Bulldogs Nearing End Of Campus Bowl Work

Yes, the Dan Mullen Adjusted Practice Schedule still applies to bowl camp. As in, "Today was a Wednesday," the coach reported following Monday's practice. The next-to-last for Mississippi State on the home turf, too, as the Bulldogs will wrap up the campus portion of Music City Bowl work tomorrow.

This was also the last chance for media to talk with the Mississippi State coach, or players, until next week when the Bulldogs arrive in Nashville. So everybody the opportunity was seized, and the transcript of Monday's meeting follows.

"Actually I've been pretty pleased the last two days, the focus has been pretty good on the game plan. There are things we have to get cleaned up but overall the execution has been very good. You know, this time of year they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, a lot of guys are ready to get home, first opportunities to get back to see their families a lot of them have had in a long time, get some time off. So you can lose a little focus at times. So I've been pretty pleased that they've been right on task."

Q: Is it all on Wake Forest now? "Yeah, putting our gameplan in. I mean we went all basic but within you plan you want it to feel like a regular game week. I want us to be ready to go play the game on Thursday night this week, so we'd be ready to go play Thursday night if we had to. Right now we have to finish up with another strong practice and we'd be ready to play Thursday night."

Q: What really stood out in preparing for this team? "They give you a lot of looks on defense. They're not big defensive players, but they blitz all over the place, they're always moving around and coming from every different direction possible. And they've got some real good playmakers in the secondary."

"Then offensively they've got a great scheme. They take advantage of their talent that they have. The quarterback throws the ball well, they're competing over 60% of their passes on the year. I think he's done a great job, has a high TD-to-interception ratio, he doesn't make mistakes, he does things you need to do to win."

Q: What do you like about the quarterback? "Very accurate, tough, has a quick release. A lefty just always give you a different deal in that wherever he is scrambling to it is a little different. Just the extension of plays changes, you're going to kind of change what you're used to seeing going all-righties. When you're scrambling right it's hard to throw back left across your body; now this kid going to his left actually can throw back."

Q: How have you handled the quarterback rotation this week with Tyler Russell limited? "Yeah, Chris (Relf) is pretty tired!"

Q: Are you doing anything with Dak Prescott? "No, he stays with the scout team. He's not going to play. Until they change that rule with the NCAA to let kids that are great students and doing things the right way get five years of eligibility. Then he would be getting more reps."

Q: What do you do behind Chris? "We'll put Tyler in. Tyler will be ready to play, so we have those two. We just have to try to keep them healthy."

Q: Is Russell wearing the same immobilizer brace? "Yesterday he didn't. Today he did. We do it day-on, day-off right now because he's so close to getting banged-up. But we expect him to be ready to go by the time we get in the bowl game."

Q: How did he look yesterday? "Pretty good. A little sore, like you'd expect. But the good thing about Tyler, he grits through it. A lot of players have to go through playing with some pain and being banged-up during their career. And he's learning how to do that, and he has a good attitude about it. And it's going to help him in the future."

Q: Will you tell Russell to stay off his feet during the break? "I probably should pay attention. Because he's out throwing seven-on-seven even today on his off-day, throwing a bunch. But the nice thing is he only lives down the street so he can come back and get a treatment or two during the Christmas holiday; just drive up and see our trainers to get a treatment or two, and get ready to go play."

Q: At Nashville do you expect him to play without the brace? "I want to see. That obviously would be the best, but I want to see. The most important thing is having him ready for the game, and getting him the reps he needs to be ready to go play in the game. So we'll see that. I mean it's a week from today so that's eons in injury time."

Q: What exactly is his injury? "It's a MCL sprain."

Q: How was it for the freshmen getting so many reps for the first time, and bouncing back this week? "I think it's great for them. What it does, it really jump-starts you in this off-season. When you go in the off-season, you meet, you watch film, you talk about football; they have a little bit of a foundation now for what you're talking about. They're not sitting there like it's the first day of training camp or the first day they showed up on campus, a complete blank slate."

"So for a lot of those young guys there is going to be a foundation for us to go build off of going into spring ball."

Q: Is there any thought going in of being another SEC team targeted by a ACC team in bowl season? "Well, it doesn't matter who you play. I think that's part of being part of the top conference in college football."

Q: Today on radio you mentioned about how much you love Starkville and this is a premier job, can you expound? "Well, what it is, is everything that we have focused on doing since we've been here we have had the support to do. We're building a brand-new football facility, we're looking to expand the stadium, we've sold-out over two straight years now of tickets. You have great high school football here in Mississippi and we're getting most of the top prospects to come play for us."

"And as you continue to build that, with all the support we have from our administration, from our fan base, and from the people of Mississippi believing in what we're trying to do…and put on top of that you're playing in the best conference in college football, it makes it a pretty special place."

Q: There were so many questions about linebackers during the off-season, can you assess them after twelve games? "They've done pretty good throughout the year. I'm pleased with the progress they've made. Because they were going to be a question mark going into the season. I think they've played solidly throughout the year. And with some young linebackers coming back I think we have a good future."

Q: What is tomorrow's practice like? "A regular Thursday. Just helmets and go through a ‘mock game' and all that stuff. It's a regular Thursday as if we'd walk off the field on a Thursday and be done."

Q: After finals is anybody ineligible? "One guy, but he's going to Itawamba CC."

Q: Do you have a total number of players making the bowl trip? "Holy cow! I don't know because there is a group that were ineligible all through the season, coming into the season; and actually a couple of them that have been ineligible all season, got eligible for the bowl game. You can come over to my office and check the list. None of them will play. Dr. Turner and I go through the list when they register, these guys have now passed enough and these transfers have passed enough that they're eligible to play this year. But all our scholarship guys will go."

Q: Has Brandon Heavens returned to practice? "He was back Saturday."

Q: As far as recruiting, what do you expect Wednesday? "Who know?! Through the years I've learned one thing, that we'll find out on Wednesday what we can expect on Wednesday. So hopefully there's a lot of smiles on our faces."

Q: You've said before, but what does a ‘commitment' mean and what do you tell commitments that keep visiting? "I mean, I don't like it, I don't view those kids as committed 100%. I guess for the internet and other people there are a lot who have committed; my wife views me as committed! I don't go out on other dates and stuff like that, that's a commitment! I view a commitment really comes on national signing day. That's when they become committed to you."

"Every kid is different. Just ask them, if you're really committed why would you visit somewhere else?"

Mississippi State should conclude Tuesday's work by noon, with players immediately excused for a fast Christmas break. The Bulldogs report to Nashville on the 26th and will practice on Vanderbilt's field.

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