Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula's Mississippi State Game Week Press Conference


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Opening Remarks...
We are back at it this week, back on the road in the SEC against a team that in our game last year played us close until about midway through the fourth quarter. Right now our football teams' focus this week is going to be on working to get better in all three phases.

We know we have to do that, we know we can do that, because we feel like we still haven't played our best game. It's going to be difficult this week, we are going up against one of the premier running backs in the SEC in Norwood. Mississippi State has got some top players on defense as well.

Playing on the road in the SEC, especially when you are a young football team, means you have got to have three good days of practice to get ourselves prepared to be at our best.

Both head coaches in this game coached in the NFL and a lot more coaches are coming from the NFL to the college ranks. Why do you think that is and how do you think it is changing the college game?
I can really only speak for myself on that one. I would not have come back to the college game if not had not been the University of Alabama. I had a great job (in the NFL), so for me, personally, it was coming back to my alma mater and remembering the experience I had here as a player and the unbelievable opportunity that this job presents.

As far as other coaches go, I think the opportunity to be a head coach could be a possibility. I have heard that before I got here, from some other coaches, that there might be a little more job security at the college level. I'm not sure that is true.

Being back here, obviously there is a difference. For me, it has been new in my first time coaching college football. There is something different about coaching guys that are anywhere from 17 or 18 to 22. In the NFL, a lot of times, when you draft guys, you think, "I wish I had had those guys and coach them when they were 18." I think that is appealing to a lot of guys.

As far as the effect it has had, I think the schemes that you have in college and in the NFL are coming closer and closer. For sure in the NFL, there is more time to prepare and the best athletes in college are in the NFL, so there are some things they do a little better. But the atmosphere in college football is an awesome atmosphere and the coaches coming back from the NFL have found that it has been very competitive here, and maybe even more so than they may have thought at first.

Mississippi State is changing quarterbacks going into this game. Does that change your preparation at all? Do you know anything about Michael Henig (MSU new starting QB)?
We have watched Mike on tape in the Kentucky game. He came in early in the ballgame and did a great job. He's got a strong arm and he is very unafraid to just go out there and play. He is not afraid to make mistakes. Because of that he threw for around 200 yards last week and had a chance at the end to take the lead. He did a lot of good things for a redshirt freshman. He is a little different than Omar, maybe not quite as mobile.

There will be a couple little things that we need to make sure we cover, but basically their offense is the same. They do a really good job running the football. They tie in the play-action passes with it, whether it be in or out of the pocket or some misdirection things. They do a really good job with formations and personnel to try to create more running lanes in the running game.

When you look at some of the games they have played, they have been closing to winning several games, including against highly-ranked Georgia. Their defense has been very competitive in each of those games. Can you talk about MSU and what challenges they presents to you?
In my experience in this game, you can throw the records out. A lot of our kids know theirs and vice versa and so do the coaches. Being so close to each other, you just have to focus in on this game.

When you are in preparation, you are not really so much watching the score, you are watching the guy that each of our players will have to face for 60 minutes and how they can beat that guy and help our football team win.

They have a good pass rush, I think Evans is leading the SEC in sacks. They will blitz a little bit defensively with linebackers that are playing pretty well for them. Offensively, they have got a good back. They will run the football and they will try to pound it at us and mix in the pass offense.