Steve Robertson (Genespage.com)

Defensive Coordinator Pushing Improvement in Last Half of Spring Camp

He’s done it so often before, on college campuses or NFL camps, that getting a defense introduced and organized is old hat for Todd Grantham.

Of course for Mississippi State’s new coordinator there is this advantage. Defense is effort and energy. Grantham and staff have and will continue the teaching the techniques and developing the schemes. Which, Grantham stresses daily, can only happen with effort and energy.

On that count this spring? So far, so good, Grantham believes.

 

How are you approaching practices now that installation is done? “It’s going good. Right now we’re really working hard to develop the habitual traits needed at each position to be a consistent football team. That’s something we obviously have got to re-establish.”

“And I think the guys have worked hard to develop those kind of habits, to fundamentally be a sound team. We’ve just got to continue to work to be consistent and that’s what we’re going to stress.”

 

What do you want to see from scrimmaging? “Improvement over last week. I thought guys played hard, I felt we’re working to develop the habits you need to be successful. Any time you’re trying to develop those habits it’s going to take time, it’s going to take reps, it’s going to take continuity. Those are the things we’re working.”

“So really I just want to see us improve in that area and continue to play with energy and the kid of physicality we need to play with to win in this league.”

 

Looking at film coming in, to now, do you see an increase in energy? “Yeah, I do. I think football is a tough sport for tough people, and I think you need to coach it that way.”

“I think it’s important to be passionate about your job, just like the players. And that’s the way we’re going to coach them and the way we expect them to play. We’re going to continue to do that.”

“You know, I love these guys to death and we’re going to continue to work hard. And they’re really trying to get better. We’ve just got to make sure that every time we get an opportunity to get better whether it be in the classroom watching tape, on the practice field grinding and working, that we get better and do the thing we’ve got to do to be the kind of team we want to be.”

 

Did anyone stand out to you in the first scrimmage? “You know, when you start looking at the safeties, Brandon (Bryant) and Mark (McLaurin) have really done a good job with what we’re doing.”

“I think J.T. (Gray) brings a little bit of something to the star position, the way we’re going to play him. Really there were plusses and minuses of everybody, that I was really pleased with those guys. We just have to continue to get everybody playing at a consistent level.”

“J.T. is strong, he can run, he’s got some DB skills. He can play blockers on the perimeter, he’s got the ability to win in the rush. So we have to find ways to bring him. And I think he’s pretty good at that stuff.”

 

Does the star position change the complexion of the defense? “When you look at the kind of stars you have, if you have a guy that couldn’t set the edge on bubbles and they can throw for five or six yards that’s not very good. If you’ve got a guy that when he blitzes he’s not going to win matchups, those are issues. I think J.T. is good at those things.”

“It becomes more than a position, it becomes personnel. It’s personnel you have to deal with what he’s doing. I think he’ll be a good player for us.”

 

What is there to specifically work on in summer? “I just think as a general rule we’ve all got to work to improve our tackling. And making sure we have the ability to tackle in space. Because when you play on the perimeter you’ve got get guys down and find ways to get them down, roll them down if you have to.”

“We have to continue to work on that, understanding or leverages, knowing where our helps are from that standpoint. And other that just continue to play the position and become consistent at it. And being able to play fast.”

 

At Louisville your quarterback tested you in practice. How does this help with Nick Fitzgerald? “Yeah, Nick’s a really good quarterback. I mean he has a lot of attributes that Lamar (Jackson) has from an athletic ability standpoint. And he throws a nice ball outside.”

“I think our offensive coaches, I’ve been really impressed with how they develop quarterbacks. Because not only do you look at Nick but the guy behind him (Keytaon Thompson), the way they’re bringing him along. If you look at him from day-one until now he’s really improved to.”

“So I’ve been really impressed with the way our offensive guys develop quarterbacks. And get them to understand where to throw the ball relative to the coverage and what you’ve got. I think those guys have done a good job out of that.”

 

How has Cory Thomas, one of your veterans on the defensive line handled this spring? “Cory has flashed a little bit. I think the still which we play is better suited for him. We’re more of an attacking-the-man kind of front. Get off the ball and play the run as you’re going after the quarterback. And when you do that you have a chance to make negative-yardage plays.”

“You also have the chance to be disruptive as a d-lineman if you get a bad block or a guy over-sets your things. So I think the style in which we play kind of lends itself to more TFLs up front for guys. And his body type and the way he plays, I think he can excel at that.”

 

You’ve mentioned wanting to see more from the pass rush, have you seen that? “We’re working on that. Going back to developing habits and trying to improve, I would say we’re a work in progress right now at that. We’re going to get better at and we will find ways to hit the quarterback as we move forward.”

 

Is it individual technique or proficiency? “Well, any time you have to learn to play with your hands it’s a motor movement. When you have those motor movements it’s repetition, it’s habitual traits and all those things.”

“Then you’ve got to learn to feel the way the guy is setting you. So it’s kind of like running the ball on offense. It’s a feel thing. And we’re improving and will continue to improve.”

 

With your linebackers who has taken on a leadership role? “I’ve been really impressed. When you look at our inside guys between Dez Harris and Leo Lewis, those guys have really come on and done a tremendous job for us. Make the calls and be the glue to what we try to do. So we’ll continue to lean on those guys to be that type of people”


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