The week off.
"The week off was very good. The players are very rested.
"It looks like we are getting most of the (injured) players back. All came back today except for (starting tight end) Aaron Lumpkin. We are going to find out today if Aaron can run. That doesn't mean they will all be completely healthy to play a lot Saturday. We won't know until later in the week how well (starting guard) Will Rogers."
"When you look at Alabama, you look at number 21, (running back) Shaud Williams. Shaud really jumps out at you on offense and the kicking game. He is probably, without a doubt, the player on their football team who really makes things happen for them.
"Defensively, they still have some down linemen that are very talented. We recruited some of them. Also, they have some good linebackers. The middle linebacker (Freddie Roach) is one we felt a year ago was their best linebacker. It shows up on film of him being able to use his speed and explosiveness.
"They have been very good in their kicking game at putting pressure on the punter. They have blocked 3 punts. The same kid (Chris James) has blocked all three of them. They have blocked some punts against some people that you would think knew what they were doing in punt protection. It makes you work very hard.
"Offensively, (quarterback) Brodie Croyle is a young man who has the ability to get the ball to the receivers.
"They have played excellent this year. Look at the Oklahoma game, they taxed them better than anybody else did. When they lost their two quarterbacks and were down to a third quarterback, they didn't perform very well. With the two quarterbacks back, they are going to play well or have the ability to play well."
Q and A:
Does the fact that the schools are so close cause it to be more of a rivalry game than other SEC games?
"Both teams have Alabama and Mississippi players. And both teams had players that both teams recruited. You have always had that knowledge of players on the other team. When I was in school, there were a lot of players who went to Columbus (Mississippi). That was the only place for State players to go, so the interaction years ago was very, very good."
You mentioned that Alabama is good at blocking punts. You have a quarterback (Aries Nelson) in the backfield on punts. Is that something you are just waiting for the right time to use?
"They'll have to take that into consideration. We have three or four plays that we could use. Sparky (Woods) knows that because he was here for a long period of time."
Do you expect (starting center) Blake Jones to play this weekend?
"He will play. How much he will play, I can't answer."
(Backup center) Chris McNeil had a very good game against Kentucky.
"Chris McNeil will be as good or better than what we thought he would. He has tremendous initial quickness. He can do things that a normal center can't do because of that initial quickness."
When will you decide which one will start against Alabama?
"We won't know that until we see them (in practice). It really doesn't make any difference because both will play."
Will you possibly use Chris at guard?
"Johnny (Wadley) will be back. It will be Will (Rogers), Johnny or (Donovan) Davis."
Talk about your impressions of Mike Shula.
"He has done a very good job. He fits the mode of a Shula, meaning he has a lot of poise on the sideline and doesn't show a lot of emotions, good or bad. He hasn't learned how to yell at or control the officials like his dad did."
Since you have announced your retirement, has it been a challenge to make the players work hard in practice?
"No, none whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I have been very pleased and in awe of how they have conducted themselves."
You aren't concerned about them possibly drifting?
"They aren't drifting. There is no question about that. But what I said earlier, you are concerned about the fatigue factor and how much they can stay on the field and how much meeting time you can have. You are very concerned about cutting it back and spreading it out. Normally, we go 24 periods Tuesday. We'll be out there 18. Normally, we go 21 on Wednesday. We'll be out there 18."
Is that the reason you are now meeting instead of practicing on Monday?
"Right. And that is what the players wanted to do. I think it gives them a chance to get two days off from the game and it makes a big difference in allowing them to get healed."
Would you still do that if you were 6-2 and fighting for the SEC Western Division Championship?
"I always listen to the players. I met with a mixture of players from the offense, defense and special teams and got their input. This is what they wanted to do. We stopped going to movies (earlier in the season) and they want to start going back to the movies, so we will go to the movies on Friday."
Do you think by having your former offensive coordinator, Sparky Woods, on their staff, it will be an advantage for them?
"You know that he knows more about you than you know about them. He knows what kind of fake punts we do and what we work on and when we do it. He may know the verbiage we use, so it may cause you to change during the week you play Alabama."
Did you learn your coaching style mostly from Coach Bryant?
"I can't speak for everybody, but having the opportunity to play and coach for Coach Bryant, Frank Broyles and Johnny Majors, you learned from three of the better ones who have ever coached. But you change. There are a lot of things I do that they may not have done. Over the years, the players have kind of taught you more than other people. One year in Pittsburgh we didn't go out in pads at all. If I had done a better job, we would have won the national championship that year."
Do you have any interest in keeping up with who the next head coach will be at Mississippi State?
"I am not involved and don't want to be involved with all the applications and every phone call. When it gets down to the final two or final three, I'm sure I will be involved somehow. The good thing about it is the the president and Larry (Templeton) are going to pick this person. It has to be the person they are both comfortable with."
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.