Mullen Gives Good Review To Spring Game

Following Saturday's spring game, won 23-20 by the Maroon team on a last-drive touchdown, a satisfied Coach Dan Mullen discussed the event, the atmosphere, individual and group efforts, and where Bulldog football stands following their spring season.

Did you accomplish what you wanted from this event? "Yeah, we had a great crowd, a great turnout, an exciting atmosphere on campus. We got to see a lot of guys that hadn't played in this environment before out here and being exposed to playing under some pressure."

How did the quarterbacks look? "Not bad, not bad. Tyler (Russell) didn't have his best day of the spring. But I've seen a lot, he's played in games before. The nice thing about today is he had some ups and downs but he continued to have some ups and downs. Even though he wasn't as crisp as he's been you could see with some experience today he didn't let it bother him, he just gets on to the next play and makes the next play."

Chris Relf immediately set a tone with a touchdown drive? "Yeah, Chris came out sharp like he's been all spring and looked really good. We didn't need to see a lot, he's played a lot of games in this stadium and he'll play a bunch more next year so we didn't need to put him in the adverse situations."

Did Russell's struggles have to do with the offensive line? "Well I think definitely early it did. And what happens as a quarterback is when you start getting hit early now you start worrying about everything else that's out there on the field. But I give him some credit, he did settle down at times. Even after that he settled down and make some big plays."

Can Dylan Favre take this into summer and compete for that backup spot? "I certainly hope so. And for him just to be on this field in this situation. Now because of the crowd we had and the atmosphere it is, he's had some live-game reps without it having to be a real game now. So hopefully that experience helps him go into next season."

How do you think the linebackers played? "I thought they were pretty solid all day. You know it's tough when you're mix-matching so many people out there on the field, I thought they did a good job."

"I was really pleased our specialists came out today, and you're talking about new holders, new snappers, and a new kicker at every position except for Derek DePasquale; but the whole operation everybody was new. They performed at a high level. I figured we'd snap a couple of punts over people's heads and guys would get nervous and start fumbling some kicks. But I was pleased with the execution of that."

You didn't script it but coming down to a last-drive score was a fun way to end? "Yeah, that was great! It was great to come down to that situation. Dylan had them, they drove down, and when you're running-clock there in the fourth quarter there are not going to be many opportunities. Dylan drove them down and threw the interception, and I'll say I told him you're going to get one more opportunity, that's about it. And they took advantage of it."

The defensive line got a lot of pressure early? "Yeah, they came out and dominated early. And they're not going against the #1 o-line per se as a whole. That's what you want to see out of Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd, they are experienced, veteran players. They should dominate against people unless they're going against the ones."

Do you know what you'll work on Monday? "Yeah, we had this plan all along. We're really cleaning some things up, we're just in helmets so it's not going to be real contact. A lot of fundamentals and individual stuff that they hopefully carry with them, things that they can work on on their own over the summer."

Overall how do you think you guys are going into the next week and summer? "Not bad, I think. There is a foundation. Our older guys have seen improvement, the guys like Fletcher Cox. They have taken the next step, ready to become prime-time players. I'm pleased, there should be a solid foundation of offense, defense, and special teams in the summer."

"Like I always say, though, we have got to pick up right where we left off in summer. We cannot take a step back when we show up here August 4. We have to be right were we are today if not even better."

The wide receivers made plays, they got open or went and got balls? "Yeah, and some young guys. I was impressed. I expect that out of some of the veteran guys, you know. But seeing Robert Johnson, Jameon Lewis made some catches; Michael Carr didn't get a chance to shine a lot; Ricco Sanders who hasn't had a ton of playing time."

"So you're seeing guys start to really step up and make plays now."

Who is your left tackle now? "Blaine Clausell and James Carmon. Those two are."

How do you feel they played today? "Good, we'll see on film. I didn't see any glaring issues out of either of them. They have 29 more practices to improve, so to me we'll figure that out probably on the night before the Memphis game who plays the first night."

Can you sum up what you saw? "Just the young players coming out on the field and their first time they're in front of an enormous crowd, out here where there's a lot more pressure than with just me and the coaches watching practice. For them to perform; the specialists performed, the receivers catching balls, guys on defense making tackles, that's what we wanted to see. Some of the quarterbacks, Dylan Favre in his first action ever in front of a big crowd."

Can Cox and Boyd be a special duo in the SEC? "I hope so. I mean I hope so. Now we need the other guys to continue to develop behind them. You need depth on the defensive line if you're going to dominate."

How did the coaches who gave $12 million do? "They did, they won! I tell you what, the Seal brothers had a great time with it, they had a lot of fun and did a good job with the guys. Jim Rouse did a fabulous job with his guys. Hopefully it's an experience they can take with them for a lifetime and just have fun with it. All of them have just been so supportive of what we're trying to do here as a program, hopefully they enjoyed it and we were able to give them back a great moment to experience."

You did not lose many but you lost some quality guys, how do you feel about replacing them? "You know, you don't replace them. That is the biggest mistake sometimes you make as a coach, is expect someone to come in and play at Derek Sherrod's level. It's not going to happen. But going into last season we had to replace Anthony Dixon, people are asking how do you replace him? You don't replace him as an individual, guys just step up and we replace the running game."

"The same thing has to happen at the linebacker position, in the offensive line. I think one of the bigger losses on the offensive line is not the starters, it's the backups. I mean we lost three senior offensive linemen that were backups last year. That's where when you're going a full two-deep today, even when we pull out some of the veteran guys you're really going to see some young guys having to play."

And you lost a great center, too? "Oh yeah. And you lost D.J. Looney who was your backup center. Your starting left tackle and backup left tackle, and a backup guard with Mark Melichar with Looney and Phillip Freeman as well as J.C. and Derek. So that's where the depth concerns, not just the ones but the depth."

Did you let Lee or Leo call plays? "They called a bunch of them! You have to ask them!"


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