One-on-one With MSU TE Coach Reed Stringer

Mississippi State tight ends coach Reed Stringer talks about his current players, recruiting in general and the recent NCAA rule that will eliminate text messaging.

Talk about the status of your current players.
"My spring was pretty exciting. I'm lucky to have the guys that I have. I have three seniors who will all be four-year lettermen. They are the type players you want to bring into your program. Both Jason Husband and Dezmond Sherrod have already graduated college and are going to finish their graduate work by the time they get through this fall. That's really impressive. And the third one, Eric Butler, is going to be graduating this fall.

"Those three guys are all good players. They understand what we want and have bought into the system. Any one of them could go out there and start an entire game for me. I wouldn't have a problem with any of them doing that. And they all have certain traits that they excel at."

What are those traits? Start with Dezmond.
"To me, Dezmond is the most dominating blocker at tight end in the SEC, and, possibly, in the entire NCAA. That's a very bold statement, but all you have to do is go back and watch the Alabama game last year and see how many times we ran behind him. And this spring he had a touchdown reception in the spring game and he had two others in scrimmages. He really came along in the receiving part of the game. And I know that was something he wanted to do and he is definitely improving in it.

"Jason Husband is a great receiving tight end. He is a big-time vertical threat. He does a lot of H-back things for us when we go three-wide. And he's very reliable in the blocking game. There are certain things we don't ask him to do all the time, but he could do it, though, if he had to play the whole game.

"Another thing about Jason and Dezmond is they are really good special team players. They are team guys who do whatever they can to help us win.

"Eric Butler is probably the complete package when it comes to both blocking and receiving. But once again he didn't go through the spring. He's really has some very unfortunate injuries. He'll pop a shoulder or hurt an ankle. He had the turf toe that he ended up having surgery on. If he has a full season where he stays healthy, he can really do some good things for us because he's such an explosive player.

"Jeremy Jones played well for me early. We really need to get him on the field. At tight end we already have three good ones. Because of that he'll be limited what he can do there, so we moved him to fullback. We are really excited about that move. He'll still be able to play both positions. He has great hands and it's unbelievable how athletic he is at 275 pounds. He has so much ability coming from his basketball background.

"I called him the other day and told him how proud I was of him because he had a really good semester academically and on the football field. I was so proud of him. I really enjoyed being around Jeremy and I really want him to succeed because he's really worked hard.

"My youngest guy is Brandon Henderson, who was a true freshman this year. I worked him hard. I've told Brandon this and I don't mind saying it here; I had concerns going into the spring about what type of player he was going to be. But he proved me wrong. And I like that. I always want to be proven wrong when I have concerns about a kid. He is going to be a good player for us. He will help us next year. He will do some spot things for us at tight end, but he will be a good special teams player for us. This year, he will learn from the older guys, then his time will come quick because I have three seniors this year."

What are your thoughts about this year's recruiting class?
"I get really excited when I think about the type of dynamic talent we have coming in next fall. We signed some guys who I like to call 'game changers'. They have the ability to change an entire 3-hour game in a matter of seconds. Schools from all over country recruited several high school and juco kids in Mississippi last year, and the majority of those kids are going be in Maroon next year. Yes its very exciting.

"As a whole, I could not be happier about the way we recruited our home state. We were able to win the state of Mississippi and that is pivotal to our success. Mississippi kids are and will continue to be the life-blood of our program. If we can go out and win most of the recruiting battles in Mississippi, then the rest will take care of itself. For instance, by winning the state, it allowed us to have the highest ranked recruiting class in the state of Mississippi.

"With that being said, we were also able to land some excellent out-of-state talent as well. We will continue to recruit the surrounding states and the southeast in search of players who fit what we are trying to do here at Mississippi State and we couldn't be happier with the class that will be here in July."

Since three of your five guys are seniors this season, will tight end be a priority this recruiting season?
"It is definitely a priority. I don't know how much we are supposed to talk about the numbers, but we will sign tight ends. The whole coaching staff is aware of it, but I'm really aware of it. I've got some ideas where there are some guys and I'm going to go wherever I need to to find them. I'm not going to go on some wild goose chase, but I will go where I need to. I'm really going to look hard at some junior college kids this fall. I'm hopeful we can bring one in early with some college experience."

Has Coach Croom told you, since you are the tight ends coach, that you need to watch for players or is it more of a team effort to find tight ends?
"Everything we do in recruiting is a team effort. We recruit the best players at each position. But, at the same time, with me being the tight ends coach I'm specifically going to be looking for tight ends. If there is one in a state that we don't normally recruit as hard, then I will take a little extra time in recruiting him. I kind of feel like it's my responsibility to make sure we have tight ends that have a chance to be successful in the SEC."

When it comes to recruiting, what are things you do when you recruit a player?
"I've now been able to go through two signing classes. Since I first started recruiting, I can't even explain how much my learning curve has changed, how much I've learned from being around other coaches, how much I've learned from being on the road, how much I've learned from the kids themselves.

"One of the things I try to do is be the first coach on a player in my area. That starts after September 1st of their junior season. For instance, last year, there were probably five or six juniors that I've been texting since September 1st. It's given me a chance to get in early.

"I'm also a big believer in writing handwritten letters. It shows a kid that you are taking time out of your day just for him. And it's a way to help create a relationship with a kid. I tell my kids this all the time. Before the recruiting process is over, I want them to think of me as a friend. What I mean by that is I'm not going to be buddy-buddy with them, but that I want them to be able to trust me. I want them to know that I will always be honest with them."

What are your thoughts about text messaging and the fact that the NCAA is doing away with it?
"As long as everyone is on an even playing field, then I am all for it. I have an understanding of why text messaging is good, but I also have an understanding of why they are doing away with it. I'll explain both viewpoints.

"I use text messaging to create relationships. To be honest, I text a lot. I don't text kids every 5 minutes all day long because I feel it's wrong to do that. But my top kids probably get texted every day or, at the very least, once every two days. In the relationship building aspect, it has been very beneficial.

"The thing that I do agree with in respect to stopping text messaging is how much it costs the kids themselves. It's sad for some of these kids. There have been three of four of the kids that I have recruited that have told me about how much their phone bills are. It's ridiculous. Some kids don't have these unlimited deals, and the kids that don't, they get popped with a $400 to $500 phone bill. This kind of thing is happening, and it happens a lot more than a lot of coaches want to admit."

When text messaging is no longer available how will you be able to develop that close relationships with the kids?
"If you do away with text messaging, you probably won't be able to create such strong early relationships with the kids. But it will go back to the way it used to be where you talk to their coaches and have the coaches get the kids on the phone. And I am sure the mail-outs and written correspondence will increase. But even then, I'm sure there will be some new innovative way of getting to kids popping up here in the next year or so."

Since handwritten letters will be more important once text messaging is no longer available, how often do you send handwritten letters to kids you recruit?
"Going back to the kids that I recruited last year, I would guess that some of them got handwritten letters from me five days a week from roughly March to the end of January, so I would say for 35 to 40 weeks. And when I sat down with them on in-home visits I asked them if they kept all those letters. They would bring out a shoe box full of those letters. When they brought them out, they were smiling. I don't know if they read all of them, but I want something from Mississippi State and from me in their mailbox at least every day or every other day. I tell kids I'm recruiting all the time, that they are important to me and the 'Bulldog Family', and I want to make sure they feel that way."

This is the first installment in a ten-part installment with all the Mississippi State football coaches.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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