Bulldogs arrive in Jacksonville, go though first TaxSlayer Bowl practice

The Bulldogs will practice again Wednesday morning and spend the afternoon at Jacksonville’s Naval Station Mayport.

Posted: Dec 26, 2017 5:09 PM
Updated: Dec 26, 2017 10:13 PM

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – For the fourth time in six years, Mississippi State football has arrived in Florida in preparation for a bowl game as the Bulldogs flew to Jacksonville Christmas night and then went through their first TaxSlayer Bowl game week practice at the University of North Florida on Tuesday afternoon.


MSU (8-4), under the direction of interim head coach Greg Knox, practiced for just under two hours in its first workout since Dec. 21. The Bulldogs’ travel party took a charter flight to Jacksonville International Airport and then bussed to their headquarters for the week – the Sawgrass Marriott – before going through position meetings Tuesday morning.

Senior linebacker Dez Harris, who missed the final two regular season games due to a thigh injury, returned to practice for the first time since the injury. Keytaon Thompson has taken all of the reps in practice and will be just the third true freshman quarterback to start in a bowl game for MSU. Starter Nick Fitzgerald, who broke his ankle during the Egg Bowl, did make the trip to Jacksonville as did senior wide receiver Donald Gray, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery. Both were at practice and providing leadership on the sideline.

The Bulldogs will practice again Wednesday morning and spend the afternoon at Jacksonville’s Naval Station Mayport. MSU clashes with Louisville at 11 a.m. CT/12 p.m. ET Saturday in the TaxSlayer Bowl from EverBank Field. The contest will be televised live on ESPN.

Below are quotes from Knox and Thompson’s media session.

Interim Head Coach Greg Knox

On first practice session in Jacksonville…

“It was good. There was lots of enthusiasm. Guys hopping around. A lot of juice, which we needed. They were happy to be back out on the field. They were happy to be back together. We had a wonderful Christmas back home with our families, so they were happy to be back together.”

On what he hopes to accomplished between now and Saturday…

“Preparation. It’s all a process. We’re going through the process of preparing to win a ball game. That’s what we’re hoping to get done.”

On expectation of Dez Harris playing on Saturday…

“We’re hoping. He’s going through some exercises a little with the defense and a little with the trainers. We’re hoping to have him back on Saturday.

On Lashard Durr returning to practice…

“He’s back ready. He’s working. He’s back in the mix. We’re excited about having him back out there.”

On Donald Gray…

“He’s out there. He brings a lot of juice to the group, so we need Donald around us. I don’t know about Donald playing, but he’s out here with us. He’s going to be playing in his mind with us. He plays. Trust me, he’ll be there with us mentally.”

On the growth of Keytaon Thompson…

“He’s handled it well. He’s prepared. He’s going through it. As you watch him perform in practice, he’s getting better and better. That’s coming with the more amount of reps he’s getting every day. He’s getting the full load. There’s no Nick Fitzgerald right now, so he’s getting the full load of it. As you watch him develop, he’s getting better and better every day. The more we practice, the better he gets.”

On how much of the playbook is available for Keytaon Thompson…

“We closed some of it. We sat him down, put a page in front of him and said ‘Here, tell us what you feel comfortable with.’ That’s what we put in. We’re going to do what he can do, and what he feels good about.”

On filling Jamal Peters’ role at cornerback…

“We talked to coach [Terrell] Buckley. We’ve got [Tolando] Cleveland. We’ve got [Lashard] Durr back. With those two guys coming back and Korey Charles is there. He hasn’t played a lot, but he’s there in a backup role. We’ve got some guys. We have [Cameron] Dantzler as well. We miss Jamal [Peters]. He’s part of the family. We understand what he is going through, but we’ve got guys that are in positions and are ready to step up and play.”

On how the interim staff is handling the coaching transition…

“They understand. They are in this business, and they have been in it a long time just like I have. It’s nothing that’s unusual to them. They know this side of it, so now they are on this side of it. They just adjust and keep moving forward.”

On the interim staff keeping motivation to see the bowl game through…

“No. 1, we have a foundation, and it is family. Our players understand that. They know me. They know our assistant coaches. They know we’re all family. The players understand more than anything. That’s a big part of it. It’s less maintenance when they understand what’s going on. They know there’s going to be a new coach. They understand we’re going through the bowl game. We’re preparing to win a game. As long as the players understand, there’s less maintenance.”

On playing against Louisville’s Lamar Jackson…

“It’s a wonderful challenge for our players to have the opportunity to play against a Heisman Trophy winner and a guy of his caliber. That doesn’t come along often. This is a great opportunity for our defensive guys. They are excited about the challenge and looking forward to the opportunity of playing him.”

On the defensive game plan to prepare for Lamar Jackson…

“Keep him in the pocket. Once he scrambles and gets out of the pocket, he is very dangerous. He is going to do his thing. He’s going to get his. We just got to maintain him and control him.”

QB Keytaon Thompson

On his growth in confidence since the Ole Miss game…

“I’m very confident with all the extra reps and knowing that I’ll be playing and starting in a bowl game. I just want to come out and execute at a high level. My coaches and teammates have all the confidence in me, and that helps a lot.”

On any differences preparing for his first bowl game…

“It’s just more reps, first-team reps, but that’s pretty much it.”

On excitement level for the bowl game…

“I’m really excited. This is the first day back. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling fresh. I’m just ready to go.”

On dealing with coaching transitions during bowl prep…

“We just want to go out with a bang. I love Coach Brett [Elliot]. We have a great relationship. This is going to be his last game coaching me, so we just want to go out, execute and put on a show. This is just business. Coaches come, and coaches go. You just have to play. The relationships, you keep them. We’re just looking to execute in this game.”

On having Nick Fitzgerald out at practices…

“Nick is great. He helps take the pressure off. He keeps me loose and keeps me going.”

On any advice given by Nick Fitzgerald…

“It’s a lot of little things that helps me a lot. Fitz is just a great guy and a great mentor. He’s been that way since I’ve got here. He’s continued to do that.”

On his playbook comfortability…

“I’m comfortable with the entire offense, basically. There are just a few plays that I’m not comfortable with that we took out. Wrinkles that we made to the playbook. I’m really comfortable with what we have in our game plan. Coach Brett [Elliot] and coach [Greg] Knox did a great job with it.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 500709

Reported Deaths: 9977
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34312538
DeSoto32080403
Hinds31924627
Jackson24482379
Rankin21983390
Lee15530235
Madison14574280
Jones13838242
Forrest13447251
Lauderdale11985316
Lowndes11030188
Lamar10508135
Pearl River9503237
Lafayette8547139
Hancock7728126
Washington7422157
Oktibbeha7142131
Monroe6769176
Warren6682176
Pontotoc6659102
Neshoba6635206
Panola6520131
Marshall6462134
Bolivar6313148
Union602494
Pike5817152
Alcorn5667101
Lincoln5433135
George496779
Scott472698
Tippah469081
Prentiss466881
Leflore4657144
Itawamba4633105
Adams4586119
Tate4584110
Copiah448592
Simpson4445116
Yazoo443987
Wayne439772
Covington428794
Sunflower4237105
Marion4225108
Coahoma4159104
Leake408288
Newton381679
Grenada3706108
Stone359764
Tishomingo359692
Attala331489
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay307976
Chickasaw299667
Clarke292494
Calhoun279346
Holmes267887
Smith263850
Yalobusha233747
Tallahatchie227151
Greene219048
Walthall218763
Lawrence212440
Perry205356
Amite205155
Webster202746
Noxubee186640
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171542
Carroll168838
Tunica159439
Benton148738
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132437
Humphreys129238
Franklin120028
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 817054

Reported Deaths: 15320
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1145501922
Mobile724601333
Madison52172694
Shelby37533348
Baldwin37192547
Tuscaloosa35044606
Montgomery34067734
Lee23195245
Calhoun22205476
Morgan20754376
Etowah19811497
Marshall18317302
Houston17345411
St. Clair15983339
Cullman15383292
Limestone15298198
Elmore15161284
Lauderdale14225294
Talladega13802276
DeKalb12622260
Walker11162369
Blount10162175
Autauga9954146
Jackson9844182
Coffee9195191
Dale8880185
Colbert8826201
Tallapoosa7071198
Escambia6764130
Covington6699183
Chilton6627161
Russell627959
Franklin5955105
Chambers5567142
Marion4982126
Dallas4936200
Clarke474583
Pike4722105
Geneva4566126
Winston4502103
Lawrence4296117
Bibb424086
Barbour356676
Marengo337789
Monroe331463
Randolph328763
Butler325696
Pickens315682
Henry311965
Hale311088
Cherokee301760
Fayette291879
Washington251351
Cleburne247360
Crenshaw244375
Clay241768
Macon232363
Lamar222047
Conecuh185853
Coosa179739
Lowndes174564
Wilcox167939
Bullock151644
Perry138340
Sumter132738
Greene126644
Choctaw88127
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