"I've watched it some by watching Green Bay. A lot of it is pass-action passes. There will be a lot of disguise behind it. You aren't really going to be able to tell what we are doing. When we get on the line, we'll have one formation and can run 20 plays out of it."
I know it's not the same kind of offense as last year, but wasn't the disguise part and having a lot of options out of the formation similar to what you did last year?
"Last year we had more of a dropback type situation. A lot of stuff in this new offense will be fake run first, then pass."
As an offensive lineman, how will the new offense directly affect you?
"A lot of it is just terminology, a little different responsibilities. Last year the quarterback was the one who lined us up to the MIKE (middle linebacker). This year they put that responsibility on the center. We are the one that starts out with where the call is going and points out the MIKE to the other players."
How much of the offense do you actually know at this time?
"I probably know 60% of it already. I've been studying on my own. If I don't know my stuff, then nobody will know what to do. I'm pretty much starting everything off."
I guess you feel happy being back at the center position, the position you played in high school.
"Yes, yes, very much so. I got tired of moving around. I figure center is where I am going to play unless something dramatic happens."
Coach Croom has really emphasized discipline and, as you know, he has already made it known by his actions that he's not just talking the talking, but walking the walk. Is that something that you players have readily accepted?
"The attitude is everybody is for it. When he came in, he said he had a system that he wanted to implement but in order for it to work, everybody had to be working toward the same thing. He said last year we had 120 guys going in 120 different directions to reach one goal. He said we have to have 120 guys going in the same direction to reach the same goal. He said if we can do that, then we have a chance to be successful.
"Each individual person has the option of what they want to do. It's not like we have a leash around our throats. But if you don't do it, you are not going to be playing here. It is definitely his way or the highway, but his way is good. The things we are doing now are things we should have been doing ever since we got up here."
How has the discipline aspect affected you personally?
"It was almost like the team was caught in a rut. It was like the confidence level had gone down. It was almost like we didn't know what to do. When Coach Croom came in, it was like he developed an entire new plan for us. Since I have gone by that plan, I can say my personal life had changed dramatically. He expects you to go to class. There is no more of this getting in trouble. If you get in trouble, you are gone. I've seen that. You've seen it."
Now that you are a junior, are you trying to become more of a team leader?
"Yes sir. Coach Croom has already started pointing some people out. He said the center is someone he depends on a lot. He said he have to have complete faith in his center. He said he has to have someone at the job that he knows will go out everyday and be a leader for the entire football team. Plus, I'm getting older and a lot of the younger guys are starting to look up to me. Because of that, I've been trying to lead a good lifestyle in the fieldhouse and off the field."
Do you feel better about yourself now that you have changed your lifestyle?
"Yes. I can definitely say that. The last couple of months have been...I don't how to say it. I guess I feel more at ease with myself. I feel like I am actually doing the things I'm supposed to do."
Coach Nowell, the new strength coach for MSU, has a new strength and conditioning system. What do you think about it?
"We are doing a lot of powerlifting. It is explosion and working on fast-twitch muscles. Football is not a lot of long distance stuff. It is high impact, quickness type things. That is why we are doing a lot of explosive lifts, things like power cleans. You can notice how dramatically it has changed. Everything we are doing is improving quickness and speed."
If he has tested your max on the bench and squat, what were your numbers?
"We did rep maxes. You choose a weight and do it so many reps. I squatted 465 ten times. I think that is equivalent to a 610 to 620 squat max. I can probably do 450 to 460 on the bench. The numbers might have been higher last year, but the form is better. When you squat, your butt is going to touch the floor. That is how he does them. There are no half-squats. It is a lot of flexibility type things."
Now that you have been around Coach Croom for a few months, what is your impression of him?
"He is a laid back kind of guy. He is more on a personal level with you. A hands-on people type person is the best way to describe him. He cares not only about you as a football player but also as a person. We have had people brought in to give seminars about issues that college football players are faced with. We've had them in the past but we are having them pretty much every week now. He just wants to make sure when we leave here we will be better men."
One of the things Coach Croom has mentioned is the fact that he would like to see more of the younger players living on campus. What has the reaction of the players been to that?
"It's not that big of a deal. It's just somewhere to live. You either live on campus or off campus. As far as something to argue about, it doesn't matter. He has the respect of the players. Whatever he says is, pretty much, what we believe in. If he believes that will help us win a football game I have full faith in him. There are 100 guys in there that will be right behind him."
What is it about Coach Croom that garners that kind of trust from people who have known him for just a few months?
"First of all I know he has been there. (Second) he wasn't a guy who came in using an axe. He came in and set certain guidelines and he was very straight-forward about it. There is just a sense of trust about him."
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.