PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - Mostly sunny skies greeted Mississippi State football Wednesday as the Bulldogs returned to the practice field in preparation for a Dec. 30 matchup against Louisville in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl.
MSU worked out for less than two hours on the campus of the University of North Florida, the squad’s second practice since arriving in Jacksonville on Christmas night.
The Bulldogs then made the short trek to the Naval Station Mayport, taking in Jacksonville’s rich military history.
Upon arrival at the base, the team was welcomed with a barbecue lunch before splitting into two groups to tour the USS Farragut DDG 99 destroyer and an amphibious carrier ship. Tours were led by active-duty military that shared their deployment experiences and their individual duties aboard the ship. The Bulldogs also learned about the artillery and specialized equipment housed on board.
MSU will hold their final bowl practice on Thursday morning and spend the afternoon at Topgolf Jacksonville. The Bulldogs battle Louisville at 11 a.m. CT/12 p.m. ET Saturday in the TaxSlayer Bowl from EverBanks Field. The contest will be televised live on ESPN.
Below are quotes from interim defensive coordinator Ron English and defensive end Jeffery Simmons’ media session following Wednesday’s practice.
Interim Defensive Coordinator Ron English
On facing Lamar Jackson…
“I told the guys that I’ve coached against a lot guys out west in the Pac 12, the Big 10 and all over. This guy is more elusive than Reggie Bush in college. Nobody can tackle the guy. He can kind of do what he wants. I don’t think anybody compares to him. I really don’t.”
On his first message to the team after taking over as interim defensive coordinator…
“That we had done well. We had really changed the mentality a little bit. I thought that coach [Todd] Grantham did a great job, and really the whole staff, in just instilling the confidence in these players. When you go from being that bad on defense to turning it around, it’s not only what you’re doing, but how you’re doing it. I thought our guys did a nice job of that. My message was ‘you finished 25th in run defense. I think you finished 13th in passing yards allowed and 10th in total yards allowed, but nobody is going to remember that if you don’t play well in this last game.’ That was the message.”
On other offensive weapons on Louisville team…
“First of all, they are offensive coaches. I’ve coached at Louisville. I’ve known coach [Bobby] Petrino for a while, not personally but as a person in the profession that you follow. He’s one of the top play callers in the country. I think he’ll know what you’re doing defensively and will have answers for it. That means they are going to be able to coach them up and execute. That’s always an issue when you play a Petrino coached team. He’s going to expose your weaknesses. If you’re disciplined or undisciplined, he will attack that, and he’ll attack people. Louisville is scoring a lot of points. I think they are averaging 39 points a game. There’s a whole bunch of guys that you’ve got to try and slow down a bit. That’s what we’ll try to do.”
DE Jeffery Simmons
On the team’s focus…
“We’ve had two great practices. Everybody is locked in, especially with all the changes around here. I think Coach [Greg] Knox is doing a great job keeping everybody focused. I feel that everybody is on the right track, and we’re down here to win this game. I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
On slowing down Lamar Jackson…
“Everybody knows that is the focus. You have a Heisman Trophy candidate for two years in a row. He won it last year. We know right now that he’s the head of the snake. That’s the head of their team. Our job is not to take anybody out. Our job is to contain this guy. We know he is a dangerous player. Especially the defensive line, we just have to get after him.”
On earning All-SEC honors alongside Montez Sweat…
“It means a lot. The coaches said this is the first time its happen for two defensive linemen [at Mississippi State}. Sweat and I give our honor to our teammates, especially the defensive line. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be capable of pushing ourselves all season. It’s just a team thing.”
On his relationship with Montez Sweat…
“It’s close, especially on the field. Right before a play, we look at each other. We have that connection of ‘let’s go get this sack.’ Either he’s going to get pressure, or I’m going to get pressure. When I’m getting double teamed, he’s going to go. When the guard slides out to help us out, I’m going to try to get pressure. It’s just a thing we have together right now. We’re just trying to keep building. We can just look at each other, we don’t even have to say anything. We just hit each other’s hands and be like ‘let’s go.’
On the defensive improvement starting up front…
“Everyone knows that the game, especially in the SEC, is going to be won in the trenches. You’ve got top talent on the offensive line. You’ve got top talent on the defensive line. Whoever plays the best, the hardest and the longest is going to win.”
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