I'm curious about something. Everytime I see you, you look like you have added more muscles. How tall and big were you in high school and how tall and big are you now?
"In high school I was basically the same height, 6-3, but weighed 230. Now I'm 245 to 247 and almost pushing 250."
Do you want to get up to 250?
"No, I really want to stay at about where I am now, 245."
What have you been doing to gain that kind of weight?
"I've been lifting weights harder."
Has the added weight hurt your speed?
"I think I have gotten a little faster to be honest with you."
Didn't you get more playing time during the South Carolina game than you had been?
"Last week was a game where they put me in the fire in the first quarter. Usually, I have been getting in during the last five minutes of the game when the game was really over and there was really no competition."
Did your coach tell you during the week leading up to the game that you would be coming in earlier than normal?
"Yeah, Mario and me had been switching in with the first group the first of the week. That showed me that I was probably going to get in a lot during the ballgame."
What did your position coach say about your play against South Carolina?
"The little time I was in, he said I made some good plays. He said, 'I like that' and that he would play me a lot more as the season comes on."
Talk a little about Troy State and what you need to do to defeat them?
"We have to play hard, buckle down and make plays. After looking at film, I don't think that Troy State is better than us."
What are some things you feel you have to do to become a better linebacker?
"Do the little things such as on a blitz call make sure you blitz and go through the right gap."
Going back a year, even though you ultimately chose MSU, did the record MSU of last year have a negative effect on you?
"I didn't look at the record. I looked at the tradition. I know, over the years, Mississippi State had some good players come through. I wanted to be a part of those players."
Did playing early have any effect on your decision to sign with MSU?
"Yeah, it did. Everybody coming out of high school like to think that they can play early."
Senior free safety Michael Gholar
You weren't here when Mississippi State lost to Troy State last year. However, what would you say that MSU needs to do to win this year's game?
"We have to stay focused and be ready to play a good Troy State team. They are going to be up when they come in here because they know that they beat us last year."
Coach Sherrill said it is going to be more physical on the practice field. Do you like or not like that?
"One thing about me is I like it when it is physical. I like to play physical. I think that is something that this team really needs right now."
During the South Carolina game you played physical. Did you possibly play too physical at times?
"Saturday, I got beat on a play because I was coming up for a play-action pass play. I like to come up and make contact with whoever has the ball."
As the game progressed, did you get better at not always coming up to make a play?
"Yeah, I think, after the coaches talked to me about staying back more, I most definitely got better in the second half."
Were there certain things that you were taught that you are able to recognize now that you have significant game experience?
"Yeah, our coaches taught us to recognize the tight end delay. That is something that we have really being getting beat on lately."
What are you expected to do as a free safety? What are some things that you expected to watch as a free safety?
"It depends on what defense you are in. If you are in man to man, you are supposed to cover your man. If you are in three-zone, you are supposed to stay back deep. The free safety is not supposed to let a receiver get behind him."
Senior cornerback Richard Ball
When I talked to you last you were a DOG safety. Now you are back at cornerback. Talk about that.
"It wasn't that much of a transition since I have played corner before. Whatever they want me to play, I will play. Both positions are fun. I like both of them."
Did new secondary starters Darren Williams or Michael Gholar play near enough to you where you were able to help them out throughout the South Carolina game?
"Darren played on the other side and Korey (Banks) helped him out. We all tried to help Mike out. It was his first time. He is real physical. He likes to come up and play the run. We told him he is a free safety and that he can't do that all the time."
Did he get better as the game progressed?
"Yeah, as the game progressed, he started to settle down and started to watch more and let the plays come to him. When he did that, he made a lot of plays."
How do you feel the secondary is doing overall?
"I think we are getting down to where everybody has learned their positions and know what they need to do."
Last year's team did some bickering when the losses started mounting up. Is this team handling it differently this year?
"When we lose, everybody gets down because we are competitors. Everybody is going to have something to say because we hurt when we don't win. When you don't win, you see a lot of things. But we are staying positive and telling everybody to keep their heads up. We know we can be a good team as long as we stay together and play as a team."
I noticed the team only committed two penalties this past game. Talk about that.
"Coach told us to be more disciplined and make sure that we played our position and not overexert ourselves. That is what we did. We had to quit giving up the silly penalties. The silly penalties were hurting us the most."
Senior wide receiver Darius Tubbs
Talk about how the MSU receivers match up with the Troy State secondary.
"Their secondary is pretty young. Their two cornerbacks are redshirt freshmen. Their safety is a fifth-year senior."
Does last year's game against Troy State linger on your mind?
"For me personally it does because I am from Alabama. As for the team, we are trying to put that game behind us and look forward to this year's game."
Talk about what you learned from last year's game and can apply to this year's game.
"Last year's game proved that you can never underestimate anyone. Anybody can beat anybody else. We have to go out and play them as if they are an SEC team."
What is the morale of the team like right now?
"There is no one hanging their head down. Everyone continues to come to practice and work hard, like we do every week. We are taking one game at a time."
Justin Jenkins went down due to an injury. When one player goes down, that is an opportunity for another player to step forward.
"We have to deal with Justin not being around. That gives the rest of us an opportunity. We are looking forward to stepping up and making plays."
Junior defensive end Kamau Jackson
Talk a little about Troy State? How can we win against them?
"They are a good team. They beat us last year. We have to come out, keep our heads up, and play hard for 60 minutes, not 30 minutes, but 60 minutes."
Do you look back at last year's game and see this year's game as payback time?
"Of course, when someone comes into your house and whups you on homecoming, you want payback. We will have to come out and play hard."
Coach Sherrill mentioned that the practices will be much more physical. Are you looking forward to those type practices?
"Yes, yes, it will get you more prepared for the game. You don't want to hurt your players but you want them to get used to that contact that you face each week. How you practice is how you will play."
I remember when Toby Golliday, Willie Blade and Dorsett Davis were here. They literally took it personal even when they got beat in practice. Do you think getting physical again in practice will help get back that mean mentality?
"It is out there already. We just have to carry it over to the games. We all practice hard, but we have just got to play hard for 60 minutes."
I know you guys want to win. How much will a win help the team's confidence?
"Once you win one game, you have that feeling and you want to win again to continue feeling that way. You win one then maybe you can get a little streak going."
Do you consider the South Carolina game your best game, so far?
"I played hard. The team played hard. We just have to keep our heads up and continue playing hard."
How, as a team, do you keep from getting frustrated?
"We think that we can always do better. We have 7 more games. We can still come out better than we did last year."
Is this the time leaders step up?
"Yes. Everybody should step up."
Based on interviews I did this past summer, there was some bickering among players during last season. I haven't heard that same thing about this team.
"Yes, there is unity on this team. We are unified and in this together. We win together and we lose together."
What would you, as a player, like to see the fans do during the Troy State game?
"Believe, believe in your team. Stay with them through thick and thin. Stay together."
Sophomore linebacker Tarus Morgan
Coach Sherrill stated during his press conference that you guys would start practicing more physical. Are you looking forward to that?
"Yes sir. As a team, we are going to go back to our old way of being physical. These past couple of weeks, we have been kind of rocky. We just have to get back to the basics so teams will respect us again."
Have you seen this team lose its physicalness the past 1 and a 1/2 years?
"I don't know if I would say it has progressively gone away. I think we basically have to come together as a team more. I really think the team is starting to jell because these trials and tribulations make you come closer together as a team. We look forward to the rest of the season and look forward to getting better."
Even though the team has lost 4 of 5 games, what positives have you seen? I know I see a youth movement. You are just a sophomore and you have played in 3 of the 5 games and Coach Sherrill is also playing a lot of other young guys. Does that excite you to see so many young, talented players playing so much?
"Of course it will excite you because you know what the team will be like in the future. It is great to see so many of our young stars playing."
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.