"So we do the smart thing which is move inside, and of course no more storms come at all! If we had stayed it would probably still be thundering and lightning. I'm kind of a rainmaker to be honest with you, if we can schedule practice outdoors it's gonna rain." Locals should probably carry umbrellas Wednesday morning then, because Mississippi State has a 9:15 am session scheduled.
The good word is that Mullen and staff were able to turn the unplanned and fast transition from one part of campus to another, from outdoors to inside, into a test of the team. Which they passed. "I think our guys had pretty good focus, adapted to it well. We started first part of practice outside, had a little adversity, to pay attention I guess it's their focus. You get that big distraction, come back in, refocus and get back to work without any really missing a step. I was pretty proud of our guys for doing that today."
Did you go outside Monday? "No, we were inside again yesterday. It was the first rain in about ten days. It's unbelievable, we even moved practice at the farm later because normally it rains about 4:00 every day. The last three years, we did study, generally the average rainstorm comes at 4:00. So we bumped it back to 5:30 so it could blow through, it started raining at 5:30."
So that study was a waste? "Yeah, I tell you, I might get some phone calls to bring me into different drought parts of the country. We're going to schedule practice around the country at different locations, if you have an issue we might schedule a practice there!"
Does the focus shift with pads on now? "Well, we're still really in installation kind of with the way we have it set up this year. The school is the biggest thing that's different for us this year. I mean we're still in classes and final exams don't end until Friday this week. Basically training camp is in school, we have about five-and-a-half hours during the day our guys are in class now."
"So we're still in installation, heavy installation. We're going to scrimmage a little bit Thursday, then classes end Friday; then kind of re-shift. Installation will be pretty much done, we're going to have a scrimmage after that. and then to me it's pretty much phase two which is training camp. We start our two-a-days Saturday after move into the hotel, get school finished with, installation with, and get down to work."
You had players leave for the NFL at cornerback and receiver, but there are a lot of good athletes competing for the jobs? "Right now with the receiver position just with some guys with some dings and injuries and the young guys learning how to fight through it certainly is a challenge. But it is a great opportunity for young guys to come in and play right away. And how we've had it, when you take guys like Robert Johnson and Joe Morrow, they've been waiting in the wings. Now they step up. Plus young coming in and fusing that talent at receivers it's pretty exciting, some guys have the opportunity to get on the field."
"And really the same at corner. Jamerson Love is a guy we had really high expectations for, he's kind of bided his time and he's put himself into the position to learn to make plays, and now he's a go we're going to depend on. Same with Justin Cox, he just took a different route to get here with it."
About the ‘juice' that seems a buzzword this year? "Yeah, the juice. You've got to have some juice in camp. That's Geoff's (Collins) thing. I don't know, the juice points don't get reported to the head coach every day. It's kind of a defensive deal within their room. But if I do see people not very excited then I guess I can yell no juice points for you! (Like) the Soup Nazi!"
How important is a veteran offensive line for a young team? "It certainly helps. It's great in terms of practice especially. Because usually that's the guys that are catching up, when you're on the practice field you get a lot more accomplished because of the experience, because of what we're depending on those guys to be. And I think with a lot of young linemen that we have here now they can look at that group and say OK, boy the bar has been set pretty high, the standard is high. Right from day-one of practice we have to be guys that play together and perform at a high level. But we're counting on those guys to be very, very solid for us. And hopefully, it's a position you'd like to stay healthy because I think we have even some depth we can do a little bit of rotation with that group. But you'd love to be able to keep doing that by keeping them all healthy."
Are you taking notes of what freshmen might make you play them? "Well, they can. But also that to me is something we keep talking about… I'm getting old now because it only seemed like a little while ago but I guess it's a long time ago, when you had freshman practice, the freshmen would come in early and you get really some quality time to spend with them and teach them fundamentals. So one of the things you wanted to do is split practice so we get that time to really focus on them."
"Because when you go full-team a lot of them, you're coaching; but that personal gets lost in the shuffle. Not that you're not being personal with them. The older guys maybe can understand when you're not being personal, the younger guys are looking at it maybe is he yelling at me, is he joking with me, I don't even know what he said because it sounded like Chinese, he was talking fast, telling me to read the safety and something? But when you have that split practice it allows you that time to really spend with them. It is too bad that you don't get to spend that acclimation time with the freshmen separately."
Are there things you look for to tell a freshman can get on the field? "Yeah, it won't be for a while. We want to see as it sinks in how much they can comprehend. It's great day-one of installation when we're not doing much, and telling them exactly what to do. Then you start adding more moving parts, can they adapt to those moving parts? Because it's going to be more moving parts on Saturdays."
"So that will be a huge deal for us. But there are some talented guys that are going to put themselves in position to get on the field and make plays for us this year."
At SEC Media Days, Steve Spurrier said all 14 coaches agree on some form of stipend for players, is that true? "Nobody talked to me much at Media Day, it was right after (Johnny) Manziel, I got off easy! Yeah, I think it is. For our guys that are out here, the amount of time they put in year-round it's hard, they don't have time with the amount of commitment they're making to go get a part-time job that a lot of other college students are going to have time to go do."
"So I think that ability for a lot of guys just to have a little bit of spending money in your pocket, that they have the ability to go out and get a pizza on a Friday night. They get to maybe take a girl out on a date and have $20 to go do it. I think when you look at the stipends the numbers everyone is talking to is kind of what maybe a college kid would have in his pocket to go out and be a regular guy."
"So I'm a big, big proponent. I know all of the issues, I understand all the massive issues that make sense for football, but does it make sense for every sport; but you can't do it for one sport and not for others. So I understand the issues, but it would be great for these guys if they could figure something out to give them the opportunity to put a couple of dollars in their pocket."
Talk about the battle at running back? "It is. There's some good depth, there's some guys that are battling for that time. I think that always keeps the level of play high. Even a guy like (LaDarius) Perkins who is a returning 1,000-yard rusher, when he watches guys make plays he knows that hey, I'd better be on my A-game or one of these guys is going to start taking my carries away from me. So I think that raises everybody's level of play."
Does playing Oklahoma State make the schedule different? "You know what, it hasn't changed our schedule at all. Early in the season you're trying to make sure we're developing for the long term of the season."
"I think it certainly changes your attention though, you know what I mean? The focus you guys have in camp is that, they know that there is a big, big game looming; where a lot of times in training camp you're just worried about the next practice or when does training camp end and we get into that game-week routine and change it up. I think it's different when you're going to a top-15 team game one. In the back of their minds that game is still there, looming."
"I think for all of us it is more kind of a mental deal. We haven't changed how we're going about our practices an our installation, and all that stuff. But it is more in the psychological deal in your mind than what we're actually doing."