Bowl Talk Strikes All The Right Bulldog Notes

Dan Mullen was annoyed to find no chocolate chip cookies left in the media room, even accusing a certain fanzine editor of snapping them all up. (Not guilty at all, I swear.) Otherwise it was a fine fettle for the coach, as well as athletic director Scott Stricklin and Music City Bowl president Scott Ramsey.

The trio were meeting the press following Tuesday's halftime ceremony formally inviting Mississippi State to play in the Nashville classic. The Bulldogs meet Wake Forest on December 30th, in the first-ever appearance for both teams in the Music City Bowl.

The press conference comments follows, which ranges from bowl items to ongoing Bulldog practice notes:

Q: Scott Ramsey, comment on having Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl for the first time?
"We're excited. On the bigger picture I think the partnership with the SEC in general for our game is just paramount to its success, and has been. We started the game 14 years ago when we built the new stadium in the city and one of our goals with the event was to create an event that brought a lot of people to town and brought a lot of excitement around college football. And, really give us a chance to showcase our city on a national television broadcast."

"To have Mississippi State this year is really one on our wish-list for a while. And we're real excited about it. For Friday night (December 30) it gives a lot of fans a chance to drive up and be a part of our downtown scene and the game."

Q: State has already pre-sold its original allotment, what have Wake Forest sales been like?
"They're still working on theirs. Their allotment is 10,000 and they're hopeful to get through that."

Q: Are you happy with the excitement in both programs?
"Well, this is our 14th game and we haven't been around as long as some of the games, 50 or 60 years. But I think there's been two key components. One, to catch a team that feels they've won their way to our game, and certainly the way State played against Ole Miss to have that excitement, a rivalry game. At the same time, teams that haven't been there before. I think their fans enjoy Nashville, Music City. It's not only around the Christmas decorations but the Music themes, and our New Years Eve party and things like that. It's really been two key pieces of formula."

"So this year I think we got both of that. A, two teams that have never played each other; B, never been to our game; and State coming off a big rivalry win. So we're excited about it."

Q: Coach, as far as recruiting now, how many guys can you ‘count back'?
"We have three that we can count-back to last year's class. Now, we have more than that that we can bring in mid-semester with scholarships available.'

"One of the things we try to do is graduate our players, and graduate them early. We had numerous guys graduate this fall and that allows you to bring some more guys in at mid-semester. It's a double-plus, all our guys are graduating and a lot of them are graduating early; and it allows us to build for the future."

Q: How many can you sign up to
"Somewhere between five to eight. There are a couple of different things we're looking at, that it would be in that number."

Q: Would that be 30 to 32 signees?
"You can only sign 25, even if you count back you're still not getting that high number."

Q: Have you ever had a sophomore graduate as with Baker Swedenburg?
"Yes, Alex Smith graduated in two years. With a high GPA in economics. He came back and did the graduate school for a semester before he went to be the first pick in the NFL draft."

Q: Do you notice a difference in the two rosters as Wake Forest likes to redshirt all freshmen for academics. But you like to redshirt as many as you can too?
"Yeah, I mean two premier academic institutions. We're similar, as the top academic institution in the state of Mississippi. A lot of our deal is based on academics, too, with our players."

Q: For Scott Stricklin, has there been any discussion of revising Mullen's contract? (Stricklin to Mullen)
"Did you set him up for this?!'

(Mullen) "It took so long to get it done last year…!"

(Stricklin) "Dan specifically asked me not to make him hire any more lawyers, I want to be true to that! Obviously Dan has done a great job, and I think we landed at a good spot last year with those conversations. And we'll probably have a conversation here soon making sure we get him pushed back out as far as the state law will allow on the four-year cycle. But he seems happy. Are you happy?"

(Mullen) "I'm happy!"

Q: What is the date of the roll-over, the fiscal year?
(Stricklin) "No, it's sometime in the spring. So we'll synch it up to where it needs to be."

Q: Coach, can you update a couple of practice injuries today, Tyler Russell and Corey Broomfield?
"We expect both of them to play in the game. Corey will be back, Tyler we'll limit for a couple of days. But talking to him, at this point neither of them will require surgery or any of that stuff. They'll be out for a couple of days each."

Q: More snaps for Dak Prescott?
"Yeah, it will get him some snaps, just force us to keep improving. That's what this is about. From (last) Saturday really up until Friday night it's really pushing a lot of reps. You see us taking steps forward, you see improvement on the film every single day of the young guys. Maybe not big steps getting a lot better, but you see their understanding of what we're trying to get done. Fortunately we've been able to get a lot of reps the last couple of days, we'll continue to do that. And then Saturday we'll start to get over into game-week mode."

Q: Can you update Archie Muniz and Brandon Heavens?
"Brandon has a couple of personal issues he's dealing with now but we expect him to play in the game. Archie has a ACL, it happened Wednesday of The School Up North week, of rivalry week. He had the surgery, the surgery went well. And hopefully that is one of those, it'll be great if we get him back…we rushed to get the surgery done as fast as possible so we could get him back for spring practice."

Q: Scott Ramsey, do you look at matchups on the field or did it just work out this way?
"To be honest, where we are in the selection process we're hoping to have as many choices as we possibly can. Some years wins and losses dictate we've got a pool of three or four teams. And some years less than that. So some years you have a little more luxury to do that. I look back to last year where Tennessee-North Carolina was a unique opportunity for us, and this year is a unique opportunity."

"Again, Mississippi State is the ninth school out of the twelve SEC schools to play in our game in the first 14 years, so I think we've been able to have a lot of different people, a lot of fan bases and schools. I think that's been important for us."

(Stricklin) "And I'll add real quick--since y'all weren't asking me any questions!—I had a chance to enjoy some of Scott's hospitality when I was at Kentucky and they were in the Music City Bowl. And we just had AD meetings this week in Birmingham, Scott mentioned we're the ninth SEC school to play in their game. Some of the guys that have been in it before went out of their way to talk about what a great experience the Music City Bowl is. And Nashville is such a special city in the South."

"But this guy does a great job of running the ball, and they have other events in the year we've been able to partake in. They're first-class in everything they do and I'm excited for our school that we get to check this one off the list getting to go to one of the truly great bowl games that the SEC is affiliated with. And we're fortunate in the league to have bowls like the Music City that we're tied-into. And we're fortunate as a University to get a chance to participate this year."

Q: Who gets to keep the gift guitar?
(Stricklin) "Dan said he's going to play some Buffett. I'll make a deal with y'all, I'll get my iPod out and we'll listen to some Buffett if Dan won't sing."

Scott and I were talking about this leading up to the selection, you always want to go to the place that your folks are excited about. We took pre-orders for four different bowl sites and while we had good response for all of them Nashville we had the most response for. And I think that's indicative our folks are excited. Much like they were excited to go to Jacksonville last year, they're excited to go to Nashville and a place we've not been on the bowl scene. But a town they're familiar. I don't know that there could be a better situation, a better spot we could go where our fans could get there; it's economical to get there; it's a NFL stadium, an unbelievable hotel, the Opryland. And then there are so many attractions in Nashville. It's going to be a really neat experience for everybody who gets to go."

Q: Coach, what is the reaction on the recruiting trail to going to a bowl game?
"Very positive. As we're building the program, you're not going from 2-10, 4-8, to champions. It doesn't happen that way, there are some steps that you take in-between. I think a lot of the players and people out there are seeing this foundation that we've built."

"I've talked that this is one of the most important years in the history of the school. To finish the way we did, to win a third-straight Egg Bowl for the first time in seventy-some years, to make it to consecutive bowl games which is a huge factor for us. I think a lot of people are seeing that foundation is there, that we're moving towards taking that next step within the program and in the years to come. And I think a lot of players around the state and a lot of players around the South, and even the country, are noticing that we are a program on the rise."

Q: Have any young guys stuck out at practice?
"We just rotate so many guys through, there's nobody really jumps out at you individually to me out of that group. Because to be honest I see when young guys are in there they'll do some great things; then they'll do some really bad things. So I get excited about one play and really mad at the other one. So there's nobody that really jumps high-up on my list. But they're all improving."

Gene's Page Top Stories