"Our guys are competitive, so I know there was a lot of competition which group could raise the most amount of money! It's all for a good cause and it's great for us to give back to the community."
Bulldog football giving this Christmas season will extend beyond the immediate community, and beyond today for that matter. As part of participating in the Gator Bowl, the players receive both items and gift cards from the bowl organizers. Mullen said that players plan to use their cards to purchase gifts, and donate them to organizations in Mississippi which support children's causes.
"They're our bowl gifts to give Christmas gifts to young kids around the state," Mullen said.
Meanwhile Mississippi State coaches made the bowl camp change to true game practices, after investing an entire week of work in player development as well as refresher instructions. Beginning today the real preparations for the January 1 contest with Michigan got under way with a session closed to media and fans. The Bulldogs worked about an hour-and-a-half outdoors, in full pads but without real contact. There had been enough of that for backups, reserves, and redshirts during a Thursday hour-long scrimmage.
In that sense today was very much in keeping with how Mullen structured the in-season game weeks.
"Today it was like a Sunday practice for us, a light practice," Mullen said "Move around, get a sweat going and do some of that stuff. Tomorrow will be full-pads and like a Tuesday practice." Which includes full contact and with almost all the focus on the starters and rotation players, as well as scripted special teams drills.
While some Bulldogs had been taking their own sneak-peaks at the Gator Bowl opponent, today brought the first true scouting report sessions as coordinators and position coaches showed their players what the Wolverines are and how they plan to play. "We got a bunch of it today," said Mullen. "You get a little extra time for those things with no school, no other concerns or worries for us."
Mullen said he also has no worries about players not being eligible for the bowl game, since all academic and attendance reports were turned in last week. "Everybody should be good to go. Everybody that was coming is going, no surprises."
Unfortunately there won't be any surprise additions to the active roster either. Slot receiver Chad Bumphis is out of the bowl after a collarbone break in the Egg Bowl victory over Ole Miss. Tight end Marcus Green has been out since the second game with his knee procedure and won't be activated. And after some slight hope wideout Leon Berry could return from his October broken ankle to play one more college game, the senior is now definitely out per Mullen.
"He's not going to be able to play in the game. Hopefully he can get healthy sometime this spring and get an opportunity to try out for a pro team."
Saturday's practice will begin before noon and is expected to end at 1:45. It is closed.