There are several similarities between Oklahoma State's Glenn Spencer and Mississippi State's Geoff Collins, the two defensive coordinators in the matchup between the Cowboys and Bulldogs Saturday at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
Both were promoted to their new post for the 2013 season after coaching linebackers and serving as the co-defensive coordinator in 2012. Both are originally from Georgia.
And both were on the same Georgia Tech staff in 2001. Spencer was the running backs coach, while Collins was a graduate assistant.
Spencer described Collins as young, energetic, innovative and a good motivator. And he imagines Collins' transition to the full-time coordinator role has mirrored his own in a lot of ways.
“Probably like me, he didn't have to get to know the kids any more,” Spencer said of Collins. “But he's in charge now, and he can use the same terminology they were using. So I'm sure he's going to implement his own touch on things like I have, too.
“He was afforded, like I was, (the opportunity) to be a part of their defense last year, watch all that film and know the corrections they need to make and maybe see places where he thought they could improve. And then he was given the reins to be able to do it.”
DAK PRESCOTT: MISSISSIPPI STATE'S VERSION OF J.W. WALSH
Here's a scenario: A redshirt freshman backup quarterback enters the game in short-yardage and red-zone situations, ready to use his dual-threat skills in a package built just for him.
The description sure sounds like J.W. Walsh's role for Oklahoma State down the stretch last season. But that's also the way Mississippi State used backup Dak Prescott in 2012 — as a change-up option to starter Tyler Russell, a prostyle quarterback. Prescott tallied four rushing touchdowns and four passing touchdowns last season, to go with 194 passing yards and 110 rushing yards.
Unlike OSU coach Mike Gundy, who suggested Walsh and Clint Chelf may form more of a two-quarterback system Saturday against the Bulldogs, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said at his Monday press conference that Prescott's job will largely stay the same against OSU.
“It would be more situationally, than a set, ‘Hey, the third play of the game, you're going in,'” Mullen said of when Prescott will see the field. “There's a package that he's going to run. Now, when we get in a situation where we want to use that package, (he'll play).
“Last year, we probably force-fed Dak on a little bit more, being a young player. Dak's played in games, has experience. He's thrown touchdown passes. He's run for touchdowns in SEC games in big environments. As far as trying to make sure he has that experience early on, that's not as critical.
“It's just he'll be ready to go — be ready to be the backup quarterback and be ready to run whatever package he has.”
SMITH APPRECIATIVE OF YURCICH'S COACHING STYLE
New Cowboy offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is still an unknown to those outside of the program, but players have started to get used to his personality traits and coaching style.
So far, running back Jeremy Smith has enjoyed Yurcich's approach.
“During the spring, I didn't really hear him speak much. Now I hear him speak just a little bit more,” Smith said with a laugh. “He's just one of those guys who he's not going to ask for much. He's going to say, ‘I want this. I want it this way. Either you can give it to me this way, or I'll find somebody else who can do that.'
“I really, really, really like the approach. You don't have to curse anybody out or anything like that. It's just football. Either you can do it or you can't.”
Anything else outsiders should know about Yurcich?
“We caught him jogging a couple days ago,” Smith said. “It was right over there on campus. He was looking pretty funny. He swings his hands a little bit.
“I think him and Coach (Mike) Gundy are like the funniest people to watch running. Coach Gundy just turns red like he's about to pass out or something. But at least they're getting their jogs in.”