First-Year Coordinator Finding Fixes after Opening Game Issues

There’s no lack of problem-finders in this world, Peter Sirmon says. Problem-solvers are another matter, and this week the Mississippi State coordinator wants solvers to take care of Bulldog defensive problems.

Sirmon met with media following Wednesday’s practice.

Looking at the game, what jumped out? “Well, there were some things in the first half that I thought we did well. The second half obviously was very, very, very below what our expectations are and what we’re capable of.”

“So the second half is something we need to address. We’ve been working at it this week in terms of tackling and understanding technique, and understanding the urgency with which we need to play every single snap.”


Did it seem the group wore down the second half? “I don’t think it had anything to do with physical fatigue. I can’t remember off the top of my head but I think our top snap player was right around 56, or 67. I think we had 62 actual snaps with 69 in the game and seven penalties were non-plays. I can’t think physical was it. We have to play with greater urgency throughout the duration of the game.”


What did you see from Leo Lewis? “He played with good energy. I thought he played with very good eyes, he saw a lot of things happening in the backfield. I thought he tackled as physically as I’ve seen him tackle. There’s still a lot of things for him to clean-up. But I would agree with you, he showed up and he showed some flashes of play-making ability. So that was encouraging to see.”


There was a lot of youth in the secondary, what did you see from that group? “We’ve got to have guys that continue to play to technique. Ultimately football is a game of when the ball’s in the air you’ve got to win your matchup.”

“And I need to do a better job of coaching them, and they need to do a better job of when they get those opportunities to make the plays to make them. There were a lot of opportunities. We have to make the plays to win the game. And we need to continue stress that, and we have been stressing it. I think the guys have understood what we’re working on and what we continue to work on.”


Now that Lashard Durr and Jamoral Graham have started and played a whole game is it easier to point out what they do and don’t do? “Yeah, I think any time you can watch yourself do something like that…I think it’s hard to watch somebody else and learn a lot because you don’t know exactly what they were thinking. As a football player so much of how you play is between your ears, and what your thoughts were before the ball was snapped; if you identified any splits or any tendencies.”

“As they gain experience we should see improvement. It’s just how fast that experience and how fast that improvement comes along.”


How did you think they played the first game? “I wouldn’t say anybody played great or anybody played horrible. What’s important is the collection of eleven guys out there. We all need to get better and I’m the first one that needs to improve.”


First game with your staff, what did you observe about each other? I wouldn’t say we learned any lessons with each other. You know, we’ve been through several scrimmage situations and all the situations that have come up have been overly talked-about. In terms of third-down, red-zone, all those different situations we’ve talked about quite a bit.”

“So I don’t think anything came upon (us) that was new in terms of knowing each other.”


What’s the one thing you say yeah, I wish I did that better? “There were some third downs that we had some success early, some sacks and some tackles-for-loss. I think we ended up with I don’t know, 10, 11, 12 minus-yardage plays which were positive things.”

“But there’s a couple of plays later in the game, the 3rd-and-12 I believe in the fourth quarter, that if I had back I would… When the results are not what you want, you know, most things in life you go back and want to tweak something here or there.”


Does getting Nick James and Jeffrey Simmons back take pressure off the back end? “Ahhh, I don’t know. When the ball’s in the air, the ball’s in the air. I don’t know if any particular defensive lineman is going to speed the ball coming out or there’s some certain things like that. But when the ball is in the air the back seven—linebackers, safeties, corners—that’s the moment of truth.”

“Any time you get quality players it’s always a positive for us. But I can’t say that it’s going to directly impact some guys in the back end.”


What do you see from South Carolina under a new staff? “They’ve done a good job of implementing the quarterbacks. The McIlwaine kid is very talented. They got him in the game early, as a true freshman there’s a huge learning curve for him. But you can tell how talented he is and you can tell when they got him in they must be very excited about his future.”

“Orth did a nice job. And 89 (Bryan Edwards), they had I think 10, 11, almost 13 targets for him, the true freshman out there. So they have some good skill players surrounding him and I think their staff has done a nice job of identifying what their strengths are and playing to them.”


What stands out about Perry Orth? “I think he’s a great kid. He’s a guy that people have been betting against him for a long, long time and he just keeps competing and just keeps finding a way. I would imagine he’s a guy in that a lot of people in that locker room respect. And every time he goes out he’ll give it his all.”


In the secondary it seemed guys were one step away from big plays, is that a positive or negative? “I don’t think it’s either. I think it just showcases where we need to improve, you know? Sometimes you’re a step away and that might be actually a great play to recover or be there. So there’s so much to the intricacies in the leverage and the timing of the pass defense and how one player’s technique impacts somebody else’s.”

“Obviously you want to be closer than further away on those. But we just have to keep practicing. We have to stay positive and we have to keep investing in the players that are going to help us win games.


A.J. Jefferson and others say they have to step up their leadership. Have you seen that in practice? “Yeah. Those guys that you would expect to step up, they have. There are defining moments. We’re all very frustrated with the results from Saturday. I think for us to acknowledge, I don’t think it’s something that happened last week (and) you can’t talk about it. I think it’s something that need to be fresh and needs to sting and needs to motivate you.”

“And I think those guys need to be part of the solution. And we challenged them on defense, there’s problem-finders and problem-solvers in the world, OK? And the world doesn’t need more problem-finders. We need guys that can solve problems, that can identify it, that can point fingers at themselves, take accountability and correct the things that need to be corrected.”


As a first time coordinator how is that process going? “I don’t know if it’s a big deal being a first-time coordinator. As a position coach or with all the different programs you’re always assessing your individual room to make progress. So I think this role it’s more of collaboration, of identifying and talking to T-Buck and talking to Mo and talking to Bake hey, what can we do at your position to get those guys better?”

“So it’s not administratively but collectively of finding OK, in the back end what are we going to be good at? It’s a trust. And as one coordinator you’re not going to be in the corners meeting room. The setup here is I coach linebackers. So there needs to be a great deal of trust and I think those three guys are fine, fine coaches and I’m lucky they are on the staff here. But you’re right, it is a trust. And they have great experience and collectively we need to get better.”


A young guy like Fletcher Adams got a lot of reps, what are expectations of him going forward? “Really the same as everybody else. That’s not a good answer but just continued improvement. Then when you get that opportunity you’ve got to make it hard for us to take you off the field. Every opportunity for a guy that is fighting for those opportunities has got to been 100% effort in terms of what we’re asking them to do. And the more often you do it correctly the better you get at it, the more opportunity you’ll continue to earn.”


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