Dog Defense Using Open Date to Self-Evaluate Before Auburn Gameplanning

How thorough is this week’s self-evaluation of the Bulldog defense? For just one example, coordinator Peter Sirmon said Wednesday’s pre-practice hours were spent studying every scoring series allowed in the first four games.

That typifies how intensely Sirmon and staff are about finding what Mississippi State’s defense is doing well, what needs fixing, and which Dogs do what best.

What has been the focus this bye-week for your defense? “A lot of it has been kind of the coaching staff and us watching cut-ups with our players. Going through and really trying to dive into what we need to get better at, and at the same time what we’re doing well. And things we can improve on, people we need to play more, situations we need to improve on.”

“So it’s kind of the forensics of what we need to do. And on the practice field we’re really working on the fundamentals, you know. I think you always need to stick with them, any time you go away from it it usually ends up in poor performance.”

What would you say is Leo Lewis’ strength? “He’s been productive. He’s played physical. I think he’s done a nice job of that. He’s continued to show good instincts which you either have them or you don’t.”

“But I’ve been pleased with the way he’s handled himself off the field. I think he’s handling the increased play time, I think he’s handled himself on the practice field. I’ve seen good maturity and good improvement. So we just have to keep that going.”

In the UMass game, on the passing touchdowns players were in position and didn’t come down with the ball. What are some thing you’re teaching this week? “Yeah, fortunately or unfortunately, however you want to look at it, those are things we teach with the DBs a lot. You know, we’ve talked a lot about winning when the ball is in the air, to knock the ball down in the air. In those four instances I’d classify those as 50/50 balls.”

“When that ball gets up and it’s a 50/50 shot for the intended receiver or the defensive back to either knock it down or intercept it, we need to continue to stress and we’re drilling it. And we’re focusing on practicing in our scout team periods that we do everything we can not to allow the receivers to catch the ball. And those are great four examples.”

“I can go back to a ball right around the 27, 28 yard line vs South Alabama. They run a seven-cut into the end zone and it’s surrounded by three people. And that’s another one of those situations where the players that we there couldn’t have been any closer proximity to the intended receiver. So we have to do a better job coaching how to go up and knock the ball down.”

What are you doing well so far? “The first thing that comes to mind is I went through the self-scout; we’ve had 26 third-and-ten-plusses. I’m very proud of that. I mean, 26 times in four games we’ve had third-and-ten-plus. I think we’re winning 77% of those which would have been six out of 26 I believe.”

“I’d like to be a little bit better, one or two better, and like to be in the teens on that. I think that’s something we’re doing well. I think we’re maybe 3.5 yards per attempt in the rush game. I think things like that we’re doing well. We’re not having to sell-out to stop the run and I’m pleased with the guys playing physical up front.”

“So those are two things that come to mind that I think we’re doing a nice job of.”

Brandon Bryant said the first month he’s been pressing, trying to be too perfect? “Brandon has a lot of ability. He just has to continue to develop his experience. It’s something I think I’ve talked about every week. It’s not age, it’s inexperience or experience. He just has to become comfortable and let his ability, let his knowledge just come and shine.”

“I think sometimes when you try so hard to be perfect you fall short. When you go out there, and I tell these guys, think about your best high school football game. Think about your frame of mind, think about your energy, think about your confidence in what you were doing.”

“And more often than not some of the best players during their best games, they’re just out there having fun. They’re enjoying themselves, they’re confident in what they’re doing and they’re not over-critical of themselves and they’re not over-analytical of what we’re asking them to do.”

How good will it be to get Cedric Jiles and Will Coleman out there? “Well, first of all we’ve got to get back up to speed. Training camp is a very important part of camp to get guys mentally and physically prepared for a season.”

“So when you’ve had a significant amount of time off… It’s one thing if you have time off,but to have time off and then also come back from an injury that was prevening you, there’s the psychological part of getting back up to speed. The speed of the game. The exhaustion of the practice week in getting to the game. And all those other things that go along with the tempo and the adjustments that we make.”

“So I’m excited that they have an opportunity to get closer. We’ll see as the game gets here what their health is.”

Mullen talked about the team just needing to smile and enjoy the game. How do you do that with your unit? “The first thing, I’ve got to do it to myself! You know, I want us to achieve so badly. The comment last week I think was emotional distance. Sometimes you get so invested and it’s hard to take realistic approach of what you’re doing.”

“Because you’re so involved in the fight you can’t step back and see how the fight is going and how you’re playing. So it’s been good for us as the coaches to step back and find things that we’re doing well and find the points of hey, these players are being productive, these calls are calls that we’re doing a great job of executing.”

“So I think it’s for the players, and I think it’s for the coaches as well. We have to (breathes in), you get so close sometimes it’s hard to see anything other than the things you want to do better.”

Have you been able to get a head-start on Auburn? “We’ve started watching them. It taking a lot of time with the self-scout to get that completed. And sometimes you get the analytical numbers but you have to go through and actually watch the plays. We write everything up but there’s usually a lot more to the story than just hey, there’s the missed assignment by this jersey number of a missed fit in this situation.”

“So there’s always a little bit of context to it. We went through it today. For instance we watched every scoring drive we’ve had against us, and try to find themes of what’s happening in those situations. Then compare them against, I think we had eight or nine drives last week that amounted to less than ten yards cumulative. It’s no different than the first half and second half against South Carolina; first half, second half against South Alabama; first half, second half against LSU. And then five drives (at UMass) were not very good and nine drives they were lights-out.”

“So it’s still how do we become more consistent?”

How do you assess Gerri Green’s play so far? “Gerri has settled in nicely. I think he’s played better the last two weeks. He played some viper for us in camp, he was also playing some will for us then.”

“Now he’s spending time almost exclusively inside in practice. You just have to keep getting better and we’ll get him more opportunities. But when he’s in there playing he’s producing, I think he has a good calm about him and the more he plays the better he’ll get.”

What have you seen from DeAndre Ward the last few weeks? “Dre has been real consistent. I think he had a fine game, I was pleased with his performance on Saturday. We asked him to do a lot of different things, we put him in some man situations and I thought he did a nice job of answering the bell to that.”

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