CATEGORY: FOC College Football
SHERRILL SATISFIED BY WORK
By Chris Burrows
STARKVILLE Spring practice can be divided into equal parts physical performance and team chemistry. In both cases, Mississippi State head coach Jackie Sherrill likes what he sees.
“Our attitude has been very positive and I really like the chemistry I see among the players and between the coaching staff,” said Sherrill, whose club will complete the sessions next week. “I’m very encouraged by what I see.”
Mississippi State revamped the coaching staff, bringing in new coordinators Lynn Amedee (offense) and Joe Lee Dunn (defense). Bulldog fans will have to wait until the fall to notice the scheme changes, since the Bulldogs won’t play a spring game.
“As far as the fan is concerned, the changes on offense will be subtle. There will be changes, but they won’t be obvious,” Sherrill said. “As far as defense, the fans will notice changes immediately.”
Dunn, who will be coaching his third defense (Ole Miss, Arkansas, Mississippi State) in 15 months, is encouraged by his unit’s response to the odd-man defensive front.
“The defensive players have worked hard and want to do well. They’re disappointed and embarrassed by what happened last year,” Dunn said. “They’ve adapted better than I have. The hardest thing for me has been to learn everybody’s name.
“That’s what happens when you move around like I have. But I’m not planning on moving from here for a long time.”
Sherrill appreciates the response between players and the new coordinators.
“Lynn and Joe Lee have been around and know enough football to where they can judge the talent level and build their units around that,” Sherrill said. “They haven’t come in here with schemes and plugged guys in because that was what the scheme demanded.
“Lynn is one of best coaches from the press box in this country. He sees things develop and adjusts well. Joe Lee, well, he’s liable to adjust his whole game plan at 10 a.m. on game day. It’s just about impossible for coaches to get a read on his defenses.
“They’ve both done a good job of finding the best players and putting them in a position to help us succeed.”
Those “best players” have been a mix of the expected and unexpected. Eric Dotson, at 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, has been impressive from the middle guard slot. Dunn believes the potential is there to be a force.
Sherrill, while more restrained in his assessment, admits Dotson has had an “outstanding spring. Eric’s been very impressive. (DE) Terry Day and (LB) Paul LaCoste will get your attention,” Sherrill said. “Offensively, (RB) Keffer (McGee) keeps improving and he was already a quality player.
“Our young quarterbacks (Rob Morgan and Matt Wyatt) have picked up the offense very well,” said Sherrill, who noted returning starter Derrick Taite hasn’t missed a session while recovering from hand surgery. “Up front, (OT) Robert Hicks has had an excellent spring.”
The Bulldogs will bypass a spring game in an effort to stay healthy. Last year, on the final day of allowable contact, James Grier and Conley Earls, who figured heavily into the defensive plans, went down with injuries.
“Our doctors and trainers have begged us to stay away from a final scrimmage or spring game this time and we will,” Sherrill said. “In our case, the spring game basically was entertainment and the risk isn’t worth it.”