September 19, 2006

MSU vs. UAB Press Conference

Mississippi State will try to get its first win of the season against a battle tested UAB team. The Bulldogs ended there three game opening home stand last week with a loss to Tulane, but will travel to Birmingham to take on another Conference USA opponent this weekend.

Comments on UAB and the upcoming week of practice:

"We are getting ready to play our first road game, and this will be a great challenge for us going to Birmingham to play UAB. They are a good football team and they provide a lot challenges for us. We have to get our kids back going today. We started out yesterday, but today is a big day for us. Today is the first day that we can really get better. We have to go back to work on our fundamentals. We have to tackle better, which we have done a good job of until last week.

"Our big thing this week is to get Omarr Conner totally innovated back in the offense. He did an excellent job of bringing us back in the fourth quarter and giving us a chance to win the football game. We had every opportunity to win the game even though we got way behind early in the first half. We had our chance at the end, but we did not make a couple of plays, we had a couple of penalties, and turnovers that we could not overcome.

"Going to Birmingham will be a great challenge, playing on the road and trying to maintain our focus. Playing in different confines after playing at home, it will be an adjustment for our young guys. At the same time, it presents us with the opportunity to play a good football team and have a chance to win, if we can improve on the things we did in the second half and get our defense playing the way we had been.

"We need to get off to a good start in this ballgame either with the offense or defense whichever team takes the field first. Today's practice is the first day toward that, and we have to be totally focused and not waste a single play. Everybody has got to get there job done and not waste a single play," he said.

Comments on UAB's offense:

"They create a lot of problems for anybody. We are getting into the option offense now, they throw the ball, they do a lot of the things that are prevalent now as far as spreading the field, and at the same time running the option. They run different versions of the option out of the spread offense and then going back and running hardcore wishbone or the triple option offense. That makes it even more difficult, because you have three guys to defend. You have to be disciplined to handle the option reads. We do not face that very often. In fact, I think I played in the wishbone the last time I seen it," he commented.

On Omarr's adjustment to quarterback:

"The first difference is the condition of having played wide receiver. He ran the ball better than he did the previous two years. The first two years I did not think he ran the ball well, that was some of the things that we anticipated him at that point and time. He is ten pounds lighter than he was when he was playing quarterback. The key thing is in the third down situations. They may double cover receivers and that leaves a lot of running lanes. You break contain and you got a long gain. A defense worst fear is a quarterback that can run. His ability to do that stuff can open up some other things for us.

"The conditioning of a wide receiver is superior to that of a quarterback, and that is something that he has to maintain. There is no question he was a whole lot quicker the other night running the football than he was before. His decision-making was a lot quicker.

"That is a key thing for us this week, and that is not to bog him down with anything that will slow his thinking process down. He was getting back on third and fifth steps and getting the ball out and knew exactly where he was going with the ball. There was no hesitation; he just let the ball go.

"That was the difference the mobility, the explosion, when he got in the secondary, the quickness of his drops, and the decision-making. That is the one thing that I want to make sure in his decision making is that their no hesitation in his decision making," he explained.

Comments on Tray Rutland's demotion:

"We sat down and talked about it and evaluated the things he did well and poorly. The main thing was him to be honest with himself about his performance. Tray has always been a guy that has always been able accept constructive criticism. We reassured him that we have not given up on him.

"He has a tremendous amount of talent, but he is very young and inexperienced. He has a lot of work to do, but he is still our number two quarterback. He is still in our plans for the future, he is just going to have to buckle down and do the things that he is coached to do and continue to work hard.

"I hate that more than anything as a head coach is to make a decision at quarterback. The fans get involved and you do that in a public situation. I only discuss those things with my coaches. I tell them that if things do not go well, we might have to make a decision. I challenged Tray to respond and that will determine how he is defined as a person and the quarterback for the future," Coach Croom commented.

Offensive line comments:

"I think we have gotten better each week. The fact that they have played together is a big plus. That group is much better than last year. We still got two guys that are in the cusp of joining that group in Michael Gates and Calvin Wilson that can give us some depth. Both of them have a lot ability, and Johnny Carpenter at center. We intended to play al three of them the other night, but right now, they are still making too many mental mistakes to put them in. We need to get them some game experience.

"I thought the tackles did a lot better. Craig Jenkins played a lot better, but I thought J. D. Hamilton made the biggest improvement. From game one to now, because we were able to put him at left tackle and leave him there. Early on, he missed a lot of time due to injury, but we were moving him around trying to find the right combination. We have pretty much established our guys, Calvin, Michael, and John gives us eight solid guys along the line," Coach Croom explained.

Comments on wide receivers:

"We are very happy for Will and happy that he can perform. He has always been a guy that is capable of making plays when he is there. Even now, we have to be careful of how much we use him. We do not want to wear him down in practice with a lot of reps. Jamayel Smith and Tyler Threadgill will get some work at those positions. In the past, we were only two deep at that positions and he had to get the reps.

"There is no doubt about Tony's ability. He is a big play receiver and still has not scratched the surface of what he is capable of being. He is still learning the technique, and working extremely hard. He runs well and catches the ball well. He is a great person and I like his work ethic. There is doubt we are going to try and get the ball to him," he said.

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