Dogs Complete Transition To Game-Week Mode

Reporters sometimes need really, really specific explanations of things. Fortunately Dan Mullen was happy to define how the typical working-week alters for a midweek game. "Ready? Here we go: Friday is a Sunday, Saturday is a Tuesday, OK? Sunday is a Wednesday, Monday is a bonus day, we don't usually practice on Mondays. Tuesday is a Thursday, Wednesday is a Friday."

Got that? If not, worry not. All anyone needs know is that tomorrow (Friday for us football civilians) is the real beginning of Mississippi State's full preparations for the season opener at Memphis. That would be September 1 on the calendar which fortunately need not be re-labeled for Bulldog practices.

Mullen had the team run through a two-hour-plus Thursday (no change there) session, with positive results reported. "A good day today. We worked hard," said the coach.

"This is really the last transition day for us, so now it's all game focus. It's ‘Sunday' tomorrow and you get into game-week mentality after this point." Another reason for revamping weekday titles is that August 27 will take the place of the normal Dog day-off from practices, so players and coaches can participate in Fan Day activities. The Palmeiro Center.doors open at noon with the event running from 1:00 to 3:00.

As for Thursday practice comments…

Q: Have any position battles lasted longer than you thought? "There's a lot more. In our program they always go on. The battles go on from week to week."

Q: What about starters? "Same deal. Everybody is battling for their job next week, right now. If you have a bad day of practice somebody could jump in front of you. If you have a bad game someone else could jump in front of you. I love competition. Competition leads to improvement."

Q: Memphis named their starting quarterback today, what do you know about him? "Not a whole lot. In looking at it you look in general. He didn't play a whole lot last year so we're going to have to just go of what we read somewhat, and get ready to play sound football."

Q: How are the young tight ends, Brandon Hill and Malcolm Johnson, doing? "They're coming along. It's always tough at this point, guys look pretty good but the major test for them now when we get into game week is how are you going to play. How do you prepare for the game, how are you going to perform when the lights come on, how are you going to rebound for the next week."

"It's a new thing for a lot of players on our team that they haven't had to go through before, which is very different. Before, at practice if you have a bad day you can have a better day tomorrow. Now you can't do that any more."

Q: Will you feel good about the depth chart Monday? "Is that when it goes out, Monday? We can wait until Monday! Do I feel good about the guys whose names are on there? I feel great, I love our players. They work hard, we'll be ready to go."

Q: Will it still be fluid? "Like I said, our depth chart is fluid by day. Sometimes fluid by play!"

Q: You brought Fred Smoot to speak to the team in camp, is that something you would do on game day? "No, game day is mostly us. Sometimes I'll have some of the assistant coaches or the strength coach do some talking. And then it's just us. At that point it's focus. Now, I know we have a lot of players around and want them back. In the locker room sometimes they're in there an hour before kickoff, getting guys hyped-up. But when it gets ready to go play, it's us."

Q: What will you work on tomorrow? "Because it's a ‘Sunday' practice it is just going to be helmets. We'll introduce the real base, go through the scouting report, introduce some base things. And Sunday practices are usually lighter, so half the practice will be dedicated to a game simulation for us. Where we simulate everything from how we get in the locker room, how we warm up, all of that stuff will be tomorrow the second half of practice."

Q: Now in game week are you looking for guys to show they are ready? "Yeah, especially young guys who haven't played, you look for them. I mean, the pressure from the teammates will be a little bit different because the expectation level of perfection is a lot higher at practice. So we'll see how they respond to that. Do they step up and perform even better as the pressure gets more and more, or do they perform worse?"

Q: Larry Porter is trying to build a program, what kind of job do you think he's doing? "I think he's doing a great job. I've competed against him for years when we were assistant coaches so I have a lot of respect for him. I know he's a very intense guy. I know they're recruiting and trying to get their players in there that believe in what they do. I think he's doing a great job."

"I'm looking forward to it. He and I spoke earlier this summer. And I'm looking forward even after the game just to share thoughts. We don't play them for a while so share some thoughts about what they saw in us and what we saw in them. And I hope he does a great job of building his program up."

Q: What did you talk about in summer? "Just that. I think it was back when we announced that it was going to be a Thursday night game, we talked about are we comfortable about it being a Thursday night game. He and I talked and I said I was. I said after the game I'd love Friday to get up and talk and say this is what we saw out of you guys, this is where we were trying to attack and this is where we thought you had an advantage on us. Talk about the strengths and weaknesses that maybe we don't always see because we're always around our guys. Just tendencies that we see, because they're rolling off the schedule now."

Q: How much did you run into him in recruiting? "A lot. I always had Houston area when I was at Utah and then when we went to Florida I kept it, even though we weren't recruiting a ton out there. But when there was a kid out there he had that area so we'd see him out there."

Q: Geoff Collins says he wants six or seven linebackers rotating, do you have that many? "We have to be, because looking in game one and two of a season when you have hot weather you're going to have to rotate a lot of players. We were talking today about what our rotation was going to be, you've got to have two and almost three-deep ready to play early in the season with how hot it's going to be."

Q: The Big Ten is talking about playing conference games early, what are your thoughts on playing the Auburns and LSUs in the first month? "Well, I don't have a choice! I mean, we roll in and three of our first five games are against conference teams since we've been here. That's what we've been living with."

"Part of being in the SEC is you're going to play the tougher schedule than any other teams in the country. When you end up playing eight SEC games you play the toughest schedule in the country. You have to play them at some point so I guess you'd better get ready to roll out and play! I think I saw at some point in coming years it looks like we may actually play less early and more late than we do now, but I guess that's always kind of roaming."

Q: You were quoted about how you measure the red zone, did you do well at it? "We did OK. I always look at potential points, every time you get in the red zone I count seven; I don't count going for two. So every time you're in the red zone there is the potential of seven points; then what your percentage of total potential points is what is how we kind of look at it."

"So if we're there six times I want 42 points; if we're there six times and get 34, that's not very good.. Three touchdowns and three field goals, that's not what we're looking for."

Q: With Fan Day Saturday will you practice Sunday now? "Oh yeah, it's Wednesday!"

Q: So when is the day off? "Friday, after the game. Want me to try one more time?!"

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