[Premium Article] MSU head football coach Jackie Sherrill talked to the media about his team's upcoming Thursday night game against in-state rival Ole Miss."> [Premium Article] MSU head football coach Jackie Sherrill talked to the media about his team's upcoming Thursday night game against in-state rival Ole Miss.">

Jackie Sherrill's Tuesday Press Conference

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/coaches/football/sherrill.jpg" align="left" width="121" height="160"> [Premium Article] MSU head football coach Jackie Sherrill talked to the media about his team's upcoming Thursday night game against in-state rival Ole Miss.

Opening Comments:

"I think this is a time a lot of people look forward to. Certainly it is a week that a lot of people have a lot of things to say and a lot of interest involved in this game."

ESPN game:
"This game being on Thanksgiving night and being on ESPN has brought (it) a lot of interest. People around the country really don't care what the records are because this game has been a very exciting game. A game two teams have played very hard against each other and played very well."

"The players that are very questionable are Terrell Grindle and I don't know if Rico Bennett will be able to play. Everybody else were on the practice field yesterday and practiced. Even though we have some guys with bumps and bruises that will not be full speed, everybody else should be able to play."

Ole Miss:
"They have been playing a lot of players defensively. They have some players up front who have excellent talent running to the football. Their defensive team relies on quickness. They slant and move a lot. Their linebackers can run and they play different coverages in the secondary. They play five defensive backs all the time instead of four.

"Offensively, you have to, without a doubt, start with Eli (Manning). The first thing that gets your attention (is his) size. He is a true 6-5 and may be taller. He has all the qualities to be a quarterback; height, arm strength, when to get rid of the ball. Hopefully, we will be able to put some pressure on him. We were able to do that last year at the end of the game. That gave us an opportunity to win the game.

"Their kicking game is very good, very solid. They have not had a punt blocked. They are very quick on getting their punts away. They have not had many yards returned against them because he spreads the ball. At first, I thought we would probably put two safeties back to make sure we can field the punt. Their kicker has done a very, very good job and is very consistent. The question I have watching some of their games and listening to some of the comments is their (field's) footing is not very good, especially on certain parts of the field. That effects your field goal team. Hopefully, that has been corrected.

"In this game you don't have much time. You don't have a lot of time to practice. Certainly they have the advantage because there is no school."

Q&A with Jackie Sherrill:

This game has taken on a lot of emotion over the years. Talk a little about that.
"The reason for that is you have a lot of players who know each other and have played against each other. Quite frankly, a lot of their players come down here at different times to socialize."

Do you think they will attempt to run on your team?
"I think so. I think they will try and be a very balanced team. They have the Tennessee film and the Arkansas film. I'm sure they have talked to Tennessee and Arkansas."

What is the key to winning this game?
"First, the biggest key, as always, is field position. Two, is not turning the ball over. There are going to be, counting special teams, between 60 and 80 snaps in this game. Out of that 60 and 80, there are going to be between 3 and 6 plays that are the difference in either winning or losing this game."

You mentioned that all of the players but two are very likely going to play. Will Josh Morgan play? (Josh broke his left forearm against Arkansas.-Gene).
"I doubt that he will play very much, meaning that they have turned him loose but it will be very difficult to play with a cast from your elbow down."

What about Tommy Kelly?
"Tommy will play."

Will he start?
"Well, we don't know. We will wait until that time, but right now Tommy will play. He is practicing."

How is Kevin Fant doing in practice?
"I was shocked. If you didn't know it, you might not have been able to pick up on his ankle (injury) or knee (injury)."

What have you liked about Mario Haggan's play this year?
"He has got a lot of things (going for him) other than being a player. Naturally, as a linebacker, he fits that mode of linebackers that we have had (in the past). What separates him are the intangibles inside of him. He is a very mature young man. He is going to have an opportunity (to play in the NFL) on Sunday."

What turned last year's game around so that you guys could win it?
"A couple of plays. The two plays that (Korey) Banks made were big, big plays."

How much do you think it motivates your players to know that if they defeat Ole Miss, they will keep them out of a bowl game?
"I don't think that they even think about it. If you are going into a game saying that you are going to keep you out of something, then you are in the game for the wrong reasons. Our players are going into this game to win. They are playing Mississippi. They are going (into it) to win."

Talk a little about running back Justin Griffith.
"He has always had running ability. And he has always been able to catch. He has very good hands. As a matter of fact, as a freshman he set the Mississippi State record for most catches by a running back. There are also the intangibles about him now that have made him a much, much better player and runner. He is much more patient and a much more physical runner than he was."

Do you consider (tight end) Donald Lee as an underrated player?
"I don't know of any other tight end in this conference that can do the things that Donald can. I'm talking about blocking, catching...doing those things. He is another one that is going to be playing for years to come."

Do you feel Justin Griffith has the talent to play in the pros?
"Yes, Justin will be somewhere."

Do you think his stock has risen this year?
"His stock will really rise when they start doing their interviews. And he can do so many things on the football team. What he can bring to the table will cause them to try and find a place for him.

"This is a funny story. (Former MSU fullback) Fred McCrary was not on the list of players (that were expected) to be drafted. When the pro scouts came around timing everybody else he showed up everyone of them. They called back and asked Phil (Silva) to weigh him. If he weighed a certain weight, then they were going to take a chance on him. They asked Phil what he weighed. He said I think he weighs this. They said go weigh him. When he weighed him Fred put rocks in his pockets to meet the weight. And he has been a starter in that league for a long time."

Do you personally get a little more out of this game than the other games because it is a rivalry game?
"You have to understand that for 365 days that is what you are playing for."

You mention academics are the reason for Dontae Walker not being on the team any longer. Talk a little about that.
"He is very close to graduating. I think he lacks maybe 13 hours after this semester. You have feelings for your kids when you know how hard they try and how hard they work and how hard they practice."

Did he indicate to you that he might give the NFL a shot?
"He is going to be there somewhere. Will he play? That will be up to him and if he is in the right place at the right time."

Did you give him any advice about that?
"I do like I do all the others."

In the end was his weight part of the reason for his ineffectiveness this year?
"No, he was right at 240. He still had the same quickness."

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

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