A Q&A With Charlie Harbison

New Mississippi State defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison took time out of his busy schedule to do a Q&A with Gene's Page Sunday night.

Who has had the most influence in your life as far as football is concerned?
"I give a lot of credit to my mom. My mom (Lillie Harbison) is my hero, she's my heart. I would also have to include Ellis Johnson, Pete Kuharchek who I coached with at UTEP in 1994, Doug Kaye who I played for in the USFL, also my high school coach, Sid Bryson, who inspired me and still calls me once a week. I would put Jim Washburn, who is defensive line coach with the Tennessee Titans, in there also."

How did they specifically influence you?
"Sid Bryson is like a father-figure to me - he was strong and demanded perfection, but yet you knew he loved you. I watched him and saw that he cared about his kids, but also pushed them to be the best. He calls me weekly. He watches our games. He also likes to come to some games when we play close to where he lives. When I go back home to the Carolinas I always try to go see him.

"Jim Washburn had a lot to do in helping me and molding me. He's like a big brother to me. He's a go-getter. Like all of these men, he cares about the kids and won't let a kid be average.

"Pete Kuharchek is a guy that has passion and is good with schemes. He's a quiet guy who didn't have to be at the forefront. And it's about the kids with him. He listened to his players and got feedback from them. I consider him as a brother also.

"I played for Doug Kaye in the USFL and later coached with him in the World League. He is a guy who has some fire about him. He taught me quite a bit about the values I have today. He's also like a father-figure to me.

"Ellis Johnson is my spiritual brother. I'm happy for him. God has a plan for all of us.

"I've also learned from guys like Coach Shula, Nick Saban, (Mike) Dubose, Tommy West, Charlie Bailey, Galen Hall, Steve Van Hall. And Coach Croom has really poured a lot into me. He's a man who is more than a head coach - he's a friend and a blessing, not just to me, but to the kids and the university.

"And all these people, who are all good people, not only influenced me in football, but in my life and as a man, too."

Is Coach Croom the ideal coach for you to coach under?
"Coach Croom, number 1, is a man's man. When you look at him, you see God's hand on his life. And you want to be connected to anybody that has that quality."

Is listening to your players going to be a big part of you being a defensive coordinator?
"I'm not going to put them in a position where they can't be successful. And kids don't make that kind of decision. Our staff will make that kind of decision for each play and for each game. But you can have feedback from anybody, including the players. Just like in the business world, if you have somebody work for you and they are doing a project, they will have suggestions. And you will listen to their feedback because you have to be able to hear what they are saying and take advice, then make the best decision."

You've been a defensive coordinator before. How do you think that has helped you prepare for this job? Or does being a former coordinator really matter that much?
"The bottom line is I think all of the assistants could be coordinators. They coordinate their own positions and have their own ideas and thoughts during a game. And you get advice from the guys you work with. Then, you form a gameplan and work with it so that you can put your kids in a position to make plays.

"While it's normal for one person to make a call, people don't realize that sometimes during the course of a game anybody can make a call. On Saturday, everybody on the staff has opinions. Remember, the defense is not on the field all the time. The offense is on the field also. And every staff in the country talks during the game."

How would you like for people to describe the Mississippi State defense that you are the defensive coordinator of?
"We played 60 minutes of Bulldog football and we didn't play casual. I don't like casual ballplayers. I want our players to have a pep in their step. I want them to be assertive."

You've played and coached in pro ball. What is the difference in pro ball and college ball?
"I really feel like the players in pro ball see it as their profession, their job. Whereas, in college, the kids are student-athletes. And you still can teach them and mold them. Some pro ballplayers already have themselves set to do certain things in a certain way. You just teach them schemes. It's more assignment football. In college, you can still teach them the fundamentals. And they are still at a crossroads in their lives. They are still finding themselves. I want these kids to be the best they can be. I want them to be good men, good fathers, and to get their education. Kids can go pro, other than in sports. They can go pro as a doctor, a lawyer, and anything else, not just sports. I also want them to be God-fearing men. I'm not going to push that on them, but if they are around me they are going to hear it."

How will being the defensive coordinator be different than being a regular assistant coach?
"It will add more responsibilities to my plate."

But you already work long hours. Where will you find the time?
"I will work until I get my job done that day. I love what I do. I love the guys I work with and I love my boss. The Lord blessed me."

You love recruiting. And coordinators don't usually spend as much time recruiting as regular assistant coaches. So, will being a coordinator affect your ability to recruit?
"Each head coach and each staff does things differently. So, I don't know how that will affect me right now. I'll have to see. But I do love recruiting. But I also love what I'm about to do. I never thought I would get this opportunity, but the Lord touched Coach Croom's heart to bless me. And I'm thankful."

Coach Croom mentioned that the job you did with the safeties partly influenced his decision to make you the defensive coordinator. What is the difference in the safeties and the entire secondary this year compared to last year?
"I think it's a combination of not just (cornerbacks coach) Melvin (Smith) and me, but also (defensive line coach) David (Turner) and Coach (Ellis) Johnson. We worked as a unit and got our kids to play to the highest level that they can play. And they had passion for what we were doing. Plus, the kids were a year older. But Melvin's kids were younger, so it's a credit to Melvin what he did with them."

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.

Gene's Page Top Stories