Have you ever been out to Oregon before?
"Know, I've never been out that far. I'm pretty excited about the trip."
You've had a pretty good preseason. Talk about where you have improved.
"I have improved a lot. I think my biggest problem was trying to get the plays down. That is what I am working on now. I got a lot of work with the first offense."
How close are you to getting all the plays down?
"I think I definitely have them down. I'm just making very minor, little mistakes now, but that is basically because of the calls. I will get that worked out by gametime."
Who are you backing up right now?
"I'm backing up Michael Allen."
Have they told you that you would play during the Oregon game?
"Yeah, they told me to expect a lot."
Have you seen much game film of Oregon?
"Yeah, their defensive line basically tries to stay and hold their ground in the middle and take on double teams just about every play. We have to get them moved out of there. That is the main thing we have to work on."
RECEIVER JUSTIN JENKINS
Oregon likes to put the ball in the air, but Mississippi State does to.
"They put their cornerbacks out on an island. We feel that is an advantage to us because we have gone against a lot of good corners. The corners they have this year will be first-time starters."
Have you seen much game film of Oregon? If so, what is your opinion of their defense?
"Oregon is a good football team. They are not real big or real physical, but they are fast and they want to play and they want to win. That is the things we are used to because we go to Auburn and Florida and they play fast on defense. We feel like if we can get the upper edge early, we can kind of shut them up (their fans) a little bit and go from there."
Talk a little more about their speed in the secondary and the MSU wide receiver team speed.
"Like Coach Sherrill said earlier, they have a lot of speed, but we have a lot of team speed, too. This is like the fastest this team has ever been as far as skill positions. I feel like we match up very well with their cornerbacks in their secondary. We might even be a little faster because we have six or seven guys who run 4.4 or better. I'm sure that will match up with them very well."
It is supposed to be a very loud place.
"Yeah, we have been practicing with the speakers in practice trying to get used to the noise. Since we are used to the cowbells, I don't think it will be that big of an adjustment to get used to their quackers." (Quackers are the artificial noisemakers the Oregon fans use.-Gene).
Talk about the two true freshmen wide receivers, Tee Milons and Brandon Wright.
"They are making much quicker progress than I did and a lot of other guys did as freshmen. I feel like they are going to help this team out a lot. They listen and are very attentive."
Does this team feel like they have some amends to make after last season?
"Definitely. Anytime you come off a 3-8 season like we did, you have to come out and prove something. Going against a team like Oregon, especially on the road, will be a big positive for this team. All we have to do is go out there and play well and prove to the folks around the nation that we are back and we are not like we were last year."
How is Kevin Fant doing?
"Kevin is doing well. You can tell he is more in control of the offense. He did real well at the end of the season last year, but I think he feels he is more in the role of being the man. A lot of people look at Eli Manning and other quarterbacks like that, but we think Kevin Fant can run this program as well as anybody else can run theirs."
How is his arm?
"He can still get it there. He has no problem getting it there. He still is throwing his routine and trick plays. Kevin is going to be Kevin."
Does it bother you that he isn't getting the publicity some of the other quarterbacks in the SEC are getting even though he did better than any of the other quarterbacks in the SEC other than Rex Grossman at the end of last season?
"No, it doesn't bother us at all. And I'm sure it doesn't bother him because he is such a humble person. He knows that publicity will come when you win. We went 3-8 last season. You don't deserve any publicity when you have that kind of record."
Where is the confidence level of the receiving corps?
"We are kind of confident for some reason. Last year, we have an ok season, but this year we are hoping to have a better season, no doubt. I feel like we have a lot of guys who can contribute. We have a lot of athletes and big names in our group."
Is this as deep a receiver unit as you have seen since you have been here?
"Yes, it is deep and talented. We have three guys who can start for us now and we have other guys who are ready to come off the bench and contribute anytime during the game. The competition level is very high. When you have that kind of depth, there is no reason you should drop passes and lose games because of the wide receiver corps."
LINEBACKER MARIO HAGGAN
Who in the SEC reminds you of Onterrio Smith?
"I think he has a different running style in the SEC, but if there is anybody in the SEC that is close to him it might be Fred Tally from Arkansas. Both of them have a little attitude when they are about to get hit. They try to drop their head and get that extra yard. He will be a tough guy to play against and I look forward to it."
Talk about playing Oregon.
"Since the BCS has arrived in college ball, you have to get tougher people on your schedule if you want to contend for a national title. Oregon is a great start for this team. I think it is a great challenge for our team. Many people will be watching. Hopefully, we will go out and do the necessary things to win a ballgame."
Are there any guys who play the video games who can see what Oregon has?
"I don't think the video games will tell you anything because they have a lot of glitches in them. I do know that on Saturday the Bulldogs will be ready and by 8 o'clock we hope to be drinking some beer and smoking some cigars (laugh)."
Since Oregon is known as a hostile place to play, how will you help the freshmen - 19 of the 80 players traveling will be freshmen - prepare for the game?
"First of all, we just have to alert them of what is going on. No one knows how it will be since no one on our team has played in Oregon. Since we have had the experience with Florida and LSU, we can go in and tell them to focus in on what we have to do. We aren't there for the fans or the crowd noise. We are going out there to beat the Oregon Ducks."
Coach Sherrill said they will keep 8 players in to block for the quarterback. It will be tough on a team to beat that pass protection and get to the quarterback.
"Yeah, they do a lot of slide protection, keeping eight guys in to block. They have a lot of two receiver routes because they have some great receivers who can go up and catch the football. They run good routes and get open. What we have to do is try and put a lot of pressure on their quarterback and get his timing off so he will throw some bad passes. If he does, hopefully, we can go up and get a couple of them. In Onterrio Smith, they have a guy who is a great running back who has shown flashes of brilliance."
Does it help the MSU defense to go up against four great running backs in practice?
"Their guy is about as big as Justin Griffith and about as shifty as Nick Turner. You have two in one with him. We don't have any fear in our hearts, but we know what he can do. As for me, I'm ready to go out there and face him."
This is what you came to college football for, isn't it?
"I live for the big games. I live for the big name players. You have to beat the best to be the best."
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN KAHLIL NASH
What are some things you have noticed about the Oregon offense?
"They do a lot of spreading out and trapping. They are really good at running the ball and pretty good at passing the ball. We are in the SEC, so it will be a little different."
How difficult is it to prepare for a quarterback that you haven't seen before?
"They had a Heisman candidate that ran their offense last year so it will be new for their quarterback, too. I hope it will be hard for him because we are going to bring that pressure."
There will be Pac-10 officials in this game. Does that worry you?
"We don't get any calls anyway. We don't expect any calls. We will go out there and play against them and the refs."
How do you feel you match up against their offensive line?
"I think we will do pretty well. They have three returning starters and two new tackles. I don't think they think we are any good."
What are you reading about what they think about Mississippi State as a team?
"From what they have been saying on the radio, tv and articles, they think we are the weakest one in our conference, kind of like a Vanderbilt. They don't think the SEC is good."
CORNERBACK DEMETRIC WRIGHT
Have you practiced on the new artificial surface in the Shira Field House much?
"No, we haven't practiced much on it. That is why we are leaving early so we will get to practice on their field Friday."
How is your forearm?
"It is alright."
Have you practiced any this week?
"I've practiced all week, just not in the contact drills."
Has it bothered you any?
"It is getting better. At first, I couldn't even move it. Now, I'm moving it. I'm looking to go out there and make plays."
Have you practiced with simulation of their stadium noise?
"Last week, we prepared in the stadium with loud music simulating how it will be. It is a distraction because you can't hear. We practiced yesterday with the noise."
Talk a little about their wide receivers.
"They have three good receivers."
How do they compare to the great wide receivers in the SEC?
"I'm not going to compare them because the SEC is a different conference. I'm just looking to go and play. There is no fear in us."
Based on what you have seen on television, how does the Pac-10 compare to the SEC in style of play?
"It is different than ours. I don't think they hit as hard as the SEC and we are faster than they are. Plus, we do different coverages and schemes than they do."
What do they do better than the SEC?
"They are more of a passing offense than the SEC. We probably have just one passing team in the SEC and that is Florida."
FREE SAFETY JOSH MORGAN
The MSU players really appear to not only be excited about the upcoming season but very confident as well. What is causing that confident, especially after coming off a 3-8 season?
"I think the big thing is nobody wants to go through that again. We know we are better than what we showed last year. The attitude is there. I see some of the players going to class and they have the scouting report in their hand. It is totally different. It will be fun to see what happens this weekend."
Talk about the Oregon receiving corps.
"They all return from last year. Everyone of them can fly. I think all three will be on the field at the same time. They are explosive. They throw little, short stuff and let them do the rest."
How does their receivers' speed compare to the receivers in the SEC?
"They are a lot like Florida and LSU last year. They are good. It is something we have seen before. We definitely better have our stuff together."
Talk about the Oregon wide receivers.
"They look like good receivers, but I have seen Gaffney (Florida wide receiver) and Josh Reed (LSU wide receiver). In man on man, they only caught one on me. That was a good game against them because they were catching 12 or 13 passes a game. As for the Oregon receivers, they are speed receivers, but I haven't seen anyone get physical against them."
Is that something that you have noticed about the Pac-10?
"The linebackers hit hard, but their DBs will be lined 12 yards off the ball."
How do you feel about yourself on the football field now that you have a year's worth of SEC ball under your belt?
"I feel a lot smarter now. I really didn't watch film last year."
You're watching film this year. How much time have you spent watching film this year?
"Four or five months."
So, you ought to know these guys about as well as their girlfriends?
"Yeah, but they had Joey Harrington last season. They ran the routes, but he threw perfect throws in their hands. I want to see them with the new quarterback. They were running basic routes and getting open. I think their wide receivers beat a lot of DBs off of them being scared. I saw a lot of DBs back off a lot of yards. I'm not scared of them."
Are you going to be assigned to their receiver Keenan Howry?
"I wish we could be assigned, but we aren't."
Does Howry play on your side or Demetric's?
"He is on the inside slot a lot. A DOG safety will probably cover him."
Why does this team appear to be so confident this year?
"We know what we have. We had an arsenal of weapons last year, but we just didn't use them. We had people who could do this or do that, but we just weren't comfortable enough. This year we are together."
WIDE RECEIVER TERRELL GRINDLE
Talk a little about the Oregon secondary.
"They have two really good safeties, but I haven't seen any film on the cornerbacks that will be playing this year because all the film we have are of last year's cornerbacks. About all I've seen is the coverages they play. They pretty much play man coverage and leave it up to us to beat them one on one. That is nothing that will be a surprise to us or confuse us. It comes down to being better than the man in front of us."
You talked about their coverage. Do their cornerbacks play on the line or back off the line or do they play both ways?
"I've seen them play both ways. From my standpoint, I look at it as a plus because I only have to beat one person. I guess they are looking at it that they will be better than I am."
How does their defense compare to SEC defenses that you have faced?
"They look about the same. They chase the ball real well. They get to the ball quick. I haven't really seen anybody really run the ball against them on film. It is going to be pretty good challenge."
What prevents teams from running the ball on them?
"They are fast and they have a lot of people in the box and they really play hard."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.