Mullen speaks at MSU Media Day

Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen speaks about his team's early practices during media day. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen speaks about his team’s early practices during media day. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State held its annual on-campus media day on Saturday with head coach Dan Mullen answering questions for nearly half an hour from media members around the state. Mullen spoke about his team’s expectations for the season and also gave a thorough breakdown of all three phases of his squad.

To watch Mullen’s press conference simply click on the link here. You may also read the transcript of Mullen’s Q&A session below…

Head Coach Dan Mullen Quotes

Opening Statement …

“It’s great to see everybody back. We’re excited. I think we’re in day four since we reported to training camp. We’re fired up, ready to get on the field, ready to get to work and do what we need to do to be successful. For us getting back on the field is a lot of fun. I like getting out there. We’ll get to put some pads on this afternoon for the first time, so we really get to start playing football this afternoon.

“I know the first couple of days without pads you pray nobody gets hurt. It’s designed, for safety reasons, not having pads the first couple of days. For me, it’s the two most dangerous days because you don’t have the pads. Fortunately, we didn’t have problems with that the first two days. We’ll get ready and start playing some football this afternoon.”

On building toward expectations for season …

“I don’t know if you’re building or not. I just know this team. They look at each other and all the work they’ve put in and the experience they have. The team has extremely high expectations. I don’t think we concern ourselves with outside expectations because I don’t how anybody could have any expectations when they haven’t been working out with us and seen the guys training during the summer and doing all the work they’ve put in.

“Our guys know what they put in what they expect of themselves. I love it. We embrace those expectations within our program. I’m just proud. I think our guys have worked hard. I’m proud they feel we have a championship-caliber team.”

On running backs …

“Every year it’s a committee type thing. Josh [Robinson] had a lot of yards last year. When Vick Ballard was here, [LaDarius] Perkins had a lot as well. Usually, one steps out a little ahead of everybody else, but at the end of the day we like to look at the rotations and the reps that guys have.

“We want it to be comparable, and with the depth we have with Nick Griffin being healthy, Brandon Holloway also gives you a different dynamic with a speed back there. [Ashton] Shumpert is the power back. Josh is the other back. I think there are a lot of different weapons. I think we can roll those guys through and see who has a hot hand.”

On using Damian Williams and freshmen at quarterback …

“Damian [Williams] for sure [will play]. The freshmen, it’s still really early and they’re getting used to being here. Elijah [Staley] is two days into a playbook. We will have to see how he picks it up. Nick [Fitzgerald] had the spring so he has an advantage at this point.

“I always do that [use a rotation]. During training camp last year, nobody thought Damian would start the Egg Bowl. He started and got a win as a starter. Our jobs are to make sure we get guys ready for those situations. We try to do that through the course of the season and throughout the whole season. You never know when some huge moment is going to come on us and we need to make a play.”

On Aeris Williams …

“He hasn’t put the pads on yet. Once he puts the pads on we’ll see if know which way to go and if he can do it. We know he is a talented player being Mississippi’s Mr. Football last year. We have to see how he picks things up and what he does with the pads on at this level.”

On adopting an up-tempo offense …

“We’ve done it a little bit in the past. It depends a lot on the team you have and what you’ve been able to do. Last year, you look at the success we had with ball control. We played great defense and have a lot of defensive guys back. In the end, the program is based on playing great defense. We want to continually put ourselves in a position to do that and play great defense.

“We’ll see how things play out. There are times when you have to do that. You do a lot of reps with the two-minute offense. There are teams, when it really started getting rolling that way, that feel really comfortable in the two-minute offense and just go run it all the time. For us, we like to control the tempo of the game.”

On wide receivers …

“Coming into last year we were really worried, but you have to look at the experience. When you go 80 plays in a game, we want guys running and playing as fast as they can. After rep 80, nobody is as fresh. Where you want to get to is where everybody is running about 40 reps during the course of a game. To do that, you have to have the depth at the receiver position. You do feel good about guys coming back.

“When you look and all your starters are back, and all your back ups are back, you feel pretty good. You put yourself in a position where the back ups want to get out there. There is a lot of experience getting out there playing in games. It’s one of those positions where you have to be two deep. You have to be able to stay fresh through out the year.”

On Chris Jones …

“He’s still a young guy, but he does provide some leadership up front. He’s a guy who made plays last year. He has play-making ability. There is a big difference between being a playmaker and being a dominant player. We want him to be that dominant player. He’s doing it every play. He’s not just making a play every once in a while. Offenses have to pay attention to him. I think he has that potential. He’s working at it with his technique and his fundamentals.”

On Dak Prescott …

“A lot of guys will do something really well and they just focus on that. The great players look at where they need improvement and focus on that. Dak is one of those guys. He has that will power. Fourth-and-one is built for Dak Prescott. That is his favorite time of the game, when he gets to will himself to win a game for you.

“Beyond that, he’s constantly working on being a student of the game, being really football sharp and trying to take that to the next level. He wants to understand why we do things, why we’re attacking a defense a certain way and all of those types of things are huge.

“Dak was an average passer when he showed up here. Now he is a pretty good passer, but he wants to be a great passer.  When you have that drive and work ethic, it allows you to do that and accomplish more.

“I think some people are wired different. He’s a winner. In his mind, he wakes up every morning wanting to be the best that he can be and doesn’t look for a short cut or any other way other than through hard work. That is how people become successful, he just happens to be playing quarterback.”

On Justin Senior …

“You need to have depth at that position. You need three and you like to have four at tackle. You like to have that whole offensive line at two deep. Justin is a guy who has his weight up where he needs to be. He has done everything we asked over the summer to get himself ready. He’s been here awhile. He was a guy who graduated high school and came early as an early enrollee and that always give you a little advantage over the other guys because you get those reps in the spring. He knows the system and has himself physically where he needs to be. We expect him to be competing for that job.”

On staff changes during the offseason …

John [Hevesey] and I have been together straight through for 14 years. I knew him before I knew my wife. We’ve been coaching together even before I met my wife. Billy [Gonzales] and I were together for all but four years of those 14 years.

“I think the familiarity with each other, especially on the offensive side of the ball with Greg Knox, who has been here with us since the beginning, is huge. Scott Sallach has been here since the beginning. Brian [Johnson] knows all of us. I think it’s an easy transition. The great thing is everybody knows what we want to get done and what we need to get done. It is a pretty easy adjustment for those guys to take the reins.”

On desired results from training camp …

“What would make me the happiest is that everybody is healthy. We stayed healthy through training camp and we made great strides across the board at every position. We come out of training camp with a lot of guys who are desperate to get on the field and make plays on game day.”

On defense …

“They have the potential to be great. I think we finished the season on a real high note playing some great defense. The defense only gave up three points in the Egg Bowl and gave up 17 to Arkansas the game before that only because of overtime. When you look at that, when you finish a season playing like that and you look and all of those guys coming back, that’s what makes you happy.

“One of the things we want to be able to do is not see a fall off. When we go ones-on-ones, I expect to see some really high-quality football. When go twos-on-twos now, I don’t want to see a drop off at all. The level of play and talent on the field shouldn’t drop off.”

On making a bowl game …

“At the Liberty Bowl, we had a great time up there. We were very fortunate to go to the Liberty Bowl. They put on a great show for us. Coming into a season, [the team] doesn’t want to be good enough to just make it to a bowl game. They want to go compete for conference championships. That’s obviously the team we want to have.

“We’ve tried to build that here as a program. It’s a tough challenge. Someone put a poll on my desk that said there were five teams in the SEC West that were in the top 20 in the country. No other conference has five teams in the top 20, and we have five in our division. That is always a tough challenge. In our conference, you may have a great team. That doesn’t mean you’re going to win [the conference]. That’s the challenge we love. We are going to go out and find a way to win.”

On the special teams unit …

“We have a lot of confidence, we had a lot of confidence with our kickers last year. We can only judge it off practice. At placekicking, there is still a lot of inexperience. With Devon Bell we’re focusing on punts and kickoffs. He’s played in games and in pressure situations. The other guys, all of them, are extremely inexperience at the placekicking position. We’ll see how it all plays out in training camp.

“Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to simulate the pressure you are going to feel on a Saturday in the stadium. You can try as hard as you want to simulate it, but there is no simulation for it. We’ll see how they perform during training camp and then in the season. I don’t know if we’ll have starter week one, because that’s our first opportunity to put some of those other guys in where they are playing live in a stadium.”

On playing in an expanded Davis Wade Stadium …

“I’m going to be really excited when it’s full. That’s all I care about. When we fill the stadium with fans and they stay for the whole game and give us that home-field advantage. That’s is really important for us. Our guys have gotten to go over there and see the expansion. We are going to have a scrimmage in the stadium before then. It’s obviously spectacular and our fans are going to be wowed when they get in there and see it. We’ve done a pretty good job of having home-field advantage the last couple of years. Hopefully this only increases that.”

On Nick Griffin …

“He’s done an amazing job dealing with [injuries]. He’s a great young man. He has great grades, and is a great leader within our program. I think a lot of guys look and respect that. A lot of guys look and see his career may not have gone the way he may have wanted it to go, but he has still had a tremendous amount of success. Through his work ethic, his academics, his leadership he is a great role model for other people.

“In life, maybe it’s not always going to go the way you want it to, but if you’re willing to work hard you can be successful. I think he really epitomizes that in our program. This is the healthiest he’s been coming into a season in a long time. He’s experienced, he’s played in games and he knows the system inside and out. He brings a lot of stability, especially to a position where there is not a returning starter. He can keep all the younger guys going in the right direction.”

On the SEC returning to a defense-first league …

“We’ll see how the season plays out. I think a lot of it is the styles of teams. There are some teams whose style is to try to score as many points as possible, no matter how many they give up. Then there are other teams who say, ‘we are going to play defense’ and play that aspect of the game. Within both realms, you’re going to have a lot of different ranges of scores and games this year.”

On being competitive in the SEC West …

“You have constituency of winning and getting great players, then developing those great players. I think we’ve done a great job recruiting. We get some star players who were great in high school. We look at players and see who they can be, like Benardrick McKinney and Dak Prescott. Neither was highly recruited coming out of high school. They had certain traits that allowed them to be successful in our program. Those guys come in, they believe in what you do, you build and develop them. Then you have the opportunity to go and compete for a championship. “

On increasing long plays within the passing game …

“Those aren’t high percentage plays, so they are always going to be inconsistent. If you hit 50 percent of them, you are probably pretty darn happy. It’s always going to be a little inconsistent. I think the fact that you have guys with experience back and a quarterback with experience back helps. The key is when you have those opportunities you have to take advantage of them. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that. We have several guys who bring different things to the table. De’Runnya [Wilson] brings size. We have other guys who bring speed. It’s that combination that will make you a deep threat down the field.”

On implementing an early signing period …

“Recruiting is nonstop. You have to be recruiting, getting guys into your program. I’m a proponent of the early signing day. I don’t know why you need to change recruiting. I bet almost every school in the country has over 50 percent of the guys who lthey’re going to sign this year committed.

“When they do the early signing day, I think they need to let all these guys who have committed go and sign right now. At that point, the commitment, on both ends, is pretty locked in. If you do that, the word commitment will change in definition within the recruiting circle as it is now without having to change signing day.”

 

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

Posted in Football Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 238 other subscribers