Is it a positive having the top two quarterbacks back out here? "Yeah, that was much better than in spring! When the twos step in there you've got a little more experience. But I mean it's good. When you get this time of year, when you get the freshmen in, we've got some guys healthy that weren't healthy even throughout all the spring, when you get out there the execution is cleaner further down the depth chart than it is in the springtime."
Did these younger guys have a better idea what was going on? "Ahhhh, no, they're still pretty confused! They're young guys, maybe they were just getting lucky! No, the nice thing, you look at certain positions like receivers; they're coming out here, they have a fifth-year senior quarterback. In practice-one he knows they might have to play so he has been kind of trying to get them ready all summer. Obviously it's a different speed today than anything you can ever prepare for unless you're together as a team."
You said ‘raise the level of getting ready', what does that translate to? "For them, I mean there's guys that have never had to get ready before. They're getting ready this year is going to be totally different than what it has been in the past, you know. So they have to raise the level of themselves."
"And part of that is last year you were getting ready to be on the scout team, I'm not sure if I'm playing, I'm not sure if I'm redshirting, maybe I'm only on special teams. You're getting ready at a whole new level this year for those guys. And you can see it, especially in the young skill guys today. You see guys tired, getting exhausted a little bit more. Well, that's the preparation, and making sure they're preparing their bodies every day for practice with hydration and food and stretching, and recovery right now. That's what it is all about."
How important is it to get that over at this stage of practice? "It's huge. Because they have to get ready to go play. When you're playing that SEC season is a long season. You've got to learn get your body ready to perform at the highest levels each week. And learning about your body, training camp is a great time, we're putting your body under some extreme conditions. You've got to be able to learn how to handle it and keep the body always ready."
Did you see the upperclassmen doing teaching? "Yeah. We expect those guys to do it, you know what I mean? At each position group, especially early you're getting a lot of individual work within your position group. So you expect your leaders at each group to really set up. They're setting a baseline, setting a bar."
"And there's a bunch of guys getting reps, they have the opportunity to show young guys exactly how to do things the right way."
Talk about Tyler Russell being center of the offense? "For him, you see it, he takes a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. He wants that responsibility, not just in making all the plays but in the leadership of the offense, getting us in the right situations, checking plays even more than we did in the past, and putting more responsibility on him to get the right plays run. You throw that leadership of the young guys at the receiver position that he's got to take care of, it makes it even more so for him. But that is something we've talked about over and over so I know he is ready, that is a mindset he has coming into camp."
How will Brandon Holloway impact the offense? "It will be good. You know, you want to see now, we've got everybody back and we're letting everybody take their reps. You look at the running back position, you're starting to get the depth back. He got a lot of good reps at running back in the spring, now at slot receiver he's a guy we want to be able to use as utility and move him all over the field and try to create mismatches for the defense. So it's time for him to make sure he's got his fundamentals as receiver down but when he can play both positions it makes him very dangerous."
You talked about some guys enjoying the process of becoming good enough to compete in the SEC, what needs to change for that next level? "Well, you just have to keep competing. I mean you've got to find a way to be able to win these close games and win games against the top teams in the league. But it is that process, especially when you have a young team right out here right now. I mean, they want to go play the game, they want to kick it off; they've got to enjoy the entire process. Enjoy that feeling of improving just a little bit one day from the next , from one rep to the next. And enjoy that process and the work that goes into it. A lot of people love the reward. What you've got to do is love the work that leads to that reward, and that's kind of what we're trying to stress to these young guys."
Mississippi State returns to work Friday with a split-squad schedule, half the team practicing at 7:30 am for 90 minutes or so and the other half at 6:00 pm.
EARLY PRACTICE NOTEBOOK: Only one player was held out of the first practice. Offensive tackle Damien Robinson spent the afternoon in the rehab Pit for an undisclosed condition. Robinson is listed co-#1 at right tackle with Charles Siddoway, who took all first-unit snaps today.
Backup QB Dak Prescott and RB Nick Griffin were back to work as usual on opening camp day. Prescott was restricted to passing from a stool during spring, after a turf toe operation. He said it stopped hampering him during summer and he has no problems at all with the right foot now. Griffin was held out of spring entirely after the second knee surgery of his career. He ran the ball and routes with no apparent issues Thursday and said afterwards he feels "about 90%" strength. Both will be featured in days to come after interviews today.
A very familiar if somewhat unexpected name appeared on the first-day roster, but not in drills. Tobias Smith is for now tentatively retired from the game, turning down the sixth-year of eligibility after all his career knee and leg injuries. He served today as in spring, as a graduate aide coach with the offensive line. However, he is entirely eligible in 2013 and could be activated at any moment in an emergency.
Newer faces, at least with this staff, were familiar enough to old Dogs. Former quarterback Sleepy Robinson and offensive lineman Floyd Womack are joining Mullen's staff this fall with official announcements of their duties pending.
The preseason roster showed four more number changes. Linebacker Zach Jackson, who already had swapped his original 45 for 8 over the summer, is now wearing 14. Freshman defensive end Chris Jones, listed to enter wearing 89, reported to practice in 96. Freshman cornerback Gabe Myles was in 35, not 30, while receiver Fred Ross was in 8 instead of 83.
Also, a number of new-for-fall walkons made the 105 (actually 104 as it counted out) man roster for first day of camp. They are: Trey Braswell, RB from Olive Branch, MS; Taylor Henry, WR from Stone Mountain GA; Vance Kareems, WR from Olive Branch; Kelan Chairs, LB from Harvey LA; Mannie Lowery, LB from Hampton, GA; Raheem Roberson, OL from Calhoun City, MS; Andre Barber, OL from Leland, MS; Weston Wagner, OL from Gulfport.
There were several veteran walkons not on the initial roster, but fear not fans. They will rejoin when school starts and the practice team expands to as many as 120 players. Or if some of the new walkons leave they can be replaced.
A full first-day depth chart with freshman positions will be filed this evening separately.