"We will have (starting free safety) Darren (Williams) back. I was glad to see him on the practice field (Monday). We will not have (sophomore offensive guard) Johnny Wadley. He will be gone for probably another week. (Redshirt tight end) Blake Pettit will not be back. He should be back next week. (Freshman defensive tackle ) Corey Clark is back on the practice field. We will try and get him ready to play. He missed two weeks. When he is ready to play, we will play him. (Senior defensive tackle) Kamau Jackson didn't practice yesterday but he was out there. Hopefully, we will get him back. He has stitches in his finger. Everybody else should be healthy."
Importance of Tuesday's practice:
"Today (Tuesday) is a big work day. Today is the day you kind of hold your breath hoping that no one gets hurt. You have to see things full speed and live to be able to execute them on Saturday."
"Vanderbilt is a very well coached team. They are in position at all times.
"Defensively, they do some different things. They'll give you some safety blitzes.
"They also have an excellent quarterback in Jay Cutler. You have a lot of respect for him because he runs the option and throws the ball very well. He is really a tough, tough player. They also have two running backs that are really very impressive. They play them quite a bit. They use a lot of formations. They always have three or four trick plays that try to give you misdirections; reverse, double reverse or double reverse pass or throw back to the quarterback. They run the option, the power, the sweep.
"In the kicking game, they are very sound. They have two excellent kickoff returners who average 22-something. Their punt returner is averaging 9-something yards per return. They use a different formation on their punts. They use what we used to call a tight punt when you punted it out of the endzone. They will have two wings stacked on one side and they will have a guard, center and tight end on the other side.
"The first game against Mississippi they played very well. Last week, they took it into overtime and had a chance to win it. What's impressive is they are playing very sound, very solid. People who have played against them have just made more plays than (Vanderbilt) has."
Q and A with Coach Sherrill:
Talk about senior center Blake Jones.
"Blake has really been a surprise. I think that Blake has really improved. He has improved his leadership. He really prepares himself for every game. He knows what is going on and makes the right call.
"We have two centers. We didn't play Chris (McNeil) as much as we should have last week. We should end up playing both of them about 50%. Chris gives you a little different look than Blake does."
Talk about the play of senior linebacker T. J. Mawhinney.
"T. J. played well last week. We had a problem early in the game where we overran the inside zone. He was just too quick. Toward the third and fourth quarter, he started fitting the backside and we were able to stop the play. But he has done a very good job. He was injured early in the year with an ankle (injury), but he is back."
Talk about the play of freshman wide receiver Omarr Conner.
"He was very impressive yesterday in practice. Omarr is very impressive. He has outstanding hands and he has football sense and talent. He makes up for not being able to make adjustments because he is aware of what is going on. Hopefully, we will get him in the (wide receiver) rotation so that we can play him a lot more.
We have been impressed with (freshman wide receiver) Joey Sanders (a high school teammate of Omarr's) and we have him working. We would like to redshirt him but if he keeps improving, then we may let him play."
Nick Turner played some defensive back in high school. Have you given any thought of playing him at cornerback during certain situations?
"No, we aren't going to play him over there. We are going to keep him right where he is, a return guy and as an offensive player.
"(Senior cornerback) Demetric Wright has come back and has helped us. We are a little better with Demetric and Darren back. That gives us a little more diversity in some of the things that you can do, defensively."
Talk about Deljuan Robinson's recovery from heart surgery and his developement this season.
"We had him medically checked before he came in. He went through all of his treadmill tests and everything else and the doctor cut him loose. I am amazed at what he has done. He is a great athlete. He has such speed and explosiveness that he will probably be the fastest defensive linemen that we have had here. Although he is a very nice kid and talks to you very well, he has a (mean) streak on the football field."
Talk about the play of the defensive line.
"During the early part of the game, (LSU offensive lineman) Peterman hasn't been manhandled as he was by Ronald Fields. Willie Evans made some outstanding plays. Tommy Kelly is getting better and better every week."
The turnover margin has been glaring this year.
"Right. Like I told the players after the game, you can erase the score and look at certain things and tell which team won. The first things are turnovers and field position and the kicking game. When you look at those, that will tell you who won the game. Turnovers are the first thing. You have to protect the ball. You have to play field position. If you do that, then winning the game is drastically improved. Even though we had the ball longer than they did, we certainly didn't do the field position (part of the game) and we didn't win the turnover (part of the game). That is one thing that Vanderbilt does very well; protect the ball. If you are going to beat Vanderbilt, you are going to have to beat them. They are not going to give you many opportunities to beat them."
Are there certain drills your running backs do during practice to help keep the fumbles down?
"We do tire drills, slaps drills everyday (in practice)."
How do you determine which punter you will use each game?
"I was glad to see Robert (Wallis) come back and kick well at the end of the game. Both of them have ability. Both of them should average between 42 and 45 yards with good hang time. But no one has really jumped out and said this is my job. Just like yesterday in practice, both of them punted well, but Robert punted a little better than Jared (Cook). But we will use both of them at different times on different things. Because of Robert's height, he has a chance to punt the ball higher than Jared."
Talk about what a win would do for your players.
"The most important thing is the players would get to see their work paying off. It is very, very important for players to have success. When they do have success, they have enough in them to keep it going."
Is this game a must-win for your team?
"If you say that, then you put the pressure on yourself where you can't make a play. You just go out and play."
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 email@example.com.