Wesley Carroll - "Yeah, I would definitely say I have more confidence. Just knowing what I'm capable of, not that I do it perfect every time because I'm still working on perfection, but knowing what I'm capable of doing and what our team is capable of doing. And knowing that we could have beaten Tennessee and we could have beaten South Carolina, that still gets to me even though I know I have to get past it. Look at where South Carolina is ranked, where Tennessee is ranked ... I don't see why we shouldn't be ranked with those teams. It still gets to me and I shouldn't let it. We just have to start winning some games here and turn this season around so that we can go to a bowl game."
Melissa: What does it mean to you to lead the offense as a true freshman?
Carroll - "We got way past the true freshman thing as far as the team."
Gene: When did you get past that?
Carroll - "It's not any certain thing. It's an accumulation of events ... of seeing dedicated work, of seeing progress, just building team chemistry. The whole freshman thing is out of there, we are teammates. That's it. It doesn't matter if you are a fifth-year senior or a true freshman. It's a team and I love this team more than anything. It reminds me so much of high school which is fresh in my mind, just the way we all work together and bond together. Anybody can hang out with anybody else."
Melissa: Don't you have to be that way? You have to bond with the people that you play this game with don't you?
Carroll - "Yeah, without a doubt. If you don't believe in the person next to you, then you aren't going to gain any type of positive events on the field. And I think the quarterback on any team is the bridge between the offense, defense and the special teams. I think that role is given to the quarterback because they should be able to talk to everybody, they should be able to mesh well with any situation they are given."
Gene: Aubrey Bell and Jasper O'Quinn both said it doesn't matter that you are a leader as a true freshman because you have been accepted as a leader. Have you always been a leader?
Carroll - "I think it all goes back to being thrown into a lot of situations where I had no choice. It all goes back to how many times I have moved. It goes back to how many environments that I have been in, how many teams I have played for. My dad had a lot of different job transfers. I've lived in California, Arizona, Tennessee, Washington to Florida, then to New York, North Carolina, then back to Florida, now to Mississippi.
"I think the way I can adjust to different environments has helped me to be able to come in here and be comfortable, be able to come in here and not care that I am a freshman. I don't look at myself as being a freshman, I look at myself as being a player."
Gene: But you are still a freshman having to make adjustments to college life, to playing in the SEC.
Carroll - "It doesn't matter where you are, you are always going to have to make adjustments, you are never going to be 100% comfortable."
Melissa: How do you deal with criticism?
Carroll - "I like when people criticize what I do and tell me what they think. If somebody doesn't give you constructive criticism, then they don't care about you. They don't want you to succeed and progress."
Melissa: How has Michael Henig, a veteran who has been through what you are now going through, helped you grow as a quarterback?
Carroll - "Mike, as the weeks have gone on, has been very helpful even on the little things. He sees what I'm capable of. And he helps me out with things you would never think of, little things like when I get flushed out of the pocket don't try to throw the ball deep out of bounds, but throw it hard and quick and get on the ground away from the defense. Just little stuff like that. Even though he's a fourth-year junior and I'm a true freshman, we talk to each other just like we have been here the whole time. And the thing that helps is we both know what a quarterback goes through, we both know how much pressure and how much strain there is on you on any given day."
Melissa: What are your thoughts about Coach Croom?
Carroll - "I love Coach Croom. That is one of the biggest things that drew me here. I saw where he was taking this program. Despite the fact that we haven't had a lot of wins the last three years on the football field, I could see the progress in the type kids he was bringing in, the character, the sportsmanship, the chemistry on the team. I saw that as soon as I got here. I saw defensive linemen hanging out with wide receivers and you were thinking, 'shouldn't you be with the defense?' No, everybody gets along. Coach Croom makes sure everybody goes to class, makes sure everything is in line. And I love that about a coach. I don't like the coaches that let their players slide or give some guy special privileges. I like the fact that he treats everybody equally. And if he is going to call you out, he's going to call you out. It doesn't matter what position you play or what year you are."
Gene: Coach Croom said players just want to hear the truth.
Carroll - "That just goes back to, if somebody is not telling you what you do wrong, then they don't care about you. And Coach Croom cares about every single one of us. He cares about us getting better, he cares about us as people. As an example, we lost to Tennessee, but it was so much more than a win or loss game. The fact that we played hard the whole game against a team that we were supposed to lose to, didn't faze us. The same thing with South Carolina. I just think he has done such a tremendous job."
Melissa: Take me behind the line and tell me what it's like to step up to the line of scrimmage and look across at the defense in an actual game with a big crowd in the background. What is that like?
Carroll - "I think if you study the play enough and understand it, then you feel good about it. The only time you ever panic is if you haven't had enough reps against the play, if you don't fully understand the concept behind it, if you can't read the defense. As long as I know I can do the play and know what the defense is I have no worries when I drop back."
Gene: Coach Croom said you have 'IT' and you are one of those guys who just seems to have a little luck on his side. What is IT? And why are you so lucky?
Carroll - "I don't believe in luck. I believe everything happens for a reason no matter what it is. And I think we can control most of it. IT is everything but luck. It's that inside emotional drive. It's the confidence."
Gene: What kind of impression do you feel you make on people when they first meet you?
Carroll - "I have always been told that the first impression I make on people, some people see it as cockiness and some people see it as absolute confidence in myself and the people around me. This is a great example - when I first met Cris Carter when he first came to coach at St. Thomas, I could tell he didn't like me. He didn't like me one bit because he thought I was arrogant and cocky and that I asked too many questions about what they were trying to coach me. Later, he realized that I was just asking question because I was trying to get better, I was trying to make sure everything was right. And my high school coach, George Smith, would always have to tell him that it was my confidence. It's not that I'm arrogant or cocky, it's my confidence. And it is. I'm not afraid to say that I have a lot of confidence in myself due to what I've been able to do and what I think I'm able to accomplish in life and football, in anything."
Melissa: What does your mom and dad think about you being a true freshman quarterback in college playing so far from home?
Carroll - "They love it although they hate that it's so far away and so hard to get here for games. But they've done such a tremendous job coming. When my mom found out that I was second string for LSU, she got in the car and drove right over here.
"They are awesome in helping me, not only in staying focused, but they also keep me from getting a big head. They bring me back down to that level I should be."
Melissa: Who is it that drives you?
Carroll - "It's been them and I would also say my high school coach, George Smith. It doesn't matter how well I played, there would always be something wrong. He's always knocked me down to a level where I need to stay focused and on top of my game. And I need to keep getting better and learn from my mistakes. And that is probably where I got the whole perfectionist thing. I don't ever feel that I've played 100%, maybe 100% effort."
Melissa: If somebody wanted to look at you as a player and wanted to look at this group of players as a team, how would they go about doing that?
Carroll - "You could read numbers all day and I don't think that could tell you anything about me because anybody can have numbers. Anybody can throw for so many yards, anybody can have touchdowns, interceptions ... whatever. But I think what truly defines a person is their hard work and dedication ... like this team has shown. I wasn't here last year, but I can sense the difference between traveling and going to hotels preparing for a game. And how we are on gameday. I just know it's difference. And I wasn't here last year, so I could be totally wrong. But I just know the feeling amongst the students, amongst the alumni, amongst any fan ... there is a totally different feeling."
Gene: What is that feeling?
Carroll - "Support. It's just like a community. It's all one. Everybody is behind us. It's coming along and they are seeing progress."
Melissa: I see you as the type guy I want leading this team as a quarterback because you know as a quarterback across that line is a defensive line that if they see a weakness in you they are going to eat you alive. And you have to have that confidence that keeps you from showing a weakness. Do you agree with that?
Carroll - "Absolutely, you can never show a weakness. That's why, even though I'm getting knocked to the ground, I'm getting right up. I'm showing them I'm not hurt for a second. I will get hit in the backfield after I throw a pass and I'll help that guy up. And ask him, 'are you alright?' I'll try to get into their heads."
Gene: Wes, a lot has been said about how well you manage a game, but we also hear you don't have what would be considered a real strong arm. What's going on with that arm of yours?
Carroll - "A lot of people don't realize that right before I got here I was just cleared to play football because I had surgery on my arm from what I had happened in high school during a regional final game. I feel it's capable of making the passes right now, but it's not where it needs to be. And when they did surgery on my arm, they also had to take part of my hamstring out to repair it. When I first got here, I wasn't even able to do condition. So, I came into the season with an unconditioned arm and unconditioned physically in my whole body."
Gene: Strength-wise, what percentage is your arm right now?
Carroll - "I would say right now it's about 70% of what it's capable of being by next year."
Gene: You seem so serious. Can you just be a kid sometimes?
Carroll - "Oh yeah. You should have seen me in the locker room. When it's time to be serious, I'm serious. When it's business, I'm all business. That's how I feel when I'm on the football field......"
Melissa: Is the burden heavy?
Carroll - "Yeah, because I feel like, although I'm not on defense or special teams, I help control the biggest part of the game. I touch the ball more than anybody else on the team. I'm responsible for a lot of things. You are responsible for putting points on the board. You are responsible for helping keep your defense off the field. And you are responsible for not giving up any big plays for the other team. If you can control all those things, you are going to be a successful quarterback. It doesn't matter if you throw for 4,000 yards a season. If you are productive, eliminate mistakes, keep your defense off the field and put points on the board your team will be successful."
Gene: How do you describe yourself as a quarterback right now and how do you hope you will be described as a quarterback when you leave Mississippi State?
Carroll - "I know I'm still maturing and I know I still have a lot of work to do, so I'm progressing.
"I expect to exceed other people's expectations. I expect to continue the progress that I've been making. What the coaches were saying early on to me was about how quickly I picked up everything and how fast I moved on. My goal is to continue that."
Gene: Where do you see Mississippi State football as a program when you leave here?
Carroll - "A top five national ranking. I'm dead serious when I say that. We will be one of the best in the nation."
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 email@example.com.