Mullen Sets Stage For Fun Friday Scrimmage

One week of work down. Or, done. Because as Mississippi State continues their campus preparations for the Music City Bowl, the schedule now hits a transition point. For Coach Dan Mullen, it is almost time to stop working on the current and for that matter future squad and get down to real bowl business. Almost.

Mullen will give Mississippi State one more ‘camp' type session Friday evening by holding a scrimmage at Scott Field. Starting around 5:00, the scrimmage will bring an end to intra-team competitions and refresher courses that began last Friday. It will also set a stage for what returning Bulldogs, not to mention fans attending the open session, can expect to see come March 2012 spring training begins.

Mullen tuned his team up for the scrimmage with a shorts-and-shoulder pads session Thursday morning, with minimal contact and a whole lot of real plays run rather than just routine drills. A partial-dress rehearsal, in fact, because this coach does want to see the Dogs put on a show tomorrow. If the scrimmage produces similar results to today's practice, or for that matter the Wednesday work dominated by big plays, it will be well-worth the watching.

A Notebook on Thursday's work will be up shortly. For now, here is the morning quote-book as Mullen discussed plans for Friday and other items.

Q: It looked like another good day for the offense? "Was it? It was OK Guys getting comfortable, I think. One good thing you've seen is a lot of the young guys now starting to execute at a little bit higher level, and that's real positive for us going into the spring."

Q: What are you look for from tomorrow's scrimmage? "Fun. Go have fun. Get the coaches off the field and get them out of the way, and just let guys go in the stadium and play. A lot of them haven't played in the stadium before, so just to be out there, it's open for the fans and anybody that wants to show up can come watch them play. It's always good to have fans there because it puts more pressure on the players."

Q: Is Saturday when you really get in game mode? "Yeah, I guess tomorrow is the end of phase-one of bowl prep. And we get into phase-two. And then game week up there is phase-three, really locked-in."

"We're to start the scouting report today, have the scrimmage tomorrow, and then really get into our--like you love!--Satuday is a Monday and all the way up to Tuesday being a Thursday, we finish up just like we would on a regular Thursday practice and ready to go play the game. Everybody just heads home for the break."

Q: How will the scrimmage be structured? "I'm just going to put the ball down and play. And drive until we get stopped, then the next group will rotate in and I'll put the ball somewhere and just play there."

Q: How many plays are you aiming for? "It's hard to say. A lot is going to depend on how it goes and depth-wise. A lot is going to be reps on individual players. Then at the end we might let it go for as long as we want to let it go, for young players and a lot of the walk-on kids. Everyone is going to get reps tomorrow."

Q: How will you handle quarterback tomorrow with Tyler Russell hurt? "Chris (Relf) will get a couple of reps. And Dak (Prescott) will be exhausted!"

Q: Is there the chance Chad Bumphis and Jameon Lewis to take quarterback snaps? "Yeah, maybe. This is our time of year where we have some stuff with them at quarterback. We didn't use it tons this year but this is the time of year to practice. So we've got those in, and as those guys keep going hopefully we can do even a little bit more next year."

Q: When do you expect Russell back? "I don't think he'll ever be 100% even for the (bowl) game, probably. Right now he can't move, he's in the immobilizer. We're going to be cautious, probably give him a couple of days practice in game week; a day-on, day-off, day-on, day-off. And do a little bit of the same going up there so that he's ready to play in the game."

Q: What is James Maiden's status? "He decided to transfer, just wanted to be back closer to home. I think he was homesick. He actually wanted to do it in the mid-season, tried to quit once and go home early. And we said no, stay, you have to finish out the semester. He did, he finished out the semester, and decided he really did want to go home."

Q: You emphasize bowl camp is for young players, have they taken opportunity? "Yeah, I think a lot of them. If they don't, then we have big problems! We're just out here, they have no school, they're hanging out playing football. If you don't love that, than you're going to have a rough time playing the sport!"

Q: Do you like what you've seen with Lewis in packages? "Yeah, I think he's getting better. The one thing with him, he's a guy that was learning to be a receiver. Put the ball in his hands and let him run around, he's used to doing that. But learning how to be a receiver, catch, run routes, is that next step. And I think as a young player sometimes it's the maturity and the understanding that you have to do those things to become better. And that's really the direction he's headed right now."

Q: Along that same line has Josh Robinson stepped up? "Yeah, Josh is an exciting player. I love his personality, his energy on the field. And I think he's going to have a great future for us."

Q: How has Darius Slay helped at cornerback this year? "You want to play a lot of guys. Watch the national championship, how many guys are rotating on the field defensively. The speed we expect our guys on the field to play with, you have to have that depth to be able to rotate them through and play at that speed for sixty minutes. Guys like Slay, his contributions this year has allowed us to do that to help that depth for us."

Q: Does he stay at cornerback or possibly try safety? "I think that's where he's most comfortable at."

"One of the things we'll do this off-season is we'll sit down and make sure that we have our best guys on the field, if we have to tweak and change our scheme. Same thing offense, defense, kicking game, to make sure. You know, we're sitting there in big games and I'm looking on the sideline and there's a bunch of real good players standing next to me, it's a bad coaching job."

Q: Is safety an example of developing safeties to replace two senior starters, getting a lot of new looks back there? "We are. And this is a huge time of year for those guys to really step up right now. Unfortunately we'll be a little young at safety next year, but I think after that we should be solid in the years to come. We've got to get Nickoe (Whitley) back healthy, if I put Nickoe back out there it doesn't look quite as young any more."

"When you start losing guys that have played a bunch of football in consecutive years, you all of a sudden realize you can get young, quick."

Q: What has Charles Mitchell meant to this defense? "He's just been amazing. Not just his performance on the field, his performance off the field. The role model that he is in the community, how he handles himself in the classroom. He is really the poster child of what we want our program to be like."

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