MSU Freshmen Talk About the South Carolina Game

<img src= align=left width=118 height=160> [Premium article] Mississippi State players talked to the media Tuesday about the upcoming Mississippi State-South Carolina football game in Columbia, South Carolina and other things.

Freshman OT Richard Burch

Richard, you are making a pretty big impact on the team.
"I'm just taking it as the Lord brings it. He is blessing me with a chance to play and I'm trying to run with it, trying to do the best I can and help out the team."

Did it surprise you that you are playing as a freshman?
"It did at first but I can't sit there and think about it the whole time or I'll lag behind. I just had to pick it up and go with the flow. The Lord blessed me with it and I'll run with it."

Talk about the transition from high school to college.
"The biggest transition was the speed and of course strength was a factor."

When you say speed, do you mean the speed of the game or the speed of the other players?
"Really, both. When I first got out there it was like I was trying to catch up with some race cars; they were flying by. Defensive linemen and linebackers and some of the offensive linemen. I was even beat to the hole by some of the backs. I had to get used to it. This is the SEC, you have to get used to it."

How do you adjust to the speed of the game?
"You have to work hard and bust it every play. Of course the encouragement from the other players and coaches helps out a lot."

Is that something every offensive lineman has to work on since in high school you probably could beat other players on size along?
"Yeah. In high school I could overpower people, but up here technique is a big factor."

You mentioned strength is a big difference between high school and college ball. Is that something you really need to work on?
"Oh yeah, most definitely. I have to work on my strength. Coach Grant has us working every Monday and Tuesday mornings."

How do you feel you did during the LSU game?
"I think I did alright but I still could have done better. I gave up one sack in the third quarter."

What happened on it? Did the other player out-technique you or was he just better?
"I was blocking him - it was supposed to be a pass play - and Fant saw the hole and was about to take off, but the guy just slipped off of me and made the tackle. I had him but he slipped off."

What were some things you did good during the LSU game?
"The fact that I stayed in there so long. Just hanging in there with all those top players. That is a big accomplishment to be in there among all of the those players."

Did you play the entire LSU game or most of the game?
"Donald Tucker played the first three series and I played the rest of the game."

You were expecting to play in the game but were you expecting to play that soon?
"He told me he was going to play me but not how soon. It didn't matter to me, I just wanted the opportunity. When I got in there, I didn't know I would stay in that long. That kind of surprised me."

With the loss of Chris McNeil and the line kind of shaky now, what does the line have to do to pull things together?
"Stay together and get that unity going and have that team chemistry."

What do you know about South Carolina and their defensive front?
"We just starting watching them yesterday. We just got the information yesterday. They play a defense pretty much like ours. They have some pretty nice sized guys. It is going to be a challenge but that's how I like it."

Once you are in there, you have you - a true freshman - Blake Jones, a junior, Brad Weathers, a sophomore, Johnny Wadley, a redshirt freshman and David Stewart, a sophomore; that is a very young line.
"Yeah, that will give us time to work together and get used to each other. If not this year, pretty soon we are going to be one of the best offensive lines in the country."

Looking at the other freshmen that are playing; Jerious (Norwood) you know well, Darren (Williams) is playing, Nick Turner is playing, Marvin Byrdsong is playing special teams, Williams Evans is playing noseguard, you freshmen already have a place on this team.
"Oh yeah, we want to play and we want to get out there and win. We will know whatever we can to help us get a win. That is our main objective; to get a winning streak going."

Freshman DL Willie Evans

What position did Southern Miss and Mississippi State recruit you for?
"Southern Miss recruited me as a defensive lineman and Mississippi State recruited me as a fullback."

What did you want to play in college?
"It didn't really matter. I just wanted to be a part of the team."

Was college ball intimidating at first?
"Not really, because at first we were just going head to head. I thought this is no different than high school. Once we started going from sideline to sideline, I was like you aren't supposed to be here, you are too big."

Two weeks ago you were a fullback. Last week you were moved to noseguard. Talk about how that happened.
"They told me after the Auburn game that they were going to move me over. I was thinking it was good because if I could get some playing time on defense that would be real good for me. While I was practicing last week, I thought I would be a better player at defense. I knew how to play the position better than I did fullback. They liked me at nose tackle."

Did you actually start at noseguard or did you come in later?
"I came in and played a lot. They had me behind Ronald Fields. I'm not as big as him."

My wife liked that quote about you saying now that you were on defense you could eat anything that you wanted to. Was that an accurate quote?
"That was made up. I didn't say that. They assumed that. I'm really not going to eat anything that I want to. I don't want to get too big and out of shape. I want to stay lean."

How much do you weigh right now?

Have the coaches told you what they want you to weigh?
"They told me to not get below 260 or I would be too little and (the offensive linemen) could move me out of there."

How do you feel you did against LSU's offensive linemen? How about grading yourself.
"Being my first week and first game, I would say I graded at about 70%, but I have a lot of improvement to make. I have to work on my technique and get my feet quicker. Because I'm small, I have to stay on the run. I can't let them catch me or they will root me out of there."

70% is pretty good. What were things you did good?
"I did pretty good with my pass rush and staying in my gaps. There were a couple of times where I got a little high and they took advantage of that."

What happened your first play against their center?
"My first play against him I beat him and pressured their quarterback. He threw the ball and didn't complete the pass."

Did he say something to you when you faced him the next play?
"That was third down and they punted the ball the next play. I came back and had to play big because they were running the ball. I was getting through but they were coming back behind me, so I couldn't make the tackle.

"The center wasn't really the problem. Their guards were pretty good and helping him out a lot and making him look good."

Did you play any guards as good as their guards?
"Not the guards, but I played (against) better centers in high school."

Did you ever beat the guard during the game?
"I got past him a couple of times. Maybe it was a busted assignment but he wasn't playing his gap and I got past him a couple of time. I got to the quarterback but he got away from me. I didn't get a sack."

As a true freshman, what are some of the things that make it tough to play on the college level?
"Playing as a true freshman, your lack of experience hurts you. Plus you aren't used to the environment you are playing in. In 5A you are playing in front of 2,000 a game. In college, we were playing in front of 90,000. It is a lot different."

Were you a little nervous playing in front of 90,000 opposing fans?
"Yeah, I was nervous at first being in front of that many people. But after a few plays, you tune them out and play how you were taught to play."

What are some areas, after playing your first college game at the college level, do you feel you really need to improve on?
"I really need to keep my pads down. I can always improve my foot quickness. I need to get stronger in my legs so I can help press them off of me because they are bigger and and stronger than me."

What do you mean by keeping your pads low?
"In high school you can stand up and look for the ball. In the college game, if you stand up and look for the ball, you are probably going to get your head knocked off and the lineman will get a pancake. They'll take about that in the film room the next day. You have to stay low and keep your back flat."

Talk about the South Carolina offense.
"We faced a couple of teams that we faced in high school that had a running quarterback. I think if we play our responsibilities, we can go out and beat them. But if we get caught up in doing the wrong things, then it will be tough on us. If we can stop their quarterback, then we can stop their team."

Would you say this is a must-win game for the team?
"It has to be a must-win game. Looking at our record right now, 1-3, that is really bad. I'm not used to losing. I don't like losing. It is the little things that are hurting us, really it is the mental mistakes. We have to get pass those."

Freshman DB Darren Williams

Is this a must-win game for MSU?
"It is a must-win game. There is not doubt this game could turn the whole season around. We still have bowl hopes."

Talk about your freshman year so far. What have been the major adjustments for you?
"Learning the plays. I think I have the ability to get out there and make plays. I just have to learn the scheme."

Did you play the most you have played this year during the LSU game?
"Yeah, it was the most that I have played in the SEC. I think I did fine. I think I will get even more playing time this week because we have a couple of DOG (safeties) hurt. I'm really looking forward to them calling my number. I'm not a redshirt, they might as well use me. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make the team better."

A lot of freshmen have played this season. You've seen the talent level of the freshmen. Does that cause you to be excited about the future of MSU football.
"We have a lot of good freshmen. I think, when we reported during the summer and everybody got to see the freshmen, everybody got to see how good each other was. I think that helped give everybody a better attitude about our teammates."

Almost all of you came in during the second summer session. How did that help the freshmen?
"It helped a lot. I got a lot stronger so I can take on stronger blockers. Coach Grant helped me; got me in better shape."

Since you have now gotten playing time on the college level, what areas of your game do you still think you need to work on?
"I think I need to work on my covering a little bit more, my technique coming off the ball and jamming someone on the line. If I can get them off the line, I will lock them down, but it is just getting off the line."

Has it been tough coming in and seeing the team lose 3 of the first 4?
"It has been pretty tough because I'm used to winning. You can't win all the time, but you don't want to lose everytime either. I think the reason we are losing is not because we aren't work hard. We work hard, but we just make stupid turnovers or get a stupid penalty called in the game. We just have to correct the small things. Once we get that corrected, we will be fine."

What would you like to tell the MSU fans about this team?
"I think they should support us to the end. We are out there trying our best to win, but things haven't been going our way. We are trying to turn this around. Everybody is working hard in practice. We are dedicated and are committed. We need our fans behind us and to encourage us more."

Darren, tell me about one of the other freshman, offensive lineman Richard Burch. What impresses you about him?
"His work ethic. He works in the weight room really hard. He trains hard. He has good feet on him and blocks really good."

Do you think he has the chance to be All-SEC some day?
"I think he has the potential to be All-SEC first-team. He is playing as a freshman. He is not playing because we don't have depth; he is playing because he is just that good."

You go against Jerious Norwood and Nick Turner in practice at times. Talk about going against them.
"It is rough. When they get in the open field they are so allusive. You just have to squat and hurry up and hit them before they really get out of the hole. If they get behind the linebackers, it is pretty much over with because they are so allusive."

Did you ever face running backs as good as them in high school?
"No, I never played against a running back as quick. Both of them are quick and fast. I never played against a running back that fast."

What would you tell fans the reason why it is tough for freshmen to play in college?
"It is a step faster and a step quicker in college. And you can't play a freshman when he doesn't know his assignments. That slows you down in reacting to the ball."

How long does it take to learn your assignments?
"You have to get into the playbook and study. And there is so much that you have to learn. It is like another class to be honest with you. I am pretty much getting it now because I'm getting more reps in practice and I'm watching the people ahead of me. That was the main thing I wasn't doing; I wasn't learning from the people ahead of me."

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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