Mullen Gives Initial Impressions Of Scrimmage

Two weeks from now the stadium lights will be turned on again. But next time so will the scoreboard, for Mississippi State's season opener. So in advance of the real kickoff Coach Dan Mullen gave his Bulldogs as realistic a preparation practice as possible, with a full Saturday scrimmage on Scott Field.

Hopefully the head coach is in as playful a mood with his team post-review as he was media immediately afterwards. The scrimmage must have gone well because when asked about any starting jobs settled he got mock-serious; offering insights such as QB Tyler Russell will likely get first snap, and he is optimistic about CB John Banks and DT Josh Boyd, and so on. Then, grinning.

The larger point being that once again Mississippi State's coach came away pleased with another day's work. Specific numbers—well, other than more Mullen levity about Russell's passing—were not offered. Nor needed since all the figures the assistant staff are compiling tonight are assignment percentages, execution rates, blocking grades, and the like. The results will be shown to players at their next working day on Tuesday after a well-earned break.

The Bulldogs don't practice Sunday, though they will have late-afternoon team meetings in advance of semester classes beginning Monday. That is a full off-day for the Dogs. They will begin the week well-fed too, as the Cattleman's Association is feeding them steak dinner Sunday evening.

Mullen had the following comments before heading to the office for initial reviews.

What was your impression of the scrimmage? "Good and bad. A lot of teachable moments that occur in there. A lot of young guys when they get in the stadium it's a different atmosphere. We played it very much like a game, where if the one offense was stopped they'd punt; wherever the ball was fielded the other group was going in the other direction. Turnovers, same way. And kind of back-and-forth, just so guys get a little bit of the game feel."

"And for younger guys that haven't played, we tried to put the young guys in as many game-type situations as we can. I mean young guys that haven't played a lot of football on Saturdays for us, just so they understand."

"I'd say the ones got a little over sixty reps, and out twos a little over seventy reps today. So they got to feel what a game was like and as it wore on see how their body was so they can get ready for it."

What are you specifically looking for on the review of this? "We didn't get very complicated, I think on purpose. Schematically it wasn't who could out-scheme who or run a trick play to confuse the other side. It was get in the stadium and let kids play, so we know who is ready to go play in two weeks. Who we feel we can put on the field."

"And how much they can put on the field, a little bit of depth chart, a little bit of rotation set. Depth charts are always tough, because someone trips on a curb going to class that throws that out of whack. To me it's who is ready to play."

Where do you want to be in regard to depth charts on Tuesday? "A lot. Hopefully we've got about 65 guys, maybe 70 guys that are ready to go play in a game. And get the special team stuff organized and who is going to play for you. If we've got 70 guys go play a SEC football game we'll be OK."

You'd said this was a last chance for some people to make moves, did anyone stand out in the scrimmage? "Boy, let's see. Jameon Lewis did pretty good, so he'll be in I think. Derrick Milton ran the ball hard today, he'll be able to get on the field some for us. Dee Arrington had a nice interception in the scrimmage. Jamerson Love made a couple of nice plays on the ball. So those are guys that probably are going to have an opportunity to get some reps."

People would want to hear the type of numbers Tyler Russell put up, how did he do? "He was 32 of 35 for 478 yards! No, I thought he was good. I think he started slow and not really ‘game' mentality. He started kind of ‘practicy' in his demeanor. I reminded him, after that I thought he improved, you know, picked up. When you're in the stadium you can see him kind of in a practice mode more than a game mode as far as leadership and all that stuff. Because what happens in practice mod a lot he's thinking about his read, his steps, his balance, follow throughs, all of those things. I wanted him to let it go and be the leader out there like it was a game situation. More than he's trying to analyze everything that is going on. So I thought he started slow but did a good job as we went on."

Are any positions settled? "I think Tyler will start! (Johnthan) Banks, I feel pretty good with him at corner. (Josh) Boyd, I feel pretty good with him on the d-line right now."

But nothing on positions up in the air right now? "No, but we have a long way to go, another two weeks."

Were you able to put kickers in pressure situations you talked about? "We did, fortunately, in the scrimmage. Baker Swedenburg I thought did a really, really good job. When they needed to make big punts he made them, pinned the offense in a bunch of times deep inside their own territory. His best punt of the night was when they were coming-out, which is when you want it. Devon Bell hit a couple nice kicks in PAT/field goals."

"I've got to look at the kickoffs. I was kind of watching a lot of other things. In some of those I didn't notice anybody do poorly, how's that? I'm looking at other things so I'm not specifically looking at a kicker in situations. But Devon Bell hit a couple of nice field goals tonight."

How was the new playing surface? "It held up, we don't need a refund! We're supposed to have a new drainage system in there. I mean it was completely dry, props to whoever put that in!"

Next week do you start figuring out scout teams and get into game mode? "What we do is we'll probably go heavy, not a long scout team period but like every freshman will play scout team this week. A lot of older guys, we'll be a lot of guys playing scout team so everybody learns how to do it."

"This week is not heavy scout team periods, still a lot of good-on-goods, still a lot of stuff that we've got to teach. We're not into game-week mentality yet. So it's kind of that we'll take 10 to 15 minutes a day we'll really do some scout team stuff. That is to get some specific looks we want for the offense and defense. But also to teach everybody what the scout team is supposed to be all about. Some new guys show up and some older guys show up."

Who is ahead now, offense or defense? "I don't know. It depends, there's good in both. There are times the offense looked good, there are times the defense looked good tonight. I don't know if there was really anybody that I'd consider ahead. I mean to me it's hard to tell. I guess we'll find that out in two weeks who is ahead when we play somebody else."

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