Felker Runs Recruiting As Coach Search Begins

Rockey Felker certainly has a full perspective on coaching transitions, moreso than anyone on the Mississippi State campus. So when athletics director Greg Byrne asked the former MSU player, head coach, and for the last six years assistant coach to take temporary oversight of the program "I guess he thought I might be more prepared than anybody!" Felker joked.

But of course Mississippi State is serious about making the transition following Coach Sylvester Croom's Saturday resignation to the new head football coach as productive as possible. And Felker, who already coordinated recruiting for Croom, will be in direct charge in the interim as State works to keep a promising recruiting class—ranked currently #23 nationally by Scout.com—in line for signings both in December and February.

Felker met with media Saturday to discuss his latest assignment with his alma mater.

Q: How has Greg Byrne described your duties now? "We discussed late this morning. Of course everything has kind of caught me off-guard, I'm trying to focus on what we need to do right now. Obviously with our own players, we have a team meeting Monday and (they) hopefully finish the semester in good shape. I'm sure there are going to be a lot of mixed feelings."

"You know, this not the first time I've been through anything like this. It's the way coaching is. I've been in situations about three different times very similar to this, so I guess he looked at me and thought I might be more prepared than anybody! But we want to make sure our players finish the semester in good shape. Of course we're getting ready to start a contact period with recruits, starting Sunday, and that will be the big thing now in terms of we've had a good recruiting year up to now. We've got to really just continue to sell our University, our program. Coach Croom has done a lot of great things, built the program. He left in a lot better shape than he found it. And I kind of like to think that was my case as well."

"The big thing, is we've had good recruiting years up to now, particularly the last two or three. And this is really a critical year coming up. It's important that we hang on to what we've got until we're able to get a new head coach on board and get that coach in front of them."

Q: Croom said this was a critical class, what do you tell these guys? "Well, I think they know a lot about the chances they have to come in and play. I think they know a lot about their positions, the kind of recruits we've signed the last couple of years. Of course facilities are a lot different than they were five, six years ago. They see a new academic building across the street, a lot of new locker room and weightroom, things that have shown the commitment in the program. And the fact we had the kind of year we had a year ago shows we're not that far away. This was a season like most seasons, where two or three games if we could have come out on the right end and been a different season for us."

Q: How did you find out what happened and what was your reaction? "I came to the office this morning and visited with Greg, and that was the first time I had heard of it. Being in coaching 25, 30 years you don't know exactly what is going to happen. But when you come off the kind of loss we had yesterday, the way the season has gone, you're not sure what is going to happen. I don't guess you're really surprised at anything."

"I know it's the way college athletics is. Particularly being a head football coach at this level. We think we're going to go to a place and stay 15, 20 years. But the reality of it is it's normally a four, five, six year process. You look around the league, most of the time the life of a head coach doesn't last much longer than that. You'd like to think your situation is different but it's a job that grows on you, that you become tired, you have so many ups and downs. And more than ever it's probably more criticism, not only in Mississippi but every state where college football is with talk shows and internet. It's a lot of expectation, so you know when you have a tough year like this some things can happen."

Q: How do you anticipate Greg being used in contacting recruits? "I think they would want to hear from who is in charge. And I'm sure there is concern about who the next head coach is going to be. And I think they would want to hear from who is in charge, they would feel a little bit more comfort about the process that is taking place and what kind of timeframe we're looking at. I think it's good that he is going to be in contact with most of them."

Q: Have you talked to Sly? "I did. We didn't have a very long conversation but he seemed to be handling it about as well as you could. He basically thanked me for the work I put into it. And I relayed to him what I thought of him, how appreciative I was for the opportunity to work under him. He did a lot of great things for Mississippi State and represented our University well. He certainly leaves it in better shape than he found it."

Q: What are the players saying? "I have not talked to them. They're scattered and I have not had any conversations at this point. We'll try to contact them, whether we can get hold of 80 of them or not I'mnot sure."

Q: Coach Croom had said plans were for a half-dozen or so December signings and some more early enrollments. Will that go ahead? "Yeah, we will go on as we planned in terms of bringing in some mid-term players, junior college route and a couple of high school players that have a chance to graduate early. We will continue with that plan and those commitments by us will be honored."

Q: Coach said he didn't see yesterday coming, do you have any idea how that happened? "The game? Well, number-one we played a real good football team, I think Ole Miss again showed you don't beat Auburn, LSU, and Florida…they certainly were at their best and we were at our worst. Obviously they're a better football team than we were this year."

Q: Did you feel Houston Nutt's success his first year put any more pressure on you? "I don't think it really had as much to do with what they did as what we did in terms of our season. And obviously we didn't show up, we didn't play. One of our best players, Tyson Lee gets hurt early and we struggled moving the ball without his being able to make plays for us. We didn't protect him very well. That didn't help us any."

Q: Did you see any signs of pressures from Coach as the season went on? "No, not really. That's the great thing, Coach Croom was the same behind closed doors as you saw him, as everybody saw him. He was the same person. There wasn't any fake, anything about him. I think the big thing, some losses along the way certainly had to hurt. Particularly the Alabama game, we won two years in a row and we put so much into that game that I'm sure after that game it was a struggle to overcome. But just a grind week-to-week, I didn't see any difference in him other than not playing better than we were playing."

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