Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Mississippi State tight ends coach Scott Sallach discusses the progress his players have made.

Mississippi State entered fall camp with a lot of questions at the tight end position. True sophomore Justin Johnson returned as the only scholarship tight end with a college catch to his credit. Four games into the 2016 football season, Coach Scott Sallach is beginning to see the light come on for some of his first year players.

"We're beginning to see the steps of what we could be everyday and that's all I can ask," Sallach said. "Today's society gets tricked by cell phones and the internet, because they get instant gratification. Athletics, academics, your job and life really doesn't work that way.

"We talk about taking steps everyday and then one day you turn around and realize how far you've been. It doesn't happen fast enough, nothing does. When you're a little kid, Santa Claus doesn't come fast enough. He just can't get there quick enough.

"They're slowly making progress to having a real positive impact on what we do on offense and what we do as a team."

In the Bulldogs last win, a 47-35 win over UMASS, redshirt freshman Farrod Green reeled in the first three passes of his college career including a third quarter touchdown that proved to be important in the final tally. 

"We joked around on the sideline with Justin (Johnson) and Jordan (Thomas) that we can give him the secret hand shake now," Sallach shared. "You scored your first college touchdown, so now you're in the club. 

"It feels great to watch a guy who showed up late, redshirted and who has done nothing, but work his tail off. He had an unbelievable week of practice and that is why he played so well. To see it translate from a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to a competitive Saturday when the game was on the line it makes your heart swell. It makes your chest stick out and hold your head a little bit higher as a coach."

Earlier this season, Bulldog fans were introduced to junior college transfer Jordan Thomas who secured his first college grabs against South Carolina. Sallach reports that he expects more positive contributions from the Sumrall, Mississippi native.

"He is an unbelievably talented individual," Sallach said of Thomas. "He just has to learn the consistency that is necessary to be successful in the Southeastern Conference. We've all seen the last three games. He's played about 15 snaps per game. Out of those 45 or 50 snaps, I can probably go pick out about 20 of them where you would say these were awesome. Then you could probably pick out 15 more where you would say we can work with this. There are probably another ten or so where you're glad it didn't come back to bite us in the backside.

"The good news is that each week that number is going down. As a coach, you can teach a lot of things. You can't teach what it's like to be on the road in Death Valley. I can show them the pictures and tell them until I am blue in the face. Until you're out there doing it, there is nothing like it.

"The fine line is that you have to excel Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to have the confidence to go out there and complete. He and I talked about that today, about having the confidence during the week, so Saturday it happens."

Seeing it all come together for his personnel grouping has been rewarding for Sallach. While the tight end room is far from a polished product, the veteran coach believes that success should breed more success. Seeing Green have a break out game last week, should help the talented frosh take the next step forward.

"It should propel him to better things this wee," Sallach said. "Because now it's no longer locker room talk. It's not watch what I am going to do. It's athletes, being athletes. You've seen what I can do. Now get ready to see it again and again and again. I expect him to continue to play better as the season goes along just like Justin and Jordan."

In addition to his personnel grouping making some plays in the passing game, Sallach has been pleased with his players' contributions towards the Mississippi State running game and pass protection.

"Farrod's first play, he plants the linebacker," Sallach shared. "He runs him over six, seven or eight yards down field and puts him on his back. Everybody is all fired up about Aeris (Williams') touchdowns, which they should be. What nobody recognizes is that Justin Johnson drove his guy into the end zone from the line of scrimmage.

"Nobody knows that unless you guys write it, but that's the stuff we talk about in our room. We aren't going to get the stats that a running back gets, that a wide receiver gets or that a quarterback gets. That's just not the position we play. You have to be as gratified by the touchdown for yourself as you would be for making the block that allowed Aeris to score. 

"I showed them a clip last year from Arkansas. We threw the swing pass to (Brandon) Holloway for 35 or 40 yards. In that clip, Joe Morrow has both hands in the air and is jumping up and down in celebration. Fred Ross is pumping his fist and Gus Walley is racing to the end zone. It's like those guys scored.  They were unbelievably excited, because we had success. That's the enthusiasm you have to play with."

The Bulldogs will enjoy a Bye this weekend and return to the friendly confines of Davis Wade Stadium to take on the Tigers of Auburn next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 AM and the broadcast duties will be handled by the SEC Network.


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