Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Baker Evaluates His Position Group as Camp Reaches Next Scrimmage Stage

Brian Baker shrugs. “Some snaps we look really good. Other snaps it’s what in the heck are we doing? But that’s spring ball.”

It very much is still spring football for Baker and his defensive linemen. For the entire team of course, but Baker need only focus on his position. Positions, rather, as the second-year Mississippi State coach practices with both even and odd fronts this spring for new coordinator Todd Grantham.

Baker spoke Tuesday after practice about his group’s camp progress and positioning.


Having seen the juco linemen in scrimmages now, who has performed well? Baker: “Well, they’re still looking brand new! They’re still picking it up.”

“But they all add some value. ‘Tez (Montez Sweat) I think will be able to give us a little pass rush. We’re still looking for some consistency there from him and the guys. (Deion) Pope gives us a little athleticism at that position. He’s got work to do.”

“Lee (Autry) is stout, like we thought he would be. He actually scrimmaged a little better than he had been practicing. So that was a good thing. Chauncey (Rivers), kind of like ‘Tez, he gives us a little presence on the edge, he shows some rush ability.”

“But they’re two totally different dudes. One is long thin; the other guys is a little shorter and stockier. But they both have good quickness and quick hands and they understand how to get to the quarterback. So I’m encouraged by them.”


How are your veterans responding now that you have installs in and are scrimmaging? “Well, they’re progressing. You know, I’m really pleased with Cory (Thomas). Knock on wood, it looks like the light may have come on a little bit. He’s starting to put together some consistency of doing things well.”

“Jeffery (Simmons) looks a lot more comfortable inside than he did even towards the end of the season. So that’s good because I was hoping he would kind of pick it up from where he left off. He seems to have done that.”

“We’re still struggling with that as far as a defense, consistency-wise inside. And fundamentals and schemes and just the whole thing. Some days, some snaps we look really good. Other snaps it’s what in the heck are we doing?”

“But that’s spring ball.”


Cory said he still has tendency to move laterally and you’re pressing him to move forward? “Right. Because he’s a big, powerful, explosive kid. Meaning if he’s changing the line of scrimmage by going forward then he’s affecting the offense in a negative way.”

“At the end of the day that’s what defensive linemen should do. Whether we’re making plays or not we should be disruptive and making the ball go somewhere it wasn’t necessarily supposed to go. If we can get the quarterback off the spot, the pass rush can get him.”

“Those things he has the ability to do. Like he said, it’s good to hear he said that, too. It means he’s listening!”


Marquiss Spencer is another freshman who played last year. How is he developing? “Yeah, Marquiss is progressing. New system, he’s doing physically the same things that we had him do last year. But the verbiage and all that kind of stuff (is different). And he seems to be picking it up.”

“Marquiss has got some ability, I mean you guys know that. He’s a big, old, talented kid. And he wants to do well. So I’m still very optimistic about him.”


Do you still rotate Marquiss and Montez when working with linebackers like Gerri Green? “Yeah, they’ll be with me pass-rush-wise. Then I’ll have obviously the other guys for front-mechanics, and Todd will take those outside ‘backers and handle coverage and some edge-setting and stuff like that. And he’ll do a little pass-rush with them, too.”


Are you looking at Simmons, Lee (Autry), Tre (Brown), and Braxton (Hoyette) inside? “Braxton, I’m going to get him some nose guard work. He’s got to learn what he’s doing first at tackle! But I want to get him some nose work. Because I think he makes us better.”

“Cory is a tackle. Grant Harris, who is progressing, is a tackle. Braxton is a tackle and Deion Pope. They’re tackles in ours scheme. And the ends are Fletcher (Adams), Kobe (Jones), Chancey, and Kendell (Jones).”


Kobe Jones told us a redshirt year made a world of difference for him? “Well, he’s confident. He knows kind of what to do. Sometimes he’s his own worst enemy. It’s not just this level, it’s pro ball too, so much of being a good defensive lineman is first understanding who you are. What are your strengths, how can you affect the offense in terms of attacking them. How do you use your skill sets.”

“He’s still kind of figuring that a little bit as a young player. What am I and what do I need to do to be effective? I think once he figures that out he’ll be OK.”


How is Fletcher coming along, a little undersized for the position? “He’s under-height. Yeah, he’s not real tall. But he’s long, he’s got long arms. So he can get separation. He’s got explosion, he’s got athletic ability. He just doesn’t have great height, when we say under-sized he’s as heavy as any defensive end around. But he’s just not very tall, 6-1, 6-2, whatever it is.”


Alternating between four- and three-fronts strains teaching but does it also give guys a chance to show what they do best? “Once they’re comfortable with it, yeah. That’s the whole idea in the scheme. Is to be able to stress the offense out a little bit by moving our guys from different alignments.”
“But it’s only effective if those guys understand what they’re supposed to do in those different alignments. And that’s part of the process of where we are now. The good thing is they have the skill set to do it. Those guys we mentioned can play all the alignments expect for probably zero-nose, and they will probably never have to!”

“So yeah, this is a good scheme for them.”

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