Freddie Kitchens: Excited to be an MSU Bulldog

It's been noted among college football coaches that relating to your players ranks very high on their priority lists.<P> And those coaches barely removed from actual playing days definitely have a slight advantage, as far as knowing their players and potential recruits.

First-year Mississippi State tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens falls into that mode, almost to perfection.

Just seven years since his quarterbacking days at Alabama, Kitchens is back in the Southeastern Conference ranks, this time as a coach on the sidelines.

But being a coach wasn't a dream of Kitchens while growing up. However, being involved in football was part of his future.

"Actually, I never even thought about being a coach when growing up as a player," said Kitchens. "And I didn't get the urge to coach until my playing days were finished. I just knew I wanted football to still be a part of my life and I'm fortunate, again, to be here with (Sylvester) Croom and at Mississippi State."

A former Mr. Football in the state of Alabama, Kitchens is hoping to use personal relations to instruct his new group of players in Starkville.

"No doubt playing football (recently) helps me in coaching," admitted Kitchens. "My memories of playing football are still fresh on my mind. I understand what players go through, with classes and their personal lives. But they are still expected to perform on the field.

"(His age) really helps me to relate to the players. And the advantages are the little things, like enjoying the same movies. Football is a people business so you better like the players you're coaching and recruiting. The better you know you players, the better off you are on the field."

Before arriving at Mississippi State, Kitchens produced an impressive resume in the Sun Belt Conference with three-time conference champ North Texas.

After playing in three bowls as the Tide's starting quarterback, Kitchens also had the luxury of playing in three more bowls as a coach. And he plans to instill that winning attitude at Mississippi State.

"I was very fortunate to win three championships at North Texas," said Kitchens, who was a graduate assistant at LSU before his three-year stint at North Texas. "And with that, I know what it takes to win and knowing what to put in here at State."

But entering a program coming off a 2-10 season has produced some ups and downs. Kitchens is proud to be a member of Croom's first staff in Starkville, but has already encountered a few bumps in the road.

"I think as a staff, we are looking forward to the challenge and up-hill battles," said Kitchens. "And we've already had some. But in the long haul, this staff knows what is in front and in the big picture. It may take a little time, but we will get it done at State. It just depends on how quickly the players respond...respond to us and respond to themselves."

Kitchens' toughest situation to tackle surrounded his decision to leave North Texas and return to his former conference.

And no, it had nothing to do with agreeing to join Croom's coaching staff. It was a newborn little girl (Bennett) and wife, Ginger, Kitchens had to leave for awhile.

But those problems have been resolved, with Kitchens' family recently joining him in Starkville.

"It was a tough situation," said Kitchens of his move to Starkville. "When I took the job, my girl was nine weeks old and the next time I got to see her on a daily basis was when she was six months old. I was able to see her a week at a time but not everyday. They grow up in a hurry and she's already changed so much during this week alone.

"It puts it into a different perspective when I can go home and see her there with her mother. It changes your whole attitude about life and really puts everything into perspective priorities in your life."

And heading into training camp, Kitchens is putting his tight ends rotation into perspective. Admitting he liked what he saw in spring practice, Kitchens believes his tight ends' collection has the skills yet not the experience.

Sophomore Blake Pettit exited the spring atop the depth chart, with redshirt freshmen Dezmond Sherrod and Eric Butler right behind. Butler missed all of the spring due to shoulder surgery.

With the youthfulness among his tight ends, Kitchens is excited about the future, along with the future development of walk-on senior Ty Freeman and true freshman Linzy Patterson, who underwent spring practice after enrolling full-time.

"With our tight ends, we've got a good combination of guys that can catch, block and run well," said Kitchens of Pettit, Sherrod and Butler. "And they've all added weight since the spring. I believe we have three guys that can play with anybody but they've never been tested. We have to see if they play like small puppies or like big dogs.

"But again, talent-wise, they are good enough to go against the best in the SEC. And they need to be because we're counting on them. We also have a couple of other guys that could figure into role positions. Ty Freeman can catch and roll out very well and I think Linzy Patterson will figure into our plans down the road."

And now that State's first official fall practice has come and gone, Kitchens has no regrets about his new address, which in many ways, is right where he feels at home.

"It was a no-brainer coming with Coach Croom," said Kitchens. "It was an opportunity to come back to the South and the SEC. When you get that call, it's just an opportunity you always look for in this field. I've been very lucky and fortunate in coaching and I've learned a lot from it."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at

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