Morning Practice Pleases Mullen

Usually the boxed lunch comes in styrofoam so nobody really knows what Dan Mullen's dining that day is. But Friday it was clear, as was the box; the coach had grabbed a salad. "There's a lot of high-calorie food around, you can get yourself in trouble in training camp," he explained.

Fortunately there've been no signs of trouble so far in Mississippi State's preseason camp. Just the opposite in fact. A whole week of work, including the first pair of two-a-day dates, will be finished after this evening. Barring anything unexpected or unfortunate the Bulldog coach will have been satisfied with what Mississippi State has accomplished.

Even soaked practice fields, which forced the Dogs inside the Palmeiro Center a couple of times already, has been turned into an August advantage as Mullen mentioned. This was before he went to the office to eat that lunch salad while getting a snap review of the morning session. His players by then had inhaled their own lunches and hit the locker room air mattresses for such rest as they could grab in advance of the evening work. There was no first-hand report on what was in their boxes.

"Good day today. We went indoors with all the rain yesterday. I thought the receivers had a good day today, that probably is going to be a product of going indoors without the heat fatigue on their legs. They were catching the ball well."

"The other part is we have a good group, a bunch of seniors, older guys at that position. You start getting into the more daunting days of the training camp, which they're about to hit that wall. You're almost done with installation, I think tomorrow we've got some goal line and red zone stuff but basically you're done with the majority of installation. It can start to really weigh on guys, those guys have been through it. We probably could have installed everything day-one, they know the system."

"So I thought they're doing pretty solid just as a whole group; Chris, Chad, Brandon and Arecto, Ricco, all the older guys. Even the younger guys, looking at Joe Morrow and Robert Johnson and Jameon Lewis, they've been here for a little bit. So even when you look at who some of the younger guys are they have that kind of background."

How much is it helping having veteran offensive linemen? "It helps with that one. Because you're always looking at five guys working together. If you get an offensive lineman go the wrong way it's going to be a bad play. So you need all five guys working together, and a lot of times they're working on all different kinds of combination blocks. So it's getting used to how you work with the other guy. Kind of like quarterback-receiver timing, the longer they are together the more comfortable they are. Five guys working together, they get used to being with each other."

"That's part of why we switch some guys up, so they don't get used to being only with the five guys in case there's an issue. That they get used to the eight or nine guys who are going to rotate, they are all very comfortable with each other."

Damien Robinson came in highly-touted, now he's making progress, what do you expect? "I don't think he's taking a long time. He's only a sophomore, that's still really young in my eyes. Very rarely will you see a freshman play in the SEC, I mean to be a starter or a major impact player. For him I think his career has gone pretty much right on schedule, where we would expect him to be right now."

"The great thing with Damien that I feel comfortable, he's competing for that starting job which is what you want. It would be pretty good to be a starter as a sophomore. But he's also going to get playing time for us. And he is one of those guys that gives you flexibility, he's not really a locked-into-a-position guy. I think he has the talent to play guard or tackle, that will allow him to be a swing-guy for us."

How have the kickers performed? "They've done a good job. Again when we do that period I think they get like five kicks a day under pressure. And right from day-one to now…on day-one their get-off time was just horrendous, they could probably get every kick blocked. In high school I think they could wait until everything was perfect, then they run up and kick the ball. So there is some timing and those issues."

"I still think there's a lot of development. I think we've got the timing down now, they've got the trust factor down. Now we're just going to chart over a longer…of course one nice thing about kickers is statistically we can chart them throughout camp and even game week until we come up with who we think statistically is going to be the best opportunity."

With Brian Egan not out now, how does placekick look? "It's going to be wide-open. You'll know if we score the first touchdown in the first game who goes to kick, I don't even think about any of that stuff yet. To be honest I haven't looked at the statistics, I don't even want to look at the statistics. We'll do that in a couple of weeks, I want to get a massive accumulation of numbers."

Do you have the two-point plays ready? "Sure. We might not punt and go for two, right? Aren't there some high schools that do that, refuse to ever kick? I'm going to have to get that book, I'll join the club!"

With two (scholarship) quarterbacks and so many practices in a row do you worry about their arms? "No, we rotate the young guys. So Golden and Swindle are getting reps at practice. Actually we've gotten more reps this year than we've ever done in the past, in overall reps. So what you're doing is coaches is force-feeding young guys now. You look over sometimes, you might not be as happy, what was that decision, what are we doing; and it's a young quarterback making that decision. If some of our older guys had done that we wouldn't be very happy. But you have to coach them up. They're digesting things, they're getting great opportunities to get a lot of reps."

Talk about P.J. Jones' progression? "We'll see. He played last year so he's been on the field. And one of the things, he's bought into the program and he knows what we expect and how we expect guys to work. And obviously he got to see an opportunity with Fletcher Cox leaving early. A big window opened there, and I think guys where maybe before you see a Fletcher there and think I'm going to work but I'm probably not going beat him out right now…now there is a job open so I think everybody is a little hungry."

Have you seen an increase in the talent of the walk-ons? "I think you do see some. But you don't see it for a long time. One of the things you see, we work so hard in development of our players within the program. So a guy that is a freshman, to be honest if you ask our guys which ones are the walk-ons and which ones are the scholarship guys, what they see is guys come and go. The walk-ons who stick with the program get developed and become really good players."

"Sam Williams has bought into the program and works very hard. Ben Beckwith has bought in, we knew he was a good high school player. Unfortunately we had a lot more that came in that aren't still with us, it wasn't cut-out for them."

"So that is a good thing. But really it's a comment on Coach Balis and his staff how they develop our players. That if you come in and you put in the effort you're going to be developed into having the potential to step on the field and play."

Have any receivers made the next-step since spring? "I mean the guy to me that has really picked up is Chris Smith. And I see that in his approach. I think he sees that this is it. I mean Bumphis has been steady since day-one, but I really see Chris Smith, I think being a senior has sunk in with him. He's got that desperateness to him that he is trying to go out and finish his career the best way possible. Not that I don't see it with all of them, but I see it even more with him."

Does it have anything to do with his high school quarterback being the starter? "No. I don't see that relationship like Tyler is looking for Chris, you know what I mean? I just think he's kind of realized this is it."

"I talk to the guys sitting in the front row of the meeting room now. They say honestly it seems like last week I was sitting on the back row and now here I am sitting on the front row. I think when that sinks in with our guys, they can flick another switch and say this is it now. You know, it felt like just yesterday I was kind of watching everybody else do things, now I'm the guy."

Tyler's dad says his wrist has always been strong because he didn't let him fish with the child's pole? "I don't fish much so I don't know! But I'm sure there is. I'm sure it didn't hurt! And I don't think he was a big baseball player, whick baseball can sometimes help arm strength but it messes-up your release on the ball. I don't know, but Brett Favre fishes and he was a pretty good quarterback too, right?!"

Gene's Page Top Stories