Q&A With MSU Tight Ends Coach Reed Stringer

Mississippi State tight ends coach Reed Stringer talks about how each of his tight ends did during the recently completed spring practice.

Now that you've had a chance to reflect back on spring practice and watch all of the practice video, what are your thoughts about your guys?
"I was very pleasantly pleased with the progression that they made during the spring. I have to admit I was a little worried because, of my top three or four guys coming back, they have a total of two snaps at tight end in collegiate football. That was a big difference between three guys who had over 3,000 snaps as a group like I did last year.

"It's really good to have (sophomore) Brandon Henderson who has been in the program for two years. He has been through two falls and two springs. Even though he doesn't have much experience as a tight end in games, he has worked at it in practice for two years. Because of that, he was ready to step in and he did a good job for us. Going into the fall, he will be number one on the depth chart and he solidified that with the way he played.

"He started off by having really good bowl practices. He started to get himself ready then because he knew he was the older guy in the group. Then, during the spring, he really stepped up and did a lot of good things."

What are some specific things you like about him? And what are some things that he still needs to work on?
"He has really good hands. I don't know if I have ever seen Brandon Henderson drop a ball in practice. He was a receiver in high school. He also has a lot of athletic ability.

"I think he needs to get his weight down a little bit, but I think he will do that during the summer. He also has to take a leadership role among the group."

How has redshirt freshman Marcus Green done since being moved to tight end from running back?
"We think it was a good move for us because Marcus wants to play. He doesn't like sitting and watching. He really picked up the blocking part of it a lot better than I thought he would because he's a naturally strong kid. If he gets his hands on you, he is going to block you because he's a finisher.

"He also brings an athletic ability that we haven't had since I've been coaching here. But he's really a running back playing tight end. When he catches a ball he has the ability to make something happen. We saw that a couple of times this spring when he caught a couple of short passes and did some really nice things with the ball. Plus, he's hard to tackle. I'm really excited about what he brings to the table."

True freshman Nelson Hurst came in in January. How has he adapted to college ball in such a short time?
"It was really amazing how well he was able to pick things up and how well he competed against guys who were four and five years older than him. He did a lot of good things. There's no doubt in my mind that he is going to play this coming season - he's not going to redshirt. And he's going to play a lot. For a freshman who is just a few months out of high school, that is a bold statement. That shows the type ability and toughness that he has. He's going to be a good player for us. And as he continues to grow and mature, he has a chance to be an outstanding player for us."

You also have a walk-on, Austin Wilbanks, among your group.
"He's been with the program for two years and is a very dependable guy who knows what he's doing. He comes out and works hard every day."

You have another guy, Thomas Webb, a transfer from Southern Miss.
"I've very excited about him. He showed us some things in the spring that tells me that we will be able to count on him beginning next year. Thomas is going to be a really good player for us after he sits out this coming year."

Will the first three guys you mentioned be similar to the three seniors that graduated last season - Eric Butler, Dezmond Sherrod and Jason Husband?
"Last year, each one of my guys were really good at certain things. And they were all very good players, so I had to get all of them on the field. But I feel like Brandon, Marcus and Nelson can do it all no matter what we are doing. They can do it all."

Despite the talent, they are still young and inexperienced, so there will be a learning curve with all three. I guess you could even say they are the weak link on the offensive side of the ball.
"You talk about being a weak link, but it's just inexperience. If you live in a false reality world, you might say they are immediately going to be just as good as the guys who left. Will they one day? Absolutely. Will it be next year? I don't know. But you have to remember, you are talking about three guys that had 3,000 snaps compared to three that have had 2 snaps. And while it will be a learning curve, I feel like they have the ability to compete and play winning SEC football. The inexperience excuse, the young excuse is not going to work. We are going to get them ready to play and play winning football."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the 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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