Tuesday Press Conference Recap

Coach Sylvester Croom held his game-week press conference Tuesday, where questions ranged from increased utilization of halfback Jerious Norwood, to the matchup with Kentucky, to the chances of rotating quarterbacks or using a freshman cornerback at wide receiver.

Croom: "We're going to Kentucky and it's a chance to win our first SEC road game around here in some time. The big challenge for us this week is to get better and pay more attention to detail and eliminate the mistakes that caused us to lose the Houston game. After looking at the film I thought we had some people who played their best game of the year, guys like Brian Anderson, Bryson Davis, of course Jerious Norwood had a record-setting day, which we will make a personal reward of his game jersey at some point. And he was able to do that largely because our offensive line blocking in the run game was vastly improved. The blocking downfield by our wide receivers was much improved, particularly with Will Prosser and Joey Sanders. Eric Butler also had an outstanding performance. That's the encouraging part of it.

"We had missed opportunities, that was obvious particularly in the first half, to win the football game. But overall I thought our defense did a good job, we had some missed assignments that allowed them to get some big plays in the games. Those are things that are correctible, we're asking our players to really focus on the details and be disciplined to execute assignments as they are taught. If they do that we will be a better football team and have a chance to win."

Are there other playmakers than Norwood: "We define explosive plays as passes over 16 yards and runs over 12 yards. Right now he is the only one who has done that in the two seasons we've been here. Last year I think he had over 70% of what we call explosive plays. I haven't checked the percentage now but the ones we have I'm sure he's been involved. Right now where we are missing explosiveness is at the wide receiver positions. I don't think that's a secret. We have to improve our speed there. I'm pleased with the way Will Prosser and Joey Sanders are playing, but we do have to improve our speed for the future as far as getting our offense the explosion we need. It's obvious in our defense we've improved our speed there, and we're better on defense. Our overall team speed has to increase every year, that's where it begins."

About more work for Brandon Thornton: "Brandon Thornton is indicative of the kind of player and determination it takes to win. Brandon is a winning football player, he has excellent hands, he's a guy we like to get the ball to in space. He blocks well, he catches well, he doesn't miss assignments. He got where he is strictly because he worked at it. When he wasn't playing he wasn't complaining. He went to his coach and asked how can I get better? That's the difference between a winning attitude and a losing attitude. He has a winning attitude. Even in the days he wasn't playing a lot every time he touched the football he'd run 40, 50 yards downfield. He kept doing it until he started doing things right. That's the kind of attitude more of our players have to take, when things are not going right you just keep working through it and it will get better. He never lost confidence in himself and he earned the respect of his coaching staff and the rest of the team. Now he's one of those guys that we do try to get the football because we know he'll make the play."

Keith Andrew's situation: "Keith will probably not play this week. Adam Carlson will be our kickoff man and placekicker. He's got a lot of work in the course of the season in practice, he hasn't had a lot of game experience but he's going to get a lot this weekend. And we'll have a long talk about it probably after the game is over and I sure hope it's a positive conversation! But I have confidence Adam can get the job done, particularly now since he got that little knuckleball field goal in the other day. He shouldn't be as nervous now. He's also a very good punter, he's a rare guy that does it all. We can still go out to 35 (yards) with him."

Can this team rebound as last year's did after a painful loss? "No question the need is there. I thought practice was good yesterday, the guys came with the right attitude. There was a great disappointment and I felt many of them were really, really hurt by the loss. And that's the way it's supposed to be. With that attitude, if we come out and work and get better and go win. The only way you cure that sick feeling in your stomach from a loss like that is go win a football game.

"We'll have a tough job to do that because we're going on the road, we're playing Kentucky's Homecoming, and they're largely in the same situation we are in. they're trying to get things righted up there as well. We both have a lot on the line this ball game, and I think our players will respond in a positive manner."

Is there any thought of using Derek Pegues at receiver? "Well fans look at it and say that could happen. But the guy is playing corner, I mean the idea that a freshman player can line up and learn everything he has to learn at corner; then go over at wide receiver and learn all that, that's totally ridiculous. We tried to use him on some early plays and it was just taking too much work. We worked him over there at offense, back-and-forth, and it was just not working at practice. This is not South Panola now, this is the Southeastern Conference. We want to get him good at something first, and where he can help us the most is lined up to play corner because that is the guy who is going to have to do that, because that's the reason we signed him. Believe me, if we felt he could line up and help us win we would have moved him to wide receiver. I just don't see that. At some point we might consider that once he gets something down right."

Will Norwood be used the same ways as against Houston? "Yes, that's no secret we've got to get the ball to Jerious Norwood. On offense Jerious, Brandon Thornton, all of our tight ends make plays. That' not to exclude Joey and Will because the other day was the best route-running and pass-catching by those two guys we've had all season."

Is Keith Fitzhugh working at safety now? "That's to give us some insurance back there because as you all know Demario Bobo is not 100%. Day to day we don't know how far he can go, we wanted somebody else to learn the position and that's something we've talked about all along. We want Keith to learn that position, we've toyed with the idea of moving David Heard back there but Keith is very smart and having him able to play multiple positions is a plus for us."

Will State play taped noise at practice to prepare for a road game? "I've never worried too much about the crowd noise. All it does is usually does is give you a big migraine headache! I think things you don't make a big deal out of don't become a big deal. If you focus on the snap count, listen in the huddle… It's not going to quiet the crowd down any more, so you don't make a big deal of it and go play. But the best way to quiet the crowd noise is put points on the board."

Can Norwood play in the NFL? "There's no question he can play at the next level, the question is what is going to be asked of him, what team he's going to be with, what system he's going to be in, what's his role going to be. I don't think there's any question he'll have the opportunity to play or he'll make it, but it is going to have to be a defined role. I don't see him as a guy they hand the ball to 25-30 times a game."

Compare the situations of MSU and Kentucky. "Well, we're both on probation so have a lot of similarities there! I think that's something that sometimes we forget around here. They're a scholarship short, plus trying to rebuild a program they've probably got some people on scholarship that are not SEC-caliber players. I see they've got a lot of walk-ons on scholarships. It's very similar, we'd like to be at 85 scholarships and we're short four. I think we've got 74 guys that were recruited to play here, we added some walk-ons on scholarship, and we have another 6-7 who are probably not SEC players that are on scholarship. But as I've said before no use crying about it because nobody is going to feel sorry for you anyway. So we're going to battle and one of us is going to walk away happy while the other is still going to be fighting to try to find a way to win."

Kentucky's offense. "It's a little different, they do everything. They are two-back, two-tight ends and two receivers, one back and three wide receivers, one back and one tight end. They go empty sets, two backs, they do it all. Recognizing formations is going to be a key factor and making those adjustments. That' the biggest challenge we have with our defense, it's not physical it's mental. Making sure we don't void coverages like we did the other day. Those are the kind of things we have to eliminated. From a tackling, pass rush, and effort standpoint right now I'm pleased with where our defense is, particularly when I think to the way it was this time last year."

Is there a chance like last year Omarr Conner will start and you play Mike Henig for a series? "I.i.i.i.i…well, you know I try always to be perfectly honest with you any time you ask me a question. So I'm not going to answer that question!" (laughter in the room)

Why? (more laughter, Croom smiles) "I can't answer that question!"


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