Countdown to Kickoff
Coach Mike Shula Press Conference: Miss. State Game


Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Coach Mike Shula
Coach Mike Shula

Mississippi State Game Press Conference
Opening Comments & First Five Questions Transcript


"It's good to be back after the bye week. The bye week definitely helped our team. We had a lot of guys who were nicked up and needed the rest, guys like Brodie Croyle for one. He really didn't do much practicing last week until Sunday. He had a lot of reps on Sunday. Shaud Williams, we rested him after his 40 carries two weeks ago and he had good work Sunday. I think our guys came back with good attitudes on Sunday and I thought that showed in practice. There was a lot of energy. The guys were focused. We didn't put the whole game plan in on Sunday but put in probably thirty to forty percent of it, and guys were focused on getting things done right. They had good conditioning. They had the day off yesterday and now we're back and ready to go. We'll have our whole game plan in today for Mississippi State in all three phases. We've just got to do a real good job on focusing in on the details and covering the things that are going to help make the difference in winning and losing."

Coach, I know the coaching cliché: just take one game at a time. But do you talk about season goals and having a winning season and knowing that you have to run the table to do that? Do you use that as motivation?

"For sure. Every week to me, more so now than any other, is like a whole new season.  And as you say, you've got to take them one at a time. We're not looking down the road or anything like that. Mississippi State has always been, from my experience here, a big game for this school, too.  A lot of people might not agree with that but I know as a player and the closeness of the two schools--a lot of these guys have grown up playing against each other. I know in the high school all-star game, the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game, these guys get to know each other. There's a lot of pride when you're playing against guys that you've known whether or not it's from high school or playing in all-star games. The closeness of the two schools, and for me, coaching against Coach Sherrill-- I got to know him a little bit last summer. I think a lot of him and what he's meant to college football and what he's meant to SEC football. Coaching against a guy like that is an experience that means a lot to me."

Mike, with Wesley (Britt) out, and Dennis Alexander questionable, can you just talk about where you are on the offensive line?

"We're thin. We've all the sudden become pretty thin. Atlas Herrion will start at left tackle and we'll look at Danny Martz at the right guard position. And Matt Lomax is another guy that will come in and can play some other positions. Those would be the guys that we're going to count on. Von Ewing would be another guy. And we've got to make sure, too, we talked when I opened with my statement just on knowing all the little things for the game plan--well, those are guys who now obviously, especially with Atlas--we're not sure on Dennis--who hasn't played as much at that position. We've got to make sure that he's going to do a good job and he knows exactly what he's doing so we can operate smoothly offensively."

Coach, do you expect Spencer (Pennington) and Kenneth Darby to be ready on Saturday?

"We'd like to think that both of them will be ready. Spencer has practiced now all last week, practiced Sunday. I think he practiced a little bit actually before the Tennessee game and was throwing, so we anticipate both of those guys being ready to play. I'm not sure if they'll be 100 percent, but they've shown some good things here lately in practice."

Can you talk about what Coach (Bob) Connelly brings to the coaching staff?

"Offensive line coaches, in my experience on the staffs, it seems like it's the line coach and the offensive line. He's kind of the leader of the offensive line. He's done a nice job. He brings a lot of energy. He coaches positively, and he's also the kind of guy that you need to have as an offensive line coach where he's not afraid to get in our guys faces so to speak and let them know that they need to push themselves a little bit harder. I think our players, our offensive linemen respect him especially for that. At that position it's important to have a guy like that because those guys, they look up to their line coach. And if you've got a guy that works them like that, they may not like it at the time, but eventually during game time or during certain things, whether or not it's conditioning or things like that, they realize that the energy that he coaches with pays off later."

Any memorable moments with him?

"Oh gosh. There's probably something in every game with all the coaches, so they've probably got a few more on me than I have on them, especially on game day. But he's been good. He's been real good for me personally. To come in here late and have a guy who I didn't know at such an important position to coach those guys and has done a nice job. And we'll need him this week, too, especially with some guys coming in who haven't played as much."

Coach, what was the biggest thing you learned about your team during the bye week in watching them?

"We needed the rest. I think guys still stayed focused. We worked some younger guys just to give some of the older guys rest as well as find out about some guys who might play this week or later on this season or even next year. I think they appreciated the time off and they came back, like I said, with a good mindset on Sunday."