Jackie Sherrill Teleconference

Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill's Monday morning teleconference.

Opening comments by Coach Sherrill:

His team's play against Tennessee.
"Some players played very well but, as a group, we didn't play well. We didn't play very well in the secondary, especially in a couple of spots. You can't give up the big play as much as we did."

Players who will miss the Arkansas game due to an injury.
"Players that will miss this week are Ray Ray (Bivines) and Tommy Ferrell. Both look like they will not be able to play this week."

When your team was performing well, did you ever think something like what has happened the past three years could happen?
"No, but as we know, when you lose one, two or three players, the most important thing is to try and replace those players. You can replace them talent-wise but they may not be a fit in other ways. If that player is not a fit and you lose the production and start losing the confidence, sometimes it is very, very hard to flip that around.

"This was very similar to Texas A&M. We had one player that made the turnaround, that was Ray Childers. The players have to do certain things. There are not a lot of coaches who can play on Saturday. And the ones that are taking credit for playing are only dreaming. Because the players make those decisions."

You mentioned you have to have one or two players who are catalysts and turn a program around. Do those players just come to a program or do those players have to be cultivated by the coaching staff?
"Both. But it is called experience, too. Players that go out and make plays are the ones who give you leaders."

What is the mindset of your players?
"They go to practice every week. We have a lot of young and inexperienced players who don't have a lot of snaps. They play hard but sometimes they make mistakes that really hurt you."

After your team has took it on the chin the past few games, what hope can you offer the fans that your team can be competitive these next two games and possibly win a game?
"They are not going to quit. There are some players, like Nick Turner, that are doing some good things."

What is your response to the people who think a quarterback change needs to be made?
"You have to look at the quarterback's production. Did he throw the ball on time? Did he throw the ball to the right person? Does he make the right reads? Does he do those things but not get any help from the offensive line or somebody is dropping his passes, then that's not the quarterback's fault. Does any quarterback play every play correctly? No. Kevin (Fant) has played very, very good. He can't block or catch the ball."

How much of a gap is there between Kevin and Kyle (York)?
"Kyle has certainly come in and played. But anytime you come in and play as a backup quarterback, it is a lot easier than it is sometimes when you are the starting quarterback, because there is a lot more pressure on you."

Comment on the play of senior DT Tommy Kelly this season.
"Tommy has had some very good games and plays. And I think Tommy knows he is a lot better player this year than he was last year. The expectations on Tommy are very large because of his ability. He just needs to be a lot more consistent, but that comes with experience and playing the game."

Some people feel he has not lived up to his potential. Do you agree with that?
"On every play, that is probably correct. That is one of the things you look at as far as the upside is. Most guys at the next league would rather have a player that has a good upside. They don't want a player that has gotten as good as he is going to be. They have a way to get more out of a player because on the next league they are playing for a lot more than just a scholarship."

Do you think he has a chance to play in the NFL?
"He will definitely get the chance. Tommy has only played three years of football. What the scouts look for is what is his upside. When he goes to the combine, his size, speed and quickness will get their attention. He will get to play in the Senior Bowl, so they will get to see him play against the other top college players. (Defensive lineman coach) John (Blake) has done a really good job with Tommy. I think he understands things better."

After the game, Phil Fulmer made a point of complaining about State's last touchdown and the ensuing on-sides kick. He felt the game was over and that was unnecessary. What's your response to that?
"The same thing you could say...if the game is over why are you throwing the ball? For someone to say something about an opposing team that is trying to fight (to the end) is kind of silly. If he wants to throw the towel in when he is on the other end that is fine, but I will never throw the towel in."

Do you believe the last three seasons have diminished your legacy in any way?
"You have to look at the overall picture. You can't pick one season. It's the same thing with Joe Paterno at Penn State. You can't pick just his last two years but what he has done for all the years he has been there."

In hindsight, do you think you should have retired after the Independence Bowl in 2000?
"No. It is very difficult to plan to go out when you are on top."

Talk about your final road game being against an old Southwest Conference team?
"I have been there a bunch. I went there in 1967 as a graduate assistant. I understand where the program was at that time and I also understand what they have done with facilities and what they have done over the years to build the program up. Back in 1967, it took you a long time to get to Little Rock. There is no question that the Wal-Mart (money) has helped that northwest corner (of Arkansas) tremendously. The other companies that have come in, Tyson (Foods), J.B. Hunt Trucking, (have also helped). That area has really been blessed with a lot of economic impact. That has helped Arkansas get donations and build facilities that are really as good as anybody's."

Arkansas had a player arrested after their game Saturday. How difficult is it to keep tabs on everybody?
"You can't. Unfortunately, today, the microscope is much bigger and stronger than ever before. It is a constant 24/7 today. It is not easy to be a college athlete today. There is a lot more scrutiny, more expectations. There is no such thing as having anonymity any longer, people not knowing you, people not pushing you to the point where you may do something. It is not easy."

Does it all fall on the player or can the coaching staff make a big difference?
"I think every coaching staff can make a difference. When I was an assistant coach, I never had a player that was late, a player who did anything or ever had to go see the head coach."

Compared to other places you have coached, what is the biggest in them and the SEC?
"Very simple, there is no such thing as an off-day. They have done a great job at Kentucky, but they got beat by Vanderbilt. Every week there is a challenge. You know the team you are playing has the tools to beat you. You have to perform at a certain level every week or you are in trouble."

What has been the most difficult thing in trying to keep your team competitive?
"It's not easy. It really goes from the top, down. You look at facilities. You look at the amount of money they put in. The difference in programs around the SEC are, one, facilities, two, support for the players from academics to weight programs. You could go on and on."

Talk about Arkansas' offensive line.
"They are very good and very athletic. Their big tackle was the best in the league as a freshman. It is very uncommon that you see a freshman with that much maturity. He played as a freshman like he was a senior. I've only had one freshman that had that much maturity. That was Bill Fraleg."

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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