “I’m excited,” he grins about making his own debut as Dan Mullen’s coordinator.

Sirmon spoke with media Tuesday about scouting South Alabama, as well as getting the Dog defense together for its opening act of 2016.

What do you see from South Alabama’s offense? “Well, I know they’re bringing a lot of real experienced skill guys back. The tight end, 12 (Gerald Everett) I think he had 41 catches last year and he was their leading receiver. Josh Magee is coming back, Xavier Johnson the running back. So they’ve brought a significant amount of the rush game back with two of the top returners.”

“With Dallas (Davis) it looks like they’ll be breaking in a younger quarterback, I know he played some time last year versus Georgia Southern and App State. So he’s got some experience. Any time you get the first game coming in, we expect a different variety of plays than sometimes you’d have gotten a year before, because staffs are always developing, staffs are going out and developing different ways to do things.

“So we’re taking into consideration what they did last year. And then making some educated guesses as well.”


What stands out about the running back Johnson? “I think he’s a good downhill runner. I think he’s got good balance. He’s not a guy they use a ton in the pass game, but in terms of running between the tackles he has a couple of runs last year that he broke off and nobody was going to run him down. So he’s a good, physical runner and will be a good challenge for us.”


How excited are you to debut this defense? “I’m excited to get out there with the guys. It’s an opportunity. You’re always talking about practice and scrimmages but now it’s for real, we’re going against somebody we’re not familiar with. With practices and scrimmages you see types of familiarity, it leads to some comfort and guys feel comfortable going against our own players because they know the matchups.”

“Now it’s really having confidence in yourself and really believing in then technique and the call, and going out there and executing. So I’m excited to see what these guys are going to do.”


How have you tried to replace Cedric Jiles and Tolando Cleveland at corners? “It’s hard to replace experience. So T-Buck (Terrell Buckley), we’ve been talking a lot about continuing to develop the whole room.”

“As you guys know it’s a very, very long season and with the lack of experience we need to make sure that everybody is getting pushed in that direction of continuing to play, continue to help us. Sometimes when you have more established players there’s not that same urgency, where the players don’t feel…as coaches we’re always trying to get ready but the players don’t feel that same urgency.”

“So now it’s become a very, very apparent those guys will have an opportunity to play and we need them to continue to develop. And when the ball goes up in the air we need them to make their plays.”


Has Jamal Peters seen any action at corner? “We’re moving several guys around. We’d talked about Mo Smitherman being a guy that could play multiple positions. And this is the reason that you do those things. You plan ahead, before the plan is necessary. So Mo is doing that.”

“Jamal is a very, very talented athlete and we need to find whatever the best way for him to help our team, we need to continue to explore.”


Do you anticipate more guys than the cornerbacks getting their first opportunity to play? “I think a lot of guys have performed well enough in fall camp to earn themselves an opportunity to go out there and play. We don’t make any promises that hey, you’re going to go in on drive-two or drive-four; you’re going to walk out of the game with 20 reps.”

“Because some of that unfortunately is the flow of the game. Without being able to control the flow of the game we’re very cautious of promising certain reps or certain drives. But if we think guys have the opportunity to develop and help us this year then we’re going to explore every option, to try to find some time in the game we can start building that experience for them.”


How have you seen Jamoral Graham at cornerback? “From the very first week in spring ball he’s a dynamic athlete. He’s got a great change of direction, he’s got good top-end speed. Coming from the wide receiver room he’s demonstrated ball skills. So I think what we’ve seen from Smoky is continued development. And I think that’s what all these guys need. I don’t know if there’s a time in their career that they don’t need to be developed and they don’t need to be pushed. And everybody is so unique on what pushes them and what they need to get better.”

“But I’ve been really pleased with Smokey’s development from sometimes inconsistent at practice to seeing a more consistent product. I’m watching him out there and he’s holding himself to a higher standard. He’s expecting himself to make plays because you can tell his body language when he doesn’t make a play he thinks he should make.”

“So it’s going to be a good developmental progress for him, and we need him to play with confidence. There’ll still be ups and downs, but his path right now I’m pleased with where he’s at emotionally.”


You’ve said you like your corners to be out there and make plays, have the injuries affected that? “It’s going to depend on I guess how people are going to go after us. Which you probably don’t have to jump off a bridge to understand that what’s going to probably transpire here early until these guys demonstrate what they can do. And we’ve got belief in them, and the calls have to help them a little bit. Our technique has to help them. And they’ve got to play really smart.”


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