Mullen Evaluates Scrimmage Results

The Bulldogs themselves may have gotten a Saturday to rest. To recuperate, too, after extended evening efforts out on Scott Field. Their coaches? No rest for these men, not with 151 snaps worth of Friday scrimmage action to be evaluated before practicing resumes Monday.

Why, even Heisman was on the job this morning after his canine fashion, joining Coach Dan Mullen at the podium to discuss the scrimmage results. The coach's Wheaton Terrier actually offered some input at one point when Mullen was going over the second offensive line's execution.

The rest of the conference belonged to Mullen as he gave an overview of the evening and how Mississippi State stands at what is essentially the end of training camp and beginning of real game-type preparations. And what better way to prep than play an intrasquad game as the Bulldogs did for over two hours under the DWS lights? Because it ended late, Mullen deferred meeting with a grateful media until noon Saturday.

Just in time, too, to get official word that his third Bulldog team is ranked in the nation's top twenty by Associated Press. State completed the 2010 season ranked #15, and this is the first time a Bulldog squad will open a year with a number by their name since the 2001 season.

"I look at that as a compliment to where our program is. When you go preseason rankings I don't think they mean a thing in the season, except for people's opinion of your program as a whole. So I thank everybody for looking at our program and saying we think you're a top-twenty program. How it effects this season, I have no idea."

Q: How did the scrimmage go?
"We got what we wanted accomplished. Which is putting young guys in situations that they're going to have to get ready to play in a game. There were some positives and some negatives of it. There are some things that guys aren't quite game-ready for. But a lot of the guys that aren't quite game-ready that were playing seventy reps yesterday, when we get to game week are probably only going to be playing 15 reps in a game. So they have to learn to flip that switch; their level on those 15 plays needs to be much higher than what we saw in the seventy on them yesterday.

"But we got what we wanted out of it. We stayed relatively healthy out of it. And those guys got a lot of reps and game situations in our stadium atmosphere."

Q: How did the second offensive line perform?
"Very up and down. Very up and down. I think the hard thing for that is when you go in a scrimmage like that, when we start pulling a lot of starters out, when they go wholesale that's when they look rougher.

"When you start rotating them early, the Damien Robinsons and Blaine Clausells and Dillon Days in with the ones; and individually we're rolling guys through, they play at a higher level than when we're wholesale subbing the twos. We've got to get them to play at that level consistently. When they're one with the four other guys they pick up their play (but) they've got to pick up their play all the time."

Q: Did the defensive ends put much pressure on the quarterbacks?
"At times there was some good pressure from those guys. And there were times there was no pressure. When you go a huge scrimmage like that for me there's going to be things I'm happy about. I want to see unbelievable performance on offense, defense, and kicking game every single snap; I think we got 151 plays in. And that's not going to happen. So that's what gets frustrating. You see some good and bad throughout the day."

Q: Were the quarterbacks live?
"No, they weren't live at all."

Q: Is it tough evaluating them for the two spot when they are not live?
"No, because I've done enough of them. Tyler (Russell) has played in games so I don't need to see how he's going to react when he gets hit. And we made Dylan (Favre) live a whole bunch in the spring. Watching what we do with those guys, I got enough out of that, that now we've got tobe ready to play games."

Q: How is the defensive depth after watching the scrimmage?
"Concerned, concerned about the depth. There's a lot of guys we didn't let play very much. It's making sure those young guys understand. There's a lot of guys that have not played that are going to have to play in a game. Playing a game is different than even practice.

"So we kind of force-fed a lot of those guys. A lot of guys didn't get many reps. Nickoe Whitley didn't get many reps, Charles Mitchell got none, Wade Bonner, Boyd, Cox; those guys didn't get many reps. So you can not feel great about the defense in some ways, because the young guys are not playing up; and the ones that I'm rolling out there with the #1s (are not at) the level that I want. But knowing that's actually the twos…when you playing in this league there is no 1 and 2, everybody is going to have take reps during a game."

Q: So the starters didn't play much because you wanted others getting reps?
"I needed to see them. Nickoe was an All-American last year, Charles is the best player on our team. And I feel pretty good about what their level of play is going to be next season."

Q: What percent were the backups out there?
"I'd say 50%. The backups got seventy reps in a 150-play scrimmage. Now the twos and threes each got 70 reps, I mean there are some guys that played seventy plays last night that we're counting on playing ten to 15 against Memphis. So they need to learn that, so when their number is called they're ready to go play."

Q: Was it like what you do with Sunday Night Football?
"A much more pumped-up version. Not all the way, that's the young guys that are not playing and only run a couple of plays.

"The focus was guys that have not played in games or much in games, being in as much a game-like situation as we can put them in. Making sure that guys that have played a lot are kind of ready to go, but I didn't need to see them play seventy plays last night."

Q: Does the defense lead the offense or vice-versa?
"I don't know who is better, we've got to play somebody to know who is better than who. We were mixing-and-matching different things. Not one time did we have our starting offense or defense on the field last night with the eleven true starters. That part of it was more to see individual players."

Q: What was the timing like with the mixing and matching quarterbacks and receivers?
"I thought pretty good. But we do that all the time. Whether we go to closed or open practices it doesn't change, we roll quarterbacks and receivers through just because our backup quarterback has to be ready to play. If he steps on the field it's usually because there's an injury to the first guy, so he'd better be like a starter. And we like to roll eight, nine receivers through in the course of a game. So you'd better have timing down with all of them. That to me is something that you'd better have - timing with all those guys."

Q: Can you update Nick Griffin's status?
"I'm really pleased. I get nervous because he's out there doing a lot of drills. He was out there in helmet and shoulder pads the other day and I try to hold back! They think he's ahead of schedule but I'm still thinking October 1 is really the cleared date for him to start practicing and getting ready to go. We think he's way ahead of schedule."

Q: Have you watched all the tape?
"Yeah, last night and this morning."

Q: Did anything pop out at you?
"Mainly just watching who did well, because you don't always see who did great on the field. You can see who is better on film. And that fact that the guys who haven't played in games that much have to learn the strain of what we expect during a game. They have to learn to play with that strain on game day. And there's some great clips in there.

"You see a veteran player and a young player next to each other, and you see the speed with which the veteran player is playing; and the speed at which the young player is playing. So it's pretty evident, you can look and say we need you playing at that speed."

Q: Do you start splitting up the roster to decide who is scout team?
"Really Monday. We're going to have scout teams on Monday. Just because guys go to a scout team doesn't mean they're redshirting or doing anything. (It's because we are) now going into a little bit more game-prep.

"And not even full game-prep for the first couple of days this week. We're still kind of installing so we'll still do a lot of good-on-good this week; but kind of teach scout teams. Scout teams, there is a lot of teaching that goes into how you play, and we have to start that this week."

Q: You talked early in the week about guys feeling sorry for themselves, have they got that out?
"I think we're past it. I can still pull up some clips and we're going to address that, but when you go 150 plays in two hours there is some exhaustion out there with guys. And you can see guys on certain plays, they're kind of as I say feeling sorry for themselves. But it's a lot different than what it was. I think it's guys just being tired and you have to push them through. I think John Hevesy, the most he had was one guy go 47 consecutive plays. That's a lot!"

Q: How is Brandon Maye looking?
"I thought he did a better job last night. From what I've seen he's grasping things a little bit more and more. Fortunately he's an older guy so the game speed he understands. But he's adapting to a new defense and a new program. In this program you conform to the program, the program doesn't conform to you. So that's just his learning curve of what our expectations are, how you play out there on the field. And he's figuring it all out. I don't have any negative things with him, he's just figuring what our expectations are and learning the scheme on top of it."

Q: Is there any separation between the backup quarterbacks?

Q: Who is the first guy you play after Chris?
"We'll see what happens on September 1st if something happens to Chris, if I take him out!"

Q: How was kicking last night?
"The punters were kind of average last night, I wasn't pleased with that. I thought Brian Egan did a great job kicking last night. I was pleased to see that in a pressure stadium situation with field goals and with kickoffs. Derek, I wasn't that happy with him in his field goal kicking but I thought Derek did a great job on kickoffs last night. I thought both kickers did a great job kicking off."

Q: Did you put Baker Swedenburg in pressure situations?
"We do that all the time, try to put them in as many pressure situations as we can in practice. I was pleased with the spring game being out there, but until September 1 and he's standing back there to catch that first snap when it counts you don't know. You can't truly simulate a game situation."

Q: What will the players do today and tomorrow?
"Hopefully hydrate, rest, eat, get some treatments, and be ready to go 100 miles an hour on Monday. They're off. We have a team chapel tomorrow and there' a University function, an athletic department function I think they have to go to."

Q: Was having a game-type atmosphere key in getting ready for Memphis?
"It is for those guys, because we're a young football team. There are going to be guys at positions that are going to step on the field that have not played in meaningful game situations before. So as much as we can create those situations for them, the better off we're going to be come September 1st.

"You guys didn't even ask who did well!"

Q: Tell us, who did well?
"Robert Elliott did really last night, Jameon Lewis did really well last night. On offense I thought those two really jumped out. Cam Lawrence I thought had a great night on defense. Kaleb Eulls kind of stood out to me. Those are probably the four of the guys we're developing that really stood out."

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