Bulldogs Return To Preseason Routine

It was easy for Dan Mullen to know, without even checking the jersey numbers, who were old Dogs and which were newer pups. All the head coach had to see was the effort and execution after a couple of off-days. "You can just see the maturity factor in what comes in," Mullen said.

Mississippi State returned to practice Tuesday afternoon following their only real break of preseason. Maybe not much of one since following Saturday's evening scrimmage the Bulldogs had a Sunday get-together to eat and meet. Then there was Monday's opening of the fall semester. So maybe players were sort of glad to get back to practice after all.

It just didn't show for those who, as Mullen reminded, have not been through this preseason regimen before. They looked, well, like kids.

"I'm disappointed with some of the younger guys. The older guys, I don't know if the older guys grinded-through that couple of days break.

"But they kind of know what they're doing. So it shows that they snap! just pick right up and go. You can see the younger guys are a little sluggish."

Which, Mullen said ought not have been the case given a relatively light Friday workout and the post-scrimmage break.

"I think they were exhausted, they were tired. They shut down and it showed today. Instead of physically shutting it down and mentally picking it up over those days, and really grinding through their notes, playbooks, scheme. So it was a little big sluggish and sloppy at times today. And we've just got to keep them in that rhythm."

What also showed was the missing man on Mississippi State's staff. This was the first practice since wide receivers Coach Angelo Mirando suddenly resigned Sunday evening. Mirando, a former graduate assistant promoted in January 2011 to full-time status, only gave "personal reason" for the abrupt move. He came with Mullen from Florida in 2009.

Mullen offered no specifics on how this sudden change developed, but did say he was working the wideouts Tuesday. He is not rushing any adjustments in the staff at this point, with kickoff now less than two weeks away, but said there will be a short-term plan to get this season started.

The post-practice report began with comments about the day's results and why the younger players might have been off their games.

"And it's the transition time. We did some scout work today. So you look at all these freshmen and new walk-ons, their first team on scout team just figuring out how to even practice. They're probably not used to doing that in high school, and scout teams are a lot different in college I'm sure than they were in high school for these guys. So that adjustment is taking place this week."

What do you try to get into the young guys' heads for scout work?
"It's learning how to practice. It's learning how to give great effort. Learning how to play and great technique. But we don't need guys diving for the ball on the ground and getting people hurt. For us it's more of a ‘teach' tempo. It's great fundamentals, great technique, great execution. But it's not live go flying to the ball stuff. As young guys it's hard to learn to practice that way, you could watch it today. We might do one non-padded practice at some point this week, so that next week when we do our Thursday non-added practice they're not completely clueless on how to practice without pads on."

What did coaches do the last couple of days?
"What we did was really get in and watch all the cut-ups of training camp, see what was good and bad for us. As a coach sometimes when you draw something up and you think this play is going to be great. And in your mind you're convinced it's going to be great. And statistically on the video it doesn't back it up then you've either got to make a change, tweak something, or don't do it. So really we've just been studying that stuff, getting in and kind of grinding through those cut-ups of training camp, of what these guys are executing well. Because even though something might draw up well, personnel-wise we don't execute it very well. Then we have to tweak and do stuff our guys do well."

Are there any walk-ons you've decided to give scholarships?
"No. What we do, we kept Dewayne Cherrington and Sylvester Hemphill on scholarship. They were on one-year scholarship last year and they've done a good enough job to stay on it. Those two right now and that's it."

Are you at 120 players practicing now?
"I think we were 130 but I don't know, we're going to sort it out. We'll see who shows up tomorrow! Whatever we were today I imagine we'll be down one or two tomorrow and two or three the next day. And probably lose about five to ten guys this first week when they're like this is not what I thought it would be like! And then we'll have our 120-ish kind of roster at that point."

Brian Egan is back?
"Yes, he's out there. And Charley Granfield, and a bunch of kickers are out there. Who are our other kickers? There's a ton of them out there, you name it they're all out there kicking around!"

It sounds as if the effort was there but execution was not today?
"I'm not disappointed with how the guys tried and all that stuff. It's kind of the mental focus part that was a little sloppy."

What is the plan for coaching the receivers now?
"We have an immediate plan, a short-term plan and a long-term plan. Short term and long term I'm still working on. The immediate plan, I coached the receivers today. I wanna have a short term plan figured out by the end of the week. The short term plan and the long term plan could be a combo plan. Might have a short term fix that turns into a long term fix or a short term fix that last through the season. We're gonna figure that out over the next few days."

How has LaDarius Perkins done in replacing Vick Ballard?
"I've seen him step into that role. He's performing at a very high level. Obviously, I like the way the other guys are battling at that spot. What we were like 15-7 last year, right around that area, I don't know if it's gonna be exactly like that. Perkins will be that high end. He'll be our starter, but we're gonna roll those guys through. How many reps those guys get, we're gonna see. Still evaluating those guys over the next, probably over the next 4-5 weeks, evaluate those guys to see how the pecking order comes out."

Is Nick Griffin getting more comfortable?
"You see, at times, he's still hesitant. It's all the mental aspect at times. When he lets it go. You can see he's back and he'll let it go at times. At other times, you just see him think about it. We go live scrimmage sometimes, he gets sideswiped, you see him pop up a little hesitantly, but then he feels, ‘Hey, I'm OK.' And that's what he's dealing with."

How are the receivers being coached now with Angelo gone?
"We did a lot of blocking drills with me today, I'm kind of an old school guy. They were kinda like, they think someone else should coach the receivers tomorrow! No, you know what, I think the fact that we have a mature group helps. When you have guys that have played a lot of football, the leadership in the room, they run the room themselves, the older guys. With Chris and Arceto and Chad, you have some maturity in that room. The younger guys are just gonna follow the old guys. If the old guys act like, hey we're gonna take care of our business, then the younger guys just kind of follow suit."

How is it personally for you not having Angelo?
"It's a tough deal. It's always tough duty. You're working one man down with the staff. Today's really the first day we've been back on the field, so you see it more when you're doing football stuff. You're down a guy."

Might other coaches help with receivers?
"Like I said, we're gonna figure out over the next few days what our plan will be for all of that. Right now, take care of your business, I'll take care of the rest. That's my responsibility as the head coach, in the immediate. Everybody else, take care of their job. Do your job and I'll make sure that everything gets done that needs to get done."

Is there a chance Mirando would be welcomed back to State?
"We'll see in the future. We'll see. There's always gonna be a possibility. Anything's possible in this world."

Are you just not comfortable talking about the situation?
"I'm not gonna get into all that, what's going on with him in this stuff."

Did you learn anything from the receivers working with them?
"I guess it was different. A lot of times I'm jumping around spending time with each position group or this drill or that drill. I was kinda with them today during individual stuff and group periods."

"Brett Elliot our GA was working substitution and all working with them when we go 11 on 11, he's getting guys on the field. What I'll be able to do now, we've got time. You're not in game plan week right in the moment. Tomorrow we'll watch today's film and make corrections."

Will any of the newcomers be returning kickoffs?
"Banks, Bumphis, our two punt returners and our two kick returners are returning this year so there's a comfort level in the short term of stuff. I do like some of the other guys coming up. Whether they do the job this year, with the experience or not, like Holloway, Jiles, and Grindle do some good jobs in the return game. Now again, are they going overtake anybody, we'll see over the next 10 days."

State was among the lower ranked kick return teams last year.
"Ahhh, inconsistency. The kick return is a play. So if you miss a block on the offensive line, it's not going to be a very good play. Most of the season, what we got into in terms of the stress on those guys is I don't think we had a group issue, we had an individual issue. Different individuals at a lot different times. When you look statistically, Jameon Lewis catches a ball and runs out of bounds, that's a zero-return. When you do that twice, that's two zero-yard returns. Then your statistics start to drop. At times, when you look at it, it wasn't all bad. It was one glaring mistake would cost the return, just like if you're running inside zone and the right guard falls down, then the defensive tackle makes a play for minus-2 yards then it wasn't a completely bad play."

Have you looked at Jackson State yet?
"Yeah a little bit. I've looked at more of the defense than the offense a bit. You're looking at pretty good football team that had nine seniors and two juniors on defense. It's always a challenge when you get into week one. For us, we're going to be breaking in some new guys and they're going to have some guys that played here four years ago."

"For that group, they were here (4 years ago) and we're going to have guys that have played in our stadium for the first time and they've already played here. That's what makes it a dangerous outfit. I know they have a talented offense."

Could Perkins be an every-down back?
"The only thing that Perkins has that gets overlooked is he's 190 pounds. He may be 195 and he's a big, stout guy. That is something that helps him. You look at him and think, how can he be an every down guy but he's pretty stout."

(On Mirando's situation)
"Down the road at some point, I may comment further but not now."

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