[Premium article] Coach Jackie Sherrill talks about the upcoming game with Kentucky.


Practice the past week and a half:
"We had a good practice yesterday. Last week was very good as far as getting the players healthy. We had an opportunity to get quite a few of them back on the field. We still have a lot of bumps and bruises. We also have some players who at the end of the year will have surgery to repair their injuries. Hopefully, we can get them through the season."

About Kentucky:
"Right now we are getting ready for the Kentucky offense. They have been trying to run the ball more than they have in the past. They have been using more of the two-back set. However, they will still throw the football.

"At quarterback, they started off with Jared (Lorenzen), then Boyd came in and played, then they went back to Jared. They have excellent receivers. They have a great punt returner (Derek Abney) who is also a very good kickoff returner.

"Putting Lorenzen back at quarterback gave them some spark. He is a player who is not going to give up a sack. You can have him almost flat on the ground, but before he hits the ground, he is going to throw the ball. The positive to that is you know that he is not going to take a sack. The negative to that is he will throw it to the opponents sometimes. Last year he threw it to us four different times when he was trying to avoid a sack.

"They will play three, four and five wide receivers.

"Their defense has talent. They play a 4-3 defense. But they actually play two linebackers and two strong safeties. Basically, they are an eight-man front. They will widen the ends. You have to be able to throw the ball against Kentucky to move it consistently."

Talk about the number of snaps each of your two quarterbacks will get during the game:
"It will be very similar to what we did last week. We will start Wayne (Madkin) but we will play Kevin (Fant) in the first quarter. I say that, but you never really know. We will really go by feel during this game.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, Wayne is a better quarterback in getting us in the right plays and throwing to the right people. However, the difference between Wayne now and when he was a freshman is he made plays, big plays, back then.

"Kevin came into the game and took us on two nine-play drives right off the bat but we didn't get the ball across the goal line. The worth of any quarterback is getting the ball across the goal line."

How do you feel about playing two quarterbacks?
"It is not a big deal. A lot of people feel if you don't have a starting quarterback you don't have any. We led the nation with Danny Marino but Danny only played half the season. The same thing can be said about Florida, they have played two quarterbacks a lot. However, you would like to have one quarterback that is performing."

How healthy is Dicenzo Miller and Dontae Walker?
"Dicenzo is ok. He is not 100% but he is practicing and getting better. Because of the type injury he has, a high ankle sprain, it may not be healthy the rest of the season. Dontae is ok but has a sinus infection. As far as injuries, he is ok."

With both running backs not 100% will Fred Reid play this week?
"Fred will play.

"Where we are thin is at fullback because Justin (Griffith) is out."

What is the primary problem this team is having?
"Not making plays on both sides of the ball. We haven't even made many plays in the kicking game."

About the MSU pass rush?
"We have not done a very good job of putting pressure on the quarterback. The times that we did we didn't play very good pass defense or we got called for a penalty."

How do you turn this team around?
"You can change it in different ways. You change the plays sometimes. You change the defense sometimes. Sometimes one or two players are changed. The biggest thing is when the train starts going down hill you are not going to stop it with a twig or by putting a band-aid on it. You have to change the direction somehow. That is what you spend most of your time on."

Will Kamau Jackson play both ways?
"Yes, he will play both ways. He will play in certain situations at fullback. We moved him to fullback because we needed a big body in there for blocking purposes. We will use him in short yardage goal line."

Will the number of snaps for the different wide receivers change any for this game?
"We are trying to get certain players more snaps."

Will Ray Ray Bivines play more?
"We want to get the ball in his hands more. You like to have it in his hands in a lot of different ways."

Is it important for your team to score early?
"If you say you have to score early and you don't score, then attitude-wise that is not good. You have to score when you have the opportunity. You need to be consistent in doing that and that is something that we haven't been this season."

Do leaders have to be born with the ability to lead or can they be developed?
"You certainly have born leaders but there are a lot of guys who have the ability to become leaders. A lot of times a leader is not a vocal leader. Pig (Prather) is not a vocal person but he goes out and makes plays. Do we have the same amount of leadership that we have had in the past? The answer is no but that doesn't mean that they aren't good kids."

You have red-shirted a lot of young guys over the past two years, will that allow you to go more to the high school ranks and less to the junior colleges this recruiting season?
"In most cases the only reason you go to the junior colleges is to fill in slots that you don't have. In our situation we go after junior college players for two reasons. One, because we recruited them out of high school and know what kind of players they are. Two, because you have a need at a position. You never want to bring in a junior college player who you feel is not as good or better than what you already have. Sometimes, we have to bring in more than at other times. This year we probably won't bring in that many."

Is there a point during the season where you start playing more younger players to get them prepared for next year?
"No, you try to win games. You play players to win games."


What are the goals of this team now?
"We are practicing hard. As underclassmen, we are looking at the rest of the season as a building block for next year. For the seniors, we are looking for them to go out on a good note."

Have you ever had to deal with a season like this one?
"A couple of times in high school."

How did you deal with it?
"We came together as a team. We realized that we were all we had. We just have to realize that we have to play as a team. It is not my loss or his loss but our loss."

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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