Coach Croom - "I think we have enough leadership on this football team where no division will ever occur. There is no one individual or one unit on this team. The players have put too much in it and realize how close they are to being a good football team. We've talked about that from day one. We've never said we were going to be a great football team the first or second ball game. The thing I asked them to do back in training camp is try to get better every day and try to go into the season and get better each week. And I told them that at some point during this season we will be a good football team, but we have to pay attention to detail. We can't waste a practice or waste a game and we have to stay together as a team. That part comes first. We are all part of this."
How important to the improvement of this team would back to back wins be?
Coach Croom - "I think just improvement period is important. Improvement allows you to win. I don't think the winning comes first, then you improve. I think you have to improve to win. Then, I think it becomes more fun and you continue to do that. Now, you can say you have something to build on. Confidence comes from that. Confidence comes from doing something well over and over."
Talk about the importance of confidence when it comes to winning.
Coach Croom - "Confidence is a part of all of this, particularly when you have young players as we do have in the offensive unit. We have an experienced defensive group. They've been down the road before and have been through a lot of battles. They've had their disappointments and have fought back. I'm not worried about them hanging in there. The key for the younger guys on the offense is being strong enough in character to keep battling through until we become cohesive as a unit and start to function as we are capable of functioning."
Do you have an idea when this team will become that cohesive unit?
Coach Croom - "What I'm thinking is as we go into this thing we will get better. But we have to find a way to win as we get better. I still believe it can happen this year because we were very close in both of these ball games."
There are obvious aspects of this program that have improved, but some fans are disappointed because this team hasn't scored any points in the first two ball games. Some fans believe making changes in the offense might help?
Coach Croom - "I understand our fans want to see points. I really think the points were close. And they should have been there. My point is how do you get it corrected? You push through it. You don't start pulling everything apart and throwing everything away when you feel you are close to getting things done right. I've had one guy write me and tell me that I'm stubborn. I'm not stubborn. I look at everything everyday. I've even talked to other coaching friends of mine who have been through this type situation and can look at us from the outside in. I've very analytical about everything. You can't just constantly start over. Sometimes, you have to battle your way through things until it get better."
Do you believe it is ok for fans to be critical?
Coach Croom - "Fans have the right to have their opinions. But quite often they don't understand the situation. I think very few of them understood the situation this program was in. You didn't get into this situation overnight and you aren't going to get out of it overnight. One of the things that may have caused some of it is I may have been too optimistic going into this season, but that's just me. That's the way I am. I know we are much better athletically than we were last year."
There are several aspects to a program. One is obviously the players, two, the coaches, and, three, the fans. Where do each fit into a program?
"(The coaches) have to be together as a staff as far as how we are going to approach it. First, the philosophy of the program has to be established. Then, we have to go out and recruit players. And we have to coach players to do what we want them to do within the framework of the program's philosophy.
"The players job is being committed and willing to put aside their ego and do what coaches ask them to do. And do it the absolute best that they possible can. That's one of the things today that's a little more difficult to do than it used to be because everybody tells the players what to do and the players think they know what to do. That's one of the things that we've had to change here. We've had to make it very clear that we have certain expectations of the way we want to do things. It's not a democracy. This is what we are going to do and this is how we want you to do it.
"What I expect fans to do is support the program. I'll use the Green Bay Packers as a example of what I mean by supporting the program. We used to get criticized at Green Bay, but you never heard a person in Green Bay say you guys messed up. It was we messed up. With the fans, it was never about the Packers, it was us. To a man, it was never you guys, it was us. You could always accept the criticism because you knew where it came from. It came totally from the heart. We have a lot of fans here that are like that. We really do. They are for Mississippi State, bottom line. There is a core of our fans that that's the way it is. I really want to win for those fans. Some of them have been here 30 to 40 years. It didn't matter who the coaches were, they were here all the time. Whatever happens, they are here. Those are the loyal fans. I don't expect them to always agree with me. I don't expect them to always like me. But I expect them to be for Mississippi State now and forever."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.