Dog Defensive Coordinator Stressing Team Tackling

Of course they have all the usual missdirections and deceptions and eye candy. It’s just that Louisiana State rarely bothers. Pure power running and deep-strike throws serve the Tiger offense very well.

Peter Sirmon knows this. So while Mississippi State will take into account all those other possibilities…the emphasis in this week’s preparation is tackling. Fast, hard, and when possible in bunches.

Sirmon spoke about the matchup following Tuesday’s practice.

What are your impressions of your defense’s performance? “I thought we made some improvements. It was good to see the turnovers came at great times. The way we started the game, A.J. and John rushing the quarterback. Getting after the quarterback was really good to see.”

“I thought we played better for longer than we did the first week. We came out after half and continued to play at a pretty high level. In the fourth quarter, I told the kids we have to play as long as it takes. The scoreboard, the time on the clock is really irrelevant. We’re going to play until the whistle blows and they don’t tell us to play any more. So that’s something we’ve got to continue to improve on.”

“They made improvements. I thought we did a better job tackling. I thought we played with better effort and played with better enthusiasm throughout that first three quarters.”


How well has Jamal Peters adapted to cornerback? “That was his first live opportunity. We’ve been bringing him along as fast as we can and as fast as he can handle. Some of those processes are not as quick as some people might think. There’s a lot of technique and a lot of variables that go in. We can make it a little bit easier with paring-down some of the calls, so we can let those guys get in with a little less I guess repetitions under their belt.”

“But it was good to see him, that was a great play. The ball got thrown in the air, it was a jump ball situation; it was good to see him go up and win that play.”


You’re leading the SEC in tackles-for-loss, how does that lead to more turnovers? “Well I think part of it is getting in better down-and-distances. I think if you’re going to be a good third down team which we have a long way to go, the best way is to be a good first-and-ten team. You know, you’re not in second-and-fives. You’re in second-and-nine, second-and-eleven. Which when they get behind the sticks it makes it a little easier to call plays and you get some friendlier situations for those third-and-mediums and third-and-longs.”


LSU might play different quarterbacks, how does that affect your gameplanning? “Well I think that’s really for the coaches, that’s for me to handle. The guys have to prepare for them, they have to play the call as we coach it up. If we want to change the way we call things then we’ve got to change the defense, not change the technique within that particular defense.”

“I heard some things who’s going to play. To me, I know they’re going to put 11 good players out there and for us to go out and be successful we all have to really play well together and execute and play at a very high level for again as long as it takes.”


Has A.J. Jefferson been a tone-setter? “I think so. You can’t argue with the production. We’ve talked about in spring we’re looking for people that produce not just participate. We can find anybody to go out there and play 60 snaps. But to go out there and impact the game and produce in ways that help us win, he’s done a great job of that.”

“I think he’s done a very nice job of executing the techniques and then playing with flexibility of making some of those decisions in the past game. Where you let a more veteran guy, you give him a little more flexibility into what he sees and let him…it’s almost an imagination sometimes. Of giving those guys the parameters; ‘hey this is what you can do if you see this, you have these options’. And then let him go out and make his plays.”


In the eight months what have you seen him working on to get where he is? “I think he’s been very consistent in practice. And I think the technique, Bake’s (Coach Brian Baker) has done a nice job in terms of technique and developing some of those things. I mean he’s had a lot of experience getting to this point.”

“But I think if he can continue playing at the level which he’s at, he’s going to walk away and really be somebody that’s remembered here for a long time.”


How much has the 3-4 benefitted A.J.? “I think it’s benefitted all those guys. When you’re don’t sit in one front I think it causes some problems for the offense. As much as it is a challenge for us to prepare for multiple fronts and multiple personnel teams, I think there’s something to it from the offensive side of the ball.”

“You start some subtle differences in front, and the subtleties which we move or play our guys with technique, I think it’s a challenge. From four-down to three-down to see full movements in technique and half-movements. And then to third down we’ve shown a few different pictures.”

“So I think to give them a little bit of unpredictability is going to make everyone prepared to make a few more plays.”


What makes DeAndre Ward so useful getting so many second half and fourth quarter snaps? “Yeah, I feel great, he and J.T. Gray were almost 50/50 on their snaps. And I feel comfortable with them because they’re both huge parts of special teams. So they get a chance to play off each other, knowing they don’t have to go for 70 plays. I think that’s where you see those guys play with a really high effort level.”

“Dre is a smart guy, he’s gotten more physical even since I’ve been here. As he’s continued to get better you see him earn more opportunities to be on the field. He and J.T. are very good complimentary duo at that star position. If you combine their production that particular position is doing well for us.”


What challenges does LSU’s Leonard Fournette present? “You know, the elite backs…it’s not about one guy tackling. They do a nice job schematically but it’s really the physical challenge of when you make contact is the play over? I think that’s the greatest challenge for him. He has the ability to bounce things and create not first downs but he can hit home runs where you don’t think home runs are going to be available.”

“For us it’s yards after contact and how many hats can we get to the ball. It’s 11-on-1. There’s one ball and there’s 11 of us.”


How important is getting Nick James and Jeffery Simmons back in the middle? “They both have a real physical skill set which when we play some of our particular fronts those are tough one-on-one matchups.”

“It was good to see Jeffery play very physical, and it was good to get Nick back and continue to give us some rotation, some depth. The more players we have opportunity to play up front I think the better we’re going to be in the long term.”


What allowed Simmons to have some success? “I thought he came out and embraced it, he played with what he should. A physical, knock-back, violent game where he didn’t over-think it. A lot of times when you see freshmen get first experience there’s thought, there’s indecision. And we tried to help him a little bit, easing up the calls and try not to give him the full menu and just let him really play up to what we think his strengths are. And it was great to see him make some plays, especially early in the game.”


When did you know he was not going to redshirt? “Boy, camp? He’s one of those guys physically that if they can pick it up in a timely fashion… Just the physical nature of the SEC and as a defensive lineman those guys are few and far-between to come in as freshmen and have the physical attributes of being ready to play.”

“So we didn’t have necessarily a timetable. I don’t particularly think there is a first- or second-game finish line to get freshmen ready. The season is long and I think some guys take a few more weeks but ultimately they can have a big impact on the season.”


After a couple of games as coordinator has anything surprised you? “I’d like to think I could be doing this for a long, long time and still take an attitude of always learning. You’re always learning situations, always taking your own mind through what is happening next. That’s a big part of it. Planning and calling the game is not living in this moment, but living a couple of series ahead of what are you trying to set up, what are you expecting to come and what are you possible able to hold in your pocket when you really need to use it.”


Last year State did a pretty good job containing Fournette but there were a few runs that led to touchdowns. How mental is it to know you have to stop every play? “Yeah, it’s very mental. It’s the mental strain of doing it right every time. 80% isn’t good enough for us. 85% isn’t good enough. We have to be out there striving for 100% execution.”

“Bad plays for us aren’t second-and-10. We tell the kids it’s the same sport but a different game. Three bad plays on offense, as long as you don’t turn the ball over you get to punt. Three bad plays on defense, you get spanked. You don’t ask for forgiveness, you get punished.”


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