Q&A with Coach Croom and the media
Give us the latest on your situation with the Green Bay Packers.
"Nothing has changed. We are sort of going week by week. I don't know if anything will change. I'm still going to go back to Green Bay this week for the game (Sunday) and be there the early part of next week and gameplan. Our next game is in California, so we'll have to work that out. I'll still try to split time and go from there. In the meantime, I'm still working on our staff and still working on recruiting. Rockey Felker is doing a very good job and some of the guys here are still working on recruiting. The calls that I have made to prospects have been positive. And we are just trying to get their visits lined up so that when I get back for our visits in January I can visit with them then."
Is going back and forth mainly due to the fact that Green Bay Packers Coach Sherman feels like he needs you for the rest of the season?
"There is a transition period. I like to think that Mike thinks I'm such a great coach that there's no way they can win without me. (laugh) I don't necessarily think that's the case and I don't think there's anybody else that thinks that either. But there is a transition period. (Green Bay) has a young man there, Edgar Bennett, who has sort of being my unofficial assistant. A lot of last week was trying to help transition him into taking over my responsibilities at some point. When you have a team that is fighting in pro football to get into the playoffs, a lot is at stake. And any slight change can make a difference.
"I know this week and next week are important for us from a recruiting standpoint. But, at the same time, I had a contractional obligation to the Packers. And they were generous enough to allow me to take this opportunity with Mississippi State with some restrictions. So, I have to work through that."
Now that you have gone a week juggling both jobs, has it been more difficult that you expected?
"Yes, it is difficult. Physically, I have been tired, but I'm still very excited. I've been in a stressful situation similar to this when I was a coordinator in Detroit. And it really wore me down. But I'm really excited about doing this because the response of the Mississippi State people has been tremendous. The support that I'm receiving from the administrative staff here has been tremendous. I don't feel alone. And I think that is important."
Have you had the time to look over the roster and figure out what you are looking for with your recruiting?
"We are looking at every position to get the best possible football players. We feel like we definitely have to get more quarterbacks. We feel like we have to get some corners. Based on the information that I have received from the other coaches and Rockey, we do have some defensive linemen and that we do have some young talent here. To be very honest with you, after I met with several of the players one on one Friday from about 12 o'clock to about 5 o'clock, physically, they were more impressive than what I originally had thought when I saw them in a group. The off-season program is going to be a big part of what we do with the young men that are here. The off-season program is going to be (our) first (priority)."
How aggressive are you going to be as far as recruiting players in Mississippi?
"That is always going to be the case. We want to get the best possible players from the state of Mississippi. But we want to get the players in Mississippi who really have a chance to help us be victorious over the top talent in the rest of the SEC. Our talent level has to match that of the Auburn's, Tennessee's, Alabama's and those type teams. We want to make sure the top talent in Mississippi comes to Mississippi State. That may mean we may have to go out of state some to get the level of talent that will give us the best chance to overtake some of these other teams."
Do you have any strong impressions on junior college recruiting, especially in December?
"Rockey understands more who we are recruiting in junior college a lot better than I do right now. But we will definitely continue to recruit the junior colleges. The thing we do want is the junior college player who can come in and have an immediate impact for us because we only get two years out of them. I really look at junior college players a lot like we look at free agents in the NFL. When you go out to get a free agent type player from another team, you want him to come in and make an immediate impact for you."
Do you feel comfortable going into Alabama and recruiting?
"When I took this job, I took it because I am a son of the south. I feel like I can go anywhere and recruit down here."
How was the experience of talking to recruits again for the first time in 17 years?
"It was exciting. It really was. I know they all know they are going to college, but, ultimately, what they are all thinking is one day I'm going to the big show (NFL). To be honest with you, I don't really want a player who doesn't want to play NFL football, because that means he doesn't have the kind of passion about the game that I think is necessary. If you love the game, you want to be among the elite in the game. And that means going to the National Football League. But, at the same time, I want guys that are smart enough to understand the reason the National Football League is so elite is because everybody can't make it.
"There is no question the limelight is on Mississippi State right now. If they want to be in the light, they want to shine, now is the time. We have a window of opportunity here to get some of the top players, particularly in Mississippi, and even some of the top players in surrounding states to come be a part of our program and what we are trying to start here."
Update us on your new staff.
"So far, it is going pretty well. Some announcements will be forthcoming the early part of next week. When we do make those announcements, they won't be made with specific positions in mind. I have told the coaches that I have been talking with that I want the flexibility to move them around as necessary. Except for the coordinator positions, none of the rest of them will be announced as specific positions.
"After next week's announcements, I will gradually move to the others. One of the things that other first-time coaches have told me is to not rush into hiring. I know it is really putting a strain on the people that we have recruiting right now. But the one thing we don't want to do is rush into hiring somebody without really understanding how they fit. We talk about the Mississippi State family and having oneness in spirit. But, without question, that first has to be embodied on our coaching staff. Our coaching staff has to be of one mind. That doesn't mean we won't have differences. But our goals have to be the same. We have to be able to work together. We have to set the example for our players if we expect them to operate with one mind as well."
Do you have a timetable as to when you will complete your staff?
"In my mind, I am right on schedule to get the people that I want to get. One or two positions may take me a little longer than I like, but I am going to resist the temptation to rush into anything."
You mentioned not immediately assigning positions. Does that mean you might wait until spring training to name their positions?
"Oh no, hopefully, (I'll assign them) before signing day. Before we start installing the offense and defense, everybody will be assigned a position. And we will go immediately into that once recruiting is over."
Have you had a chance to sit down with the current MSU coaches and talk to them?
"Yes, I sat down and talked with all of them (Saturday) morning. I have been doing that since 7 o'clock (Saturday) morning."
Do you anticipate any of them staying as members of your staff?
"There is a possibility."
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.