Mullen Unhappy With Morning Practice Effort

The Bulldogs can't claim they have not been warned. And in some pretty stern terms. After all, how often does a coach toss out the term ‘wrath' when altering his team to potential consequences of a less-than-stellar practice?

Dan Mullen assuredly did today, following the morning practice. A session that didn't come close to meeting the head coach's standard for the final two-a-day date of this training camp. Mullen admitted that such dissatisfaction can be normal enough for this or any point of preseason. "Because I always want to be better," he said.

"But my wrath will come out more if it's not cleaned up this afternoon, I promise you that, than it is this morning. You can make a little bit of a mistake here and there, but you'd better have it cleaned up by this afternoon."

Mullen was able to clear up one thing Monday. Freshman running back Josh Robinson, who was temporarily allowed to practice these first two weeks of camp, received his full certification.

As for the practice itself…

"I was not really happy coming off the field today. That's probably as ban an offensive practice as we've had since my first year here. Just laziness, no crispness at all, when you get a little lack of mental focus. And that's my job as a head coach and assistant coach's jobs to make sure this afternoon that it doesn't look that way, that we come out sharp and crisp on offense and not see what we saw this morning." Q: What was the problem this morning? "Everything. Laziness, just sloppy, lazy play. And you can't have that. It encompasses everything we saw offensively."

Q: It was really the worst since day-one here? "Since that first season. I don't know if we could be as bad as we were day one, that was pretty bad! But since the first season. You can be sloppy and physical, but just the whole deal is not very good offensively at all."

Q: It wasn't the defense being good? "No. No. I'd feel good if it thought the offense played good and the defense played great today. I don't know that the defense did anything special either, the offense was just pathetic."

Q: How is the second offensive line progressing? "They have a lot of potential. But that doesn't do us much good. Right now we just have to get those guys ready. When you look at that second unit, there is very, very little game experience. So we've got to make as game-like situations for those twos as possible, so when they step on that field they're ready to go."

"We rotate a lot of different guys right now so each two, give them an opportunity to run with the ones because I think that picks up their play. The twos as a whole are going to look sloppy. A two individually going with the ones you hope looks a little bit better, and chances are in the game situation that's going to happen more than whole group substitution."

Q: Do you have more depth in the middle, especially center? "Well, you have to have a bunch of guys that can play center. I think that's the key. The extra thing just in snapping the football, you've got to have those extra spots. Now, being the fourth-string center doesn't mean you're fourth string. What you have to do at that center position is have four guys who can go snap in a game so you're prepared in case injuries occur. You can take a tackle and throw him down at guard and they're going to be OK. Or a guard and flip them out to tackle and they're going to be OK. It's hard to flip somebody that's never snapped in the course of a game and say he, go in there and snap the ball for us. You can't do that."

Q: The last few days you've said how disappointed you were, what do you think it is? "Well, you get tired. You get mental softness. We gave them a day-off yesterday, so it takes some time to get back up. I don't know, we'll look at it. I think we've just got to be tougher, mentally tougher as a football team. And we need to continue to develop that mental toughness to be successful."

Q: Is your opinion also reflecting how expectations are higher now? "Yeah, I have very high expectations whether you've been through it or not. But the one expectation that will never change for me and you can never settle on is effort. If we're not walking off the field completely exhausted something is wrong, I don't know what there is to hold back for. All we ask is give everything you've got at practice every day. If you're got a lot left at the end I don't know what you're holding back for. That's what we want to make sure our guys learn, that they leave everything they've got on the field."

Q: Is it a matter of Brandon Maye getting the base down to move up? "He's got a long way to go to get a spot, to get playing time. It's a fierce competition out there on the field. And this is really it this week."

"By Friday we'll have a big scrimmage, we'll grade that, we'll give the guys off this weekend. And when we come back Monday school is back in session, you're getting into a little more in-season schedule, you have scout teams and that stuff. So Brandon has got a lot of work to do to compete to get on the field."

Q: Is it still good having teaching moments this late in camp? "Well, I have a teaching moment every day of my life! That never goes. But I think the personality of what we think this team needs to be successful this year; we're going to be mentally tough, physically tough, a team that plays with relentless effort, that's going to be our personality for us to succeed this season. If we can't show it training camp, how can we expect to show it in on Saturdays?"

Q: How are the young linebackers progressing? "They're coming along. The great thing is you see guys like (Ferlando) Bohanna, and Matt Wells playing that outside hybrid spot for us, coming along a lot faster because now they know that the clock is ticking and they're going to get to play. Once they hit the redshirt year last year they kind of pull off on the throttle a little bit; then in spring ball there is not the sense of urgency, it's ‘hey I'm figuring out, it's fun to be out there playing and repping'. Now they realize that a little over two weeks away we're going to be kicking it off and it's for real. There is a little more sense of urgency out of those guys."

Q: Do you have to go to leadership guys and say this isn't working? "Yeah, they know. They know. I've got to get on them, too. They're the ones that are going to set the standard. And if they don't set the bar extremely high, nobody else can live up to it."

Q: With Kendric Cook's injury could a guy like Rufus Warren play? "It's a ways away from knowing. Marcus Green has looked pretty good so far, so that's a positive for us. If we can stay healthy his role would end up being probably pretty limited. So he's not ready to get on the field right now, so we're going to have to see over the next couple of weeks."

Q: How are the punting and return games looking? "Yeah, there are some guys you feel pretty good about. I feel pretty good when the ones roll out there on the field"

Q: Who is that? "You can find out September 1 up in Memphis, Tennessee! Probably the first play of the game I'd see who is back there on kickoff return! You never know! But it's the other guys, making sure we have the right depth at that position that we feel comfortable with. We'll feel comfortable with three punt returners and probably five kick returners."

Q: After this week will you look at who will redshirt? "For a couple. There will probably be a couple that we have an idea that they need to go develop. And then there is another group that's on the edge, still. There are probably three groups; the ones that are playing, the ones that are redshirting, and then that middle group that we're going to keep going with, give them a couple of more weeks to determine which it is. Really, up to week-six probably of the season. After week-six if they haven't played we'll try to protect their redshirt year. If they have played then they play."

Q: Can you say which ones will play? "The freshmen? Yeah, come find out the Memphis game! Right now we're not even making a determination until sometime next week. We're still repping ones, twos and threes at practice so everybody is still getting reps. We haven't cut down those reps. Once we do that, that's when we start getting a better feel for who has an opportunity to still play."

Q: Much as we talk left tackle, how good is it to have an Addison Lawrence at right tackle? "I guess when you look you have four returning starters at the other positions. So left tackle gets the attention of who is getting that role. I know what I expect out of the four other guys so it's the left tackle and the backups that get the attention."

"But it's great having guys that are steady and have played. Addison is going into this third year as starter, we expect really good things out of him. Tobias Smith at guard has been a starter, Quentin Saulsberry has started at center and started at every position on the line. And big Gabe Jackson at left guard. Those guys all have experience, that is a very comforting feeling for us."

Q: Is Lawrence trying to take a leadership role? "Yeah, at times you'll see it. I think he's not a guy that throws himself out in front, but he's a guy you can look at as he's done it before. He doesn't jump out in front of the team to do that, but he does a decent job trying to lead by example because he has that experience."

Q: Is there anything besides luck behind beign healthy? "We're not exactly healthy, but we'll be OK. We've still got a while before we have to play. To be honest if you ask our guys not one of them will say they're healthy. Because it's training camp. Training camp is not supposed to feel good."

Q: Is there anything you're worried about injury-wise that sticks out? "No, not right now. Not yet."

Q: Will you give the team the whole weekend off? "We'll see how this week goes! The plan is that, but you know how that goes! It might 5:00 am Saturday morning if the scrimmage is not up to my pleasing!" "Yeah, we had Fred come in and talk to the team last night. We had a little Bulldog experience day, a lot of different speakers come in and cover a lot of different things. We brought Fred in to wrap it up at the end and he did a fabulous job. Getting to know Fred more, now that he's not playing—yet! I say yet because who knows in a week or two he might be out there playing! But the fact guys who have experience in the program get to come back around these guys. His message is awesome, you can see why he was All-SEC, All-America, all-pro. You can see why he's that type of player with what his approach is to the game."

Q: What was his message? "That you'd better compete on every single snap of your life. His big point is he remembers the one time a receiver caught a pass on him in one-on-one drills. In two years he gave up one completion in practice, he remembers that one. You'd better compete at that level if you want to be successful every single snap of your career."

Q: Was he talking Smoot-smack? "His whole story is Smoot-smack, isn't it? He's got a little swag about him, you know."

Q: Would you want him talking smack on your team? "I'd be really happy. I'd love it. You know, because he backs it up, not just on game day. He backed it up at practice every day."

Q: There was talk about MSU being on the rise, and comparing Chris Relf to %%MATCH_14%%, what are your thoughts? "We were on the rise last year, you know? To me everybody starts at the bottom this year, so hopefully we'll rise up again this year. As a whole I'm happy with the direction our program is going in, and the development of the young players and the depth that we're starting to develop as a whole with the program."

"But to me every season you start at the bottom of the mountain. Last January 1 after we walked after walked out of that locker room we reached as high as we could reach; and we started back at the bottom that day. This year's team, we'll have to see how high we can reach this year."

Q: Does it bother you having Chris compared to Tebow? "No, I hope Chris plays at that level. That's what we expect out of our quarterbacks, guys that develop through the programs. To me, I hope they compare Chris to him just because he's winning. You know, he's got to be a winner."

"That's how I rate quarterbacks: are you a winner or are you not a winner? Because as a quarterback you need to make the play to win the game. You don't know when that play is going to be but you have to manage the offense, do your job…and every once in a while you have to step up and do something special and carry the team to win. It might be through speaking or motivating the team that day."

"It might be throwing for 400 yards, it might be for running 200 yards. It might just be handing off the ball and keeping them going. So you have to do what it takes for us to win, that's the important role of the quarterback. As Chris has experience now, you can see why you'd compare him to Tim Tebows and Alex Smiths and Chris Leaks that we've had in the past."

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