What do you feel you accomplished this spring and what are some things you still need to improve?
"From the standpoint of the staff, we wanted to try and identify players and where they fit in our scheme. And I think we have done that, although we still have some spots with some question marks. But we have identified some players who can play in this league and help us win. We have found out a lot about our scheme, but we don't have it totally together. We saw some things the players did well and some things they didn't execute well. We might have to look at some of those things and throw them out and add some more things. We did not get enough work on live goal line situations or on live blitz so that I could know completely what we are good at. We didn't get much of our redzone package in. Those are some things there that will require a lot of our attention in the fall. The spring is so short. We were having to go so fast with the installation that sometimes it became more assignment football than physical football. You don't ever want that. You want to coach technique and effort and not always assignments because you can lose some of your intensity. But it's difficult when you only have 15 practices."
After seeing them for those 15 practices, what do you feel is the strength of the defense?
"The strength of the defense, other than a little inconsistency, was our front four."
Do you mean just the starting four or also the depth behind them?
"Really the front four and the depth that we have behind them. There were a couple of days when (Ron) Fields couldn't practice and we still had some reasonably productive days. There are some players in that group that can be very solid players in this league. There are even some in there that can be difference-makers."
Who are the ones that you feel can be difference-makers?
"Ronald Fields had an outstanding spring. Corey Clark, as the spring went on, did well. As a redshirt freshman, I was surprised that he could step in and be that solid of a player that early. That was certainly a pleasant surprise. Another good young player is Deljuan (Robinson). He had an outstanding spring. Willie Evans was having an outstanding spring at the rover spot until he got hurt and missed about three or four days at the end."
How did Michael Heard do this spring?
"Michael improved a lot. I think from day one to the end of the spring he improved as much as anyone other than Corey Clark."
What do you think are your weaknesses on defense?
"We had some breakdowns in man coverage at times. I'm still not sure if we are good enough to challenge people in man coverage. We also have a very thin linebacker corps. We don't have a lot of depth there. I thought (the linebackers) got better during the spring and we found a couple of players who can make plays. But when you look at our six-deep at linebacker, we didn't develop the depth that we need in this league."
With the NCAA investigation drawing to a conclusion, how easier will that make recruiting this coming recruiting season?
"The main thing that happens in those situations, and it's human nature to do this, is the opposing recruiters can paint it any way they want to paint it. You can refute it as much as you want, but the unknown is the worst part of it. Unless you get some unbelievable penalty, it is the unknown during the period of an investigation that is the hardest to deal with in recruiting. And that is what we had to deal with (last) year. We told some players that we would probably have some sort of penalty. Whether there would be sanctions or not, we didn't know. But other people were painting it in a very serious light and making it out to be almost the death penalty. And young kids are impressionable. That part being over with has to be a positive factor even if there are penalties, at least penalties within reason."
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.