Vets And Rookies Take Morning Practice Shift

Their timing was certainly good. No sooner had Mississippi State wrapped up the morning session of Monday's schedule than a thunderstorm hit campus. Though, Dan Mullen had already sweated-out so much in the 90-minute session that some rain was welcome anyway. Nothing dampened his evaluation of what the Bulldogs got done though.

With Mississippi State wrapping up summer semester exams today, Mullen went with the second round of split-squad sessions. He and staff were working around test schedules so maybe the exact same rosters weren't working together as on Saturday. Still the general theme of mixing first-team Bulldogs with the newest pups in camp held, with second and third squads taking the afternoon shift.

Starting Tuesday, now, everybody arrives at the practice fields together. And it will be on the special Farm field at that, as what Mullen really calls training camp opens tomorrow. Along with full padding and the allotted two-a-day dates.

Mullen met with media following the morning session for the following Q-and-A.

Opening Statement:
"When you split practices again there's so many little things you have to get done. There's some benefits to it of focusing on some of the little things. Not the big things, the installation, the scheme, but knowing what you're doing. It allows you to break it down and really get to the individual. So that's what today was, a lot of individual work. Even though we did team and 7-on-7 and all that stuff, a lot of individual attention on doing things the right way."

Q: Was the team split any particular way?
"The number-one way starts with exams. So guys who had exams this morning can practice and guys who have exams this afternoon, (they) got split-up. Then it's also split to make sure (of) positional balance. Then by groups of who you want working with who. Then we tried to get a lot of young guys together today so you can really focus on coaching the young guys."

Q: Did anyone or big plays stand out today?
"Not to me. Because my biggest focus today is to know how to run on-and-off the field, how to break the huddle and run to the line of scrimmage, run to the football. My focus is always on going hard. If a guy jumps up and makes a catch, I hope they do that every once in a while because we recruited them to do that! But I don't even pay attention to that. If a guy is making a spectacular catch over here I'm not even paying attention, I'm making sure we have the guys on defense running to the football."

Q: Have you been able to watch any of the walk-ons for special teams?
"A little bit. We've let them do some individual, we haven't done any group kicking. So it's obviously pretty easy to do. We haven't put them in any pressure situations. You know what I mean, pressure situations are with team and big guys coming to hit them! We'll see how they respond once they get to that."

"Again with them the same deal; teaching them how to drop the ball on punt. You look at get-off time for PAT/field goal, I don't think they probably stressed that that much in high school. Where you have 1.25 seconds to kick the ball or its going to be blocked in college. Little things like that that they don't understand, we're trying to get them down to how fast they have to do."

Q: How will the new kickoff rule change things?
"It's a huge deal. We finally get a guy, Devon Bell, we thik can kick the ball in the end zone; now they move it up, so he should be able to kick it into the stands! I think a lot of decisions have to be made; do you want to try to kick it out of the end zone to give them the ball at the 25? Or you have less field to cover, do you try to string it down the field inside the 20 and make a big play on the kickoff? There's some decisions to be made in that and I don't have anybody will have the answer until the season gets going."

Q: You do expect Bell to immediately take this role?
"I mean he has that talent coming in. But again it is adapting that talent to doing in front of 60,00 people, on national television, doing it in bigger situations. So that will be something we see as we move forward. But I have no problem if he's our guy this year."

Q: Rules used to allow three days with freshmen before the varsity, was that better or do you like mixing them in?
"Nah, I like it the old way. We actually brought that up in practice today. I know a lot of rules are there, and they try to make sense with them sometimes. We're educators and that's one that's poor teaching. If you ask an educator that's a bad way to do things. It's like saying let's take a kid and start him in a fifth grade class, well he didn't go first-through-fourth and he's with a lot of older kids."

"So that's one of the reasons we do split the practices, they get more individual attention. Back in the old days you had a couple of days you could really teach the freshmen how to run on and off the field, how to break a huddle, teach them three base plays. So when the older guys came here they could actually function a little bit instead of just being lost. And as I've said with freshmen, we hype these guys through the roof recruiting; and then don't even give them the adjustment period. So they come in and holy cow! What's happening?! And you have to deal with all those personalities. That's part of one of the big counseling sessions you have at night."

Q: Is that one reason for Sunday and Monday night football with young guys?
"Yeah. You do it because a lot of them are on scout team, it's their chance to go play the game and kind of keep them in tune. They're look at a card and running certain plays gets them to continue to know our offense and defense."

Q: A year ago it took Fletcher Cox a while to get going you said, what about Josh Boyd this year, do you have his attention?
"I think so. If you look at attention-wise it's more Banks than Boyd. Banks is getting a lot of this hype, Boyd is not getting as much preseason hype. But I know within our team our expectations of him are the same. He's the leader of that group. We expect him to be the leader on the field playing, in his performance, as well as a leader in his actions at practice and how he leads the team in the locker room and everything."

Q: Is there one leader among the receivers?
"I think at different times it's different guys. I think Chris Smith does a good job in trying to do that, he's kind of a guy that will stand up and get in people's face a little bit if he needs to. But there are a bunch of guys that are older, and you don't need always to get in the young guys' faces. You need to coach them and teach them, and the older guys kind of do their deal, they know what they're doing. So it's interesting because you don't need a dynamic leader at that position because there is so much experience."

Q: You mentioned teaching Jameon Lewis to be a receiver first, not only an athlete. Do you take the same approach with Chad Bumphis to focus on receiver?
"No, it's the same role. He's a guy who has done a lot for us. He draws a lot of attention from other defenses, too. And if they're going to double him other peoples' numbers are going to go up. So I think Chad is very conscientious as a guy who wants to play his best football his senior year. He and I have talked several times and I think it's really important to him to do that this season. To have a, not really a breakout year, he probably did that his freshman year and sophomore year. But he's always asking how can I be better, what more can I do to up my game and have my best year ever."

Q: Do you see that light bulb turning on with the seniors?
"I do. We talk about it in our team meeting rooms. It's kind of alphabetical by age, or older guys in front alphabetically. You see those guys sit in front and I was telling them the other day, it's weird to be here up front. Man, it felt like just yesterday I was in the back row and like in a week I'm in the front row and this is it. I do think it sinks in. and I do think that is why a lot of seasons are based on your senior class. You're going to get the most out of your seniors, you always will, because they know this is it. And if they don't you're set to have a bad year, because they don't get it."

Q: How does it help having all those guys under the same staff for four years?
"Having staff stability certainly helps. It helps in that the older guys know what to expect, they can play at a certain level, they know how to run on and off the field. So that you're not spending all that time teaching every little basic…even though we teach it you're not just stressing that over and over and over, the older guys know it."

"Even as a staff it helps going out to practice. As a head coach you're not sitting there spending time on this is how I expect you to run from drill to drill, our coaches know that. And they're used to my behavior on the practice field. I get after people sometimes, I've been known to do that! Early on sometimes if you don't know the personality of all the coaches it can throw you into a frenzy. Even how two assistant coaches react to each other sometimes. When you have that stability everybody knows how their role is and how to move from drill to drill and do what they need to do."

Q: Are any new guys expected to move into kick return role?
"Guys who were return guys in high school. Cedric Jiles, Brandon Holloway, Xavier Grindle, Will Redmond, were all big return guys in high school. Now whether they rotate in or not I don't know. We're going to give them a shot, when we do specialists now they're doing punts and kicks. We'll give tehm that shot during camp and see how it plays out."

Q: Who might be your missiles?
"The guys that run down the field? There's one of those spots open, last year it was Marvin Bure and Jamerson Love on the punt team. There is a definite spot to be a big-time special teams player."

"I've got to look at the depth chart but there are a lot of names. At this point there are ten names looking at everything. Game week is when we really limit it down, even after the week we break camp and in school we're still doing it. Game week is when we start cutting it down to two-deep, right now on special teams we're four-deep because I want guys to learn it and everybody to get an opportunity. So I guess if you look at the missles spots there are eight guys getting reps at it right now. When you get down to school you'll cut it down to the five."

There is no interview session set following the afternoon practice.


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