MSU-Ole Miss Press Conference Transcript

Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom talks about his team's upcoming opponent, Ole Miss, as well as thoughts about his own team.

Opening Statement:

"I would like to announce our permanent captains for the 2007 season as voted on by our players - on offense it is Royce Blackledge, on defense, Titus Brown and we have co-captains for special teams, Jason Husband and Gabriel O'Neal. All four of these young men are very deserving of this award as voted on by their teammates. They have done an excellent job of leadership this year and throughout their time here. They have played their best football this year. And they have made a large contribution to the success that we have had this season. We will miss them and all of our other seniors greatly. I hope that our younger players will model themselves after these four and the rest of our seniors this year.

"Of course, this is our final game of the season. It's at home and against Ole Miss. A lot of things are on the line, but none more important than winning bragging rights in the state championship and having the Egg Bowl trophy back on our campus. So, that's the way we approach this game. It's a new season .... a one-game season, now. Honor, pride, respect ... all that is on the line and we have to go out and earn this victory.

"The victory will not come easy because, I think, they are playing some very good football. They probably played their best performance of the season last week against, what I consider, the best team in the country at this point. They played very well against LSU. They are very strong on both lines of scrimmage. They are much improved on the offensive line. And I think their defensive line is also playing well. They have excellent speed at the wide receiver position. They are using two quarterbacks, so they are, basically, running two different offenses when they are in there, which causes problems for our defense. They also have an excellent return game and kicking game which was instrumental in them winning at their place last year. So, we have to play our best game of the season, which we have not done yet. But we need to do that Friday. If we do, then I think we will be ok. Anything less than that, then it could be a tough day.

"My expectations are that we will have at least a similar or an even more intense environment than we had during the Alabama game. And that would be great for all of us and serve to help our players in their efforts to win this football game."

Talk about Ole Miss running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
"He is a tough hardnose downhill runner a lot like Anthony Dixon except he's not as big as Anthony. He moves the chains. And has the ability to evade tackles once he gets one on one in space. He's the heart of their running game."

Talk about Anthony Dixon's potential.
"His potential is outstanding. But he still has a ways to go. I would say he's probably playing about 55 to 60% of what he's capable of doing. As he becomes better with the details, a 1,000 yards should be an average season for him. Anything less than that, particularly at this point, would be a sub-par season for him if he is healthy for all ballgames."

What does the last game mean to your seniors?
"It's your last shot. No matter how many you won or lost up to that point, the last one is the one you remember the most. That is the one you are most identified with. So, for this senior class, what happens Friday will be stamped in their minds and they will be identified with this game for the rest of their lives."

Is this rivalry a healthy rivalry or has it gone beyond healthy?
"It is about as healthy as any rivalry is, particularly a Southeastern Conference rivalry. I'm not a psychologist, so I don't know if any of them are actually healthy. But it is what it is."

How much will J.D. Hamilton and Derek Sherrod alternate at right tackle?
"It will be at least 50/50. Because J.D. missed a little practice the other day, it could lean toward Derek. But pretty much over the last four or five ballgames we have tried to give them equal snaps.

"And the same thing with our four-guard rotation. The last couple of weeks we have tried to give them equal snaps. The guys on the offensive line who don't get a lot of rest are Royce Blackledge and Michael Brown. They get rest only as needed."

What has caused Derek, a true freshman, to get so much playing time - his talent or the fact that he is better than expected in all areas?
"Talent-wise he was not a surprise. But your concern with freshmen offensive linemen is can they handle the workload and their maturity. The offensive line is a combination of talent and technique. There is a lot to learn - the steps, the angle of the steps, the footwork, the hat placement, the hand placement, understanding the calls, being able to react to defenses moving in a split second.

"It truly is a science and a work of art to develop the cohesiveness of an offensive line unit. And one guy taking the wrong step destroys the entire performance of the unit. And for a freshman to have adapted as well as he has just from the technique standpoint is, in a lot of ways, exceptional. His talent to play the position was obvious in high school."

Is there much more mental preparation that Wesley Carroll needs to make?
"I don't concern myself with his mental preparation at all now. I don't know if there is much else that you can throw at him than starting with the Auburn game at Auburn. I don't think it could be any tougher than that. I think I called him a rookie a couple of weeks ago and he reminded me that he wasn't a rookie anymore. And I told him, 'you are quite right'. Since that Auburn game he has played every game."

Dezmond Sherrod helps with community service. Talk about the public service that your players do while here.
"For our players and our program it is important because you want to instill the idea of them doing service in the community when they leave here. The best way to do that is their involvement in it while they are here. To me, that is part of their college education.

"With this young man a lot of that comes from the way he was reared at home. Since I have been here, Dezmond's name has never come across my desk in any negative way, shape or fashion. So far, the same thing can be said about his brother (Derek). It is a unique family. They are talented athletes, excellent students and strong character, both of them. They have a close-knit family that has parents that are very supportive of their children. It is a great family ... it truly is. They have been totally supportive of this program since we have been here."

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

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