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MSU football holds its media day

The Bulldogs began the day with their official team photo in Davis Wade Stadium. Head coach Joe Moorhead, offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Luke Getsy, defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop and special teams coordinator Joey Jones each took the podium.

Posted: Aug 11, 2018 9:14 PM

STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - Mississippi State coaches and players went through their annual media day, prior to their first scrimmage of preseason camp on Saturday evening at the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex.

The Bulldogs began the day with their official team photo in Davis Wade Stadium. Head coach Joe Moorhead, offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Luke Getsy, defensive coordinator and safeties coach Bob Shoop and special teams coordinator Joey Jones each took the podium.

Below are quotes from media day.

Head Coach Joe Moorhead

August 11, 2018

Opening Statement…

“I hope you all are doing well, and I appreciate you all coming out, and for the coverage you provide for our team. Today marks day No. 10 of preseason camp if you count the report date. It will be practice No. 8, which will be our first scrimmage. I’m certainly excited to perform in a game-like situation with no coaches on the field, referees and game clock. All of those things will be a great opportunity for the guys to really compete for the first time in that kind of situation, so we are excited there. Through seven practices, I think we’ve seen steady strides in our understanding and execution of our scheme in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams. I’ve been very proud of our coaching staff and their ability to provide the information to our players in position meetings in a very clear and concise manner. I’m certainly proud of our players to take the information and apply it on the field with consistent effort and an improved precision on a daily basis. If you talk about our camp goals, I think we have had great competition, certainly competition individually to make ourselves better and compete for a job as a group to make the positions better, as a unit to make our side of the ball better and ultimately, and lastly, as a team to make us better. There has been a great back-and-forth every single day through seven practices. Either by period or by day, it’s been a great give-and-take offensively and defensively. Historically, that’s generally a sign of a pretty good football team leading up to the fall. If you see one side of the ball getting after the other side on a consistent basis, that’s usually not a good sign of balance. So, we’ve had a really good spirited back-and-forth there. Another one of our camp goals is to work on situation football so every single day we track the number of explosive plays offensively, and explosive plays allowed defensively, and the same thing for turnover margin so, once again, it’s been a good balance there of us meeting our goals. You know, offensively we want to have one turnover or less per practice with defense being three or more. From an explosive play perspective, we go by percentage of plays. We define an explosive run as a run of 12 [yards] or more, and a pass of 15 or more. The defense wants to limit it to 10 percent or less than the total number of plays in practice, and the offense wants to get 16 percent or more. So, we’ve done a real good job there certainly working it into all of their situations. We’ve got the third down, got the red zone, get a little bit of two-minute work and we will continue to do that, and the situations covered in our scrimmage today. Another one of our goals, which was new from the spring and we emphasized with the team, is our ability to handle adversity and handle prosperity and to show our emotions without being emotional. I think that’s one of the great things about our team is that the guys love to compete. They wear their emotions on their sleeves, but at times I believe it can be counterproductive. As it gets to that point in camp, there are a few dust-ups and a few altercations, but we always talk about our practice habits being gameday realities. If you’re not going to fight on the field during a game, then that’s going to get you sitting down and you’re certainly not going to do it in practice. But I think we’ve definitely improved in our ability to do that. Starting with our strength and conditioning program, I think the guys came into camp bigger, stronger and faster, more explosive and in great shape. Coach (Anthony) Piroli did a great job changing guys’ body compositions. Coach Piroli and his staff and Kelly White, our sports nutritionist, are addressing the needs of those guys to get them at their optimal playing weight, and certainly it’s not because he’s a fellow yinzer, or because I hired him, but I truly believe that Anthony Piroli is the best strength and conditioning coach in the country. So, we’re certainly very excited to have him. There are 21 days left of camp until our first game. We need to take advantage of every opportunity mentally and physically, one rep at a time, at a championship standard. We talk to our guys on a daily basis that we can’t waste a rep, a drill, a play, a period, a meeting, a practice or a day and to continue to make the investment and earn the right and have our actions reflect our goals and we are certainly very excited for the upcoming season. It’s been a very good and productive camp so far. The kids are doing a great job, the coaching staff is aligned, everyone is pulling the rope in the same direction and it’s a good reason for optimism.”

On how he arrives at a certain percentage of run/pass plays per game…

“Actually, we arrived at it at Penn State last year. There had just been a number, and it wasn’t relative to the total number of plays that we would run in a game. So sometimes it would get skewed a little bit. Actually, Michael Day, who works at Penn State, did a bunch of research with Pro Football Focus, and College Football Focus to come to a percentage of the number. I really liked how we did that at Penn State last year.”

On separating the tight ends to know who will play on gamedays…

“I think because the tight end position is such a pivotal cog in our offensive system, they need to block like a lineman in the run game and execute like a receiver in the pass game. When you look at the guys that we recruit and their body types, ideally, you’d like a big high school X-receiver and a guy who can be aligned and attached to the formation and do all the things that are necessary from that perspective but a guy who you can also split out to get matched up on a linebacker or a safety. I think what we are looking for is production in both the run game and the pass game and the ability to create explosive plays down the field.”

On Nick Fitzgerald and the quarterbacks meeting his expectations in the new offensive system…

“Like any positional unit on the team through the course of camp there are up days and there are down days, but there have certainly been more ups than downs. I think we are seeing a steady progress of not just how we were in spring ball, not just what we’re doing, but why and how. I think that is critically important at that position where the level of precision is of the upmost importance. Nick’s growth as a drop-back passer is something we’ve been working to develop, and also his ability to be involved in team reps now, which he didn’t have in spring ball with the run games, the RPOs and changing the protections. Not just with Nick, but with all the other guys I think we are seeing great growth from them. Coach Breiner is doing a good job coaching them.”

On Aeris Williams as a leader…

“He is a guy who has a good body of work. I believe he was close to 1,000 yards rushing last year. Aeris is a guy who leads more by example than he does vocally. I think that’s just his nature. He comes in every day, punches the clock and lets his performance speak for itself. He’s a guy who has played a lot of football here and has earned the right to be a leader. I think he is more comfortable in the lead-by-example phase than the vocal part of it. That is something we have talked with the team about, the guys who are captains and the guys that are leaders. There’s not one blanket way to be a leader. You’ve got to find the things that motivate people. With some people you can correct them in a public setting and they respond to that. Some people don’t. There may be a guy you have to go over and put your arm around and talk to him privately. I think his best way of helping us lead is through doing what he does.”

On which running backs he would like to see involved in the passing game…

“Certainly the role of running back in our offense as a pass catcher has been pretty well documented and demonstrated last year. I think Saquon Barkley was close to 50 catches and a bunch of yards. Chase Evans who will make his debut for the Cardinals tonight was around 40. He was a guy who was around the 30 to 40 catch range. We talk about one of the tenants of this offense being the ability to get your speed and space and starting with our running back position and guys we’ve had over the years in this offense and that’s not just about gain between the tackles. It’s what can we do to get them on the edge and what can we do to get favorable matchups in the pass game.

On how he feels about the offensive linemen…

“I feel very good about the depth. Once again, I keep going back to the job that our assistant coaches are doing. Marcus Johnson is a guy who did it at the highest level, both professionally and collegiately, and can fall back to those experiences as a player and a coach. But when you look from tackle to tackle, you see guys with size and with speed, athleticism, you know, the physicality. I think one of the best things Coach Johnson is doing now is playing through the demeanor and playing though the echo of the whistle and that has caused some of the spats between the offensive line and the defensive line when you’re going against a defensive line of that caliber every day. It’s great to watch those guys battle against each other. Then you look at the guys behind them, and I think the only luxuries we have with that position is some of the twos are pressing the ones for playing time. You can’t have a bad day or a bad practice because we’re having guys that are just doing well it gives us an opportunity competition.

On How Coach Marcus Johnson has utilized Duke head coach David Cutcliffe’s way…

“I think a lot of that is just reflective of Coach Johnson’s demeanor. That’s not just with him, but with the rest of our coaches. We want them to be teachers, we want them to be educators, and they’re doing a great job at communicating with our kids. Figuring out what motivates them is the best way to get them to perform. I think Coach Cutcliffe has had a remarkable career as a head coach and a coordinator. Any time he can fall back on that experience that benefits everybody. Marcus is doing a fantastic job.

On the new redshirt rule and the effort by the true freshmen…

“They’re giving effort. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s changed. I’d say they have an even more heightened awareness with the rule now that there an opportunity for them to play in four contests without utilizing a year of eligibility. I think it goes more along the lines of our plan for them moving forward. Whether they’re going to be a definite redshirt, or a guy we’re going to play four games, or a guy we are going to utilize in a full-time capacity to use a year of eligibility. Those things are yet to be determined until we get to game one of prep. Right now, I don’t think they are necessarily worried about playing times as much as they are absorbing the information, figuring out where to go on the field, and what to do when they get the repetitions. I certainly like the talent in our class.”

On the older defensive players and their progression to adapting to changes at the defensive coordinator position…

“That’s borderline hyperbole, it’s almost accurate. I think we have a very senior-laden, experienced group. I believe, as you mentioned, this is their whatever-number coordinator in the same amount of years, but ultimately, at the end of the day, if you’re going to set the three-technique to the tight end, you’re setting the three-technique to the tight end. Then there are a bunch of different ways to call it. I’d say it’s more of the ability to adapt to the language maybe than necessarily the scheme. Now, certainly, I think that Coach Shoop will be a little different than Coach Grantham and the other guys looking back down the line. I’d say it’s a combination of understanding the language and the verbiage and certainly grasping onto the concepts. From going from three-down to four-down, with the different things we are doing on the back end. The flexibility and the ability to adapt year after year after year has boded well for them.”

On how he plans to manage the new redshirt rule …

“We definitely have a plan. I think the first thing that needs to be addressed is we are not going to play them if they have not earned the right to play. You earmark a certain number of players that will be activated and be on the travel roster and have a chance to go into the game. We’re not just going to put them in if they are not better than the two or the three in that position. So, the first thing is they have to earn the right to step on the field with their performance because it is not just something we are going to hand to them. We’re going to say you’re not going to play if you do not get better. I don’t think that is something that benefits team morale if you are just throwing a freshman in there when you have guys that are older and better than them. We have looked at a model for if they have earned the right to play then we are going to get them in the game. Two of the first four, one of the last eight and then certainly down the line hopefully there are multiple post-season games that we have the opportunity to play in those games. That’s our initial thought process, but certainly be an ongoing discussion as injuries occur and guys show that they deserve to be on the field.”

On how he utilizes Joey Jones’ abilities …

“We’ve asked Coach Jones on non-special teams drills to walk around, make notes and observations with things that are happening in the offensive and defensive phases. I think that is the benefit of having four ex-head coaches on staff. Whether it’s Coach (Andrew) Breiner, Coach (Bob) Shoop, Coach (Joey) Jones or Coach (Mark) Hudspeth, like anything you go through everything. When you can fall back on the experience from those guys, it benefits everybody.”

On the punters battling through camp …

“We are getting through a few days of installation of punting. We’re seeing a good operation. The guys are getting it off in good time. I feel good about the protection. For both of them it’s going to be a matter of consistency. They both have moments. They both have flashes. They can both strike the ball really well. It will all come down to consistency and the details.”

On the pre-season ranking affecting the team …

“Hype and confidence are two things that I don’t worry about with the team. We are a very confident group, and I think we have a good reason. We have earned a right to be confident. In our initial team meeting, way back about 10 days ago, we addressed the preseason ranking and what it means. We set up the floor for keeping score. We want to be first. Obviously, the ranking at the end of the season matters more than the ranking at the first. The biggest thing is that we are not competing against an opponent. We’re competing against a standard. If our level of preparation, effort and execution has changed weekly basis based on who we are playing, then we are going to be in trouble. If we compete against the standard in everything that we do, then I think on a weekly basis, you’re going to see more of a consistent football team. I’m happy that we are 18; I wish we were first. But, certainly, that ranking does mean anything when we tee off on [September 1].”

On Marcus Murphy experimenting with different positions …

“No offensive spots just yet. Marcus’ track record as a playmaker on that side of the ball is very well-documented, and for good reason. Right now, him being a mid-year guy he got a little bit of a head start. We’re working with him at the nickel position, a little bit of safety, and he’s going to be a factor in the return game as well. As he continues to progress with his understanding, and his level of execution increases in those positions and certainly down the road, him playing in some offensive snaps is not out of the realm of possibility. We would like to do it, but what I don’t want to do is inhibit or stunt his growth as a defensive player and special teams guy when he’s got too much on his plate so he’s not excelling at anything. So, we want to give him the best opportunity to be successful.”

Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy

Opening Statement…

“Quickly, to just give you all a good rundown of what is going on with us, we’re right in the thick of the installation period. We’ve gotten a bunch of them in, so I’d say a good chunk of the offense is in and guys have done a really nice job. Where we are now compared to how we finished the spring, there’s been a tremendous growth. The guys, this summer, did a great job of getting their bodies and minds ready. When they came to camp, offensively, these guys were ready to rock and roll. Up front, (the offensive linemen) are a physical bunch. They’ve done a good job of establishing our identity through camp. As you go through the back end and to the perimeter, everyone’s done a really nice job of progressing in the fashion that we’re really excited about. We think we’re in a really good place. The scrimmage later on today will be a good test to see guys competing. I think we’re on a good path to getting off to a really fast start.”

On his expectations of the newcomers…

“Starting at quarterback, Jalen [Mayden] has done a really nice job of grasping the offense for a young quarterback. We’re excited about where his future is headed. He’s off to a really good start. At the tight end position, [Geor’quarius] Spivey and Brad [Cumbest] are really big guys that, when they walk in the room, they just fit in with SEC football right away. That part of it is really exciting. Coach Hudspeth has done a great job of getting those guys ready to play. They’ve grabbed onto the mental part of it really well. It’s fun to see those guys running around. Up front, “Dollar Bill” [Kwatrivous Johnson] and Kam have really stood out. Their size and athleticism is really strong. Those two have bright futures and we’re excited about them. Heading outside to the receivers, with Stephen [GUIDRY] being the junior college transfer, we finally got an opportunity to see him out there as he continues to get healthy. He’s showing some really good flashes of things we can get excited about. [Devonta Jason] is kind of the same thing. Cam Gardner has been a pleasant surprise. We switched him over to receiver in the summertime. He’s a really bright kid who is fun to have in the room and we’re excited to see what his future is looking like, too. Offensively, the newcomers who have come to camp have come ready to go. They took advantage of the summer to get their bodies in shape to get ready for the kind of competition that our defense presents us every day, so I’m excited. I think the young group of guys are going to be something to be excited about for a few years down the road.”

On the pressure of the wide receiver corps to improve from last season…

“They’re kind of the focus group right now and there’s a lot of competition there, too, so it’s bringing out the best in everybody. That group has gotten better every single day. It was a group that, when we walked out in the spring, we didn’t think everybody had a good grasp of what we were doing. They, as much as any group on the offense, really did an outstanding job. Coach Piroli got their butts in shape. They look faster. The guys have done a great job of paying attention in the meetings and applying it to the field and taking the fundamentals we talk about in the individual periods and applying it to the practice field. I’m extremely excited about their progress. They’re just the focus group and they’re all in competition with themselves. There are multiple people at each position, so that helps. There’s no complacency going on in that room at all. I think everyone’s playing a little better each and every day. I think we put a lot of that pressure on ourselves and say that this team is going to flow how we flow.”

On the progression of Stephen Guidry and Devonta Jason as early-enrollees…

“That early enroll was huge. Those two guys are just football guys and it helps the other guys in the room. [Jason’s] body has just transformed and so has Stephen’s, who gained 20 pounds over the summer, so we were able to get their bodies ready to play in this league. The mental part—going out and experiencing, Whop got that in the spring and Stephen didn’t. Now, Stephen’s going through that right now. That early enroll is huge for anybody and to be able to get that experience is the reason why they’re able to have so much success early on here at camp.”

On teaching vertical routes and stretching the field…

“Anytime you’re putting an offense together, you’re thinking about how you’re going to stretch them vertically and how you’re going to stretch them horizontally. As you’re putting your installations together, you’re going to have to have a little bit of that in your plan. After you put that in your plan, you have to go out and practice it. That’s a big part of our individual periods. We’re training to throw, we’re training to catch the different types of catches you have to make when you’re down the field. Then you get into going against an opponent. That goes back to the installation—you have to be able to run the football, protect and play-action and you have to be able to throw the ball downfield. There aren’t many teams that can just catch the ball from center and throw the ball downfield. The success of this offense has come because they had the leading rusher in the conference, which has helped the passing game. It’s creating matchups. If you have your best player against your opponent’s and it’s one-on-one, you feel really good about those opportunities. We want to create as many opportunities as possible. If we don’t run the ball well, they’re going to have two on our one best matchup. I think running the football puts more people in the box and creates more isolation around the outside. Then, we fall back onto our training. The quarterback’s learning to throw the ball, because it’s a very difficult throw, and if you don’t practice it you won’t be very good at it. It’s something we’ve stressed since we’ve gotten here. The last part of it is the mentality of the play-caller. Coach Moorhead’s an aggressive guy and the situation is not going to dictate his personality—he’s going to dictate it.”

On the “Good to great” foundation of the offense…

“This culture is changing every single day. In the offensive room, we focus on the fundamentals. The very first thing we’ve done in our meetings is taking a step back and making it about the basics. Myself and the coaches are talking about the fundamentals. We’re not talking about the play. In the very first unit meeting we had, we were talking about the fundamentals of catching the football or ball security, run-blocking or pass-blocking. So, we’re taking care of the fundamentals first so that we can build off of that. It’s not about the play, it’s about how we execute. That’s part of the “good-to-great,” because if we do those things really well and they turn into really great, then the plays execute really great. It’s a foundation that we’re building with these guys. Like [Coach Moorhead] has said, we’re building this thing on rock and not sand.”

On anything he learned from coaching around Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers…

“He certainly does a lot of things you can’t teach. He is a very special player. There was a lot of benefits to being around him the last four years. His approach with his teammates, the way he practices and the way he leads. A lot of that stuff, I’ve brought here. Coach Breiner and I have worked really well together in implementing all the successes that Joe has had, plus some of this other stuff that I believe that will help us be better, too. Aaron has been instrumental in my coaching career. He leads by example every single day. He’s a guy who is All-Pro and is taking every single rep in walkthroughs. It’s his mentality that he wants to make sure that everybody is on the same page that he is. When you have someone that great, with practice habits like that, that’s something I can bring here every single day.”

On how much he’d like the quarterback to run the football…

“It’s a special talent that Nick [Fitzgerald] has, so it’d be ignorant to not notice and be aware of that. That’s definitely going to be part of our game plan—it has to be. He’s a really good runner with the football and he’s tough as nails. The defense is going to dictate what we do. We’re going to game plan every single week and find the best ways to get those matchups and opportunities to get him the ball. He’s going to be throwing it. He’s going to be running it. He’s going to be making decisions at the line of scrimmage, which is something that maybe he didn’t have to do before. We’re going to put a lot of stress on him. He’s a smart guy, a bright guy and he’s good at throwing the football, too. We’ll go as far as our quarterback takes us. We’re lucky to have Nick. He’s a guy who can do a lot of things—he’s a dual-threat for sure.”

Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop

Opening Statement…

“It’s very evident that the guys worked hard this summer. They’ve come to camp in shape, and we’ve practiced very well. We have a lot of veteran leadership on the defensive side, so we’re very fortunate in that respect. We are setting the pace and championship standard that coach talks about. I’m looking forward to tonight, and three weeks from today as we open against Stephen F. Austin. When the coaches are off to the side, and they are communicating with one another, then we’ll learn more about our team.”

On secondary players in camp…

“We’ve had a pretty good camp so far. We have several players that have played a lot. With the corner position, (Cameron) Dantzler, (Jamal) Peters and (Chris) Rayford have all played a lot. (Tyler) Williams and (Maurice) Smitherman have had very good camps as well. At safety we have (Mark) McLaurin and (Jonathan) Abram, who are real veterans. They create as good of a tandem at safety as there is. They have put themselves in the mix to get playing time. We need to establish some depth there. I’ve been pleased with (Stephen) Adegoke and (CJ) Morgan. They’ve really stepped up in camp. (Londyn) Craft and (Landon) Guidry have done a nice job as well. We feel like we have some pretty good depth there. Everyone talks about the depth we have on the D-line, but we have good depth that we will continue to develop over the next three weeks.”

On veteran players…

“When you look at last year’s team, the older players like McLaurin have had five defensive coordinators. Those negatives are really positives because they know the game. They can talk the game. It’s not like talking to a high school kid. It’s really like talking to a veteran football player. We alter our scheme to what our players are capable of doing. We’re still identifying what the players’ strengths and weaknesses are, which is an ongoing thing. McLaurin and (Brian) Cole are real playmakers, and I can say interchangeable. They are versatile enough to do different things. What is non-negotiable about our scheme is that it’s built on a pursuit of never-ending pressure. It’s not about bend-don’t-break or read-and-react, but it’s about an attack.”

On inheriting a defense that’s experienced coordinator turnover…

“I’ve found it to be very refreshing. You come here not knowing the guys, and you get to know their personalities. The blue-collar work ethic of our team is true. The student-athletes on our roster are mentally tough, smart and football players with a great work ethic. That lends itself to success in the SEC. I’ve inherited defenses without that type of leadership. My first defense at Penn State in 2014 had the same type of situation. There was continuity between Joe Paterno, Bill O’Brien then coach Franklin. There hadn’t been a lot of head coaches, but the fourth-year players there had had four different defensive coordinators. It was that same situation, and those guys could talk the game. The upper classmen were very mature, and they went on to success at the next level. That defense went on to be the best in the country in run defense, so we will see what happens.”

On (Jett) Johnson…

“I enjoy talking to Jett. The young players get a handful of reps at the end of each series during practice, and they come out with big eyes and jumping around. He comes out like a veteran, and the stage doesn’t appear to be too big for him. He isn’t ready for prime time, and today will be a big step in his development, but he has an opportunity to learn behind (Erroll) Thompson and (Tim) Washington at that position. We also have a junior college guy there named (Sh’mar) Kilby-Lane, so we have good depth at that position. Johnson won’t necessarily come out like Brian Urlacher today, but he gets the game of football. He has a command and presence about him. I told him, when he gets out there, to just take a deep breath and do his thing. So far he’s done a good job.”

On (Marcus) Murphy…

“He’s a local hero as a state champion and leader within his program. We’re very proud having him and Johnson as part of our first class. I specifically coach Murphy. He’s fast, competitive and tough. He’s still learning a bit about the game on the defensive side, but he’s got it. He’s a playmaker. He’s taking the next step in the progression of doing everything right. Sometimes you need to take one step back to take two steps forward. These first seven or eight days have been good, but he hasn’t made as many plays as in the spring. At the scrimmage tonight, my gut tells me he will make a few plays. The arena is never too big for him. He probably plays better without coaches standing behind him, but I think he has a tremendously bright future in the long term.”

On (Jeffery) Simmons and (Montez) Sweat…

“I haven’t coached a game with these guys yet, so it’s hard to say. On the field, it doesn’t take long it identify who numbers 95 and 9 are. Simmons is the alpha dog and undisputed leader of the defense. He is very fun to coach. He practices, competes and plays hard. To be a great defensive team it requires intensity and attention to detail, and he has all those things. He’s strong, and he moves incredibly well for his size. He’s had a great career thus far, and we have high expectations for him this fall. He’s going to have a very bright future. I was concerned Sweat would make the decision to go to the next level, but he made a smart business decision on deciding to stay. I don’t think he’s played enough football yet. He’s a first-team all-returning players. My observations of him are that he’s worked as hard as anyone in the program during the offseason. Through six or seven practices, he’s been one of the most dominant players on the field. He’s very driven to have a great year. He has a positive attitude, work ethic and he’s very competitive.”

On Kilby-Lane…

“He’s done a good job. I didn’t get to know him a lot during the recruiting process because of the early signing date. He committed here without visiting at that point. He didn’t go through the spring, so I didn’t have a very strong relationship with him at that point. I have really enjoyed camp getting to know him. His story of getting here is a very interesting one. Between coach Lukabu and our staff, we will provide him tools to be successful as a man, student and player. As a player, he’s pretty good and with good instincts. He’s a bit behind like a lot of the first-year players because the terminology is a bit new to him. You can tell he’s played at this level, whether at Florida State or in junior College. He needs to stay healthy, so most of the drills have been non-tackling drills to keep him healthy. Coach Lukabu and myself are very pleased with his progress so far.”

On cornerbacks…

“Last year, they were asked to play a lot of press technique. In zone defense, a lot of match concepts are bodies-on-bodies. Your vision isn’t directly on the quarterback. You may have less completion percentage, but you may have less interceptions. Those guys have done a great job embracing that. Through the first few practices, we’ve had about 15 interceptions. That is good for the defense, and not good for the offense. Some days are good for the offense and not good for the defense. Dantzler has good hands and has played the ball. He’s long, athletic and good. Peters is the same way. He’s come away with a few interceptions, and (Tyler) Williams has come away with a few interceptions too. Those guys are embracing the fact that they’re not in press-corner positions. When you recruit a corner, you look at the same things you see in a receiver.”

Special Teams Coordinator Joey Jones

Opening statement…

“First of all I want to say I am very excited about being at Mississippi State. I am very thankful for the opportunity Coach Moorhead gave me. I want to say one thing about Coach Moorhead. In all my years of coaching, I think there are a few guys that are elite in the coaching world. There are a lot of great guys out there that do a great job. In my opinion there’s about five percent that are elite. There is no doubt in my mind that Coach Moorhead is one of those guys. He has been a tremendous guy to work for. He is a guy that understands football. He under stands young men. He understands how to recruit and organize practices. He checks all the boxes and is very high on all the categories. I want to thank him for that. As far as our goal for a special teams unit, our goal is to be the No. 1 special teams in the SEC. That is a very important facet of what we are doing. We want to be the best and we have to approach every day like that. My goal is to get out guys to understand it and get it done in games.”

On where freshman safety Marcus Murphy fits on special teams…

“Marcus is a very good athlete. He has a great attitude and comes to work every day. He is a young guy and is really trying to learn what we are trying to teach him. I expect him to be on the field for sure.”

On the status of the punter battle…

“We aren’t going to make any decisions until at least the following weekend. There are a lot of evaluations to be done and data to obtain. We chart them every day. The guy with the best stats is the guy who is going to be the kicker. I think they have both done well. Tucker (Day) has gotten much more consistent. Kody (Schexnayder) has always been consistent. They both want the job, so we will see here in a couple of weeks.”

On his input outside of special teams…

“One thing he asks me to do during practice is walk around and look at every athlete, evaluate him and see where he fits in on special teams. I go through every cornerback, safety, linebacker and on down the list. I try to find a guy we have overlooked. You think you know who the players are until you evaluate them. I have never had the opportunity to do that. It has been extremely helpful. We have found three or four guys who weren’t on our list doing that. Coach Moorhead is very open to suggestions. He is a smart man who knows what he wants to do but he still takes input from us. We try to help in any way we can.”

On sophomore kicker Jace Christmann…

“The key is he is competing with Jordan Lawless right now. They have had some great battles out there at this point. Jace is a great person. He comes from a great family. He is the kind of guy you want. He is very conscientious about how he kicks. He had a great year last year and has worked all summer long. We have a great competition there. Jordan is really pushing him.”

On the kickoff specialist battle…

“Right now we have Scott Goodman. He came in as a true freshman. He has a lot of confidence and a strong leg. He is doing some really good things right now. Jace (Christmann) is kind of the backup for that position but Scott has done really well.”

Defensive Tackle Jeffery Simmons

On how the preseason has gone …

“Personally, I feel like this is one of the best summers we have had so far. Everybody is locked in, and we are loaded upfront with guys like Chauncey Rivers being able to help out. With our ends, I feel like we have some of the best ones in the county. I feel like we have one of the best defenses in the country.”

On being an alpha dog and being a leader for the defense…

“When I first got here as a freshman, it was something I always wanted to do. To be able to come and lead. I have been trying to fill in that role, especially on the defensive line. In the spring it was hard to not be out there with those guys, but being able to get the mental reps in and being the leader when I am not on the field. Being the older guy in the room I feel like some of the guys look up to me with both on and off the field stuff. It’s a role that I have accepted now.”

On how you guys have adapted to the new defense…

“Everybody came in with the right mindset. We are all locked in, and we know it’s a big change but we are all locked in. We are taking it day by day.”

On the depth of the team and competing against each other…

“We are always competing against each other, and saying we got guys making plays every day and when some guys don’t make a play, we come in the next day and watch the film. We see that guy, and the other guy make a play and I feel like that just pushes the other guy to go harder for the next day.”

On you and Montez competing last year for sacks and how to take it to the next level this year…

“Me and Montez are always competing with each other, especially early in the season. It wasn’t really a double team on us at first, so that was kind of easy. Then once we got towards the middle of the season it opened up for Montez, and that’s something I take pride in. I am happy for Montez because I’m pulling double team, that leaves him one on one with guys and that’s what we like.”

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