Coach Croom's Press Conference

Coach Croom, during his Tuesday afternoon press conference, discussed Tulane, his first game as a head coach, and other things leading up to this weekend's game against Tulane.

"I am a little concerned about their speed on defense. I'm concerned about the explosiveness of their offense. They have receivers that can beat you on any given play. I'm glad the running back that they had last year is gone. That's not a knock on the one that they have coming back, but the one they had last year was pretty good. Jovon Jackson, this year's starter, will probably be just as effective. They seem to get quarterbacks every year. They lost last year's quarterback and now they have another guy (redshirt sophomore) Lester Ricard that came from LSU. He seems to be a very talented individual. I don't think their offense will skip a beat, so our defense will have a great challenge ahead of them. They also have a kid named Fred Smith who is an excellent punt returner. I'm very concerned about him. I'm real concerned about their secondary, not so much from a coverage standpoint - even though they are very talented in that area - but because they cause a lot of turnovers. Their secondary has a real knack for coming up with the football downfield. We'll have to do a great job of protecting the football."

MSU Football Captains, Travel Squad, Starting Lineup
"We'll announce our captains after (Tuesday's practice). I'll announce the captains to our players after practice. I want them to know before I announce it to the media. We'll announce our travel squad on Thursday. We'll announce our starting lineup on Saturday just in case something happens Friday night. But I think our players will pretty much know who is starting."

What do you do in practice to help prevent your players from turning the ball over?
"We don't believe in the ground causing a fumble rule. If they fumble the ball, they have to do the grass drill. With our backs we do a three-man monkey roll drill every day to help them protect the football. We run the blaster drill every day with our tight ends and wide receivers, trying to teach them to carry the ball properly. All of our coaches, when they see a ball carrier not carrying the ball properly, have been instructed to correct him immediately. Everything we have done from day 1 has been to protect the football."

How has Quinton Culberson done at safety?
"I think he has done well. We think he did very well in the last scrimmage. His technique was a lot better. He just needs to focus more. We expect he will eventually win the job at strong safety. We may play him some at free (safety) so that he can play both spots."

What is the situation with your quarterbacks?
"Right now, Omarr (Conner) is ahead. Kyle (York) has had some ups and downs with his shoulder because it is not 100%. Anytime you have shoulder surgery it takes time to get it back to normal. But, as time goes on into the season the trainers and doctors have told me that this will continue but they have assured me that the time in between will be more. Because of that, over the last couple of weeks, we have really intensified getting Mike Henig ready to go just in case."

Talk a little about your wide receiver rotation.
"Will Prosser and McKinley (Scott) have done well. Joey Sanders is back working out and is getting some things done. Jason Husband has healed up enough where he can get more repetitions than he got earlier. Brandon Wright is probably the only one who hasn't missed anytime. Keon Humphries is a freshman who has picked things up well.Those are our top 6 guys right now."

Talk more about Will Prosser.
"Will Prosser, from spring practice until now, has emerged as the consistent player who makes plays. That is the most impressive thing about him. He also has size which is something that I like. His hands are excellent and he can jump. He is a good blocker. He really does everything well. You would like for him to run a 4.3 forty, but he doesn't do that. I don't worry about what we don't have. We have to line up with what we have."

What do you expect from freshman linebacker Gabriel O'Neal?
"The first thing I want him to do is go down on the kickoff and make a tackle behind the 20 yard line. Gabe has been very impressive. He is a good athlete. All three of the freshmen linebackers, Titus Brown, Anthony Littlejohn, are going to be good players. We are going to dress Gabe and he will play this week and we expect him to be a factor on our defense as the season progresses."

Are you a little anxious going into the game?
" I am looking forward to the ballgame, but I'm not anxious. Even if we are not as efficient as I would like us to be, I know the system works. That I have no doubt about. And we won't change but continue to work on getting it better with our players. In that sense, I'm not anxious."

What will it take for you to continue to make your system better?
"To keep emphasizing the fundamentals of what we want to get done, who we want to be and what our identity is and continue to demand the little things. And to be discipline enough as a coaching staff to keep doing it over and over again until we get it right. As long as our players are working hard, I have to be patient with them until they understand what we want."

What would you tell the people who say the current MSU players aren't your players and you shouldn't be expected to win with another coach's players?
"I've heard people say they aren't my players, but they are my players. They are my players and I'm their coach. That's the way it is. We will go out and do the best we can. We will go out and try to win this football game this week. We are not going to concede any games to anybody, anywhere, anytime regardless of what situation we find ourselves in. I expect to win. I expect to win next week and I expect to win the week after next. Otherwise, it's not worth all the time you put into it."

What do you think about the idea of the maroon t-shirts being handed out to the MSU fans?
"I think it is great. Anything to create excitement and enthusiasm is a big plus for us. It was a great idea. What we want to do is get the fans involved. We want the fans to be a part of this thing. This is a family, a college game. We want everybody that loves Mississippi State to feel they are very much a part of this program, as much as coaches and players are."

What did you see on tape that scares you about Tulane's receivers?
"All of their receivers can run by you and they have a quarterback that can get them the football. Any one play they can score. It doesn't make any difference where they are on the field. If you have a mental lapse or mental breakdown, they can find it and hurt you."

Besides their secondary, what's your opinion of Tulane's defense?
"They have an experienced defensive line. That is another area we are concerned about. But what I don't see is what worries me. How are they going to prepare for us? He doesn't know what we are going to do. I don't know exactly how they are going to try to defend us based on things they think we are going to do."

Is this the biggest weekend of your life?
"Oh no, I've had a lot bigger weekends. When my daughter was born, when I got married. It's just a football game."

What about as a coach?
"It's just another football game. Everyone that you play is the biggest one of your life. Next week, that will be the biggest one of my life because that is the only one that you can do anything about."

Have you ever felt the way you are feeling right now?
"Every time we play the ballgame, everytime. You get nervous anticipation, excitement. You try to make sure you have covered every detail to be as totally prepared as you possibly can to give your players the absolutely best chance to win. The thing you want to do as a coach is make sure you don't leave anything untaught, uncovered that will come up and hurt you in the course of a ballgame. That is what we do as coaches."

What kind of pep talk do you think Coach Bryant and your dad would give to you prior to this game?
"Neither one was big on big speeches on the day of a contest. Coach Bryant was never a big pep talk guy in the dressing room. When you get there, there is nothing else left to say. If both of them were here, I know they would emphasize the importance of being totally prepared. Then, when you get there, do your best."

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

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