Post-practice Football Interviews

Several Mississippi State football coaches and players talked about various things going on with training camp practices.

Defensive line coach Brick Haley on freshman walk-on defensive lineman Solomon Ona.

What are your impressions of freshman walk-on defensive lineman Solomon Ona after watching him practice for a few days?
"He was late getting in here, but he has done a good job. He is better than we expected. When you get a walk-on like that, everyone of them are a plus. And he has been a big plus for us. He's done some good things out here for us. He has given us added depth at our position. He has to keep working because he has a long way to go."

Wide receiver coach Guy Holliday talks about his wide receivers.

Talk a little about your two freshmen, Keon Humphries and Jonathan Lowe.
"I think Keon Humphries has the natural ability that we felt he had when we recruited him. He's having a good camp. It's all about learning the system. I think that both Jonathan (Lowe) and Keon will play this year. I think both will play this year as receivers, particularly Keon."

How have some of your other receivers done this training camp?
"On the positive side, Will Prosser has probably had the best camp since I've been here. He's done a tremendous job. If we had to go out today, Will Prosser would be one of my starters."

Who are your starters?
"It depends on how you practiced the day before. You are only as good as your last day. Today (Saturday), Brandon Wright and Will Prosser were the best."

How well has Brandon Wright done this camp?
"He's had an excellent camp. He's done well."

Did last year's redshirt year really help him?
"I think it helped him mature. And sometimes you don't appreciate something until it is taken away from you."

Tight end Jeremy Jones. Jones is a surprise signee who was originally headed to LSU.

How did you wind up signing with State after agreeing to go to LSU?
"I took a side backs test for my (injured) knee. (LSU's doctor) said it was at 60%. So my mom took it upon herself to have the same test taken somewhere else and it turned out to be 90%.

"All in all, this was where I was supposed to be. My mom and pop wanted me here. It's like home away from home."

Was the lure of the LSU national championship that LSU won last year the reason you originially chose them?
"No, it wasn't the national championship. Who is to say they would win it if I was there. Basically, I was just listening to my high school coach (about attending LSU). I played football for one year and he came into my life during that year. You listen to your coach."

Cornerbacks coach Shane Beamer

Talk about Quinton Culberson's recent move from cornerback to strong safety.
"We talked about it as a staff and felt it was something that we needed to look at. We aren't sure that it is permanent right now. It's just something that we wanted to do because we wanted to get Quinton some work over there. While he's a good corner, he could be a great safety. We wanted him to get some work at safety in case of an emergency. This move also relieves the wear and tear on his foot due to all the cut and change of directions that he has to do at corner. Coming off his injury, he got a little stiff at practice.

"Plus, we are thin at the safety position. Ellis (Johnson) has 8 guys at safety, but only three had ever played safety here prior to the first day of practice. Our concern was what would happen if one of those safeties went down with an injury. Quinton was the next best guy to move to safety. And with the way some of the other corners are playing, we were able to try him at safety. We wouldn't have moved him over there if some of these other young guys hadn't stepped up and done a good job in preseason camp."

What was Quinton's reaction to moving to safety?
"He was great about it. He is a team player. I was really proud of him. He was excited about it. Quinton is a guy that wants to be in the action, hit and make plays. He had been at corner and I don't think he was involved in the action as much as he wanted. At strong safety, he is doing all kind of things to be in the action."

Talk about your other corners and how they have done during training camp.
"Kevin Dockery has been everything I expected and more. He had an unbelievable spring and an even better preseason as far as being a leader, hustling to the ball and his cover skills. He's the best corner (that MSU has), without a doubt. He's a natural corner. He's not as tall as you may want him to be, but as far as instinct, football savvy and quickness, he's what you are looking for.

"David Heard has been a great surprise. In the spring, he didn't play a lot because he wasn't allowed to have full contact, He's had a really good preseason, so far. He keeps getting better everyday. He's currently working at first-team right corner. I consider he, Dockery and Culberson my three top guys right now.

"(Walk-on) Jamaal Johnson has been a big surprise. He also had a good spring. He has great cover skills. I think he has a chance to play for us, although he has to keep developing. While he's not a big guy (5-foot-9), he's tough. He's not afraid to go in there and hit.

"(Brian) Staley and (Mario) Bobo are getting better each and every day. They weren't here this summer with the rest of the team so they aren't where they need to be and have to continue to get into football shape. They are both guys that we are counting on this year."

What is it that makes Staley such a great cornerback? I've noticed that he has great hands, but what else is it about him?
"That's a good observation. He does have great hands. Wherever I throw the ball, he catches it. He has football instincts. He has a burst to go get the ball when it is thrown. The thing with him is he has to turn some of his fat into muscle. He's only about 180 to 185, which is ok, but he needs to get in better shape. And he knows that."

Where does Bobo and Staley fit on the depth chart?
"Right now, I consider Heard number 1 and Bobo and Staley 1a? I feel pretty good about all three of them."

What do you like about Bobo?
"He has great speed and can run like a deer. He can close on receivers. He also wants to learn and has a great attitude. He has great size and long arms. He can get up on the line and press the guys at the line of scrimmage. He just needs to continue working on his man-to-man cover skills."

You have one other guy, freshman Corey Spells, who is injured. Do you know when he will be able to play?
"His injury is a four to six week rehab. When you talk about playing corner, you are probably talking more about five or six weeks. Once he is cleared to practice, he still has to knock the rust off and get back into football shape. We feel like he can help us this year if he is healthy."

Wide receiver Brandon Wright

Coach Holliday has said some really nice things about you this camp. Are MSU fans about to see the Brandon Wright from your high school days?
"I guess so. I have my head on straight after my redshirt year. I saw that I was going to have to work hard. College is not like high school where you can just run past everybody. You have to work, study your routes, study your plays and know the entire concept of each play."

Have you gotten stronger since your true freshman year?
"Yeah, (Strength) Coach Nowell has been working us hard all spring and all summer."

What part of your game do you need to improve?
"I need to catch the ball everyday. You can never stop working on your hands. You can never have too good of hands."

Freshman walk-on quarterback T. J. Swanson

What schools recruited you?
"I was recruited by a couple of 1-AA teams and Division-III schools."

Talk a little about your playing background and how you wound up at Mississippi State?
"As a sophomore in high school, I was brought up to play varsity. Another guy and and I shared time playing (quarterback). My junior year the coach decided to start the senior and put me on defense to play safety. So, I didn't play quarterback at all my junior year. During the summer between my junior and senior year I went to a lot of camps as a quarterback. Then, my senior year I had a tremendous season but I really didn't get many tapes sent out to colleges. My coach sent tapes out to a few local schools, but not to many others.

"Luckily, one of the coaches that I went to a camp with over the summer was Mike Sims. He had done an internship with the Indianapolis Colts and had a lot of connections with a lot of schools. He started getting my tape out to see if anybody had a spot open for a quarterback. I started receiving some looks that way. Then, Warren Bell, an uncle of a friend of mine, sent my tape to Mississippi State. They were interested but didn't have any scholarships available. I came down to their campus (for an unofficial visit). They said they would have definitely recruited me if they had seen my tape earlier. They invited me to be a recruited walk-on and come to their training camp. I wanted to shoot high and see how I could do in Division-1. I'm going to give it this first year and see how I do."

Quarterback coach Woody McCorvey

How have the quarterbacks done during training camp?
"With all the different looks that we are seeing in the passing game, we have to see all the coverage and react to it and get the ball to the spots where we are trying to get it to, particularly in the third down situations. That's where Omarr (Conner) is needing the most help right now. While we are getting a lot of looks (in practice), we won't get as many looks in a ballgame, so it should be better. But I'm really pleased with how far he has come. Really, he's a freshman at quarterback because he hasn't played quarterback in college.

"Kyle York really understands the offense and knows what we are trying to accomplish on every play. The biggest thing with him is we are limiting his number of throws so that we will make sure we can get him ready for the season. He has had some soreness in his arm, but we are working through that. With his experience, we need both he and Omarr.

"Aries (Nelson), from the standpoint of dependability, did a really good job over the summer. The strength coaches have talked about how hard he worked. And it is showing. He is stronger and he has changed the look of his body. His agility is even better. The thing with him is with the five-step drop work that we are doing he has a tendency to drop the ball. He has to keep it up. We are working with him on that every day.

"Michael Henig has done a good job in terms of understanding the offense. I'm also really pleased with the arm strength that he has. The main thing with him is the speed of the game from high school to college. His tempo needs to pick up."

You have two walk-on freshmen quarterbacks, Riley Morris and T.J. Swanson. What are your impressions of them?
"Both of them are good kids who you can see have come out of good high school programs. But they haven't been able to get a lot of (team and practice) reps because we are trying to help the older guys understand the offense a little better by giving them most of the reps."

Since they aren't getting many reps right now, when do they get the chance to show their ability?
"Other places that I have been the defensive coaches tell me who did good on the scout team. Then, you can go back and look at the tape and see the type job that they did. That's where they and Michael Hening can learn the speed of the game because when they go over to the scout field and serve as a look team for the defense, they are seeing the best players and best speed that you have."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by email at

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