LB Coach Jim Tompkins Interview, 8-3-02

[Premium Article] Gene's Page interviewed Mississippi State linebacker coach Jim Tompkins after Saturday's practice. Coach Tompkins discussed his newcomers, this year's linebackers and the special teams.

Talk about the your new linebackers, Kenny Kern and Marvin Byrdsong.
"I just have Kenny Kern. Kenny Kern is going to be a good player. I felt like that all along. We were concerned at one time that he wouldn't be big enough, but he is about 228 now. He is athletic. I can see Kenny being a special teams player this year. He could start on special teams. I think he will tackle you and he is quick. He seems to have a good knack for football.

"We are playing Marvin outside. We feel like we need to play him outside, so he is playing (defensive) end."

Why did the coaching staff decide to move Marvin to defensive end?
"We've got Mario Haggan and TJ Mawhinny inside, so we felt like outside was where we needed him more. That is where we are going to play him this year."

You mentioned Kenny Kern will very likely play on the special teams. Talk a little about freshmen playing on special teams.
"If it is a freshman that can contribute on special teams and be a real factor, we will play him. And me may spot play him at his offensive or defensive position."

Coach Sherrill mentioned at SEC Media Days that he regreted not playing more freshmen on special teams last season. Do you feel more freshmen will play on special teams this season?
"I feel like we'll have three or four starting on the kickoff cover team. A few years ago, Barrin Simpson started on it and was a good player there. I see Kenny Kern being sort of a Barrin Simpson type. That is who I relate him to. He moves a lot like Barrin. He could be a player like Barrin for us." [Barrin was an All-American linebacker while at MSU.-Gene]

You have two veteran linebackers, Mario Haggan and TJ Mawhinny, who started during parts of last season. Coach Sherrill mentioned that you will play them at the same time.
"We have some looks where we can play both of them at the same time if we want to. We have done it in the past from time to time. Last year, in the Auburn game, we played two linebackers at the same time. We did that several times last year and also in the past. Because we have a lot of linebackers, that may be a bigger part of the package is what I think you are getting at."

With so many really good linebackers coming back, you have to feel your position is a strong point of this team.
"Gene, I feel real good. I think Mario and TJ will be as good as there is in the conference. I feel excellent about those two guys. I felt real good about Tarus Morgan last spring. I thought he was one of the most improved players on the team. He and Brandon Downing will be backup guys right now. Then Kenny Kern will be behind them."

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at

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