"Guys who played well last week; I thought that the offensive linemen played well. Burch, Stewart, Davis and Jones played very well. Donovan (Davis) coming off the bench as a true freshman played very well. Of course, (tailback Jerious) Norwood had a very good game. I thought that (quarterback) Kevin (Fant) played well. He had four drops. Defensively, (DE) Tommy Kelly had a very good game. He had four tackles, one assist, a tackle for a loss, a fumble recovery, caused two fumbles, had a quarterback sack and three (quarterback) pressures. (Cornerback Odell) Bradley and (linebacker) Marvin Byrdsong also had very strong games. I think that Marvin is beginning to play like we thought he would earlier; that is to use his speed to make a lot of plays.
"Memphis, offensively, has a lot of talent. I'm not sure if (DeAngelo) Williams, after watching him on film, is not better than any back that we have played, so far. He is a really talented young man. He is averaging a 114 yards rushing and 48 (yards) receiving and in return yardage. So, he is averaging about 214 all-purpose yards a game. (Maurice) Avery is the other receiver that they go to quite a bit. Of course (they also have wide receivers) Tavarious Davis and Darron White. (Quarterback Danny) Wimprine has shattered all the records and continues to shatter them. He averages 260 yards passing a game. What is really impressive is his 61% completion ratio. That is very, very high. Another thing that stands out is their 40% (success rate) on third down. When you are throwing the ball as much as they are, being able to complete 40% is very good.
"Defensively, they are, basically, doing the same things every game; trying to put a lot of pressure, trying to give you a lot of looks to look at and, also trying to give you different looks in the secondary. We know pretty much what they will play. They are going to play three deep and put eight people on the line of scrimmage and force you to find a way to block them or be able to pass protect.
"Their kicking game is good. Their field goal/kickoff guy is a very good player. They have blocked some punts. They also put pressure on the kickers. They have a good return game. (DeAngelo) Williams is one of their kickoff return guys, so they are very dangerous at any time."
Q and A with Coach Sherrill:
What do you think about Memphis' play this year?
"They are playing well. They are in every game. If you look at their defensive stats, they are better than they were a year ago."
Having worked with (Memphis defensive coordinator) Joe Lee (Dunn) so many years, does that give you an advantage as to what to expect from him?
"You still have to execute. It's not easy to get prepared. You have to go through all the things that you have as far as your schemes. You have to make adjustments to those. You really have to go into a new teaching mode that week and do some protections that you normally don't have to do."
What do you think about Joe Lee as a coach?
"He is a good football coach. It's not the first time that we have played against him."
When was the last time you talked to Joe Lee?
"Probably in the golf tournament in May."
What was the conversation about?
"Nothing more than cordial like you would be if you walked up on anybody anywhere. If there are any feelings on that sides those are Joe Lee's feelings, not mine. I can't attempt to change anybody's feeling or I won't. You are going to go in circles if you try."
Do you think the media gets too caught up in things sometimes?
"No, I think the media have their opinions. You guys are human. Sometimes, you want me or somebody else to confirm your opinion. You know I will not confirm your opinion. But, if I was in your chair, I would be asking the same questions, but I would probably be a lot more tenacious."
Memphis has made a commitment to sign Mississippi players. Does that add to the series?
"If you look at their rosters, they have always had a lot of kids out of Georgia, a lot of kids out of Alabama and Mississippi. They beat Arkansas for Williams. If they can beat Arkansas in the state of Arkansas for kids like that, then they are going to be very successful."
Since you now recruit the Memphis area, does beating them have more importance now?
"That really has no bearing on it at all. Kids are going to go to places that they want to go. My understanding about Williams and his family is one of the coaches that was very familiar with was at Memphis. If anybody could tell....we have a lot of recruiting gurus out there that think they know, but they never really know. If anybody did, they could make a lot of money."
Johnny Wadley was on the practice field Monday. How did he do?
"He moved around well. He will play Saturday. And we need him back. Is he as mobile as he was at the beginning of the year? No. But he will play Saturday.
"We are concerned about some kids who may not play. Right now, I don't think that (defensive end) Willie Evans will play. It is questionable that (defensive linemen) Kamau Jackson and Michael Heard will play. Darren Williams is not going to practice (Tuesday) because he got stepped on (Monday). There is a possibility that he could not play."
Will you move Kevin Dockery to free safety if Darren can't go?
"No, we will keep Kevin where he is and we will play somebody else at free."
What is the status of (OT) Richard Burch?
"He practiced well (Monday) but we aren't letting him get any contact. But he is ok and will play Saturday."
Have you made the decision to redshirt (OG) Brad Weathers?
"Yes, we will redshirt Brad. He may not even be ready for three or four more games."
Will this effect his career?
"No, he will be back. That injury just takes time to heal. Sometimes it takes six weeks. Sometimes it takes six months."
What did you like about Donovan Davis that caused you to play him this year?
"Being able to come in and not make mistakes. Donovan is a very intelligent young man. Intelligence and football intelligence are sometimes two different things. He has a lot of football awareness. He has a lot of things going for him. He will do his homework, meaning that he will put himself in position. He has a lot of talent. Yet he is a freshman. The maturity side of it is the thing that probably stuck out. Was he ready to play physically the first part of the season? No, but he got himself into the position. We have been wanting to play Donovan a bunch, but we just haven't had a chance to do that."
Who will play behind him?
"You have to take Chris (McNeil) and put him there. You are also going to have Avery House there. We are kind of thin at offensive guard but with Johnny (Wadley) coming back, that will help."
You used tight end Aaron Lumpkin a lot last week. Do you plan on continuing that?
"Yes. Aaron is getting better every week. Every week that he has played, he has done some things. Last week, he played very well."
Your defense appears to be playing better. Are there any certain things you attribute that too?
"They are certainly getting more familiar (with the schemes), but we are lining up with the same players week after week. If you look at when Oklahoma won the national championship, everyone of the players who played every position was there for 11 games. You can't lose players. Because of the 85 (scholarship limitations) it is hard to lose players in certain positions and still be really the same as you were. The hardest place to lose them is the offensive line because you then have to put in somebody that is mixed with five other guys and they have to step at the right time. That is not easy to do. In practice you have that group that works together all the time, then you have somebody come into the game that hasn't worked with that group. The second area would be the secondary. There are so many things that happen in the secondary if you are playing in a zone. You have to bump off, you have to change some calls. When you playing straight man, you just line up and go cover him wherever he goes."
You've been here 13 years. Would you say you have had an abnormal number of injuries this year?
"We've had an abnormal number to starters. The nerve injury to Brad Weathers happens once every so often. An injury like Johnny Wadley has normally doesn't happen. The same thing with Otis (Riddley). He got leg whipped. One of their players was on the ground chasing the ball and got blocked. His leg whipped around and hit Otis' leg. Those things are hard to overcome. We've had some guys who have been up and down. Just like Willie. He got hurt with a chop block. If he had been able to see the block, his chances of being hurt would have not been likely."
Have you thought about changing the secondary scheme to man instead of zone?
"We do both. There is nothing wrong with the schemes. As a matter of fact, the number one defensive teams in the country are running the same schemes."
Have much has receiver coach Guy Holliday meant to the improvement of your receivers this year?
"He has done a lot with those kids. He really has. They are pretty hard on themselves. Justin (Jenkins), in the spring, moved himself into the category of SEC receiver. He practices that way. Even if he is hurt, he will still practice. He has always been a good worker, but he is a really tenacious worker right now. On the practice field, he is not shy. He goes after it very hard. Sometimes receivers have talent but are they SEC receivers? You could say that about any league, but when you say an SEC receiver, you know they are pretty good."
After he fumbled the ball against Tulane, it looked like Tee Milons was in the doghouse for a while. Did his play against Vanderbilt help him get out of it?
"Yes, but he was never in the doghouse. Don't get me wrong. (Young players) have intense feelings and he could never get over the feeling from that game. That bothered him."
Does this game being homecoming have any added significance to the team?
"To the players it will because they have the classes and they hear the (other) kids talk about the activities they are doing, but (the coaches) routine is the same."
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.