A Q&A With OC/QB Coach Les Koenning

Mississippi State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Les Koenning talks about the quarterbacks and MSU's new spread offense.

How have the quarterbacks done up to this point?
"(Chris) Relf and Tyson (Lee) are about equal right now. Tyson does some things good, Relf does some things good. There is not a lot of consistency. Both of them have had a chance to step up and I'm still waiting for it to happen. One practice it is one, one practice it's the other. We ran Relf a little bit with the ones today, then we ran Tyson with the ones."

Why run both with the ones?
"You have to get them out there to see how they fit (with the one) and how they lead the team. That is so critical. Both of them are part of the team and both of them do things well. But nobody has separated themselves from the other. And you can't win with that inconsistency. You have to be more consistent."

Tyson 20 of 26 in the Saturday scrimmage? Was he not as good in today's practice? "Tyson was something like 20 of 26 in the scrimmage, then he comes out today and wasn't real good. But he knows that. There's nothing bad about that."

What did you see that causes you to say he didn't do well today?
"When you come out and you aren't focused sometimes it hurts you. It is so critical that the quarterback position be consistent. If you take care of that football you are giving your team a chance to win. And if you don't take care of that football it's not going to be pretty at the end of the day."

If they aren't consistent does that open the door for a true freshman like Tyler Russell to step into?
"Oh yeah, but Tyler's situation is just mentally he has to pick it up. We have put him in scrimmages and got him on the field and when he is comfortable doing things he's ok. But how comfortable can you get him by the first game? All of sudden these bullets are flying and he says, 'coach, that moved real fast.' About twice as fast as high school for him. A new system is number 1, then the speed of the receivers and defenses are changing, and he has to learn new verbiage. It has been interesting with him."

I know he's only been here a few games, but what have you seen from newcomer Daniel Stegall?
"He has done everything that we have asked him to but he's only been here three days. We stuck him in a couple of times to throw a pass and do a couple of things but you talk about a sped-read course. If we had him earlier it would be a lot easier."

What are your impressions of his physical talent, his footspeed and arm-strength?
"We haven't gotten him in a scrimmage yet because we haven't scrimmaged since he's been here. But everything that he has done has been exciting. But he's behind those other guys because it's a whole new pictures for him. He's been throwing that baseball and trying to hit that curveball. It's a different deal."

Overall, what have you seen from the offense during the preseason practices and scrimmages?
"The most difficult thing with the offense has been the inconsistencies. Sometimes we look good, sometimes we look bad. And you can't be inconsistent. As long as you are consistent at moving the football whether it's on the ground or through the air you have a chance to win. And our consistency hasn't been there. It's hard to make big plays in this league because of the speed of everybody in it. So, you have to be pretty consistent and you better be assignment sound."

What positives have you seen from the offense?
"I've seen some guys come out and make some plays. I've seen some sustained drives. I've seen us move the ball down the field, but you can't shoot yourself in the toe. It's not necessarily what the defenses are doing but what you are doing."

I was going to ask if the defense was just playing that much better than the offense.
"The defense is playing good. (Defensive Coordinator) Carl (Torbush) is doing a heck of a job over there, but, again, if we would take care of our business it would eliminate half of our problems."

It seems like ever since I've been covering Mississippi State football I've always heard that about the offense - that it's inconsistent. Is it normal for offenses to be like that throughout the country? Is it unusual to find a consistent offense?
"I think you get consistency with maturity. They have worked with the system longer, they know what to expect. We are still putting in the base part of all of our concepts. We can change them each week, depending on who we play. But we are going to come out with our base concepts of what we do and how we get it done. And from there we will grow. And we've gotten kind of stagnant with our base concepts. And the kids are a little bored with it, too, because we are doing it over, over and over again."

So it's not unexpected to you that you have that inconsistency?
"No, it's not. We'll know a lot more when the games come around. You make you most improvement between the first and second game. You've heard that thousands of times."

Based on your vast experience in the game, is it normal for a team to be more consistent in games than it is in practice due to that boredom and facing the same defense over and over in practice?
"The defense has been around us so long they know our snap count, they know when to get off. They've seen all of our plays nine days in a row. So, some of the advantages you take into a game is the other guys won't know exactly what we will do."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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