Jackie Sherrill September 29th Teleconference

Mississippi State head football coach Jackie Sherrill, during his Monday morning teleconference, talked about his team's game against LSU last Saturday night, his team's upcoming game against Vanderbilt, injuries, his future at Mississippi State and defensive coordinator Ron Cooper's role on the defense.

Opening comments:

LSU game:

"The biggest play in the game was when we moved the ball down the field and had the fumble on the 17-yard line and they recovered it at the 15. We had some young players that it really affected. It really bothered Nick (Turner) that he did it and I don't think he ever recovered from it. We had players that made some very outstanding plays but we were playing with some players, because of their youth, that sometimes makes mistakes with all the calls and checks. Sometimes their mistakes are very glaring."

Injuries for the Vanderbilt game:

"A player that looks like he will not play is (offensive guard) Johnny Wadley. We really need him back because it gets him in the rotation and helps us rest some players. We have one (offensive lineman) that could probably play the whole game without coming out. That is David Stewart."

Q and A with Coach Sherrill:

At what point in the season do you expect the young players not to be making mistakes any longer?
"If you were only playing one freshman, you could concentrate on him, but when you are playing a combination of freshman, then one freshman mistake can cause another one. Coach Bryant always said for every sophomore you start, you are going to lose a game."

Talk a little about Vanderbilt.
"What stands out about Vanderbilt is they are very well coached. They are in position at all times. They chase the football. They tackle well. Offensively, they are very well coached. In the kicking game, they are very, very sound. There have been tons of people who have tried to block a punt and they can't even get close. They must have a terrific snapper and their punter is a two-stepper. They have two excellent return guys. They also put a lot of pressure on your quarterback. They will use the safety blitz a bunch. They are a sound football team that really doesn't make mistakes."

There are a segment of fans who, because of the success Mississippi State has experienced while you have been here, believe you should remain the coach as long as you choose to do so. What is your reaction to that kind of unwavering support?
"That is appreciated, but you can put all the others to rest, too. I will know when the time will be and I will do the right thing because of my loyalty to, one, the players and, two, Mississippi State, and, three, the fans and students."

What do you say to the other segment of fans who want to see you gone as soon as possible?
"That's ok, they have a right to say that. They have a right to say anything that they want to."

You said during the SEC Media Days that the program had bottomed out at the end of the last year and was on its way up.
"It is. We haven't turned it around (in) W's. If we had played this well - and I am even talking about Saturday night - in the first game, then you are not looking at four L's at this time. There are a lot of players who have made a tremendous amount of improvement. If you knew how some of these kids would play and their reactions, then you could have changed some things and helped them."

I believe you saw that John Mackovic was fired by Arizona. Do you believe firing a coach in the middle of the season solves anything?
"Every situation is different. For anybody to comment on Arizona's status is unfair because you are not there and you really don't understand what is going on. That is probably the best way to put it."

Are you saying there are sometimes when it is justified firing a coach in the middle of the season?
"There are justifications for everything. Every situation is different."

Do you think, if your team doesn't start winning this season, you will then realize it is time for you to retire or resign?
"I think everybody understands that I will know when, what, where and how. I have been in this business a long time. I have fought for national championships. I have been number 1 for a period of time. (However) you are never going to have all the people liking you. Mack Brown is going through (the same thing). (Also) take Alabama for example; when they played Oklahoma, even though they didn't win, their fans gave (them) a standing ovation after the game. Then, two weeks later they lose to Northern Illinois. Those people then had to make a decision as to which side they were on. Were they on Alabama's side or the coaches side. You have to separate the players from the coaches. If you can't do that, then you have other motives, other than helping Mississippi State help Mississippi State. That is just the nature of the game. This is not about Jackie Sherrill. Players come first. That will always will be the first consideration."

You brought up a good point. You have been a winner most of your career. Now, you could be at the point where you may have three losing seasons in a row. And that could cause you to not be coaching at Mississippi State next year. Will it be tough on your pride knowing you went out that way?
"Everybody would like to go out on top. But you can go back and look at Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and other places. Sometimes you don't get to make that choice. There are two things about me. I deal in reality everyday. Peggy probably put it best when she said (coaching football) is not death or cancer. And I understand those things. The other thing is if I'm laying on the ground with my throat cut and bleeding from everywhere else, you better not get too close and try to kick me because you may get grabbed. The competitive side will never change."

Do you feel all the speculation about your future is kind of hanging over the team? While their focus is good, they might be distracted?
"I don't think they are. That is the furthest thing from the players minds."

You said it hasn't distracted your players. Has all this speculation about your future distracted you?
"If you were unrealistic about it and if it was something you couldn't handle, but probably because of maturity, I can handle it. If it was a distraction and a concern, I would take the other approach and say 'no comment, ask another question.' I think you know by me being able to talk about it, I am able to handle it a little easier than a lot of people are. The natural reaction you feel someone would have is they would get upset and get their feelings hurt. It really amazes the people who write me a letter and I write them back, saying that if I was in your shoes, I would feel the same way."

So, you understand people's frustrations with losing?
"Sure I do. The only way to change those (frustrations) are certain ways. The bottom line is W's. But there is some work to do before you get to those W's."

Is it realistic for MSU fans to expect that MSU football can win consistently, year in, year out?
"You can win here. But, is it harder to win here than it is at other places such as Texas, (Texas) A&M or Florida or Alabama? Yes."

Where do you see improvement in your team that others may not?
"(A good example) is the first part of the (LSU) game when (junior DT) Ronald Fields dominated. I don't remember seeing (LSU offensive linemen Stephen) Peterman dominated on any play this year, but the very first play of the game, Ronald Fields just dominated. He did it during the game. (Senior DT) Tommy Kelly has improved. (Willie Evans) has improved. Quite a few of the offensive linemen have improved."

You had very good success from 1997 to 2000. What has happened since 2000, overall?
"There are a lot of things that have happened. We don't have time to go through all of them. If you don't think it happens at other places...that's just like fans at LSU, like they said, 'we have been through this, we know what you are going through.' There are a lot of places that go through this, regardless of what we want to think or not think. There is no such thing as any team in the country dominating and staying there."

Do you think that maybe the two years prior to the last two years of recruiting you may have not evaluated the talent as well as you had hoped and that is the reason you are in your current situation?
"You would like to have 20-20-20-20, meaning that you would like to have 20 seniors. Sometimes that is not going to happen and this is one of those times that it didn't. We also made a decision to redshirt some kids last year and the year before. That really got it out of balance. We didn't bring in enough junior college (players) that would have kept (those numbers) across the board to 20 seniors, 20 juniors, 20 sophomores and 20 freshmen."

Talk about having defensive coordinator Ron Cooper going up into the press box for the LSU game. Also, you coached the drop linebackers last week.
"We made the decision that Ron would go upstairs so that he would have everything in front of him and also see everything. The other thing was I gave him some help last week, coaching the drops (linebackers)."

How did you think having him upstairs worked Saturday night?
"It worked and that is probably where he will stay."

Does he have less control of the defense now?
"No, he sets everything up and does all the things."

What is the situation with Darren Williams' foot injury?
"We are starting him (Monday in practice) to cut him loose. Hopefully, he will be ready. Dr. Linton is very satisfied with his orthodic so that should make a big difference. Now, it's just a matter of doing everything such as running and exploding off of it."

Is there any update on Brad Weathers injury status?
"Right now, the chances of Brad being back in the short range is not good. In the long range, he will be back."

Talk about the improvement of junior wide receiver McKinley Scott.
"It hasn't been an easy journey back because when you have that kind of injury it is really frustrating to have that kind of ability and (not be able to play). I really feel that when you have (knee) construction, to (hopefully, once again) be the player that you were, it takes a full 18 months. He is getting better and better and his confidence in not only himself but being able to do things is getting better and better."

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 swindoll@genespage.com.

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