"We are looking forward to seeing what we have and what we have accomplished in the off-season program. And I'm looking forward to what I consider the real first day on the job. We are getting to do some football with all the administrative stuff behind us."
Have you been antsy to get on the field and actually coach some football?
"Oh yeah, I'm always excited about being on the field. No matter how the day is going every since I have been coaching I have rarely had a bad day on the football field."
When talking to the players, they seem to be in unison when describing you; they all say discipline. Talk about the attitude you are trying to change here.
"What we think about ourselves and how we think about doing our jobs is what I want to get done. You can call it discipline, but, to me, it is just doing the little things right every day. I think if we are consistent in what we do and do it automatically and do it because we want to do it, then I think it will make us better players and better people in the long run."
Has it been difficult to change the attitudes?
"No, I think our players have responded extremely well to the things we want to get done. I think they are eager to do things the way we want them done, but it takes time and takes us, as coaches, being patient."
What are some of the key position battles you see for the spring?
"We have a lot of things going on at every position right now. I constantly look at the roster and, based on what I saw in the off-season and what I saw on tape from last season, try to get some ideas. Now, the real evaluation period begins. We'll take it one day at a time and see where we are at all positions. I'm hoping that both sides of the line of scrimmages will be strengths for us, but only time will tell."
A lot of the offensive players are excited about the new West Coast Offense that you are going to install. How much of the implementation has already been done?
"Right now we, as a staff, are making sure we are on the same page. We did as much as we could do, as a coaching staff, between (recruiting) signing day and today, but it is going to be an on-going process."
Is Omarr Conner the number 1 quarterback on the depth chart right now?
"He is the one that will be with the first unit today, but the depth chart really means nothing today. Probably through the course of the rest of the week, it really doesn't take on a lot of meaning. We're dancing around in (shorts) today and the rest of the week and the game isn't played like that. It doesn't really count until you put on pads as far as the depth chart is concerned. What we do today is important, however, in what we want to get done as far as laying a foundation for the future."
How did you actually come up with your depth chart? Was it based more on class and experience?
"No, class doesn't have a lot to do with it right now. Sometimes that was mentioned at some positions, but a lot of it was based on attendance and how they performed in the off-season program."
Who were some of the guys that stood out during the off-season?
"A lot of guys stood out. I thought that Chris McNeil had an outstanding off-season. Chris worked extremely hard every workout. He showed a lot of tenacity and leadership during the course of the program. I haven't looked at our detention list but I don't think he missed a class. I am very pleased with where he is at. Omarr Conner had good work habits. Aries Nelson did some good things, and, at times, was inconsistent. I thought that Ron Fields did some good things after starting off slow. He really worked well before we went out on spring break. There were a lot of guys but those guys stood out."
How much of your offense do you expect to install during the spring?
"Realistically, about 15%."
Really? When do you plan on putting in the remaining 85%?
"The other 85% will take years to put in. This group will not have time to learn it all."
With so much to do across the board, how did you decide what to start with in the spring?
"You start by saying this is Football 101. This is a football. This is the way we want you to hold the football, how you get in your stance, these are your steps. Nothing is too small to overlook. We truly are going step by step. I know you guys laughed when I said 15%, but the time it takes to get all the fundamentals down will not allow you to get into a lot of plays. We will not forsake the fundamentals to put in a play."
Since this is the first day of practice, what was the first thing you thought when you woke up this morning?
"I went to sleep yesterday evening. In fact, I was talking to my wife and fell asleep while on the telephone. That didn't go over very well to say the least. After that, I studied our defensive plan, then tried to go to sleep. By then, I couldn't go to sleep because I was worrying about all the little things. As I got into today, I realized that we had prepared as well as we could for the first day. I know that everything won't go perfect, so there's really no reason to worry."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.