"We got a lot accomplished during the off-week. The biggest thing we tried to do was not lose any players. Unfortunately, we lost (freshman defensive tackle) Corey Clark (because) it doesn't look like he'll be back for this game. Yesterday in practice, we lose (freshman center) John Davis (to a break in his lower leg) who looks to be gone for the season.
"We are getting some players back. (Sophomore offensive guard) Johnny Wadley practiced (Monday). I was very impressed with his movement and very impressed with how quick he was. The same thing with (sophomore fullback) Darnell Jones; he was back on the field and practiced very well. The rest did both of those guys a lot of good.
"What stands out about Tulane is their quarterback, J. P. Losman. He is very talented, very accurate, has a lot of speed and is able to get himself out of trouble. You cannot play zone against him because he can get the ball into the hole no matter how small the hole. You have to be willing to rush him and put pressure on him. He is also a very tough player. TCU banged him around a bunch and he stayed in the game and almost pulled it out. Their running back, Mewelde Moore, is an outstanding football player. He is about to break all the records at Tulane and all the records in Conference USA as not only a rushing back but in total yardage as a receiver as well. Their receivers, (Roydell) Williams, (Chris) Bush and (Tristan) Smith, are very, very productive. You put Moore in there and they can throw and catch.
"They have nine (offensive) starters coming back who have started seven or more games. They have the maturity and understand the offense and it shows. They run the no-huddle (offense) over 70 snaps a game. Looking at scores of their games last year and this year, the majority of the points are scored in the 4th quarter, which means they wear their opponent down." (41 of their 62 points have been scored in the 4th quarter or in overtime.-Gene)
"Defensively, they have six starters back that have started at least seven or more games. I think they may have redshirted some guys last year that were starters the year before. They are not big but give you a lot of movement, give you a lot of stunts and a lot of slants.
"Their punter has been very good, averaging 42.5 (yards per punt). We need to be sure we put some pressure on their freshman punter.
"What do you have to do? You have to keep the ball away from their quarterback and their offense. You have to be willing to play man and blitz them, knowing that you may give up the big play at any time. You also have to execute in the kicking game. The very first game (Tristan) Smith ran a kickoff back a 100 yards."
Q and A with Coach Sherrill:
How about giving us an update on (offensive guard) Brad Weathers.
"Brad is still out. I don't know how long he will be out. If he is going to be out four games, then we will probably redshirt him."
Talk a little about the wide receivers.
"We have a very talented group. The one that is probably the most consistent right now is Justin Jenkins. The ones with the most talent are Ray Ray Bivines and Antonio Hargro. With both of those guys, it comes down to playing every snap to your ability. I think that Tee Milons is making progress. We have just about got the two young guys (freshmen Omarr Conner and Tyler Threadgill) ready to play. Hopefully, you will see them play this week. Omarr Conner probably has the best hands on the football team. He can make some plays for you. He is a pleasure to be around because he wants to be everywhere on the field. The thing with Threagill is we have to put him in the position to have some success. He has been pressing the last week and a half but practiced well (Monday) and caught the ball better. We have a very talented group of receivers. I'll be glad when they hit on all cylinders. If they do, this group can hurt you."
How much improvement have the receivers made and what kind of influence has wide receivers coach Guy Holliday had in that improvement?
"First of all the players themselves have made some improvement. Coach Holliday has demanded a lot of things from them and they have responded. It doesn't matter if it is Justin (Jenkins) or a freshman; he gets after all of them the same."
Will (true freshman offensive lineman) Donovan Davis play in the Tulane game?
"Donovan Davis is getting better every day and should be able to really start helping us. When we first brought him in we said he would be a backup tackle. But we moved him to guard because we lost some guards. That's where he is now. I think he and the other two guards (Wadley and Weathers) will hopefully be able to play. We are trying to get it to where we have two teams on both sides (offense and defense) so that we give each group a rest."
With backup defensive tackle Corey Clark out, will you play your starters more reps or move someone else up to his spot?
"With a team like this, you had keep the guys up front fresh. If you don't, your rush gets tired and that's one of the reasons they score a lot of points in the fourth quarter."
Who will replace Clark?
"(Andrew) Powell will be one and (Markell) McKinley will be another one."
How do you think your running backs will do in the Super Dome on the Astro Turf?
"It will be exciting to watch those guys. They talk about how hard the turf is, but they've never been in Atlanta and played on those fields. Some of the fields in Atlanta are like concrete. Nick will do very well. Some of the other guys will have to make some adjustments, but they can adjust very quickly. One thing that Nike has done is they have made shoes that fit that type turf. It is wider, especially in the heel. It also has a metal plate in the forefront of the shoe so that you don't have turf toe. That is one thing you are concerned about with guys who have never played on that turf. You aren't necessarily concerned about ankles or knees, but turf toe."
Talk a little about your secondary.
"We are going to have to play a lot more aggressive than we did against Oregon. We are going to have to play with a lot more confidence. And we are going to have to be willing to take risks. Hopefully, we can put enough pressure on him to make it a tough day for him."
Do you feel Kevin Dockery will be able to play against Tulane?
"We won't know until (Wednesday). He was on the practice field yesterday but until we see him really running around (Wednesday), we won't know."
Talk about (freshman defensive end) Deljuan Robinson.
"He has been a pleasant surprise. I was concerned if he would be able to take the initial pounding that defensive linemen take. Second, was the heat and could he take it. As a matter of fact, he has probably been one of the best conditioned defensive linemen. Last week, during the off-week, we kept them out 35 to 45 minutes everyday and there was one particular shot that will be on a clinic film for many, many years to come. The first thing that hit the ground was the offensive player's head. He has tremendous speed for his size; tremendous explosion. I think because of his height, he won't get any smaller, so he will be that 300+ pounder that will probably eventually go inside (to tackle)."
What is the status of freshmen defensive back Rickey Wright?
"We are trying to get him caught up as quickly as we can because I definitely think he will help us."
Do you mean he will help you this year or in the future?
"We are going to try to play him this year. He has a lot of ability and we are working hard to get him ready to play."
Talk about your tight end position.
"I have really been impressed with Aaron (Lumpkin). He has worked very, very hard to improve and has improved. He is doing some things very well. Is he a Reggie Kelly? No. Is he a Donald Lee? No. But he also can do some things a little better than they could. We are working very hard to try and get somebody equal to him so that we can have two of them on the field at the same time. We have a couple of other guys that had good practices last week. We are going to play a two tight end offense. We have even thought about using (Willie) Evans or Deljuan (Robinson) at tight end during certain situations. But I think we will probably try to stay away from that."
Talk about (starting offensive guard) Will Rogers and Otis Riddley and your other offensive linemen.
"I think this off-week really helped (him). As a matter of fact, I was very impressed with him in practice (Monday), because he had the quickest feet of all of the linemen. He is really working hard. I think he is going to have a chance to be a very good football player for us. I think is it very evident that Riddley is hampered by the hamstring (injury) because he is not moving as quick as he was before the injury. We are going to have to get him a little quicker. That is where (Donovan) Davis fits. We need to start playing him and be able to share that spot with him. I am very pleased with Johnny (Wadley) coming back. He showed a lot of quickness (Monday). We will be able to play him this week. You have to be very careful with guys like that. Because of their size, they may only be able to practice half a practice. You have to be smart enough to know when it is enough."
Will (backup quarterback) Kyle York play this week?
"What you prepare for and what actual happens are two different things. Do you prepare for it? Yes. Will it happen? I can't answer that. But he needs to be prepared. Monday, Kevin (Fant) has class, so he got a lot of work. He got all the (reps with the) ones and Aries (Nelson) got all the (reps with the) twos."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.