[Premium Article] Mississippi State head football coach Jackie Sherrill talked to the media Monday morning."> [Premium Article] Mississippi State head football coach Jackie Sherrill talked to the media Monday morning.">

November 18 Teleconference with Jackie Sherrill

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/coaches/football/sherrill.jpg" align="left" width="121" height="160"> [Premium Article] Mississippi State head football coach Jackie Sherrill talked to the media Monday morning.

Coach Sherrill's Opening Comments:

About Tennessee:
"At the beginning, I thought we would have to stop certain things. I was correct. We didn't lose the game because of not being able to stop the run. We lost the game because of the two passes and and making the two mistakes offensively.

"Tennessee has a lot of great athletes. There is no question there, but we still put ourselves back in it with a chance to win it but we gave up two easy touchdowns."

Injury situation:

"Right now, the people who are not on the field are Tommy Kelly, Kevin Fant, Darnell Jones and Elmore Wonsley. Those are the guys who will be out (of practice) today The real big question (for the Arkansas game) is Tommy Kelly. Everybody else should be back."

Q&A with coach Sherrill:

Specify the injuries.
"Tommy has the ankle (injury). He came out Saturday. We are going to try and get him back, but because of his size and what he has to do there is a question. Kevin Fant has a (right) shoulder (injury) and a quad contusion and he got landed on his ankle. It is not an ankle sprain. The brace bruised his ankle bone. He hurt his shoulder early in the game when he got hit. He should be back. Darnell got hit in the ribs. He will be slowed this week and will not have contact. He should play. Elmore Wonsley has back spasms but should be ready to play."

You've had some close games with Arkansas the past few years.
"We've had close games going all the way back to 1991. It has been a game, whether they are here or we are up there, where it has always been close. We have played them on three or four different occasions where we had a chance to win the West and they kept us from winning the West because we lost the game."

How about giving us a little scouting report on Arkansas.
"They have some guys that have been around a long time. Defensively, they have been playing very, very well. They have probably being playing the most consistent in the league."

Talk about their quarterback Matt Jones.
"The best thing about him is he is a great athlete. He could be a receiver. In fact, that is where he started (out). He could also be a defensive player."

Arkansas runs the option. How much have you seen the option this year?
"We haven't seen as much as they are going to run."

Talk about their running backs.
"They are very good, very good. It seems like one of them has a great game, then the next game another one has a great game. They used those guys very good on offense."

Talk about the contributions of Justin Griffith to your team and what his future holds for him.
"His future is very bright. Justin is one of those kids who will be very successful in life. He is studying to be a minister. He has been a great leader for our football team. What he does on and off the field (makes him a leader)."

You guys had a real good run for a while, then the last two years have been a real struggle. Is there anything you can pinpoint as to why the program has slipped the last couple of years?
"There are a lot of reasons. South Carolina, last year, was when the bubble popped. When it popped we didn't have the leadership to carry us through that. We've had to fight that. Plus, we've had injuries, especially, offensively, up front. What really hurt us this year was losing Chris McNeil, who was a leader up front. He is a very, very tough kid and he is an outstanding player. He would have been All-SEC as a freshman and would have probably been a freshman All-American."

You are 0-6 in the league. What is the mindset of your team?
"The players get up for the games each week. That is something that you have to give them credit for. They have played hard every game and have been in every game."

Your team is last in the league in the turnover margin.
"Turnovers are hard to overcome unless you have a great, great defense. Turnovers can kill you. Just like Saturday against Tennessee, we turned it over on two fumbles and they scored. We turned it over on a sky kick (and they scored)."

How frustrating have the last two years been for you, especially since you have had a lot of success wherever you have been?
"You don't take away what anybody has done. It gets you more determined to make sure things are turned around. You are more determined to make sure this is not your last shot. If you are going to go out, you are going to go out with a good feeling. We are fine as far as having a foundation. We will win. We have 37 freshmen who are not your average players. I don't know if anybody in the league is starting as many freshmen as we are in. Like I said early in the season, we will win a lot of games with this freshman group or somebody else will."

Talk about the play of Mario Haggan.
"Mario has played very well. He has been very consistent. He is going to be the double-digit playmaker every week. We made a mistake last year moving him to defensive end. We took a great linebacker and made him into an average defensive end. That was a mistake on our part. We should have left him at linebacker. There is no question that he will be playing (in the NFL) on Sundays."

How about commenting on (kicker) Brent Smith.
"Confident-wise he is really strong. He had that coming in. Everyday he is out there, he has a lot of success. He does more things with the football than other guys that I have been around. He is also a four point student. He will be put on scholarship."

Will Kevin Fant start this week?

How has he done this season?
"He has played up and down. We haven't given him much help by sometimes not catching the football."

There were a lot of high hopes for Dontae Walker. Has it been injuries with him or what has been the story with him?
"The big ones were his shoulder and ankle. He is getting better. When he is well, he will be ready to play."

After reviewing the film of the Tennessee game, what did you see happen on the Josh Morgan/Witt fight? It looked like he blocked Josh out of bounds.
"It was at least ten yards out of bounds. It wasn't that he blocked him, but that he was jerking him out of bounds. There is a difference if you knock them out of bounds."

Has Kyle York put himself in a position where he is competing for the starting job?
"Everytime you go out and practice you are competing, but Kevin is the starting quarterback. As long as Kevin plays well he will start."

Would you have a problem with starting Kyle over Kevin?
"No. If Kevin couldn't go, no, not at all."

Talk a little about Michael Gholar's play. Has it surprised you how well he has been able to play coming from basketball?
"Yeah, I was very surprised, but not overly surprised. He is an athlete. He gets to the ball and makes plays. He came out in the spring and after been out there for two days, the first scrimmage he was in he made 7 or 8 tackles. There is no question that Michael Gholar, if he had been out for football, would have been an All-SEC, All-American type player."

Looking at this team, would you call it a bad team, a young team, or an injury-plagued team?
"I would call it a football team that has put itself in a position to win, but didn't make the plays to win. It started with losing players. We couldn't replace a Chris McNeil. That is hard to do."

How big of a loss was losing (starting offensive tackle to academics) Derrick Thompson?
"It was huge."

Do you expect him back for the spring?
"We won't know until after this semester. He is (in school at MSU). He has to do well this semester."

What were your expectations of this team?
"I was very confident that we would have a good season, a winning season and go to a bowl game. If we had the ball bounce right for us, we would have been competing for the West, but that didn't happen."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at swindoll@genespage.com

Gene's Page Top Stories