"There were some positive things in the Tulane game. I was very pleased with our young guys, especially some of our running backs. I was very pleased with our offensive line. Some of the defensive linemen played very well. Some of the kids in the secondary (played well).
"There are two things you notice about Houston: one, they've always had team speed and they have always had very athletic players; two, their schemes are kind of like the gunslinger offense from West Texas. They are going to line up and give you all different formation. They are going to make you be very smart and very prepared. When they line up you think they don't run the football, but they average almost 180 yards a game. They also put all the receivers on one side at one time. Even in their kicking game, they will spread them out from sideline to sideline on punts. The main thing you have to do is get your defensive team accustomed to identifying the formations.
"We had a very good practice (Monday) night. Hopefully, we will have everybody back (for the game). Right now, Demetric Wright is not back on the practice field. Whether he will play or not, I can't answer that. I think everybody will be ready. (Starting kicker) Brent Smith should be back (Tuesday). We did an MRI and found that it is a muscle and not in his nerves or discs."
Q and A with Coach Sherrill:
Talk about Houston's quarterback.
"They had a starter coming back who was really a great athlete, but he transferred this spring when they signed the freshman quarterback (Kevin Kolb). He knew the freshman quarterback was one of the top 5 to top 10 guys in the country. He is a very good football player. He has to squat a lot when he gets under the center because it's not easy for a 6-5 guy to get under center. You are impressed with the way he operates his team as a freshman."
Houston gives up a lot of yards rushing.
"Michigan, in the first half, had a lot of problems. They made a play here and there but consistently they could not make plays. The third quarter it was the same. Then, late in the third quarter and the fourth quarter, they started making a lot of yardage in the running game. It was very evident what kind of football team Michigan has by how they played against Notre Dame this past weekend."
Talk about their kicking game.
"They have a good punter. He is a two-stepper who gets the ball away very quickly. It will be hard to block one against him. Their kicker is good. They have a lot of speed, so they are able to cover well. They are impressive there."
Do you foresee any personnel changes for the Houston game?
"We will have a couple, but it will depend on what happens the rest of the week."
How is the confidence level of the team?
"I was impressed last night at practice. Confidence is a two-fold thing. One, you want to win for reasons other than for yourself too much. You put a lot of pressure on yourself. We, as coaches, fans, writers, put a lot of pressure on kids. You have to handle it because it is part of life."
There were a couple of passing plays called late in the Tulane game.
"When we make a call I don't ever second guess, but when you look at the film you can say did I call the right call if you don't execute the play."
Talk about what Justin Jenkins brings to the team.
"(He) has gotten better and better everyday. I said after the spring practice that I felt he had moved up to being an SEC receiver. When you mention an SEC receiver, you are referring to one who has speed and can make plays. Justin did those things. Justin's work habits on the field are very good. He doesn't jump and down and holler and scream. He is a kid who works and works and gives you everything on gameday. Now, it is up to him to perform at that lever every game."
Talk about Nick Turner and all that he has had to go through to be playing on the team again.
"The biggest thing is he didn't give up on himself. The bottom line is can you help yourself. We kind of get in the habit of giving you a second chance or a third chance, but in reality are you really helping him? In his case, there was never any question. The very first day he jumped on the scout team and takes licks everyday running the football and never missed a beat. He never sat in a corner and never was despondent. He was just happy to be there."
How is Jerious Norwood recovering from the injury he sustained during the Tulane game?
"He was (at practice Monday). He is going to be ok."
Have you had on the same team two running backs as good as Nick and Jerious are?
"I've had some good running backs. When we were at Pittsburgh, we had Dorsett and Walker. At Texas A&M we had two guys who came in at the same time, but one of them was really a fullback."
You've got Kamau Jackson back for this game. Will he start out on the second unit or as the starter?
"He has an opportunity to do that this week in practice."
Will you move anyone that currently plays on the inside?
"We are going to put Tommy (Kelly) outside. But, we already had Tommy playing two positions. Right now, he gives us the flexibility of having a player who can play both inside and outside."
When you retire do you plan on moving back to Houston?
"Now you are going to upset all the Houston people (laugh). Houston is a great city, but when I retire, it will be to a place that will be so hard for anyone to get to, you would have to spend a lot of time trying to get to me."
Do you still have a home in Houston?
"We had one but we sold it. We have some investment property in different places but we don't keep it very long. We did that to try and make some money. Peggy (Sherrill) has told me that I have been your gump for x number of years. When we retire, you are going to be my gump. So, that means I will have a shovel cleaning out horse stalls and doing things like that."
It seems like media from each school you play asks you when you are going to retire. Do you have a pat answer for that question now?
"No. You have a definite plan but plans change. The most important thing is you have a job to do and you are going to make sure everything is in place. You owe that to Mississippi State because Mississippi State has been very good to you. Now, do I understand that after every game somebody likes you and don't like you? They like you and don't like you after every call. It's not you, but what your role as a head coach is. You have to understand that, that's part of life. It's hard for people to separate that. The hardest to separate it are the families because they hear things, but they also have to understand those things."
This team is playing close games just like the team two years ago did. You mention then that all they needed to do was make plays. Do you feel this team has more playmakers on it to make those plays?
"Yeah, you do. You have guys who can make plays."
Do you think part of the problem the past two-plus years is the fact that you are trying to make the transition from relying on junior college players to high school players?
"We had both. It doesn't make any difference whether you are from a junior college or high school. There is a period of adjustment you go through with both."
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.