MSU-Tulane Press Conference Transcript

Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom talks about his team's upcoming opponent, Tulane, as well as thoughts about his team's overall play against LSU last Thursday night.

Opening Statement:

"Getting ready for Tulane this week is a bit of an unusual circumstance for us since we have already played one ballgame (and they haven't). It's like we are playing another first game. We don't know a great deal about them because they haven't played a game. We are basing them on what we have looked at for two years as far as film. We've had to go back that far which is unusual, but that's what we've had to do for this gameplan.

"There are a lot of unknowns. We do know that they have a new coaching staff and Bob Toledo is their (head) coach. He's done a fine job at UCLA and other places that he's been. We do know about some of their personnel. They have eight returning starters on defense that is a pretty strong unit, particularly their defensive front. And they have an excellent running back in Matt Forte on the offensive side of the football. The other thing we know is they came in here last year and really embarrassed us on our home field. So, I'm sure they will feel pretty good about themselves going into this ballgame. It's a great challenge for us going into our first road game.

"Our game last week was a disappointing loss, but we did some very good things. After (watching) the game (film) I feel even stronger now about our possibilities of being a good football team because some serious questions were answered. And they showed up as positives. The play of our defense throughout the ballgame was good. We had guys who we had questions about like Tim Bailey, Jimmie Holmes and Dominic Douglas step up on the defensive side. We had young guys like LaMarcus Williams who showed definite promise. Our team speed is real. (The) speed in our coverage units was what I thought it would be.

"(Veterans) who played well were Titus Brown, Tim Bailey, Gabe O'Neal, Jamar Chaney, Dominic Douglas and Keith Fitzhugh on the defensive side of the football. As a group, our offensive line played well. That is a sign of encouragement, especially considering the fact the people we had to play against. We have to play a lot better at the quarterback position and at all our skill positions on offense."


How concerned were you going into the game about your defensive line play against LSU?
"It was a very big concern because I was really concerned that they would run the football between the tackles right at us. I thought that we had rushed the passer well but we had some problems in practice in that area and I was concerned about it. But I was very pleased that we held up against a pretty strong offense and a pretty physical offensive line. I doubt very seriously that we will see a more physical offensive line this year."

Talk a little more about Tulane running back Matt Forte.
"He is an excellent back. He has good speed, good size and can change directions and catch the ball coming out of the backfield. He has power and good change of directions. He's one of those guys who can run over you in type quarters, but can make you miss in space as well."

What do you expect from their offense?
"A lot of the things you see from their offense is West Coast, a lot of things similar to what Auburn does. But that also means there is a lot of multiplicity, so they can be very flexible in their system. They will do a lot of different things and give you a lot of different personnel groups, a lot of spread and tight formations."

They have eight returning starters on defense. What do you expect to see from them this year due to that?
"What I remember about them is we didn't score any points until it was late in the ballgame. The thing I remember most about their defense, but also their entire football team, was the great intensity that they had from start to finish. They played with great emotions and a great intensity. They were reckless throughout the entire course of the ballgame. And I expect them to be the same way this weekend."

Talk about his overall progression since getting here and what the game should mean to Christian Ducre, who transferred from Tulane.
"I think it's a big game for him. Anytime you are playing against people that you know and going back to your homestate, that is important. I've been in that situation before and it's always important.

"Christian is perplexing to me sometimes. He is a guy who has very obvious running skills. I like his size, he has good change of direction, good hands ... he has come a long way. And there are times when he looks like he is going to be a very good football player, but it's the detail things that sometimes perplexes me. The little details in blocking and running with the authority that I know he's capable of. I see it sometimes and sometimes I don't. I guess sometimes I think he's still holding something back. I sure hope he decides to kick it all in."

Why has it taken so long for the offensive numbers to get there?
"It has been a combination of things. And as I revaluated the game the other night, we have to not put so many demands on our quarterback. And that's my fault. Sometimes I probably feel like there are some things we can do that, maybe, we can't. We are at that point now where the things we are not doing well, we are going to have to make some choices about some of those things.

"I know what we are capable of. We definitely have more talent now than we've had on the offensive side of the ball. Our offensive line, our running backs, and our receivers are very capable. Tony Burks played well the other night and did what we asked him to do. So, we have to not turn the ball over and do whatever is necessary to get our executive up to the level it needs to be."

Are you going to cut back on your offense?
"The things that we haven't been able to execute will be eliminated. We will do what we can do that gives us a chance to win. No matter how good it's looked in practice sometimes, if we can't execute it under pressure then it makes no difference."

Do you plan on playing Josh Riddell at quarterback against Tulane?
"I do plan on playing him and I have a time in my mind when I would like to do it, but I don't want to reveal that. There are a lot of things you have in your mind, then, on the day of the game you go with your gut instinct about certain things. And that would be one of those things."

What different things does Josh offer compared to Mike Henig?
"He has a little bit more mobility to create on the move. I think that more than anything. And their personality traits are different. Josh has a little bit more Riverboat Gambler type personality in him. Sometimes things will work for him that I've seen in other quarterbacks, but you don't know why, but it does work."

Did your linebackers play well in the LSU game?
"Yes, our group played well. The thing that was most impressive about our linebackers was Gabe (O'Neal) played well. He played a very good game. Gabe had a great spring and a great camp. He is probably playing his best football since he has been here. He also did a great job for us on special teams. (Jamar) Chaney played well. But adding Dominic (Douglas) to the mix ... he is definitely the fastest of the group. His speed definitely adds to it. Then, we brought in Jamon Hughes and he played well. And he had a great, great coverage on kickoff. He really just destroyed their wedge. I think the gentlemen he hit is not playing this week, and probably won't play anytime in the near future. The thing I'm also pleased with is we have some young guys who continue to look like they are going to come along. We expect to see K.J. Wright get a little bit more involved. Our speed at the linebacker position is definitely better than it has been. And we are able to play more people than what we've been able to do in the past."

How well, overall, did the offensive line play against LSU?
"That entire group played well. They all graded well, especially considering the people they went against. I thought our protection was very good with our front. I thought our one-on-one with (LSU DT Glenn) Dorsey was good. He didn't get too many tackles. I also thought our guys also did a good job on (LSU DE) Tyson Jackson who doesn't get a lot of attention because of Dorsey. But we think he is every bit as good as Dorsey. They've got two bonafide first-round draft choices in their defensive front. And those other guys may be 2nd and 3rd rounders. The only problem we had in the offensive line is that they gave us a twist on the weakside run game. That caused us a little problem. It's something that we have to get squared away."

With the improved play of Christian Ducre, do you now expect to redshirt Robert Elliott?
"We are going to take that game by game before we make a decision on that."

Do you feel like your team came into the Tulane game shellshocked last year?
"I think we had total loss of confidence after the first two games. We didn't have our quarterback. And I think all the players on offense were concerned if Tray Rutland could get it done. The defense was concerned if the offense could it done. A lot of the confidence that we had going into the South Carolina game last year was totally gone. Then, we got beat against Auburn. There was a lot of speculation and uncertainty at that time."

That doesn't seem to be the case after the loss to LSU.
"No. We feel like we did some good things against LSU. The thing we have to do is get some things sharpen up and play up to the potential that we are capable of on offense. I think everybody on our football team knows that we are a lot more capable offensively than we showed the other night."

In what respects is this year's defense better than last year's defense?
"Our defense is definitely faster than it was last year. We not only have more speed, but we have more depth. Remember, before the season started I said if our tackles came through, we found some depth at defense end and we stayed healthy, then at some point I felt we could be a better defensive team than last year. We are not only faster, but we have more linebackers, we have more depth and speed in the secondary. We carry six corners now and in the past we weren't able to find three. The performance of Tim Bailey and Jimmie Holmes at defensive end really helps us. And now we can get Brandon Cooper back in the mix (at defensive end). That gives us some depth that we haven't had."


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


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