Tuesday Practice Update

Coaches Croom, Kitchens, Haley and several of the players talked about how practice is going, where they feel they are at this time and whether they are about ready to face their first opponent, Tulane.

Coach Sylvester Croom

Talk about today's practice.
"I thought that we worked hard today. We had a lot of contact in our half-line drills and nine on seven. But I'll have to look at the film because I was running all over the field today due to it being our first day of full, organize practice like we are going to do.

"Some of our guys who aren't on the first unit haven't quite learned how to work when they aren't going ones versus ones and twos versus twos. We have to learn how to work when we are preparing for other teams. That is what this week is about as much as anything else.

"Some guys stepped up. Number 24, Kentrell Brooks, our little Pit Bull, stepped up. He showed a lot in Monday's scrimmage and we moved him up and had him working with the first unit some. He is the third guy behind Fred Reid and Jerious Norwood."

What did you like about Kentrel?
"He gained yards and made plays, that is the bottom line. That is what it really comes down to. He had one play that should have been a three-yard loss and he turned it into a 23-yard gain and broke about 5 tackles. That's just great intensity and effort. I told him today that I hope he's not a one-hit wonder and he assured me he won't be. By the same token, I think we have some competition going. Rickey Wright, who had a good day today, said he's not going to let him have that job. I think we can have some fun with friendly competition there."

What is Aries Nelson's situation?
"As far as I know, I don't know anymore than what we put in our official statement. We met with him last night. I met with him for about 30 to 40 minutes and Woody (McCorvey) talked with him. All he would tell me is he had to leave Starkville. I talked with his guardian today. She wasn't aware that he had left school. As best I can gather from talking to her, he was disappointed with the amount of playing time that he got during the scrimmage. Basically, if that is why he left, we wish him well. If he is afraid of competition, then this is not the place for him because you are going to have competition. We are going to move guys up and down the depth chart based on how they perform. I'm disappointed because I haven't done a good job of teaching guys how to accept challenges and deal with situation and not to quit on themselves and the situations. I hope our players will learn just because things don't go the way they want them to, that doesn't mean they have to stay there. They have to learn to compete, to fight and to keep showing up and fighting through difficult times."

What did Aries struggle with?
"To be very honest with you, as I told him, I thought he was doing well enough. The last few days, his release had gotten a little shaky as far as his delivery. But I was pleased with how much he had improved during the course of the spring. Unknown to him, we really wanted to and intended to redshirt Mike Henig. But he didn't know that. And now we know exactly how he is thinking."

You appear to be getting more animated each day in practice. Is that normal for you as you get closer to gametime?
"It's time to play football now, man. It's time to play football. It's football season. Don't get in my way, now. (laugh). I wish I still had the ability, but I don't. But I still have the fire in my gut. When I lose that, I'm going home."

Do you feel your team is about where you want it to be at this time?
"I think we will be ready to play the game. We will know what we are doing. We will have covered all of the situations. That is the main thing from a coaching standpoint. I want to make sure we have covered everything that we can do as coaches to help them play and give them a chance to win. I think we are right on schedule with that. We are going to scrimmage Thursday, then we are going to devote about twice the time we normally devote to kicking Friday. Then, we will give them the weekend off and come back and get ready for Tulane."

Tight Ends Coach Freddie Kitchens

Talk about how your tight ends performed during last Saturday's scrimmage.
"I think we performed decent in the scrimmage. I don't think we performed well enough to win, but it's not time to play. We have almost two weeks. Hopefully, we will be playing well enough to win by next week.

"Dezmond Sherrod, Eric Butler, Blake Pettit and Ty Freeman have all played well at times. I told them the other day that we have four guys who can start. We have two or three different tight end spots in this offense and the tight end is a big part of this offense. They need to know both (tight end) positions when we go with our second tight end in the game at the same time. "

They seem to really be able to take a hit after they caught the ball during Saturday's scrimmage. Did that impressed you about Eric and Dezmond?
"Definitely. Tight ends have to be able to do that. They have to be able to catch the tough balls in tough places. You also have to be able to run with the ball after you catch it. And I was pleased with that part of their game. The things I was most displeased about was that we had a total of five drops in that scrimmage. I think Eric had three and Dezmond had two. Tight ends can't drop passes."

Do you think their drops was nothing more than lack of concentration on their part?
"It could be several different things. As far as their situation Saturday, I think a little bit was concentration and a little bit was technique. A lot of people think you just catch the ball, but there is a certain way you are supposed to catch the ball. If you use bad technique that just makes it more difficult."

What has been your impression of freshman Jeremy Jones?
"Jeremy is a young but talented, gifted player. He is going to be a good player in the future."

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Joey Sanders

What is your injury?
"Sprain hamstring."

Do you feel like you are 100% healthy?
"Not really. I think I'm about 85%. I tried to come back a little early. I've got a little wrap band on but it kind of slows me down. It was the first time I wore it, so I've got to get used to it."

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jason Husband

What is your injury?
"Strained groin."

How did they determine you were able to come out and play?
"I did a couple of sprints and it felt good. Now, it is getting back to being tight and sore and keeps nagging."

Did it bother you today?
"Yeah, it affected my cuts and sprints."

True freshman quarterback Michael Henig

With Aries Nelson gone, you now are the third-team quarterback. That has to be a little exciting.
"Yes sir. Just to have the opportunity is exciting. To see him leave is not the way I wanted it. But if that is the way it happened, then that is the way that it was supposed to play out. Maybe he will find a place that is better for him."

Did you know that you were going to be redshirted?
"I don't even know if I am now. They haven't told me."

How difficult has it been for you going from being a one-year starter in high school to playing for a school that is using one of the most difficult offenses to learn?
"At first, it was overwhelming. But once you get out of the playbook and get out on the field and do it over and over, it starts sticking in your head. It's a hard concept to get down, but, so far, I have."

When did it get to the point where it wasn't overwhelming?
"When we started watching film. I think a major part was my coming up here this summer in the second semester and looking over the playbook."

Have Coach Croom and Coach McCorvey told you the things they like about you and the things you still need to work on?
"They like my arm strength. They said I have made some good decisions once I learned the offense. They said that I have to learn my drops and learn some of the reads."

You are about 5-11 to 6-0 tall. Does that affect your play in any way?
"It doesn't really affect me. Basically, if you get your drops down and throw over the top, then you are alright."

You mentioned drops. In this offense are your drops just two or three steps?
"You have a three-step drop, a five-step drop and in some cases a seven-step drop."

What drop did you normally do in high school?
"When I was in high school we did the shotgun, so we did a lot of three-step drops. Now, that I'm under center, we do five-steps."

Has that been a tough adjustment for you?
"No, the drops are basically the same. Really, learning the reads after your drop is the toughest part."

Redshirt freshman defensive end Avery Hannibal

You moved to defensive end. Is that more of a natural position for you?
"Yes sir, because I have been used to playing the line the whole time. When they moved me to linebacker, that got me a little confused. When they moved me to defensive end, I was able to pick up things a whole lot faster and move like I used to."

Defensive line coach Brick Haley

How is Avery Hannibal doing at defensive end?
"He is doing real good. I think he is a little more comfortable there. He hasn't gotten the reps that he would like, but I think he is catching on to the system very well. I think he will be a guy that we can depend on and that we will be able to get some snaps out of this season."

Do you think you have finally found the right position for him?
"We are still working on that, although we think he is a fit for that spot right now. Until he proves us wrong, we are going to leave him there and see if he can grow into being a good rush end for us."

With Avery, Mike Heard and Rob Walker doing well, do you feel your depth is solid at defensive end?
"I think we are getting a little bit better, but you always want that one more. What we have to do now is build depth through repetitions. Every guy has to be able to get enough reps so that they can be good at what they need to do."

Do you think your defensive line is ready for the first game?
"We always say the hay is never in the barn. We have to keep working, but I think they are coming along very well. We just have to stay on top of things and hope that we don't get any injuries."

Talking about injuries, how close is Deljuan Robinson to being able to practice again?
"I think he is a day or two away. He is doing ok, but I may hold him back a little more myself."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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