Q&A with Offensive Coordinator Woody McCorvey

Mississippi State offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey talked to Paul Jones about the overall progress of the offense during spring practice.

Q: What was your offensive focus of the spring?
Woody McCorvey: The big thing was to get Mike Henig solidified at quarterback with what we are asking him to do. Last year he proved down the stretch, particularly against Ole Miss, that he accomplished that and we felt good about what he can handle. We also felt good about our receivers that are already on campus with Omarr Conner, Keon Humphries and Lance Long. Then you have Joey Sanders and Will Prosser that have been around awhile. Now we have that depth we haven't had at receiver the past two years.

Q: Was there more stability with the offensive line this spring?
McCorvey: I think there was. We have Royce Blackledge at center and then got to move Brian Anderson back to inside at guard. He helped us at tackle last year but there were times when he was out-manned out there. Brian is better at guard. I thought (redshirt freshman) Craig Jenkins came along well at right tackle and proved he can play. Then at right tackle, Calvin Wilson has all the ability and potential in the world, but we need him to do it on a consistent basis. When J.D. Hamilton gets here (in the fall), we will rush him at left tackle and see how he handles it. We need for him and Calvin to compete hard at that spot.

Q: Who impressed you the most this spring?
McCorvey: I was really pleased with Dezmond Sherrod at tight end. He has proven, along with Eric Butler, that we can have two solid tight ends. And then Coach Grimes really maximized the work from the offensive line and proved that we can be pretty decent there and have some depth. But the most improved guy, without a doubt, was Mike Henig. From day one to the next to last scrimmage, he improved all the way. And at fullback, we are very solid with Bryson Davis and his backup Casey Rogers.

Q: What disappointed you the most in spring practice?
McCorvey: Probably our tailback situation. We know that Brandon Thornton can play but he wasn't there and then it was tough for Derek Ambrose to come off ACL knee surgery. He wasn't back at full speed this spring. We have to find someone to back up Thornton. It was good to pick up the Tulane running back (transfer Christian Ducre) because he's been in college football before. But we have to find another tailback or two. All our freshmen backs will get a good and early look. You have to be cautious with a guy like (high school signee) Anthony Dixon and make sure you don't ask too much of him right away. The big thing with freshmen backs is the pass protection, not so much with the new techniques but getting down your assignments with more blitzes and stuff like that. This is my 16th year in the SEC and I've seen a lot of great backs that early on in their careers, they didn't do that much real soon. You don't want them to have bad games or bad luck and then get down with their confidence for awhile.

Q: What were your strongest areas leaving spring practice?
McCorvey: I feel like with Butler and Sherrod at tight end we are very solid and also solid at fullback with Bryson Davis and Casey Rogers. We have to keep Mike Henig's progression going in the fall and pick up a backup in either (redshirt freshmen) (Tray) Rutland or Ty Evans. We have to get that down.

Q: Will Omarr figure at quarterback at any time?
McCorvey: Right now we don't want to use Omarr there so we can get Rutland or Evans behind Henig. We want to let Omarr get solidified at wide receiver. But there will be times that we could line Omarr up at quarterback. Omarr can throw the ball from the receiver position and also run the ball from that position. We will always look to get the ball in Omarr's hands next year any way we can.

Q: You talk about Henig's improvement. What was the biggest thing that stood out to you?
McCorvey: The main thing is his understanding of the offense. This is his third year in the offense. He got some work as a freshman and then got a lot of snaps last year in the offense. In the NFL, it sometimes takes quarterbacks three or four years to pick up the entire West Coast offense. We obviously have a cut-down version of the West Coast offense but there is still a lot to learn. But Mike's reads got so much better and he progressed well. Mike was effective in the running game getting plays to go where they were supposed to go. And we expect Mike to keep getting better.

Q: Will there by any newcomers that help on offense?
McCorvey: Well, naturally, the junior college guys will in Hamilton on the line and (Tony) Burks and (Ryan) Mason at receiver. It's hard to say with freshmen because you never know with freshmen, no matter how good they were in high school. You hate to even say any names but we will definitely be counting on Burks and Mason in our passing game.

Q: What was the major difference with the West Coast offense this spring compared to two previous years?
McCorvey: I think it's the meetings with the coaches and all that. We basically have the same coaches in the system. We lost (running backs coach) Stan Drayton two years ago but Reed Stringer, who had been here (as a graduate assistant), moved up. Then we lost (running backs coach) Freddie Kitchens to the NFL and Shane Beamer, who has been here at State and also coached offense at Georgia Tech, moved over. So all the coaches and now the players know all the terminology. All of us being on the same page definitely helped the players and us, too, as coaches. We know what the practice schedule is and the routine is down pat with everyone here. We are working well together now instead of still teaching the offense. That's the major difference.

Q: What are your expectations for the offense for the 2006 campaign?
McCorvey: I know we will be a lot better and I know everyone is looking forward and excited about the season. We don't have all the big names that other SEC teams can throw around. But we are more about being good as a team unit. We will move the ball better and get it around more than we have the last two years. The guys are taking the challenge of getting out of the SEC cellar, not just from a team standpoint but from an offensive standpoint. If we keep working hard and improving like we did in the spring, we will have a pretty good offensive team this fall.

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at pjones@cdispatch.com.

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