Tuesday Press Conference Comments

Coach Sylvester Croom held the standard game-week press conference Tuesday to discuss Mississippi State's upcoming contest against Arkansas, as well as the health of the Bulldogs, the use of quarterback Omarr Conner at receiver, plans for tight end Eric Butler, and other items.

Opening comments: "We had a week off and it's good to play a game again, we're excited about making this trip. This will be my first trip to Arkansas, I've never been to Fayetteville or Little Rock so it will be a new experience for me as well as about 23 of our freshmen or redshirts. I feel like one of those freshmen this trip. It's the only venue I think in this conference I've never been to. It's also a great opportunity for us to compete with another SEC team on the road. I've said winning takes care of road games and home games, but it sure would be nice to win this one on the road so it won't be a topic any more."

"We're glad to have had the week off because we were pretty beat-up. There's several people who would have had a tough time playing last Saturday. Brian Anderson no question could not have played, and that would have been a serious problem. Losing another tackle would have been devastating. Bryson Davis would have been another one, and of course Michael Heard was out last week and probably this week. It's not 100% but pretty close, we definitely expect him back for the Ole Miss game.

Johnny Wadley is still having some problems with his knees and is probable not to play, he's practicing on a limited basis but Johnny has had knee problems through the course of his career and the degeneration has finally caught up with him. He'll probably have to have surgery after the season. Keith Andrews is still nicked up, a lot depends on his range and those type things, will he kick full-speed the rest of this week. We'll make a decision after today's practice if we go with him or not, we're not going to prolong that much longer." "Things are pretty set now. The only thing as far as a position change, we talked about this before, Omarr Conner will play a good deal at wide receiver this week. Again he's still our #2 quarterback but he will play a lot at wide receiver position as well."

How is Conner taking the change: "First thing, he is just a team player, willing to do anything and everything. I think if we lined him up at offensive line he'd probably try it. But what he brings is a consistency catching the ball, he's caught it extremely well in practice. He has those hands like catcher's mitts anyway, they're pretty big. We want guys that can make plays. He still doesn't bring the speed that we would like and are looking for in our recruiting this year, but right now we just need guys that when the ball gets anywhere close will come down with the football. Joey Sanders and Will Prosser were just about to get to that point and were making plays when they had the opportunity to do so, and they've been plagued by injuries ever since. We go into the Alabama game with a marginal receiving corps further limited by the loss of those two guys. It pretty much just put our passing game on hold."

The decision to play the #2 quarterback elsewhere: "It is a risk. But it's a risk we have to take. To give us the best chance to win we don't have a choice, we have to do this. That's why we were very judicious making that decision. Because not only did we have to be sure Mike Henig could handle it at quarterback starting, because coming off the bench is one thing and starting the game a totally different matter…I've seen a lot of guys in the NFL come off the bench and boy, they look great, but give them the first play and see how well they do. But I think Mike handled things pretty well the Alabama game, it doesn't get much tougher than that. Then it's a simple decision. Omarr brings too much to this team to be sitting on the bench four quarters or playing one series. We've got to get him out there somewhere regardless of the risk. If it happens we deal with it and we move on. I don't think a whole lot else could happen that's any worse than what we've already been through."

Difficulties winning on the road in college football: "That's amazing to me because it's been the other way for me everywhere I've been. It's always been easier to win on the road. The reason I thought was because there are fewer distractions. That's been my experience. And you go into the game with a ‘us against the world' mentality because you know nobody up there is going to be pulling for you. I've always thought it brought you closer together, you focused more on the game and learned better. There are far more distractions at home than on the road. So all that stuff about road games, I think it's usually guys that don't win on the road aren't winning very well at home, either. It's usually a two-way process, sometimes it's not but it's been my experience. But good teams it doesn't make any difference, you can play in the parking lot and still win. When you're not very good it doesn't make any difference, you probably still got beat."

How opponents are defending Eric Butler: "They're using what we call a ‘bronco' technique where they put a guy right on top of his head and grab his facemask, his jersey, anything else they can grab hold to. And it does not get called, that's the way it's being played now. People don't call it so we've got an answer for it and we're going to use it this week. (In practice) we've told our (scout) defense to grab anything they can get and he'd better not complain. Wide receivers, tight ends, everybody, we're grabbing anything in practice. I just hope we don't get anybody hurt becuase we're going to beat them up in practice this week because it's not going to be called on Saturday. We're not going to complain to officials because that's just the way the game is being played. We're going to fight fire with fire."

On Dezmond Sherrod's progress: "Dezmond is a team player. He's one of the most intense competitors we have on this team. He came to my office early in the season, one of the few times because you never have to call him in. He wasn't getting a lot of playing time because he catching the ball well and we weren't throwing him the football, intentionally. He came in and apologized for that, had tears, and said Coach I know I can help us be a better football team. I told him no question you're one of the few I've got total confidence in, we went back out and ignored the patterns and kept throwing him the ball. Now he's catching the ball pretty decent. The reason I brought it up is because he came in not complaining but just wanting to contribute and to know what it took for him to get better."

On Chris McNeil's senior play: "Chris has improved a tremendous amount over the year. He's been a solid performance most every game this year, really he's the only starter we had coming back this year that's in his normal position. That's given us some stability in there with line calls and he's definitely a better player than he was last year."

On Quinton Culberson: "No question he's done an excellent job, and he's still got room for improvement. A lot of room for improvement. Just his ‘striking' position needs to be better, he needs to get his hips under the ball when he tackles. He's making a lot of plays but he's still missing a few too many tackles because of his approach angles. But he's always around the football, putting him in the middle allows him to get to the football more. The only thing I was hoping, that he might pick off a few more (passes) than what he has because I'd like to get the ball in his hands. Because he can definitely do some things with it. And he's had some chances, we've got to get him a little more disciplined in coverage. But it's been a very positive move for us and a very positive move for him if he finishes this year strong and has another big year. I think it's going to be very positive for him in the long run."

On Arkansas freshman RB Darren McFadden: "Well at running back if you can, you can, and if you can't, you can't. this guy can, he's got speed, he's got size. We think this is the best guy we've seen all year. They've got another guy behind him, Felix Jones, who is no slouch in his own right. And now all of a sudden they've got a freshman quarterback making plays (Casey Dick). The second half in the Ole Miss game I think the guy could have put a blindfold on and would have thrown a touchdown. So you've got three freshmen back there who can make plays, they're going to be tough this week and my gosh, what the heck are they going to do next year? It's unbelievable the potential they have there.

"It's going to be a great challenge for us, and it still starts with stopping their running game. I don't care how many passes they completed in that second half, if you don't stop the run they're not going to have to pass."

Playing a freshman quarterback: "You know I'm not going to comment on strategy! We're going to do whatever it takes. First of all we've got to stop the run, second do everything to give us an advantage defending the pass."

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