While sitting in his office this spring Mississippi State’s offensive line coach John Hevesy explained a very simple philosophy for reviewing game tape.
“It’s never as good as you thought but on the other side it’s never as bad as you would think either,” Hevesy said the day after a spring practice.
The Bulldogs offensive line may be leaning on the latter of that comment after two straight weeks of punishment for the quarterback and in the case of last Saturday, five turnovers in the passing game.
“We talked about it (Sunday) – they’re just not communicating very well,” Mullen said. “Everybody is kind of taking care of themselves instead of taking care of the line.”
For an offensive line that has only allowed five total sacks and just over six tackles for a loss per game, the coaching staff has been especially concerned about the lack of communication that’s led to constant quarterback abuse among a group that returned four starters from 2009.
Four of the five starters from last year returned for what was assumed would be the strength of an offensive unit as the skill position players develop around them. The visual evidence of this point couldn’t be addressed more precisely than in the first three games of the 2010 season.
During the win against Memphis, MSU quarterbacks Chris Relf and Tyler Russell were upright and able to connect for five touchdown passes. However, Saturday’s 29-7 loss at LSU was the complete opposite as the signal calling duo was under pressure from the opening possession and committed five turnovers as a result. “Obviously, in all of our minds we should be 3-0 right now, but aren’t,” senior offensive tackle Derrek Sherrod said. “So therefore we have to put it out of our minds so that we can concentrate on these last nine games coming up.”
The Bulldogs depth chart doesn’t have any changes in the starting five up front because MSU’s coaching staff can point to the one scoring drive with that group for positive reinforcement.
“I think on our 13-play drive where we scored (Saturday) night, nine of those plays all five offensive lineman graded with an S [satisfactory grade],” Mullen said. “I don’t know what it is – it’s consistent across the board. A lot of it comes with leadership.”
In the last two games, MSU (1-2, 0-2 in Southeastern Conference) has come out of the halftime break and controlled the line of scrimmage with scoring drives. Mullen suggested Monday that fact was more of a reflection on the veteran presence up front than a coaching switch in the locker room.
“A lot of that is leadership,” Mullen said. “We need some guys to get up and talk more. We have some great senior leaders by example (but) we need some senior leaders that are vocal, stand up and communicate what needs to go on.”
MSU tight end injuries still a mystery
There was a popular four-wood refrain Monday when senior tight end Brandon Henderson met with reporters at the Bryan Building.
“My knee is fine,” Henderson said.
Mullen said Sunday Henderson was the only injury coming out of the LSU loss that needed to be evaluated by the MSU medical staff before announcing his status for this week's game against Georgia.
Henderson, who was seen walking gingerly on the sidelines late Saturday night with a brace on his left knee, was starting at LSU in place of junior Marcus Green. The senior didn’t register a catch Saturday night against LSU and third-string tight end Kendrick Cook caught the only pass by a non-wide receiver all game long.
Mullen reiterated to the media Monday that Relf would be his starting quarterback and said he’ll have a better understanding Tuesday if either of his injured tight ends (Green and Henderson) would play or start this Saturday night.
“They both ran yesterday out of practice,” Mullen said.
The senior wouldn’t comment on whether he’d received an MRI scan this past weekend or what was on the medical report given to the Bulldogs coaching staff or when the injury actually occurred against LSU.
“My knee is feeling pretty good right now so we’ll just take it from there,” Henderson said. “I think I played a play after (the injury) but it’s in the past now and I’m looking forward to Georgia.”
Green, who did not meet with the media again Monday, did not make the trip with the team for its first road game of the season.
Green is still recovering from an injury to his right knee that kept him out of the second half of MSU’s 17-14 home loss to Auburn Thursday night.
Diaz very familiar with Georgia offense
Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator Manny Diaz should be confident he knows the style Georgia will attempt to execute.
He coached with Georgia head coach Mark Richt, and essentially against him on the same staff for two years at Florida State.
While Diaz was a graduate assistant on the defensive side of the ball, Richt was in the process of coaching his second Heisman Trophy winner in Chris Weinke to the national championship game.
Despite being one of seven head coaches in Division 1 football to win 90 or more games in his first nine seasons, Richt has been the subject of criticism since not returning to the SEC Championship game since 2005.
“One thing I respect about coach Richt is the class he runs that program with,” Diaz said. “He is steady as she goes. People love him for it and sometimes you don’t but to me that’s what you want – that steady hand in a job that important.”
In those five years, the league has seen a dramatic shift in spread option offense that include what Mississippi State will run under Dan Mullen but Richt’s style at Georgia is a now unique pro-style I-formation gameplan that focuses on the downhill running game that sets up a vertical passing attack.
“They’re going to run the football and that is their number one deal to be a physical running team that loves the play action pass,” Mullen said. “Usually, most teams which are a power running team are going to take shots on the play action pass.”