A Q&A With Charlie Harbison

Mississippi State safeties coach and defensive coordinator Charlie Harbison talks about each of the Bulldog safeties and his expectations for them this coming season.

How did Derek Pegues do this spring?
"Derek Pegues had a good spring. Last year, we didn't really know how he was going to play for us because he had just moved from corner to safety. He knew the system, but how he was going to respond was the question mark. He did a good job. Then, this spring, he picked up where he left off.

"He understands the system and what we want, but we still have to get him to the next level where he's playing at the top of his game every snap. He's a guy who can really control things in the secondary. He's a good communicator who understands situations."

De'Mon Glanton is another senior. How did he do?
"He is a guy who I would put in the same category as Derek when it comes to his knowledge of the game. Glanton plays both free safety and can also play strong safety. He also had a good spring. He got better as far as the fundamentals, which was something that we really wanted to work with."

Keith Fitzhugh is the third senior in your group.
"Fitzhugh is a guy who plays strong safety. I could put him at free safety, but I really need him at strong because he's the biggest of the three. He really came around. The first spring I was here he got dinged up a little bit, but as the season started and continued to progress, he and Glanton shared time."

Zach Smith is a sophomore who played a lot last year.
"Zach made a lot of strides while playing as a true freshman. He's a smart kid who played quarterback at Susan Moore High School in Alabama. Playing safety fits him well because it's like he's still playing quarterback. The guys respond well to him. With the other three guys being seniors the baton is going to be handed to him, although he's going to have to earn it. And he's earning it.

"He's a guy who is learning both free and strong, but mostly free.

"As for his spring, he had a good one, but he did miss a few days early in the spring."

Since this was his first spring, what improvements did you see from him from the beginning to the end of spring?
"As a freshman coming in in the fall, he didn't have to control things. He always has someone out there with him. But during the spring, I put him in some situations where he had to be the guy who made the calls. I put more on him as far as having to be a decision-maker. He made some strides, although he's not quite where I want him to be."

Chris Nance is a junior college guy who redshirted last season. Talk a little about him.
"Nance is a fee safety type. He's a guy who probably has more cover skills, but that's because he was a corner. But he still has a ways to go. He'll be in the rotation depending on the situation."

Of your five, three are seniors, so some of the incoming freshmen will probably have to play just to gain some experience. One of those guys is Charles Mitchell. What are your thoughts about him?
"Charles Mitchell is a guy that I am excited about. I feel confident in him. I like his size and his speed. He's a mature guy. And in addition to being an exceptional player, he's a good person. He's a guy, like Zach was last year, that will come in and get some playing time. It will be up to him and me to help him get the system down. I won't try to put too much on him, but I will try to put him in situations where he will be successful."

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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