Jackie Sherrill Teleconference

Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill, during his Monday morning teleconference, talked about his team's win over Memphis, his upcoming opponent, Auburn, an update on his injured players and the play of several of his players.

Opening comments by Coach Sherrill:

Review of win over Memphis:

"There were a lot of things that we did well in the first half. Offensively, in the first half, we played the most consistently that we have played this year. We made a lot of big plays. Defensively, we made some plays but we also gave up some plays that we probably shouldn't have, especially, the long passes. Health-wise, we came out very healthy. We have one player (Slovakia Griffith) that won't be on the (practice) field today.

"Offensively, especially in the first half, Aaron Lumpkin, Darnell Jones and Kevin Fant played very well. Fred Reid made a big play. (Punter) Robert Wallis averaged 47.9 or 48.0 yards and was really consistent with his last five punts. That really helped us by creating field position for us.

"Defensively, Pee Wee (Slovakia) Griffith was player of the week. Of course, Tommy (Kelly) had five tackles and three quarterback pressures. Quinton (Culberson) had nine tackles, one assist, two tackles for losses and two passes broken up. For a young man - he is still 17 - he is playing very well.

"Our players are kind of tired. Quinton Culberson played over 100 plays. Odell Bradley played 100 plays. Jason Clark played 92. (Kevin) Dockery) played 97. We had a lot of kids who played in the 70's and 80's snaps. We have to do things to keep them off the field this week to keep them fresh."

After the (Vanderbilt) game, (MSU offensive coordinator) Coach Watts said he became a little conservative with his play-calling in the second half. Do you agree with that or do you feel it was something Memphis' defense was doing?
"No, they did the same thing in the second half. We didn't call some of the plays that we did in the first half. That was what he was referring to. But the timing of throwing the ball and catching it wasn't there in the second half like it was in the first half. We had five or six deep balls that were off. We even had a couple of throws for first downs in the first half that we didn't make in the second half."

Who is the injured player that you mentioned in your opening comments?
"Slovakia Griffith has an ankle (injury). We are just resting him."

Were you surprised that you were hit with the 15-yard penalty after Nick Turner's kick return in the fourth quarter?
"I really can't comment on the officiating. I had a couple of questions and voiced my opinion. Evidently, they didn't like my opinion. The ones that I question, we send them in every week and we will get a printout not only from Conference USA but (the SEC's head of officials) will grade them and send them back."

With the two warnings and the flag and your comments to (Memphis) Coach West after the game would you say your behavior was out of control or were you trying to light a fire under your team?
"I don't think my behavior was out of control. Whenever there is a questionable call, you aren't going to look on the field and say let's move on."

Did you get tired of hearing the Joe Lee Dunn questions last week? Was that what led to your exchange of words with Coach West?
"That was private between Tommy and me."

Comment on Auburn.
"You are looking at a team that is very, very physical and has tremendous players on both sides of the football. Without a doubt, they have the best (defensive) front seven that I have seen. They have tremendous team speed. They are very talented at every position."

Were you surprised that Auburn defeated Arkansas at Arkansas this past weekend?
"No. They turned it into a defensive game and let their defense win the game, which they did."

Do you think your team matches up better with Auburn then they did with LSU?
"Against LSU, we made the mistakes, offensively, that led to 21 points. Auburn is a very well-balanced football team, from the kicking game all the way down. I haven't seen too many teams that can line up and knock them off the football. Look at Tennessee, a good running team, they had minus 4 yards rushing against them. To have a chance against them you are going to have to move the football. You have to keep your defense off the field because their offensive line is big and very good."

How about giving an update on injured players, Willie Evans, Kamau Jackson, Michael Heard and Darren Williams.
"Willie Evans is fine. Kamau Jackson and Michael Heard couldn't play (against Vanderbilt) because of the casts they had on. They will, hopefully, get some practice time playing in their casts and, hopefully, play this week. As a defensive lineman, as much as you have to use your hands, it is harder for them than it is for an offensive lineman. (Darren Williams) ran for the trainers this morning and they said he felt better than he has in a long time. Hopefully, we can keep him that way. Last week, on Tuesday, he got stepped on during practice and reinjured his foot. That is why he couldn't play. He should be able to play this week."

You mentioned that Heard and Jackson will have to wear casts. Will they have to wear them the rest of the year or just the next couple of games?
"Usually, they can remove the casts when they take the stitches out. Since they have pins in, they will have to have a cast on until after they take the pins out. Usually, it takes up to four weeks before they can take the pins out."

(Backup offensive lineman) Johnny Wadley played this past weekend. How much do you expect him to play this week?
"Every week you have to be very cautious as to the number of plays you have him in the game because it will take some rest for him to get well. He can't play a whole game but we want to play him because he is a good football player."

How about giving us an update on the play of freshman wide receiver Omarr Conner.
"He made one excellent catch and run and one circus catch Saturday. He is playing quite a few snaps. He played 22 snaps last week even though he didn't get his hands on the ball. He played 28 snaps this past game, 16 runs, 12 passes.

Why did you decide to temporarily move Omarr to wide receiver during the fall?
"We sat down and talked about (playing this year) and he said he wanted to play. I told him he could play receiver and he said fine. Being a receiver will help him as a quarterback because not many quarterbacks have the luxury of knowing why and how to run routes and where the receivers should be and what has to happen to get there."

What kind of chance do you think he has of starting at quarterback next fall?
"You have three of them (Omarr Conner, Kyle York and Aries Nelson) who will compete for the job in the spring. Any player has a chance to win any job."

Did you expect that Blake Jones, when he first walked on, would end up being your starting center for two-plus years?
"Probably not. Blake had some (good) qualities that would give him a chance (to start). He is really a player who overachieves. He gives everything that he has in practice and in the games. I have been very impressed with Blake the last two years because of how he has been able to make all the calls and all the checks.

"(This past Saturday) he had a big, heavy guy on him and played 74 snaps and graded out 75%. He had no missed assignments at all. He had no sacks and no pressures."

Talk about the play and attitude of Fred Reid, a player that could start for some SEC schools.
"He has worked very, very hard. Everytime he practices and everytime he is in a game he gives everything that he has. He really likes it (at MSU) and likes his teammates and they really like him. Good thing happen to kids like that."

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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