We had a very fruitful SEC coaches teleconference this morning, as we spoke with both Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and MSU head coach Dan Mullen. Chaney was filling in for his boss, Derek Dooley, who’s recovering from hip surgery.
First, let’s hit some highlights from Mullen’s chat.
• On Tennessee’s defense: “They’ve got tremendous on their defensive line. Big, giant nose tackle, and they’ve got some athleticism on the edge. The advantage of them coming off a bye week right now, they have the opportunity to fix and correct some things. Like I’ve said, they’ve been pretty stout most of the year. They’ve given up points and they’ve given up yards, but a lot of that has come on big plays, not consistent drives down the field.”
• On whether the bye week is an advantage for UT and if there is a way MSU can counteract that: “There isn’t, but you never know. Bye weeks can be an advantage, they can be a disadvantage. Like us last week, it ended up being an advantage for us. But you never know, because anything that kind of throws you out of your weekly routine that you get into during the season sometimes, you change up that routine, and how it’ll affect them I have no idea.”
• On the danger of overlooking UT’s run game: “You can’t forget about the run game. They have an experienced offensive line, solid running backs, they can turn and hand the ball off. They can kind of just pound away at you and control the tempo of the game.”
• Former Bulldog Vick Ballard has been announced as the starting tailback for the Indianapolis Colts this week due to Donald Brown‘s surgery. “One thing that Vick Ballard always did while he was here for us is he’s a guy that takes advantage of every opportunity and is one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around, and that allows him to take advantage of those opportunities. It really is not a surprise, the success he sees.”
• On right guard Tobias Smith, who missed two games after playing against Auburn and then saw the field last week at Kentucky: “He took some reps and he really took two series last week but hadn’t practiced one day since the Auburn game. He looked a little rusty but I think he got that out. He’s been practicing this week and I expect him to play a bunch for us on Saturday. Hopefully he gets back, now, in his routine and can be out there playing on the field.”
OK, let’s hear from Chaney, who gives Mullen a run for his money in the speed-talking department.
• On whether having Dooley in the booth this weekend will be a challenge: “No, I’m in the booth also. We talk all the time throughout the ballgame, so it’s really going to be not a lot of difference for us. He’ll be sitting beside me as opposed to down there with the headset on. We’ll have open dialogue. His connections are always with offense, defense and special teams. The only difference will be just his location, so I’m not anticipating a lot of change in any environment in that regard.”
• On the key to QB Tyler Bray playing well against MSU’s secondary: “The key is just patience and taking what a defense gives you and don’t force the ball. We’ve had some issues late in plays of trying to make too many plays, and we’re just trying to get him to calm down and realize sometimes there’s not a play to be made.”
• On what he knows of MSU’s offense: “All I can say is – I spoke with Sal (Sunseri, defensive coordinator) a little bit about it – and they’re very creative on the offensive side of the ball. Some of their creativity creates some problems, so we’ve got to be ready for everything.”