Mullen Shifts Practice Tone To Game Prep

It isn't marked on any official schedule. Rest assured though that August 22 is a prominent date on Dan Mullen's coaching calendar. "Training camp is over," he said Monday evening. "Now we're getting into game mode."

Mississippi State's mode has indeed taken a change in the direction of getting ready for a real game. Kickoff at Memphis is not too much more than a week away, after all. Though, as Mullen said, the focus of Monday's practice wasn't really too Tiger-tinted. Not just yet. This was the first Dog day back at work since Friday night's extensive scrimmage so there was a good bit of review and wrap-up.

The weekend layoff showed, too.

"We were a little sluggish to start," Mullen said. "I was pretty disappointed how we started by coming off a weekend off and the big scrimmage on Friday. It's hard for me to say, I guess that can be expected. I expect greatness at all times out of our guys and the effort. But I think they picked it up and we did some good things."

The clearest signal to State players that game-prep is approaching was the debut of scout squads. Up to now everyone has practiced either as a unit, one through four, or rotated individually in drills. Monday afternoon found a big chunk of the roster set aside for their own instructions, and not in the ways MSU schemes up offense or defense.

However these were not specifically the same groups that will mimic opponents for varsity practice pleasure. "Every freshman went to the scout team today, because they've got to learn how to do it. Every one of them, right now," Mullen said.

"That doesn't mean they're going to stay there. Today was our first day with scout team so we sent all of our freshmen and all of our newcomers, everybody down there so they can learn what it means to be on a scout team. It was only a small part of practice with scout teams today anyway."

A small part for this day, he meant; because scouts play a major role in getting the Bulldogs tuned-up for the real thing. It's too meaningful, if not publicly appreciated, a task that Mullen and staff don't just throw eleven guys together and say get in the varsity's way. This is the week scout teamers learn how to, well, be a team.

"It's teaching the game mode, how to get the looks that we want to get. Because there's a lot of young guys that are out there doing it, some that are doing it for the first time," Mullen added, meaning that many of these college frosh were always stars before. "Some have never done it in high school. So they've got to learn how to do that stuff."

By ‘freshmen' the coach really means true signees not here in spring ball, raw walk-ons, and even some transfers. Not all, of course. Take Brandon Maye for one exception. "He's an older guy, I'm sure he did the scout team four or five years ago so he has an idea what that is all about!"

Meanwhile, the rest of the roster was having their August attitudes adjusted. Surviving another training camp, then having a whole two-day break, was bound to produce some degree of letdown. Compared to other lapses in practice intensity Mullen seemed much less concerned with this case. He figures that with the prospect of a real game to get ready for, the Bulldogs will get back on practice track in time when given a first good look at Memphis.

"And sometimes it takes a day or two to get used to that. Really, today, tomorrow, Wednesday is that transition and then really gameplan after that. I think just the exact attention to details that need to go on. Instead of thinking about the whole offense and the whole defense, it's specifically what you're using for each game."

With classes underway the Bulldogs practice late afternoons all this week.

JOIN THE CLASS: Mississippi State announced the three-member class to be inducted into the University's Sports Hall of Fame. Former football coach Jackie Sherrill, All-American and NBA All-Star guard Jeff Malone, and All-SEC tennis star Hugh Thomson will be inducted into the MSU sports shrine October 15, prior to the home football game with South Carolina.

Sherrill coached from 1991-2003 and retired as the winningest MSU mentor at 75-75-2. His teams played in six bowls and won the SEC's Western Division title in 1998. He is already a member of the athletic hall of fame for Pittsburgh and Texas A&M.

Malone is the all-time scoring leader at MSU with 2,142 point in his four seasons. He led the SEC in scoring as a senior and was league player of the year. A tenth overall draft pick in 1983 he was an all-star in 1985 and '86.

Thomson was there times a second-team All-SEC pick, and led the Bulldogs to the 1967 conference championship. He was 54-2 in SEC play from 1965-68 with seven individual league titles. Thomson also lettered in cross country and track.

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