Mullen, Dogs Settling Into Preseason Routine

The comment was routine enough. "We worked hard today. It was a hard practice," was Dan Mullen's most general, even generic, overview of Wednesday morning's Bulldog football practice. Then again, with training camp approaching the one-week mark, routine is exactly what a coach looks for. As long as routine means routinely good.

Now that wasn't entirely the case with Wednesday's single session. As Mullen noted, things began well with the morning full-pads practice, slumped after the half-way point, then rallied for a satisfactory finish. Still two out of three was enough to have the coach in a good media mood for the following comments, starting with a look back to Tuesday's afternoon practice.

"The afternoon, I loved the effort. It was really sharp yesterday afternoon, they came out and played hard. This morning I think we started really slow, I'm happy with the way we finished. I wasn't real happy two-thirds of the way through practice, I was getting a little annoyed. I think we started good, got bad, then we finished strong. I was happy with our guys were able to pull it together, suck it up and finish strong."

Q: Was it the effort?
"Yeah, just…everything! As it gets hot, you're in full pads, you've been out there for a while, I think you lose focus. As soon as you lose focus you stop giving great effort, then execution gets sloppy. We had to turn it around and our guys did at the end. I thought we competed and it was pretty physical at the end."

Q: Is it the point of camp the initial enthusiasm wears off?
"It will start. I mean tomorrow and Friday is where you start getting tired. We get some nice, hot days and you get tired. That's where you have to be mentally tough to get through it, and that's what our program is built on, a lot of mental toughness. That's the type of guys we want to put on the field. So, it will determine who is going to play, whose the ones that are mentally tough to get through it."

Q: Did anyone today stand out?
"I don't know if there is a guy that really stands out to me to do that. When you get to those situations you always turn to the Charles Mitchell, the John Banks, the Fletcher Cox, those are the guys that are going to pick you back up. Quentin Saulsberry and Vick Ballard. The problem is when those guys get tired I have to pick them up. Once we get them picked up they get the rest of the team going and we're OK."

Q: How are the freshmen looking?
"They're OK. They're alright. We're just letting them get their reps, play football, and see if anybody can do anything. We'll figure that out as we keep going."

Q: Are you still in the installation phase?
"Today is an installation. And we're wrapping up installation, we'll probably have one more installation and then just about everything is in. And then you've go to really digest it. That's where to me the younger guys, to who can digest it fast and pick up what we did four days ago and then what we did today; and when it all gets thrown in and mixed-and-matched together can they figure it all out."

Q: How have the defensive ends looked so far?
"They're coming. Nobody has really stood out. But that's fine, you don't have to have a standout guy. We need to have some depth, though. We have Shane McCardell and Trevor Stigers, and Corvell Harrison; all those guys have to step up next to Sean Ferguson, who has played a bunch. I feel good about Sean, it's finding those other guys that are going to step on the field and play."

Q: It's not a lot of bulk, but that group has speed?
"Yeah, that's part of us. You look at what you have, then we've got to tweak some things around their strengths. And we'll find a way to do that."

Q: When do you start getting ready for Memphis?
"It will be a couple of weeks, well after school starts. To me it's all about learning right now; are we improving ourselves. The first game of the season is always tough. It's kind of about you. I don't have any film of personnel watching Memphis, you're watching last year's film; the scheme is similar and some of the players are similar. But they're going to be a different team this year. So a lot of the focus all the way up to just about first game is going to be us."

Q: You said evaluations would start after pads, two days in is any particular group surprising you?
"No, it's kind of the guys I'm hoping to do well have done well. I'm happy. The secondary I think has come along pretty good, the receivers are getting better to where I want them to be, consistent across the board. So we'll see how that all pans out as we keep going forward."

Q: Dr. Keenum is at that NCAA retreat, has he given you any input about those meetings?
"Yeah, we have a great relationship. He'll always kind of check with me. He's going to make what he feels is the best decision for Mississippi State University. And for the university systems amongst the presidents. But I feel very fortunate we don't have a ‘them against us' here at Mississippi State, we have everybody on the same page. So for major things he'll call up and say do you have a reason why you want to argue one way or the other on these points."

"When we talk, there's all kind of different stuff we're talking about. I mean, in rules we'll discuss and he'll give me his opinion why we're trying to do one thing or the other. Sometimes we won't always agree, but that's OK. Once we make a decision we're all on the same page."

Thursday brings the second two-a-day schedule, with a morning session tilted towards running game work while the afternoon shifts in the direction of passing, protecting, and covering. The Bulldogs don't get their first break until Sunday.

Gene's Page Top Stories