"We say to a guy run to through that brick wall for you, that's what we want," Mullen said. "They've got to trust. We'd never ask them to do such a thing! But that together as a family, that we do have that trust in each other."
There were certainly Sunday opportunities for Bulldogs to run into walls, as the fourth working day of preseason camp was spent entirely inside the Palmeiro Center. That too was something of a ‘trust factor' but on the part of Mississippi State coaches. They trusted that taking the team out of noontime heat would not relax their practice pace, and to all indications the faith was fulfilled as the Dogs turned in a solid session.
Sunday was a second partial-pads day, though observers could understandably mistake the game pants and their built-in padding as ‘full' gear. It wasn't and tackling was not part of the day-four program. Though try telling that to wide receivers and defensive backs, who went after each other with vigor and often outright aggression. Fortunately the Palmeiro Center's support beams had some padding that was well-used today, whether balls were caught or not.
The first few days have taken some toll on the team, not least the first team defense now. Both starting defensive tackles were sidelined, P.J. Jones with a boot on the left ankle and Kaleb Eulls. They were restricted to the rehab area, though Jones often had to be sent back as several times he left to go emotionally support a defensive line-mate during drills when tempers flaired.
OT Damien Robinson missed another day of practice in rehab, but Mullen said the junior could be back in action this week. RB Nick Griffin spent some rehab time as well, taking just a few drill-snaps with his group and watching team work. Two true freshmen receivers were in red jersies, meaning they could—and they did—practice but entirely hands-off to the defense. Fred Ross and Shelby Christy ran routes just fine and looked nearly ready for full action again soon.
This was the last practice open to public and media. The Bulldogs will be on their South Farm practice field this week. A Notebook on Sunday's practice events and depth chart adjustments will be filed later today. Coach Mullen's post-practice comments follow.
There seemed a lot of effort today, such as offensive and defensive players running into the walls to keep plays going? "Yeah, we've got to expand this out a couple of steps there! But know what, that is great effort that the guys are giving. It just shows that we talk about effort is something you can control. Talent, you're always working at that. But effort is something that you have total control over, and when you want to be successful you have to maximize that effort."
Some young receivers might not know the plays but they are catching everything? "Yeah, they have some skill. One of the things that we've talked to a lot of the young players that are out here right now, there are a lot of young, talented players right now. They key is on them continually focus on your technique, on your skill. It's good to see that you have the talent but if you want to become a great player you have to master the techniques. So I like the talent that you see out here, you know we've got to keep working on the skill and the technique." In general what have you seen the first days of practice? "I like the attitude of the team. There are a lot of guys we're putting in roles that they haven't been in before. They're repping now with the ones, they're repping with the twos and quality two reps and getting in the rotation. To compete in the SEC you've got to have solid depth and the next guy has always got to be ready to step in. and it looks like a lot of the young guys have come with that attitude."
Depth showed today on the defensive line as you sat the top two tackles? "Yeah, Kaleb (Eulls) and P.J. (Jones) got kind of dinged-up yesterday at practice. They've played a bunch, no need to force them onto the field. It forces other guys to step up into that role and see what they can do."
Is the competition at cornerback good? "It is. At that position when you've got two guys leave to go to the NFL, they leave wide-open position for those guys. It is pretty exciting. And there is talent at those guys and guys that want to get onto the field. As guys work when they have that deal, that competition, I think it improves everybody's performance at the position. It picks up everybody's level of play because you know if you miss a rep or miss something out there on the field you might not get that back, somebody else is out there trying to take your job. And every rep you're fighting for is very valuable."
Do you see Coach Townsend and the cornerbacks clicking? "Yeah. I mean with Deshea you're looking at his comfort being out here. I mean the difference from the pro game to coaching in the college game. But I do think when he talks all those guys want to go do what he did. He's talking from experience of this is what I personally did, on top of here's coaching and techniques and the scheme that we're using."
You spent a lot of time with Nick James yesterday, what were you working on? "Well with a lot of these young D-linemen that we have, that have a lot of athletic ability, a lot of talent potential, you know raw talent. What they a lot of times in their career have been able to get away with just their size and their speed. What they start to realize is when they go against as big as they are that now technique takes over; and if you don't have the right technique you're going to get dominated."
"And they get frustrated when that happens, they've always been talented and now they get frustrated. What they have to do now is continue to work their technique, if they're going to do it. If they're not exact technique-wise they're going to have a hard time succeeding."
It's early in camp but is the first offensive line getting settled? "Well, we've got Damien Robinson who got hurt this summer in conditioning, he'll be back in the next couple of days. I know he's going to want to compete for some playing time in that first offensive line. But the rest of the guys you feel good about. As you know you're always a snap away from somebody else having to go in there. It's nice you've got Tobias Smith there in the bullpen potentially."
Is that what we call him now? "I mean he might come in in the ninth, close the game out in the ninth inning! We might be able to get an inning out of him or something here or there. So we've got him sitting down in the bullpen just in case there's drastic injuries."
What has music added to practice? "Well, I just think its fun. At practice sometimes it can get kind of monotonous to the guys this time of year with how many practices we have over and over. It makes it fun for them, lightens it up. It makes them have to concentrate, too, a lot of noise and distraction out there. And DJ John Clark out there mixing the tunes for us."
He's mixing the tunes up, too, rap and country and pop? "Oh yeah, we've got to ‘culture' the guys up too! You're culturing the coaches, you're culturing the players. Everybody is kind of learning a little bit of culture."