What really had the coach concerned Wednesday was besides getting back in a routine setting, this was also the first day of the fall semester. For his first two preseasons with State, Mullen gave the Dogs this day off to settle into academic regimens. Not this time.
"We haven't really practiced on the first day of school in the past, with some of the distractions that you have, having to go to class and things. We decided to try it this year, and I was pretty pleased with the focus our guys had. The meetings, I think it started a little slow, I had to jump on them at meetings real quick in the beginning. But once we hit the field I was pretty pleased."
"The key is now we're into limited football time, a lot of teams are still in training camp around the country, and we're not. So our time has been really scrunched down. We really have to be focused in the short period of time we get our players every day. And I thought our guys on the field had that focus today."
Q: In previous stops have you practiced first day of classes? "I don't remember what we did back at Notre Dame in 1999, 2000. But since then we've always had the first day of school off just because of the different things that go on. But we tried it this year and I'm pleased with the result."
Q: We've asked a lot about special teams; who are you looking at for gunners? "A lot of different guys! We call it our missile. Yeah, he's a missile down the field. But it's a bunch of different guys. What we're into now, I think we've installed all of our special teams, so now we're getting to a lot of scrimmage special teams. Which actually can look sloppy. To make it not complicated, you have the whole offensive punt unit and the whole defensive punt return unit so everybody is in the same matching jerseys; so the returner knows who is on what team. Or else you can't tell anybody, it's just a mess running down the field."
"So you don't actually have your ones out there or your twos out there because it will be kind of intermixed from those guys. But there are guys out there, Marvin Bure is a guy who really was a great player at the missile last year; LaDarius Perkins has done a good job at it, Damein Anderson has done a good job at it. Brandon Heavens has done a good job at it in practice, Louis Watson. So there are a lot of guys who are getting now their scrimmage reps all the way through Friday. Then we'll try to start setting the depth charts next week."
Q: Is anything changed from last year you didn't like? "We're always going to tweak some things a little bit. But our general philosophy of attacking on special teams isn't going to change. Hopefully our kickers kick off a little deeper than they did last year, that's one thing we'd like to change. But our mindset of being in an attack mode no matter what special teams unit is on the field is to going to change for us."
Q: We heard a new guy was kicking into the end zone consistently? "Egan? That might be him patting himself on the back or something there. Was it DePasquale trying to get himself added right there? Those guys stick together trying to get more followers on their twitter accounts if they think they did really good, and less haters! But he's doing good. I think he's trying to get consistent. I don't know if we have anybody that's kicking it out. But if we can I'd be very happy."
Q: Are lots of places on the depth chart up for grabs? "To me, everywhere. Because once you start getting in more game mode next week, reps are much more specialized in who you're getting ready to go play a game. So you have to kind of set a depth chart, that doesn't mean it's locked in but you have to set a depth chart of who is getting reps and who is getting ready to play a game."
"The ones and twos, the jobs are still up for grabs. But instead of having three guys rotate in and getting equal reps, ones and twos are going to get a lot more reps and the threes are going to be significantly decreased. And some guys are going to have to go play scout team, so those reps are going to change next week."
Q: Are there big unsettled battles or do you have a pretty good idea? "We have a decent idea of who is going to play; what the depth chart is, there's a lot of battles. But to me sometimes depth charts are overrated. It's neat that you get your name on the jumbotron when they're announcing the starting lineup. But guys that are going to play, we'll rotate a lot of guys through."
Q: In Friday's scrimmage are you evaluating what you'd like to do or are you still seeing where guys go? "Both. We'll go to the stadium for it, so it's going to be a game. It's an evaluation of everybody. Getting coaches off the field, completely in the box with headsets; players all the way off the field, substituting from the sideline. For me it's a scrimmage that has to get us prepared to go play a game. That's our big, last game-situation scrimmage that we're going to do."
"As well as find out who can do things. The scrimmage to me is not to see Vick Ballard carry the ball 32 times, I've seen that on the field already in an SEC game. We'll still experiment with some new things offensively, defensively to see if we like them in game situations. And then experiment with guys in different spots in how they fit into what we want to do."
Q: You said the third tailback spot was a concern, is it Robert Elliott or bust? "Well, you've got the fullbacks. And you have the freshmen competing for carries. There's only so many plays in a game and everybody wants the ball. It's a valuable thing to get the ball in your hand and see who can protect it first, and then who can do something with it second."
Q: Will the fullbacks get more carries than usual? "They are probably are a little better running backs than what we played with last year. Adrian Marcus and Shumpert are probably a little better with the ball in their hands than the rotation we had last year. And Hemphill is even better than where he was last year. So I'm more comfortable putting the ball in their hands. Now, whether we do it a lot, we'll see."
Q: The quarterbacks seem to think the offense won't change by who plays? "I think there is a lot more comfort at that position. The guys understand the offense now so you don't have to tailor it back. Tyler walks on the field, the whole playbook is going to be open with him same as Chris. And Dylan is just such a quarterback-smart, savvy guy that it's all open to him as well. He's picked it up that way. If Dak Prescott had to go play we'd probably cut back a smaller package for him."
"But I think all those guys are pretty comfortable doing it. And obviously some guys do some things a little bit better and you major on that when they're in the game. But it's not as if part of the playbook is going to be shut off for certain guys. Last year we tried to do some things with Tyler that he was comfortable with and he's a lot more comfortable with the whole offense now. He can do it all. Go run it, he's a power back! That's his new look, we're going to put a neck roll on him like Steve Grogan!"
Q: What is your philosophy to star players on special teams? "I guess in theory we'd have to have some star players to have a star player issue on special teams. Since we have no star players I don't have that problem! No, I just want the best guy with the ball in his hands and he's not the best guy then we will put whoever the best guy with the ball in his hands is. Because like I said, we're on the attack mode when it comes to special teams."
"And Chad knows he's competing for touches. If he's taking off of special teams right there that's probably five less touches he's going to get per game. As we get that depth growing, the competiveness to get the ball to get the ball in your hands is getting fun."
Q: What do you think of the scandals in college football? "I like us being out scandals. To me, we're trying the best we can to run our program the right way. I think the biggest tragedy of it is the scandals are taking the lead over the great things happening in college football because they don't sell. I'm going to bet for every scandal you find there's a hundred great college football stories out there of success. Unfortunately though, people succeeding in this world is not the success that we're looking for right now to sell. What sells is what scandal we can find next."
Q: So we shouldn't look into such things? "No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying if we attacked all the great things that happen with the gusto that we attack the scandals, then college football would have really a more accurate image of what the truth behind it is."
Q: Do you ever have double-take moments about having a picture taken or things like that? "To me? You can't worry about it. I live my life like I'm being videotaped all the time. And I tell our players that; if what you're doing, you don't want to be videotaped and sent to your grandmother to watch, and if she disapproves of what's happening on it then you probably shouldn't be doing it. Because there's a chance that she might actually see that video of whatever it is that you're doing. And I live my life that way."
"You can't (be scared). What am I going to do, go lock myself in my office and say nobody is allowed, be Wizard of Oz or something back there? Nobody can come in and whoooosh, like a smoky image of me, a projection nobody could get a picture of me?"
"But it's scary, because you don't know what context the picture is taken in. I could be walking out of the stadium trying to get in the car and spend a minute with my family; and somebody comes running up ‘hey Coach can we get a picture?' Now all of a sudden that's me at a nightclub with them or something like that. That's the scary part with all the scandalous stuff that goes on."