[Premium Article] Mississippi State football players talked to the media Tuesday about the upcoming Mississippi State-Auburn game to be played in Starkville."> [Premium Article] Mississippi State football players talked to the media Tuesday about the upcoming Mississippi State-Auburn game to be played in Starkville.">

MSU Players Talk About the Auburn-MSU Game

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/football/2003/dayl.jpg" align="left" width="119" height="160"> [Premium Article] Mississippi State football players talked to the media Tuesday about the upcoming Mississippi State-Auburn game to be played in Starkville.

Defensive lineman Lennie Day:

Have you grown into the position?
"Yeah, I have grown to love playing defensive line. I have gotten better everyday. My first year to play defensive line, I don't think I was ready to play. Now, I think I can compete with anybody."

Talk a little about being an Alabama guy and playing Auburn. Did Auburn recruit you?
"Yeah, they recruited me but I felt like Mississippi State was a better place for me."

Talk a little about Carnell Williams.
"He is a good running back, but if we can get a helmet on him early and stop him, he won't get started."

You have been the most consistent defensive lineman, so far. Talk about your play during the first two games.
"I feel that I improved each game. I lean more about myself each game. After each game, I look at the tape and evaluate what I need to do to get better."

What is the difference in Lennie Day this season compared to last season? Has it been the fact that you are receiving more playing time or that have you improved that much?
"I'm getting more playing time, but I feel like I'm more confident this year. I feel like I can play at this level."

What is the advantage that you have over the offensive linemen? I know it's not your weight since you are about 260.
"Basically, I use my quickness. I try to get off the ball as fast as possible. I try to make sure they don't get a hand on me as the ball is snapped."

How does Auburn's offensive line compare to Oregon's offensive line?
"They run the sweep more often. Oregon's offensive line might be a little stronger than Auburn's offensive line. But, both of them are very good."

Since they run the sweep, what will you have to do to make the play?
"I'm going to have to stay in front of everything. I can't get pushed behind the linemen."

Quarterback Kevin Fant:

Obviously any game is important, but this is an SEC West game. And the SEC West has been up in the air the past few years. Talk about the importance of this game, especially considering it is at home.
"It is our first SEC game and it a big one. Everybody wants to get that first SEC win under their belts, especially the way the SEC West is this year.

"Auburn has a great team. It is going to be a big challenge for us. They have a great set of linebackers and some big guys up front that they rotate. It is going to be a tough game."

Talk a little more about their defense and things that impresses you about it.
"They have some good guys up front. Big DeMarco McNeil is one guy. They rotate kind of like we did in 1999. They also probably have one of the best SEC linebacker groups. They are also really good in the secondary. The main thing is the battle will be up front with our offensive line and their front seven. The main thing I have noticed is they are going to come at you and be physical."

Do you feel you guys match up pretty well with Auburn?
"I think so. We match up well with a lot of teams, but you can beat yourself a lot of time. Everybody has to play together to beat teams now-a-days."

You guys had a lot of success with the deep ball this past week. Is there anything you saw in their film that makes you think you can do the same thing against them?
"They play a different cover style than Jacksonville State. I think the main thing is the receivers will have to make the plays. They are probably going to watch the (Jacksonville State) film and try to stop it. But I'm going to throw it up there and see if they go get it. You have to have the threat downfield."

Did you throw the long ball a lot in high school?
"Not a whole lot. Jason Armstead from Ole Miss bailed me out a lot of times."

Why do the wide receivers not drop your balls during a game?
"Terrell (Grindle) has been here awhile and has great instincts and Justin (Jenkins) has come along great this year. It is working together. It is like your best friend; you know what he is thinking sometimes. It is just where you work together a long time and develop a good relationship."

Offensive Lineman Chris McNeil:

Have you ever played three different positions in a game?
"No sir, I have never played three different positions before. But that is the kind of thing you have to adjust to."

How difficult is to prepare for three different positions?
"The plays are pretty much the same. If you know the center position, you tell the guards what to do. It is really not that hard. You just have to adjust it in your mind."

Did you know you might play three positions during the game?
"I was going to play right guard, but late in the week Brad Weathers went down. I went over to left guard Thursday, but I didn't know I was going to play center. Trust me, I'm not complaining about it."

I know you want to play, but was 81 snaps a little too much for you?
"It wasn't that bad. That's what I worked hard for during the summer. I'm not going to lie to you, I wasn't looking too peppy after the game. But it gave me a chance to see what I needed to do to play an entire ballgame. It also gave them a chance to evaluate me a little more."

How much weight did you lose during the Jacksonville State game?
"Seventeen pounds, I believe. When I weighed in, I believe I weighed 291. When I weighed out, I think it was down in the low 270's. But it was all water weight. I gained the pounds in one day. It was almost all water weight. The next day, I had about a half dozen eggs, four or five biscuits, gravy and a lot of sausages. For lunch, I went to the Ramada Inn. I also had pizza, then ate at a Chinese buffet that night."

What will be the key for your team to take control of a dominating Auburn team?
"One thing is their top seven is very physical. We will have to come out with a very physical game. We are going to have to step it up, because our run blocking hasn't been that dominate the last two games. That is one thing we really have to improve on going into this game Thursday night."

Just as you said, you need to improve your run blocking. What do you need to do to improve that?
"We are working more on staying on the lineman longer than coming off early. It is very, small technical things that we need to work on. It is not that big of a problem. An offense is like that. It just takes time for an offense to come together and mesh. That is just part of being an offense."

Offensive lineman David Stewart:

Talk about your experience as a starter this season.
"It has been fun so far. The noise at Oregon was a big problem. Communicating down the line was a problem we had. I couldn't get big Mike (Allen) to tell me anything."

Talk about the things you have done well and things you need to improve on.
"My pass blocking has been good, but I've got to get better on the run blocking."

What is it about the run blocking? What kind of problems are you having?
"Mostly, it is the little things, a missed block here or a missed block there. It's really just the little stuff."

Really, you guys are not only inexperienced but young as well. How much can be attributed to that?
"That has a lot to to with it. We don't have a lot of game time among us."

Where have you improved the most since the beginning of the season?
"Getting used to the speed of the game."

Running Back Fred Reid:

Talk about your first touchdown. Did you hurt yourself on the play?
"I wasn't really hurt. I guess I was so happy that I had gotten my first touchdown that I hopped back up and didn't feel any pain."

How is the team approaching the Auburn game this week, since it is your first SEC game this year?
"This will probably be one of the hardest games that we'll have to play all season. They have a really good defense. We have to come out and play harder than we have been playing."

Is the attitude of the team something like this is a must win game?
"Yeah, this is like a must win game. We have to go in and be very serious about the game."

Do you guys think about last year when you came up a little bit short?
"Yeah, we think about it. We almost won it. They have a very good kicker and he is back this year. So, we've got to make sure we put them out of the game early, so there won't be any of that this year."

So far, this year, this team really hasn't been that great of a running team. What do you feel, as a team, you need to change that?
"The lineman have to start blocking a little harder and we have to run the ball harder. We just have to come together and practice harder on the running game. In the past, we have been a running team."

Speaking of the linemen, quite a few of them are freshmen or sophomores. Talk about the young offensive linemen.
"It is good that they are getting playing time in now, because they will know everything they need to do and they will get better as the year goes on."

Wide Receiver Darius Tubbs:

You are from Alabama. How important is this game to you?
"It is very important because it is my last season and I would like to go out with a win against Auburn. I have been working hard all week getting ready for this game."

Do you have any former teammates on their team?
"Yeah, there are a couple of guys that I played with in the Mississippi - Alabama All-Star game."

Have you guys talked about this game?
"No, I haven't talked to them yet. I'm quite sure I'll see them before the game. We'll have a few words to say."

Did Alabama and Auburn recruit you?
"Yeah, I was recruited by them coming out of high school. But I wanted to leave Alabama and go to another school. I have been playing ball in Alabama all my life and I kind of wanted to leave the state and play against them."

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 swindoll@genespage.com.

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