Now that you are a junior, are you trying to take more of a leadership role this year?
"Yeah, I'm trying to take more of a leadership role and help everybody get in their spots on the defense. It's my time to step up and be a leader."
What are your thoughts about the new defense?
"It is not complicated and everything ties in together. It won't be too hard to learn. Last year, the system was very complicated and a lot of things tied in together, but everybody didn't understand a lot of the terminology. They threw it in so fast, it was kind of crazy. This year, they are taking it at a slower pace. Everybody is picking up on it well."
Individually, how is the new defense different for you?
"Last year, I played outside linebacker. Free safety is where I want to be. That is where I feel comfortable and where I know I can make plays."
Coach Croom is obviously a strict disciplinarian. Are the players adjusting to that?
"The big thing with the players this year is they know it is time to do it. We have been 3 and 9 and 2 and 10 the last couple of years. Some of the players have not gone to class like they should and now realize that doesn't work. (Coach Croom) stresses that what you do off the field carries onto the field. Everybody is now trying to get their lives straight because they believe it will carry onto the field as well."
Are you personally comfortable with his type discipline?
"I have always believed in doing the right thing because I have to live by my actions. It's my name."
Coach Croom is also a stickler for detail because he feels doing the little things can add up to big things?
"Last year, I think some of the little details were overlooked. We now realize the little things are what really matter. If you get too many of the little things wrongs, it will turn into a big problem."
What do you think about strength coach Jim Nowell's strength and conditioning program? "We are doing a lot of explosive type lifts. Just with the little time I've spent on it, I can tell I've gotten stronger and have gained weight. He makes us work hard, but, at the same time, we have fun with it."
Is Coach Nowell similar to Coach Croom in the way he wants things done?
"The entire coaching staff is stressing discipline. You have to be disciplined. If you are not doing what they ask you to do, then, when we get on the field on Saturday, they can't depend on us doing the right thing."
Everybody wants to believe this team will be better. But, truthfully, have you seen some things that really makes you believe you guys will be a better team next year?
"I have seen a lot, but the most important thing I have seen is the team is coming together."
But players say that all the time.
"Yeah, but this year I definitely see it. We are together at Shira, off the field. It is like we are forming a brotherhood."
Is that something that you haven't seen in the past?
"Absolutely. I have never seen it. Players came to the fieldhouse and after that, went their own way. Everybody is forming a partnership, hanging out together and doing the right things. When you aren't doing the right thing, you aren't just hurting yourself, but you are hurting your teammates and our program. We are trying to turn this program around. From the coaches standpoint, if you don't want to help the Bulldogs, then we don't need you here."
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.