Mullen Reviews Wednesday Morning's Work

Two-a-days are underway at last. Mississippi State began the first of the three allotted such practice dates with a morning session Wednesday at their Farm field. "Not bad" was Coach Dan Mullen's short and succinct immediate impression, followed by more specific comments.

"The DBs had a really good day today, watching them. Just the experience and especially as you get going they're guys that have experience. A couple of guys made some nice interceptions, breaking up balls, and overall. You like John Banks' leadership, and the maturity that a Corey Broomfield has. I like seeing that out there at practice. Louis Watson. When you have seniors out there it's pretty good."

"(Darius) Slay I thought was good. Slay is a guy who has a chance to be a really good player now that he's in the program. I think the thing that hurt him last year obviously was getting in so late. And then the young guys, there is some talent at the young DBs. And the great thing is they're watching the older guys perform and how they're doing it. I think that is going to help them a lot to improve quickly."

Q: You have three senior cornerbacks, how does that help the youngsters? "All of them, even Taveze (Calhoun) and Jamerson (Love) are still young. So it is great to have guys that play up. One of the great things as a young player, if you can watch or learn from an older player that is a fantastic thing for you, know what I mean? The hardest thing for coaches is to explain how they want it done, and then you have to go do it. The coach explains how he wants it done, then I'm not talking about sitting in the stands. I'm talking about the whole picture, running on and off the field, your demeanor, how you look. It's easy to tell somebody to do it. but you hear a coach tell you how to do it and then you watch a guy that has done it and performed at the highest level, you can see them actually do it; I think it helps them learn."

Q: It has to help having Slay with Banks and Broomfield now? "Much like O-line, you want to get the best guys on the field. In nickel situations obviously for us it allows you do that more. And we'll play a lot of nickel this year."

"But also in your regular first down, if we think those are the top four guys--which you would right now think they are the top four—you want to make sure you can get them on the field. Again it's still so long in training camp to see who really steps up. Where if it's even you don't have to force that."

Q: What makes Slay so deadly this spring? "I just think he always had it in him. A tremendous athlete, a tremendous physical player. I think what has changed is he learned technique. He learned what to do and how to do it, why we do it. I think in the season last year he was trying to figure it all out. I think he could have been a much bigger impact player if he had been able to go through a spring before the season. He could have been an even bigger impact last year."

Q: Do you see the number of true freshmen playing this year going up? "I do. I see us probably playing a couple more than that. But that is the pure guestimate at this point. Who they are at this point I have no idea. I think the fact we have 27 juniors and seniors on the team, we're going to need some young guys to play for us."

"Numbers wise, when you look at balancing out your classes, the number of guys on scholarship in each class, it would balance out to play about five this year, or six. But we're not going to play them unless they're ready."

Q: Is that because you had a larger signing class than normal? "No. What did we end up with? 24 is still a big class. If everybody redshirts over a five-year span, I guess you're looking at 18 to 20 would be a normal signing class. That probably helps it. But againit is all judged on who is ready to go on the field. We're not going to put guys on the field until they're ready to play."

Q: With all the defensive linemen ready to play and the veteran secondary can you be more aggressive rushing? "If you can hold up in the secondary you'll get more pressure. If they're covering longer you have more time for the front four to get pressure. Or if you have confidence in those guys you can really come after people."

Q: Is it a by-product or a scheme with all the experience? "A little bit of both. Obviously in any scheme you want to take your talented players and highlight the strengths you have and the talents of the players you have. You want to try to emphasize that within your scheme."

Q: With the plan to play both quarterbacks, what is the plan for the running backs? "Sameway we did it last year. Greg Knox kind of rolls those guys through. Every once in a while I want to see a certain guy run a certain play, so he'll get yelled and screamed at by me when he has the wrong guy on the field! But I don't always let him know that before it happens, so I just yell at him afterwards I wanted this guy to run that play, what are you doing Greg!"

"But I just think he'll kind of roll those guys through. Very much like a couple of years ago how we started the season before Vick Ballard emerged, we'll roll guys through to see who is that guy who is going to stand out."

Q: Josh Robinson said it starts with the run so he expects a big role? "To me ideally I want to be 50/50. I guess last year we were probably a little bit heavier run. When you run 70 plays in a game if you're 50/50 that's 35, 35. That would be a lot of passes maybe to some people, and to other offenses less. And soe offenses that'd be a lot of runs and other offenses less. But to me if we come out the end of the season and we're 50/50, 51/49, I'm going to be pretty happy."

Q: Looking at Josh Robinson, Les Koenning said he doesn't have a lot of tackle space? "He has a low center of gravity so he runs low, which decreases his tackle surface. And he looks chunky but it's all muscle. He's got the big butt, it's all muscle. He looks like he's got a belly on him but if you tap it, it's like hitting a table! So he's like a ball of muscle. And he has a good attitude, what I mean by that maybe like a Dixon had with the personality. He's always kind of bubbly and wanting to play the game, a high energy guy and that makes him fun to be around." Q: LaDarius Perkins said he sees similarities between Robinson and Anthony Dixon in personality? "Yeah, that fun and excitement. That's one thing when Anthony left you miss it. And in leadership on the field, I know he had some issues in other parts, but on the field was always a tremendous leader because he just loved to play the game so much. Anthony would rather be at practice than do anything else."

"Josh has that same kind of energy. When he's on the field, he's always kind of hyper and jumping around. Two-a-days sometimes that tank will hit empty and you stop jumping around so much! But his general personality is that way, That's where they are very similar. Where Vick was more business, they're more kind of hyped-up and don't stop talking."

The Bulldogs worked in full pads this morning, and will have a shorts-session in the afternoon.

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