STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach met with the media Monday afternoon to preview this week’s home contest against the No. 11 Texas A&M Aggies.
Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello set a Southeastern Conference passing record for yards in a game with 623 against the defending national champion LSU Tigers in a 44-34 win. That was three games ago. Costello has thrown seven interceptions since that game. It is now unclear if he will start against Texas A&M on Saturday.
“We’ll see,” Leach said. “We’re going to have competition at nearly every position out there because we need to get the most cohesive group. I think as far as being purely competitive out there at every position, I think that’s what we need to do. I don’t think we’re protecting well. I don’t think we’re seeing the field very well. And I don’t think we’re catching very well or running routes very well.”
If Costello does play, Leach wants him to “see the field better and take care of the football.”
Leach says coaching detail will be the key for the offensive coaching staff to get the offense rolling again.
“The biggest thing we’ve got to do as coaches is just coach detail as hard as we can. Coach detail, reinforce detail, insist on detail,” Leach said. “Any time you start out early on there’s going to be some hiccups and bumps in the road. There’s going to be stuff that you need to address as urgently as possible and as consistently as possible. It’s just part of the whole process, especially if you’re putting in something new, and you don’t have too much time to do it.”
After the loss to Kentucky, Leach said in his postgame press conference that he might have to purge “malcontents” from the team. He expanded on that Monday.
“I think we do have a few fence riders that are trying to decide if they’re going to commit or if they’re not going to commit to what everybody is doing here,” Leach said. “Any time there is a transition there is a certain number of guys - and I’ve been through a number of these transitions - who are going to do the wait and see thing. Well, I’ll see if I like what I see. Well, that’s too bad. The train rolls on. They need to jump on board pretty quickly or the train’s going to roll on without them.”
Sophomore Garrett Shrader, who transitioned to wide receiver this year, completed 88 of 153 passes for 1,170 yards passing, eight touchdowns and five interceptions last season. It was asked if the door is totally closed on Shrader returning to quarterback.
“Well, if you keep shuffling the deck, you’re not really going to get anywhere,” Leach said. “We’ll see what unfolds. K.J. and Will [Rogers] will battle it out this week, and we’ll see.”
Leach then talked about the almost nonexistent running game that produced just 20 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Senior running back Kylin Hill is coming off a season where he led the SEC in rushing with 1,350 yards and earned All-SEC first-team honors, but Leach said Hill “played about like everybody else out there did Saturday.” Leach says that choosing to run when a team drops eight into coverage is just the start.
“First of all, we have to get off the ball. We have to get off the ball with lower pads, and we’ve got to move the three [defensive linemen]. And we’ve got to do it quickly. The drop eight is just how it starts. Those guys are storming forward the second the ball is snapped. The other thing is we’ve got to see the hole better and hit the hole harder. We’ve got to hit the hole better. I thought we made a lot of bad cuts last week. We’ve got to be sharper at that as well. We definitely could have gotten off the ball better.”
The Bulldogs and Aggies are set to kickoff at 3 p.m. CT inside Davis Wade Stadium. The contest will be televised by SEC Network.