Dan Mullen got on the phone today for his weekly segment on the SEC coaches teleconference. He talked about this week’s foe, No. 9 LSU, as well as his team’s pass rush, his running game and LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Here’s the full transcript. Enjoy.
It’s a challenge for us any time you have to play down in Baton Rouge on a Saturday night. It’s always a tough challenge and a tough environment to go in and play. At this point in the season, it comes down to the mental and physical toughness and the challenge of keeping that focus and that grind that these guys go through with all the academics and the week in and week out of playing in the Southeastern Conference. They have to stay focused and have a great week of practice and continue to prepare and continue to get better as the season goes on.
LSU throws four to five different running backs into the rotation. How does that challenge you in your game plan?
They all run the same plays, but each one of them run it a bit differently. If you’re constantly fitting the run the right way you’re going to be successful. If you get out of a gap, they have guys who can hit the home run. If you get out of a gap a little bit, they have guys who can power and knock you back. You constantly just have to fit the right way on defense.
On LSU fullback J.C. Copeland:
He’s just got so much size, he’s a massive-size guy. He’s kind of like an extra offensive lineman in the backfield. But he does make some athletic plays when they throw the ball every once in a while as well.
On gap seeming to close between LSU and Mississippi State and what has closed that gap?
Our kids go play hard and they take this on as a big challenge. We still haven’t closed the gap where I want. We still haven’t come up with a win. We still have to take that next step to finally push us over the top to get a win against LSU. Obviously everybody knows LSU is loaded with talent from top to bottom, but we have some pretty good talent here. Our kids play hard and when you play hard there is going to be an opportunity to win games and be in position. We’ve done that the last couple of years even though we haven’t come out on top.
When you came over from Florida, was LSU one of the programs you mentioned to players as the type of team/level you want to reach at MSU?
I do think one thing they do a fantastic job, which we try to do here, is they keep the talent from the state of Louisiana at home to play for them. That’s a big part, a benchmark of how you set your program. We try to do the same here in Mississippi. You’re going to have a bunch of guys from out of state and you’ve got to go nationally to recruit some guys, but you want to make sure your local players stay at home. That’s one thing I did take from them. We want to be similar in a way that we keep the top players in Mississippi right here playing for us.
How important could Cam Lawrence be in getting more pressure on QBs?
The one thing you look at, you’re not always just going to get pressure with your defensive line. And in my whole time here we’ve had success with linebackers creating and being involved and getting pressure on quarterbacks. You’ve got to be able to mix it up, the linebackers, and bringing pressure. You’ve got to do it very carefully because you’re going to take some chances. But you have to bring pressure with the linebackers, and hopefully speed up the quarterback’s decision-making or disrupt his rhythm.
Nick Griffin has had some good runs lately, see him more involved at LSU?
I do. One thing that Nick’s done for us is he’s playing kind of like we expected him to play. He’s got some confidence, he’s got some explosion, but he’s dropping his pads, he’s running the ball hard and running north and south, running the ball hard. That to me is what we expected out of him. You’ve got a guy that’s 220, that’s what we were waiting to come out. I think now he’s got his confidence back, and he’s playing at full speed.
Having played Alabama and Texas A&M, what’s your perspective on their game this week?
An excellent football game. They’re two very, very good football teams. They go about things very differently, but they both play hard. I expect it’ll be a pretty good game.
Zach Mettenberger played his best game last week, has he done anything differently?
Watching Zach all the way back to the high school days, he was a very talented passer with a big arm. What you’re seeing out of him now is he’s getting comfortable within the offensive system. He’s getting comfortable with the speed of the game and being back out there playing in the Southeastern Conference. You saw him get hot last week. When you take a talented guy and he gets hot, you better watch out. And he did that last week and made a lot of big plays for them.