Steve Robertson (Genespage.com)

Spring Practices Coming to End for New Defensive Staff

It’s easy for a coach to get ‘ticked’ by what he sees, or doesn’t see, from a scrimmage. Now when his unit reacts the same way? That, Todd Grantham, is a good thing.

Such as this past Saturday when in their second and last real scrimmage of spring, the Bulldog defense didn’t come out ahead. This was a change from the other scrimmage as per Coach Dan Mullen, and likely welcome news to fans who always favor good offensive results.

New coordinator Grantham doesn’t like losing, not even a scrimmage. But he did fine something good for the bigger picture. “I saw guys compete and get ticked and play the next play and maybe make a play. So those are the things I liked.”

Grantham has just a few more days left to see good, bad, or whatever from his defense. Ditto for the offensive staff, as spring camp winds into this final week. Mississippi State has one full practice left Thursday; a partial practice Friday as the roster is split-up; and then Saturday’s 3:00 spring game.

Grantham met with media Tuesday evening after practice.

 

With a few practices and spring game left, what do you want to see from your defense? “I think we’ve got to become a better situational football team. I think we’ve got to start understanding situations a little bit better. I think we’ve got to understand what it means in the red zone, what they’re going to do.”

“Third down is third down but you’ve got to understand the down and distance, what’s going to happen relative to the sticks. So I think are the main areas.”

“I think we’ve got to continue to work to get turnovers or create turnovers or get in position to make plays. We’ve got our hands on some balls; we’ve got to finish. I want to see that. And we’re done with our installations. Now it’s really time to be able to go play fast and play faster and perfect your craft from that standpoint.”

“So those will be the big things. I think we’ve got to really start understanding situations with the football, what formations mean and what splits mean and down-and-distance and sticks and why they’re in this. And kind of go from there.”

 

Coach Mullen said he thought the offense won Saturday’s scrimmage? “They did. When you look at it, it’s trying to separate the ones and the twos a little bit.”

“But general rule, I think we have been both scrimmages pretty efficient in stopping the run. I’ve been pretty pleased with that. I think the positive in this last one we continued to play physical up front. We did create a few more turnovers from that standpoint.”

“And when things didn’t go our way I saw guys compete and get ticked and play the next play and maybe make a play.”

“So those are the things I liked. The things we’ve got to get better at is the situational I talked about. You can’t give up explosive plays. You’ve got to play your position. You’ve got to understand your role is important and if you’re supposed to be a middle-of-the-field player you’re a middle-of-the-field player. If we need you down on a guy you’re down on a guy. If it’s 4th-and-12 it’s 4th-and-12 for a reason. And if we’re running this certain call, here’s how ball is going to come out.”

“We’ve got to understand that stuff and become smarter at that. The great thing about it is it was a great learning experience for guys. And we actually did similar stuff today and it was better. So I think we’re still working to create the habits and the habitual traits needed to be a good football team.”

“I think our guys are willing and competing. I like that part of it. But like I told you that first day, man, it’s going to come down to preparation in the classroom and getting on the field and working and practicing and going to execute. Well, we’re still in that practice/executing phase. We kind of know it or understand it in the classroom and that kind of setting.”

“But when fur flies and it gets hot and things are moving fast, that’s where we’ve got to continue to get better. And we will. So I was pleased with today’s practice from that standpoint. But those are the things we’ve got to get better at.”

 

How much progress have you made at generating a pass rush? “I think that when you look, we have had some rush. I think we’ve still got to continue to work our pocket collapse. And I think we have enough guys that we’ll have different personnel groupings on the field, to get fast guys out there.”

“We’ll have a ‘rabbits’ package where we can get four guys that are pretty fast out there at the same time, to allow us to have more speed on the field from that standpoint. And we might play first and second down that way too, based on who we play.”

“To me that’s the game, being able to match up and be able to find ways to get the players you need relative to the situation on the field. So we’ll continue to work that and hopefully we’ll be able to get some stops.”

 

The defensive linemen, bringing in the jucos with the veterans, how is that mesh? “I think it’s going well. I think from an interior standpoint we have some big guys that are solid and stout. I think when you look at the new guys that have come in, look at Montez Sweat. He’s an impactful guy.”

“ChaunceyRivers is an impactful guy that can make plays on the edge and play multiple spots. I really think he’s not necessarily a new guy but Gerri Green is a guy that I’ve seen flash in the spring. Marquiss Spencer is another guy that from an edge standpoint has done some things, but he’s really a new player. I mean he’s a young player, he’s a freshman, hasn’t played a lot of football.”

“So I really think that when you look at us we’ve got some guys that have been here that have got some stoutness to us. I think by filtering-in the guys I’ve talked about from a pass-rush standpoint or an edge standpoint, our athletic ability standpoint, those guys can help us generate the pass rush.”

“We’ve just got to develop those packages that can get players on the field like that. Because defense is about one-on-one matchups and if we can get four one-on-ones then we’ve got to get somebody winning the rush.”

 

Gerri Green has moved around in his career, where does he fit? “He’s an outside ‘backer. No doubt, that’s where he should play and where he’s going to play. He’s an outside backer.”

 

What is it you like about the way Montez Sweat plays? “Well, he’s got really good length, he’s got long arms. He’s very competitive. He likes to play the game. He stays on his feet, he can set the edge in the run game. He’s learning and has a feel for pass-rush as far as how to trap elbows and get on the edge. And has a feel for over-sets.”

“And he’s pretty relentless in the rush. Even if he gets stuck on a block he continues to do it. And he’s made some plays for us doing that. We just have to get him to work on continuing to improving and I think he’ll be able to help us.”

 

He was a defensive end in juco, is he an outside linebacker here? “I mean, when you look at our team whether you’re a defensive end, outside ‘backer, it’s all the same. You’re an edge guy. Relevant to the personnel we’re in, if you’re an outside ‘backer you might be an end. I mean it’s not a big deal. He’s outside the widest guy to his side and that’s where he’s going to play. So the defensive end and nickel can be an outside ‘backer or an end. And he’ll play that for us in base as well, outside ‘backer.”


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