Mississippi State Quarterback Coach Brian Johnson

Mississippi State (2-2) hosts Auburn (3-2) this weekend in their first home game since knocking off South Carolina. The Bulldogs are coming off a bye week, while the Tigers are fresh off a blowout win over Louisiana-Monroe. Bulldog quarterback coach Brian Johnson shared his thoughts on the match-up with the media Monday.

What have you seen from the Auburn defense? “Very athletic, obviously. A talented defense, they have a great defensive front. Really good on the back end as well. It will be a huge challenge for us offensively. Our guys are excited and looking forward to a great home environment and trying to get our second SEC win.”


How did the bye-week help your quarterbacks? “It was good. Really a great chance for self-evaluation, to go back and see what we’ve done well, what we need to continue to work on, how can we improve at the position and as an individual player.”

“We kind of go back and just start from the basics and get a chance to continually evaluate ourselves, and try to find a way to get better.”


How do you keep Nick Tiano ready to go? “We still try to manufacture some reps throughout the course of the week. Being the third quarterback is always a little bit tricky. You’re trying to get the reps necessary for continued development. But he’s done a great job of preparing each and every week.”

“You put him on the board as much as possible and you keep him fresh, keep him mentally engaged throughout the course of the week. And he’s done a fantastic job. He’s a self-starter, he’s motivated to be a really, really good player. And he has all the intangible stuff that you need and the desire to make himself a better player.”


Do you have to coach him a little bit differently? “As far as the actual putting in stuff, installing, no. It’s just managing him at practice, is obviously something you have to stay aware of and make sure that he’s getting necessary reps to continue to develop.”


In what areas have you seen Nick Fitzgerald improve? “Just how comfortable he’s gotten in the pocket. There’s obviously still some stuff there he needs to continue to work on. Footwork in the pocket, timing, anticipation. Understanding when things are supposed to come open, having that internal clock in the head.”

“And I think that just continues to come with the more experience that he gets. But he’s stepped up, he’s answered the ball and I know he’s excited to go out and play on Saturday.”


With the pressure Auburn likes to bring, how thin a line is making quick decisions but not getting in a hurry? “Yeah, it’s definitely a fine line of getting the ball out quick but not being gun shy. You have to generate some big plays against these guys. And you’re going to have to throw the ball down the field some and take some chances.”

“That’s just having the courage when the rush is in your face to step up and make a throw or the ability to avoid and keep your eyes downfield and make a play and extend the play outside of the pocket. So that’s stuff that we work on continuously in our drill work every day. And hopefully when that happens in the game they’ll be ready to go.”


How much experience can he draw from the LSU game? “Yeah, I think a ton. Obviously the more he plays the more comfortable he’ll get. That’s usually how it goes. So for him, now he has a memory bank to draw from. And experience to draw from when he gets in that situation again. He’s got to keep working, keep continuing to get better each and every week. And it starts with our preparation and he’s done a good job of that so far.”


The first week he took a few snaps, last game 299 yards passing and 110 yards rushing. What else kinds of lends to that turnaround in a month? “Well, I think the experience of staying with it, staying the course, understanding the strain that it takes to get ready to play in a game. And then the strain that you have to play with in that said game.”

“So the biggest thing we try to focus on in our room is understanding that we have to go 1-for-1 each play. Eventually that sum will add up. But we can’t worry about what happened the previous play, or what’s going to happen the next play. You have to have a distinct focus on in that moment, in that particular play and nothing else matters.”

“And that’s really hard to do. It’s not human nature in general to have that laser-sharp focus on one singular object. But that’s what we have to do as we move forward as a position group and as a team.”


How have Damian Williams and Nick Tiano made Fitzgerald better? “I think our room, it breeds that environment. Both individually and as a position group. Guys want to perform to the best of their ability.”

“And that’s the inner standard that you set for yourself each and every week of how you prepare, how you perform, how you lead, how you take care of your body, how you take care of nutrition. In everything that we do, in the classroom, in the weightroom, you want to achieve at the highest of levels. And you have to have that internal drive to accomplish that. But it also helps through a form of peer pressure. So we try to set that standard in our room and the guys have done a good job with it.”

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