A native of Huntington, Tenn., Pendergrass received a Bachelor of Science in Business/Marketing from the University of Tennessee in 1998. He earned a Master of Science degree in Human Performance & Sports Studies, with a concentration in Sport Administration, in 2001. He has done additional graduate classroom work in human resource development.
How did you wind up at Mississippi State? What were your connections?
"Obviously, (MSU offensive coordinator) Woody McCorvey. He had told me before that if he ever got a head job or went somewhere else, he would definitely bring me with him. When Coach Croom hired him, I was contacted by Woody. He asked me if I would be interested and I told him there was no doubt that I would be interested in coming to Mississippi State because I had heard so many great things about Coach Croom. And I knew the great things about Woody McCorvey. So, there was no doubt in my mind that it was something that I wanted to look into.
"Coach Croom asked permission from Coach Fulmer to talk to me about (interviewing). I interviewed on December 18th and things just went from there."
You just came from one of the most successful programs in the SEC, Tennessee, to Mississippi State, a place that has had some success but not on the scale of Tennessee. What was it about Mississippi State that caused you to move?
"What I have found in this business is it is people more than places. It is the people who you work for on a day to day basis. Of course, you want to be at a winning school, but I also like the challenge of going somewhere that may not have been where we have been at Tennessee. I also like the challenge of going into a place and implementing the things I believe, things which may not exactly be the things that we implemented at Tennessee even though we did many great things there. I want to take those things, add what I believe, add what our assistant coaches believe, and try to implement them. Then, we can make (Mississippi State) the place it should be."
What are some things you are bringing from Tennessee that worked there and you think will work at Mississippi State?
"The number one thing with recruiting kids, I think, is how comfortable they are with our current kids, how comfortable they are when they go to those kids' apartments on Friday and Saturday nights; their relationships with those guys and how they fit in with them. I also believe their relationship with their position coaches is very critical. They are going to develop a good relationship with the guy that is recruiting them, but it is the guy that is coaching them on a day to day basis that is most important to them.
"Of course, here at State, we are going to do some things facility-wise that is going to put us right there with everybody else in the conference. We are currently doing some research on some things and we are going to get everything here that is going to give us first-class facilities. Coach Croom is going to do everything in a first-class manner, whether it is with prospects, current players or alumni."
What are some duties that you know you are going to be doing in your job?
"As of right now, Coach Croom has told me that, along with the recruiting coordinator, who will be one of the on-the-field coaches, he and I will work together and head up the recruiting. Of course, the evaluations from the film will have to come from our coaches, but I will take those evaluations and act on them. Basically, I will be involved with all facets of recruiting, whatever they might be. Also, I will be doing a great deal of work with Coach Croom on his schedule as far as what he does, where he goes, who he sees, where he speaks. I am also going to serve as a liaison with different departments; the training room, the equipment room, the video department, the weight room. I will also serve as the liaison between Coach Croom and every area on campus."
What are the strengths you bring to this staff?
"From a recruiting standpoint, I believe one of my strengths is that I'm 27 years old. Once kids come on campus, having a young guy who is still in touch with the things that are going on in their lives helps. Being able to relate with them as far as their music and as far as what they do in their free time, that is a big part of it. I also think I am a pretty good people-person who can relate well with everyone.
"From other standpoints, I think I am very computer-oriented, very technologically-inclined. And that is the way recruiting is headed, with the internet, with our recruiting system that we are going to implement here. An enormous amount of things are going to be electronically done. There is not going to be a bunch of passing paper back and forth. It is all going to be done on the computer in the way we implemented at Tennessee two years ago. It is a computer-based program that all of our information goes into. The vast majority of the schools throughout the country are now using it. That is something that Coach McCorvey and the coaches utilized extremely well. It is a great system."
How can fans help out the coaches as far as recruiting is concerned?
"(At Tennessee) we used to get calls from coaches, from general fans, whomever, about prospects that they thought were good enough to play (in the SEC). A lot of times, you hear about kids through word-of-mouth. However, we ask that they not call about every single kid that rushes for 100 yards on Friday night. What we are looking for are legitimate prospects. We welcome those phone calls. To have eyes throughout the state is a very, very positive thing."
How important will it be for the MSU coaches to develop relationships with the high school and junior college coaches in Mississippi?
"We are going to develop relationships with all of our in-state coaches and with as many as we can out-of-state. Our main focus, with the great base of talent that we have in Mississippi, is to develop the relationships with the coaches to the fullest."
How has the internet changed recruiting?
"The internet has changed the face of recruiting 100%. The internet has changed what we do tremendously. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that I don't read it, because I do. I read several sites daily about updates on recruits. Because of NCAA rules, we are not allowed to contact a kid during the season more than once a week. (Recruiting sites) have unlimited access to talk to those kids. There is a big need for that because there are a lot of fans out there that want to know. The guys who pay to read your site want to know."
A lot of folks within the athletic departments and conferences have a very negative opinion of the internet's anonymous username message boards. Do they really cause problems for coaches?
"I don't read the message board, but they do cause problems. There might be people on them that are just saying things and they not really know anything. They are just saying things to be saying things. What I read are the articles written by the guys who have the knowledge to write those articles, guys like you. I don't get on the message boards because, if I did, they would drive me crazy."
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.