A Q&A With DL Coach David Turner

Mississippi State defensive line coach David Turner talks about the defensive line - who are the starters right now, who is currently on the two-deep chart, where the true and redshirt freshmen fit in, and which veteran player has really stepped it up during preseason practices.

How did practice go today (Monday) for the defensive linemen?
"We didn't have a very good practice (Monday). Hopefully, we will come out (Tuesday) a little more determined and be a little bit sharper. But today wasn't one of our better days."

What happened today?
"I'm not sure. We just weren't as sharp as I thought we should have been. We weren't as mentally focused as we should have been for the first day of game week. We were a little sluggish. But part of it could be due to having to deal with a young group of guys as we are having to do overall. We have a few old guys in there in (Kyle) Love, (Charles) Burns and (Pernell) McPhee but (our young) guys have to be more focused and understand what it takes during game week to get zeroed in on your assignments. But we will be better tomorrow because the guys will respond."

Have the coaches determined who is going to start at the defensive line positions?
"It's still up in the air but the first group right now is Pernell McPhee and Brandon Cooper at ends and Charles Burns and Kyle Love at the tackles."

McPhee has been moved back to end?
"Yeah, we moved him to get the best four on the field. So, we are looking at him at end and he's going to play some tackle. He's picked it up quicker than I thought he would, playing both positions."

You said that Kyle Love is one of the starters. There was a time where he was on the second unit. What has he done to earn the first unit job?
"Kyle has kind of hit another gear. I would like to think it's because he's a senior and he's a little more focused. I think he has his academic and personal life in order right now. And the football part is starting to come around. But Kyle has actually hit another gear. I'm proud of the way he has been practicing and I'm proud of how he has been handling himself. He's got his weight down. He is probably between 300 and 305. He probably hasn't weighed that since he was in the 7th grade. He's moving around better. I think his feet feel a whole lot better."

Who is on the second unit?
"The second team has been Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox at tackle and Nick Bell and Sean Ferguson at end."

What have you seen from Nick Bell and Sean Ferguson that earned them the backup roles at defensive end?
"Sean played last year and has more experience. And Nick Bell has probably been the most consistent in camp, he hasn't missed a day. He's out there everyday and working hard. He's been steadily improving. There was a week or two where he was running first team. But Cooper had a couple of good scrimmages and moved back up. Nick is going to be a guy who will play a lot of snaps.

"Ferguson is like Nick, he has been at every practice. He's been about the same as Nick. He's been there everyday and he's working hard. He's had some good practices and he's had some bad practices. But I think he's starting to understand what it takes in terms of the intensity. You have to work hard everyday to get better. Just because you played last year doesn't mean you are going to play this year. You have to earn the right to play."

You have two freshmen on the second team at the tackle positions. Is that because they have been that impressive or because you don't have much depth inside?
"It's not that we don't have numbers at tackle because we have more numbers at tackle than we do at end. They've just picked it up, they fly around, they make plays, they are athletic. They've just come in and worked hard so we are going to give them an opportunity to play and see what they can do."

Do you know how many snaps Boyd and Cox might get in the first game?
"I don't have any idea. But they earn the snaps out here in practice, so if they continue to practice well, then they will have the opportunity to get a lot of snaps on Saturday."

You mentioned that it's up in the air how many snaps the true freshmen linemen will get. What about guys like Ferguson, who has experience, and Bell, who has been here a year although as a redshirt? Do you feel confident that they will get a good number of snaps?
"Yeah, those guys bring a little something to the table. Nick is probably a little bit better against the run and Ferguson is probably a little bit better against the pass. We are still trying to get them to pick up the other side of their game so they can be good at both."

You didn't mention true freshman Johnathan McKenzie. What are your plans for him this year?
"Hopefully, we will be able to redshirt him but you don't ever say never. We are one or two injuries away from him possibly having to play. But the plan right now is to get him ready but, hopefully, not have to use him this year."

How has redshirt freshman Trevor Stigers looked during the preseason practices?
"When he has been out here he has been fine but he missed a week and a half with the flu. And before that he had a stinger. Trevor's problem has been the same since he has been here - he will put a week together, then he'll miss a week with an injury or something else will come up. So he hasn't been able to put good practices on top of good practices. When he can consistently put good practices together all the time he has the chance to be a really good player for us."

Have you seen improvement from sophomore defensive tackle Josh Jackson?
"Yeah, I think he is a little more motivated now that he sees he's not in the two-deep depth chart. He's been practicing well. Right now, we are trying to figure out who is going to be the fifth tackle, and it's between him, Rodney Prince and LaMarcus Williams. And right now Josh Jackson would probably have the nod but that could change tomorrow."

If the two-deep play up to their potential do you feel pretty good about them?
"Yes, I do. It's a good group of guys, and we have some depth. We are trying to create some competition. I feel good about them. But when you are playing with freshmen the best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores and juniors. But they are going to be ok because they are athletic, they are making play. And if I can get them to be where they are supposed to be on the defense and get them to do what they are supposed to do, then the rest of it will come. But I'm pleased with their progress so far."


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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