I caught up with Jackson State coach Rick Comegy yesterday to preview the season opener at Mississippi State (Saturday, 6 p.m., FSN). We talked about his new starting quarterback, offensive production and whether JSU has a chance to win Saturday.
BL: What have you learned in scouting MSU?
RC: We know they're fast, big and strong. They move real well, and one thing for sure they're well-coached. From steps to fundamentals, we have to make sure that we don't get out there and make a lot of mistakes, because they're fundamentally sound. That's what we're trying to be, and hopefully we'll be that. That's what I gathered from them. They're not going to make a lot of things to hurt themselves. We've just got to play a solid football game with a team like that.
BL: How tough does MSU's defensive line look?
RC: Their defensive line, I know they've been touting about the defense, at least in the things I've been hearing from that way. They've got great depth and get after you. … Our offensive line has really got our hands full to try to keep that under control, because I know it's been a real strong point. That's what I read in the newspapers, the defense is really, really jumped out and is playing good football for them. I know if they can put points on the board, it's going to be hard to come back with a defense playing at that level and that capacity. You win up front, there's no doubt about it. That battle's going to be going on. I'm hoping we can withstand that challenge and put some points on the board as well.
BL: How comfortable are you with Dedric McDonald at QB, and will you have a leash on him?
RC: I feel very, very good about Dedric. He's had a good camp. I can't take anything away from him. He's earned the role, not just because he's been around. He really came back and made a (180) in the way he operates – his technique, his throws, his steps, his understanding, film-watching. He decided to be a football player, and I'm so glad to see that. I have all the confidence in the world. I just don't want him to go into the game thinking that if he makes a mistake that we're going to automatically snatch him out and put somebody in. I want to give him every opportunity in the world and let him know that he is Jackson State's starting quarterback at this point. Then we'll go from there.
BL: Will any other quarterbacks play?
RC: If McDonald is hot and McDonald's doing the job, I don't want to play with it. We have a long season to go. If we're up and we get to a point we can make a change in quarterbacks. I like the status quo, meaning that if he's in there doing a fantastic job and he's hot and he's carrying the football team to where we're wanting to carry it, then I'm just going to let him carry it and not worry about going with another guy right now. Clayton Moore has been impressive, impressive, impressive, and right behind McDonald. He has his own package, and if we need to use a package that he's working in, we'll use it. We want to win the game, so we're going to do everything possible to win.
BL: What can you reasonably expect of Ole Miss transfer Tobias Singleton this weekend?
RC: He picked up the offense real well. He's done a fine job in practice. He's been studying a lot of film, he's been in his playbook. He's excited about playing. Every day at practice I see him catching more and more and more; he dropped a few early. But now lately he's just been snatching them and bringing them in and getting loose and getting RAC (run after catch) yards. I think he's going to be exciting. The more he plays, the better he's going to get. He's getting that feel for it, he's getting a feel of the locker room, getting a feel for the team. Right now he's become Jackson State. When he has that feel he'll play hard for us and not just be out there playing for Tobias. He's playing for Jackson State. Once he does that and continues doing that, he's going to be really exciting.
BL: What will be Singleton's role Saturday?
RC: There's no doubt about it, he's going to be on the field as a receiver and returning kicks.
BL: Can your offense approach last year's numbers?
RC: You never know. Last year what (Casey) Therriault did was a different concentration. With this group and coordinator now (Derrick McCall), the concentration last year was to stack up yards. We threw a lot; we threw in situations where we probably had the capability of running. And I'm not taking anything away from coach (Earnest) Wilson, I think coach Wilson did a fine job leading the offense to a 9-2 record, but I thought there were instances where we could've kept the ball on the ground and grind that clock out a little bit and do some things that would've made us a much better football team. We just stayed up in the air. It was successful, but this year we have a stable of backs that can run – B.J. Lee, Tony Gooden, Rakeem Sims, Marquese Dunn. They're not bad football players, and we've got to use them as a weapon. We can't just let people sit back and come up with ideas on how to get to the quarterback and rush him real hard like they did last year. When they started getting to Therriault, we still tried to do some things where we had an opportunity to hurt them elsewhere. If those numbers don't happen, I'm really not into matching those numbers, I'm just into trying to get W's the best way we can.
BL: When we spoke earlier this month about playing MSU, you said, "Any given day…" Do you tell the guys they have a real shot here?
RC: The thing right now is the kids have got to know that they have the opportunity of a lifetime. If we're lucky to have another game with an SEC school, that would be great, but we may never, ever have an opportunity to step up to play this game, especially the seniors. It's an opportunity of a lifetime. The football is shaped funny, and it rolls funny and it bounces funny. Any day you come out right, you come out rightly prepared to play and just play and have fun, anything can happen in this game of football.