Thursday Morning Practice Review

Give the Bulldog football staff credit for adapting to conditions. When lightning started popping and rains rolled in, Mississippi State got busy changing scripts for Thursday's two-a-day schedules. Adjusting the meal schedules, too.

Which is why Dan Mullen brought his box lunch with him to the morning media meeting. "Salad," he clarified. "When the day starts at five, lunch is at ten, that's like five hours. I don't have time to eat dinner until later tonight."

Mullen did have time to discuss results of the revised morning session though, which was moved to the Palmeiro Center. All the weather was supposed to be gone by the afternoon, when any drills adjusted for the first practice could be completed.

Q: How did you adjust today's first practice for the morning weather?
"It was just going indoors, we took out a couple of kicking game things that we can work on outside. We wanted to make sure we had the full field and the right film to watch after practice. But most of the stuff, that's all we really changed."

Q: Was today the last day of installation?
"Tomorrow. There's one more installation. We give the guys a day to digest it, we install it one day and teach that day and the next before we do a final installation."

Q: How much smaller is the learning curve now after two years?
"With the older guys it goes pretty quick. They kind of know it so you're looking for them to take the next step, of how they're utilizing it and how they're managing it. And how they're applying their fundamentals out there on the field, not just the scheme but are we better within the scheme with the older guys. So that's what we look for."

Q: How versatile are many of your defensive players?
"Well, we want guys to be that way. Fletcher Cox is one of the most versatile players, we can put him anywhere on the field, he could probably play corner for us! He's that athletic.

"I like hybrid guys, but you want winners even more. Give me eleven Charles Mitchells and I don't think anybody would score on us. But there are guys that create mismatches, we move Fletcher Cox inside, outside, move him all over the place and create some mismatches. Some linebackers that potentially could move down to an end, that will create a mismatch. On offense, guys like Brandon Hill and Malcolm Johnson that can play tight end; LaDarius Perkins is a running back that can play receiver; Chad Bumphis can play anywhere on the offense. He could play quarterback, he throws as good as most our guys do, and then he could play running back, receiver, all that stuff.

"When you look at those guys, we want to create mismatches on the field and guys that can do multiple things have the ability to create mismatches."

Q: Are more teams starting to do that?
"I have no idea."

Q: Do you see teams doing your schemes more and more?
"Yeah, but that was a couple of years ago. I think after 2004 at Utah everybody put a lot of this stuff in. I think the spread offense is probably run, as you keep looking down the ranks it's a major offense in high school football now, it's in college. And then you watch the NFL guys run a lot of the stuff we put in eight, nine, ten years ago."

Q: Does this maybe get more guys interested in your program in recruiting?
"I think the way we spread the ball around. We have all different ways to put the ball into your hands. For a kid that looks and says OK, I'm a receiver and they only throw to receivers this many times a game; you come play for us and we might hand it to you, pitch it to you, line you up at quarterback, snap it to you. There's a lot of different ways we can utilize you. And I think those are the type that offensive kids want to play. You recruit those skilled athletes, they don't come to just block, they want the ball in their hands. So that's what makes our offense attractive to a lot of talented athletes."

Q: What have you seen at fullback so far?
"Sylvester Hemphill is a guy with experience that has played a bunch so I feel comfortable with him. Adrian Marcus is another guy that is that way. I think they maybe give you a little more athleticsm than Pat Hanrahan had last year, you can put the ball in their hands and they're kind of hybridish that way, I don't mind seeing the ball in those guys' hands.

"And then William Shumpert is still coming back. When you have an injury like he had it's a longer recovery period. Not just health-wise, comfort-wise being out there on the field. But again, he's a powerful, powerful athletic fullback that you can hand the ball to. And they're coming along."

Q: Houston Nutt has said he has freshmen that could play both ways, what would be your plan on a guy who says hey, he can help you on both sides?
"Yeah, totally. I don't know if I'd do it with a ton with freshmen because I like to develop players. I don't want to depend on freshmen to win football games. But for us, as guys go in their career, I don't mind moving them around on both sides of the ball.

"If we have a guy that's a talented athlete that can help you, make you better on the other side of the ball, I think it's great. I mean, we have defensive players, find a way to put the ball in their hands if they're special that way. And the same on offensive players.

"I think the issue is when you have those players you want to be a little bit limited in what their role is; or you'll become a master of nothing. I want guys to be a master of one thing, and then if we're going to do another role they're good at the other role."

Q: You said you took stuff out of kicking practice this morning?
"We did PAT-field goals a lot today, and we were good. I think we missed one in the whole practice. So it was better, improved. It's just betting back in the rhythm for those guys and the rhythm of the season. I don't get in a panic about Derek DePasquale, he'll be OK, ready to play.

"Misses, I don't get panicked for that. They might do a little extra running! But I don't get in a panic just because it's something we can coach up. We watched it on film, now you just want to tweak one little correction or something with his balance, he was really off-balance and we got that fixed.

"When you have a guy that's kicked in the games like that, if they have a bad day and see it, it's a real quick tweak we can change. It's not a freshman that's wide eyed and ‘what's wrong?' He knows he can get the job done."

Q: Do you do anything different this afternoon?
"Originally we were planning to go outside the whole time. Then the storm just kind of swirled on top of us and stayed. So we rushed and grabbed the practice schedules for this morning and this afternoon, we wanted to make sure anything that we needed to be outside with, I wanted to make sure we were outside. Or, I just bumped (it) back to the afternoon and maybe moved one thing up that we could get done inside to try to balance the practice times."

Q: NFL preseason games start tonight, how much do you keep up with former players?
"I watch…I guess I don't watch because Sunday is not a good free-time day for us in football season. But I try to keep up statistically and just see if they won or lost the game and how they played. A lot of times before I'm ready to go to bed late Sunday night I'll try to catch a couple of highlights and read the ticker.

"And a lot more texts, probably. I guess texts is the way all those kids communicate anyway. I'll text just to see how things are going or to motivate and get them going. I talked to all of them last year, I'd get texts from Jamar Chaney and Anthony Dixon, all those guys. I guess I probably talk to Alex Smith more than anybody else of the former players."

Q: Were you surprised they moved Derek Sherrod to guard?
"Ahh, right now I'm in preseason camp so I haven't followed that stuff yet. It's still too early. Is he gonna play?

Q: He's first team?
"I'll be honest, I'd rather be the first team anything than the second team something else!"

Gene's Page Top Stories