"We gave them off Friday and Saturday last week. We aren't going to practice today. We have some guys coming back and hope to have them on the practice field (Tuesday) or, at least, by Wednesday. We have two players that are very doubtful, (starting offensive guard) Will Rogers and (starting tight end) Aaron Lumpkin. The other players should be back and ready to play Saturday, although they will have limited work this week."
Comment on the mental state of your team after a week off.
"We asked them what days they wanted off. All of them wanted Friday and Saturday. They went home. It probably did a lot of them a lot of good to be around their families and friends."
How will possibly not having Aaron Lumpkin effect what you can do this Saturday?
"It limits quite a bit what you can do. We made a decision early in the year to redshirt our two freshmen tight ends (Eric Butler and Dezmond Sherrod). If we hadn't done that, then both of them would have probably been playing by now. And one of them (Eric Butler) would be playing a bunch."
Is it likely that (senior) Tommy Ferrill will get most of the snaps if Lumpkin isn't ready to go?
"It will be between Tommy and (true freshman) Brian (Anderson)."
What is (true freshman wide receiver) Tyler Threadgill's status?
"Early in the year, he had a hamstring (injury) and he got a concussion which kept him from practicing for awhile. We made a decision to hold him out and not play him. We plan on redshirting him."
Is tailback Jerious Norwood 100%?
"No, he is not 100%. At times, he is going to show a flat tire. But, when he runs, you can't tell he is on a flat tire."
Do you feel you are about as healthy as you have been in the last month?
"Right now, we are. We just have to make sure nothing happens during the week."
What is (starting center) Blake Jones status?
"Blake was on the practice field last night. That is a good sign."
What has Blake Jones brought to your team?
"There is no question that Blake has really brought a lot of leadership. There is no question that his work ethic on the field has really helped him. He is not a kid blessed with the 4.6, 4.7 speed or 350 pounds, but he gets a lot out of his ability. He is intelligent and knows football. He is very much aware of what is going on and very rarely makes a mistake."
Have you seen improvements in your defense?
"We are playing better individually. A lot of players are playing better. But, as a group, we aren't. I am not satisfied."
What kind of contribution has backup fullback Nick Signaigo made to your team?
"Nick is a very unique young man. He is very energetic. He will do anything you ask him to. If you ask him to go out there and play noseguard, he will jump out there and play noseguard. He has been a big plus on our football team, on and off the field."
Since this will be your last time to coach against your alma mater, Alabama, any special things going through your mind?
"Not really. We all know Alabama. Over the years, I would say that Auburn and Tennessee were big rivals. But due to the close proximity of Mississippi State and Alabama, it is a lot bigger (rivalry) than what people think it is."
Is it more of a rivalry due to the victories your teams got a few years ago?
"No, it is has always been that way. Even years ago when Coach Bryant coached there."
Do you not think those victories added fuel to the rivalry?
"All it did was allow the Mississippi State people who live in Alabama and work in Mississippi to put that coffee mug up there with a pretty good smile."
With this being the Alabama game week, will your reflections about Coach Bryant be even more special this week?
"It would be a lot more special if Coach Bryant was still there. Coach Bryant, during his lifetime, had a big impact on a lot of people, regardless if you were players or not. If you were a player for Coach Bryant, you got to know him in a certain way. If you were a coach, you got to know him another certain way. And if you were a fan, then you knew him in another way. He gave his players a lot more of himself than he gave anybody else."
Was there ever a point in your career, maybe early in your career, where you thought or hoped that you would coach at Alabama one day?
"Probably the best way to answer it is to ask did I have some formal talks with them? Yes."
When was that?
"It would be unfair to pinpoint it. What I will say is all the way back to when Coach Bryant and I were in the East-West game together, he made the statement that he was going to coach one more year and that I was one of three people that he would recommend for the job. But I made a decision then to go to Texas A&M, so I took my name out of it. I've never given much thought about it since then."
So, you don't regret not going there?
"No. Alabama is a very special place as a player. Not many people had the opportunity to be there when Coach Bryant was there. Staying there as a (graduate assistant), you got to see Coach Bryant in a different setting."
Is it safe to say that he had the most influence on you as a coach?
"I think he had the most influence on anybody that ever met him. Not just me, but anybody."
Do you remember where you were when Coach Bryant passed away and did you go to his funeral?
"I was at (Texas) A&M and, yes, I was there."
Was it a very emotional day for you?
"Yes, as well as everybody. I don't think there will be another burial service (in Alabama) that will have that kind of impact on the number of people that it had.
"Coach Bryant wasn't an ordinary person."
Was he difficult to get to know?
"His players probably knew the real Coach Bryant better than anybody. But I don't think anybody knew the real Coach Bryant better than Miss Mary Harmon, Paul, Jr. or his daughter. His grand kids probably knew them. When I was at the East-West Game, I was at a civic club and I joked one time that I'm the highest paid goffer in the country because I was Coach Bryant's goffer that weekend. He got up behind me and said, 'Jackie, I hate to disappoint you but my grandson is the highest paid goffer.' So, he has a special bond with his grand kids."
What has it been like since you announced your retirement?
"The first four days were not easy. Now, everyday is a lot easier. The players are handling it very well. But that doesn't mean there are no feelings there."
Has it been kind of strange for you to hear and read all the speculation about who will replace you?
"No, I don't give that any thought. That's for you guys (in the media) and for the people out there who think they have a say-so in who is coming. I'm here to help in any way that I can and I will help. I will certainly help with the players. Between now and then, I will certainly have personal one-on-one visits with the players."
Since you are leaving, what are you and your staff able to do as far as recruiting is concerned?
"The contacts have been very good. The kids that have committed have received a letter from us as well as from Larry (Templeton). Like most of them said, I'm picking Mississippi State because it is Mississippi State."
Do you think it would help in recruiting if some of the staff were retained?
"You are asking a question where whatever I say will not be appropriate. That will have to be a decision of the new coach. Wherever I went, I kept coaches that were very important to the program."
Did it help in your transition in recruiting by keeping coaches that you felt were important?
"Yes, there is no question. The people I kept were a very position influence on this program."
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.