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Mike Leach discusses week ahead in weekly press conference

Coach Leach previews this week’s homecoming contest.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Alabama The Tuscaloosa News-USA TODAY Sports

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach held his weekly press conference on Monday to discuss this week’s preparations for MSU’s homecoming matchup against the Vanderbilt Commodores at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday.

Graduate transfer quarterback K.J. Costello left Saturday’s contest against No. 2 Alabama after taking a knee to the head. Per usual, Leach didn’t provide any update on his injury status.

“No update,” Leach said. “We’ll monitor it through the week.”

Leach said the chances of freshman quarterback Will Rogers playing this week are 50-50, and that’s what the chances were last weekend, too.

Leach then spoke about his displeasure of having to take Tuesday’s practice off for the election.

“Well, we have to practice today, which is usually their off day. I mean, I want everybody to vote, but I’m not a huge fan of adjusting everybody’s schedule and having National Election Day,” Leach said. “Everybody should vote. Virtually everybody should vote, but I don’t think they should cancel practice that day as a result. We’re in school and everybody’s going to work and everybody’s responsible enough to go vote. Worse yet, they’re going to do it every year and next year our elections here in the state of Mississippi don’t even line up with that date. Anyway, we move forward and look forward to practicing this afternoon.”

Leach then talked about what he saw on game film for the Bulldogs to build on offensively.

“Really, the biggest thing we have to build on is our youth and enthusiasm. We do have some enthusiasm behind these young guys that get to go out there and play early, and they’re excited to be out there,” Leach said. “That’s where people take the biggest strides is when they’re freshman and sophomores. We need to do everything we can to help them take the biggest strides we can. I think those were the biggest positives. I didn’t think anybody quit in the game. I do think that over time these guys learn in the offseasons. We need to log some offseasons in these guys. What is it? There’s a study, they say, that people work on 40% and they have 60% potential remaining. We have to try to get as deep as we can into that extra 60% as we can, and that’s what we’re working on.”

Senior running back Kylin Hill remains away from the team. Is his time with the Bulldogs over? It sure seems that way.

“I haven’t heard anything from him. The last I heard is what I told you last time,” Leach said. “I heard that he was opting out. But I haven’t heard anything further, and I haven’t spoken to him.”

Leach then spoke a little bit more about the election.

“I’m disappointed in anybody that doesn’t vote. I think everybody should vote, and I’m disappointed in anybody who doesn’t,” Leach said. “I’m glad we got them registered and gave some literally an education process on how it’s done. Fortunately, I’m married, and my wife educates me on when to go. But I’m determined to go. As far as the details and all that, she works through the logistics and has for years, which I think has definitely helped me. I think that part’s good. They were I would say - how would I gauge them - some enthusiastic. Generally, the better description would be curious, interested and on to doing something in a lot of cases that they hadn’t done before. I definitely think it’s positive.”

Freshman running back Jo’quavious Marks, who has been MSU’s starting running back this year with Hill being unavailable, was helped off the field with what looked like a head injury against Alabama. Marks has rushed 31 times for 121 yards and has caught 31 balls for 139 yards receiving.

“I expect to have him,” Leach said. “I think he’s another guy that’s kind of ahead of schedule, a young guy that plays well at an early stage in his career.”

Despite a four-game losing streak and several players entering the transfer portal, the mood in the locker room doesn’t appear to be a concern.

“Honestly, it’s kind of committed to improve. I mean, not happy with the results, committed to improve,” Leach said. “I think Kobe Jones does a really great job as far as keeping the energy and spirit of our locker room at a high level. To be honest with you, I think we’d improve even quicker if we had more Kobe Joneses. Just the guys that echo the message and lead by example type of thing.”

On Saturday, the Bulldogs will be debuting special throwback uniforms that bring back the historic Flying M logo to Mississippi State. Leach says he likes it.

“I like it. I’m not real conscious of it to be perfectly honest. It may sound strange, but I’m more conscious of it if I’m watching on TV,” Leach said. “If I’m watching someone else on TV where I’m in a relaxed setting and I notice, ‘Hey that’s that old uniform,’ or say ‘Don Hudson wore that uniform,’ or some deal like that. With regard to us, I’m locked in to what’s going on. I don’t want to take any of the fun away from it because I am in favor of wearing the throwback uniforms. I think remembering your tradition or your past is significant. To be honest with you, I’m not very conscious of it.”