OK, I’ve got a lot of notes for you from our chat with coach Dan Mullen this afternoon. You saw the video earlier, but that was only the first five minutes, and we spoke with Mullen for a solid 21 minutes. So I’ve got some highlights for you, and then I’ve also got videos below of offensive lineman Gabe Jackson, defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and defensive line coach David Turner.
First, some Mullen highlights.
How confident are you Turner can mesh with this staff?
“Absolutely. I think what David understands is my philosophy of the program. I mean, we’re going to have a different defense this year a little bit than we had last year in that personality. Both Geoff Collins and Tony Hughes were very involved in the hiring process, though. Because when you look at it, the staff continuity; when you go to hire somebody it’s not about just hiring a specific coach. To me it’s hiring a coaching staff, in making sure that staff has a great combination of people that we’re putting out there. And that everybody can feed off of each other. That’s what we’ve done.”
Expect any changes in your staff beyond what’s already happened?
“The one that I can control, I’m not going anywhere. I love it here so that’s the only one where I have direct control over. I’ve got two kids that have grown up here, and they’re Mississippians.”
On freshman Xavier Grindle leaving:
“That certainly didn’t come as a shock to me. I give him a lot of credit because about first couple weeks in, he wanted to leave and he wanted to be home. I told him you have to stick it out, because how do you know if you don’t try?”
What’ve you learned about yourself this year, and looking at yourself from Year 1 to now:
“You know what, this season, it was to me a great season. Obviously it didn’t finish the way we wanted it to finish, but for a lot of teams it doesn’t finish the way you want it to. I guess 50 percent of the teams have to lose their last game or something like that, so you never finish it the way you want to finish it for half the people out there. We’ve been fortunate in the years past. As I reflect on this year, the program’s certainly going in the direction I want it to go in, which is the opportunity to continue to win football games, to put ourselves in the discussion, to put yourself in the discussion as the season wears on to go and compete for conference championships, which is our ultimate goal here.”
On WR Michael Carr trying to return to team:
“He’s come to meet with me about it. Michael, obviously, left under some tough issues. It wasn’t an issue in what he’d done wrong within the program, and it wasn’t an issue in his dislike of the program, it was just some personal things he had to get figured out in his life. We’ve opened the door for him, if he gets those things figured out, to take care of certain business and make sure he’s on the personal right track to come and play for us in the future.”
Have you talked to Tyler Russell since the bowl game and gotten into this head after his four interceptions in the Gator Bowl?
“After the third interception in the first quarter, I said, you’ve got to take it in the locker room, splash some water in your face and start this over again. You know what? The great thing about Tyler is he knows he’s the leader of our program. And I know he’s a guy that’s hard on his staff, but he’s mature enough to understand he’s hard himself about those things. You’re not going to find a coach, you’re not going to find a fan, you’re not going to find anybody more disappointed in the outcome of that game than Tyler Russell.”
What do you think about your junior college guys who have enrolled?
“Jeremey Chappelle and Justin Cox are here in classes. They’re here to play. When you go out and recruiting junior colleges for the most part we don’t do it for depth, we bring guys in to play. If you look at the numbers, if you ever want to go do a research project, our junior college player signees to the amount they play is probably the highest in the country. We bring in those guys for need and we’re excited about those two being here and I know they’re ready to get to work and get after it. They’re already in classes and I expect to see both of them on the field for us immediately next fall.”