Next 72 Hours Toughest Part Of Training Camp

He hasn't gone all suddenly soft on the squad, understand. Dan Mullen was simply recognizing two realities when Sunday's single practice was moved into the Palmeiro Center's shade. First, that the team put in a tough double-session Saturday. Secondly, that preseason performance has mostly met expectations and some reward was merited.

In fact the only downside that Mississippi State's head coach had to report Sunday afternoon is a number of injuries which have cut into rotations and practice situations. Mullen goes through the complete list at the end of this question-and-answer session with media.

The Bulldogs will have their second two-a-day date on Monday, and two more to follow with a closed Thursday scrimmage in-between.

Coming after the first two-a-day how was Sunday's practice? "Not bad, not bad. We slept in this morning, went to church, and came back. Sometimes when you sleep in and get rested you realize how tired you are. I think we started slow but came along in the end. I loved the effort in the two-a-day yesterday, I was pleased with what we did there. But we started a little slow, and the execution gets sloppy. When you get this time of year you're getting injuries with some guys. I think we're down four wide receivers and two tight ends. So when you're trying to throw the ball it gets a little tricky."

Did you expect this letdown? "Yeah. What it is, we kind of got on them. The practice ended much better than it started because you kind of knew that. We said that in the staff meeting today, that the guys are going to slow down a little bit. Just because they got to sleep in. But overall I'm pretty pleased with our execution that we had today. That is one of the reasons we went inside, we wanted to kind of be clean in our execution. So I was pleased with that."

Is this where having some veterans helps? "We have a lot of veterans? It doesn't see that way out on the field! At some positions we do. We have veteran quarterbacks and O-linemen and running backs when the ones go. But see, when you're in training camp, your ones, twos, and threes are all getting reps. It's not like a game where you just have the veterans, there's a lot of young faces getting a lot of reps.'

So they're fighting through it and learning. Most of our installation is basically done, so now it's just kind of putting it all together and improving."

What has been the learning process for Russell against the new defense, and the defense against him? "You know what, I think it helps. Obviously it helps defensively to have a quarterback who can do different things, that is going to put you in bad situations and can throw the football. He's pretty experienced, he can make a lot of checks and if you get miss-aligned he's going to check into a play that is going to hurt you. So I think that puts a lot of pressure on them in being sound in what they do."

"And anytime as many different looks that we want, I want the defense to give him as many different looks as possible to prepare him for as much crazy stuff as he can see."

You said you looked for intensity to pick up after installation? "Yesterday I did, I was pleased yesterday. A lot of times the first two-a-day, we were outside both practices, it's hot. But they responded, I think they worked really hard. And then today they got a break."

"The next couple of days are when you really see that. We've got five practices in three days so really we're going to see that the next couple of days. This is going to be the toughest part of training camp over the next 72 hours."

How is Dak Prescott practicing? "He's doing good. It's coming, he's working good. He's throwing the ball better at times. I mean he's been inconsistent at times, but I think he threw the ball pretty well today. I was pleased with how he was throwing the ball today."

What has the progression been like from day one to now? "Well, I mean it's a lot, there is so much learning going with guys right now. But you've seen a lot of improvement. One thing that we do, is you don't want to spend a lot of time on just the ‘feel good stuff', you know? Just running plays and seeing guys they do really, really well. You want to see the improvement all along and put guys in some difficult situations, on both side of the ball. I think our coaches have worked hard to do that, our players have responded well to that."

"And I think the team's kind of coming together. In training camp now, especially now that school is over, we're at the hotel, we're locked-away from the rest of the world. This is when that team builds. I mean it's a huge thing, that is this year's team. Even though guys have been around or in the program a long time I mean the shelf life of a team is one year; this is the 2013 team, all we have is the one year together as this specific team. So this is kind of a huge time for them to grow together."

Coach Collins talked about playing being intelligent, but having to anticipate plays? "I think it's translating everything now into game situations. You're going to get more into situational stuff. So guys know what to do, they know how to do it, but all of a sudden you put it into context. OK, now it's in a two minute situation, how do I react and run this stuff in that situation? Hey, we're doing a third down scrimmage, I'm going to play the defense a little bit differently or I'm going to play the offense and blocking a little bit differently, (because) I'm going to get a much different reaction on third down than on first down from the other side of the ball. And I think it's incorporating all of that into what you're doing on the field."

Benardrick McKinney has been all over the field and tallying juice points, have you seen that too? "Well, he being the middle linebacker you've got to be a leader of the defense. So I think its very important for him, and we talk about that, he has to have a lot of emotion, a lot of energy. If he's the leader, he's the guy in the middle of the defense, he's setting that standard. I mean he can't expect anybody to be higher than him, everyone is going to be below him. So wherever he sets it that is as high as we're probably going to go. And I think he's done a good job trying every day, and that's one of the hard things; when you're that guy you can't afford to have a down day. Even emotionally, you're just doing your job and maybe you just don't have the juice, well that's going to lower the juice of everybody else. Because they're not going to go above you, you're the leader. So I think he's done a pretty good job of trying to be that emotional guy on the field and keep that high energy."

Is there a ‘juice guy' or two on offense? "Well, there's a lot of guys that do it. You want your quarterback, but Tyler is not the most emotional guy in the world! Which is OK. The one key to that is though it's hard, Benardrick is that way, Tyler is not. But they know they can feed off of Tyler. Tyler's emotions are going to be shown in different ways. And that's good because you can't pretend it. You can't fake that. So to Tyler, the come in the huddle and when he speaks they listen. So it is him being on top of his game that way, and that kind of that general on the field. Even though he might not be a cheerleader he's going to lead them the right way."

What have the tablet playbooks brought to the table? "I think it is fantastic. That is how kids use things, how they learn. They're even way ahead of me on it all. But I think a lot of times hey, I'm not forgetting my paper, my notebook, and my pen and oh I lost it. You've got your ipad and on it it has your playbook, it's got your offense, defense, special teams, it's got the game film, your practice film, it's got your class notes. I mean it is one thing, it is all you need."

What was the decision to move in that direction? "Well, just keep up in technology. When you look at what is out there, to me we're educators. So what is the best way to educate 18 to 22 year olds, and the best way in which they learn? And for us the ipad really can incorporate anything, not just it has the actual playbook. You can take notes in it but you can add the video aspect, you can add voice overs. So you can really use about four different ways of learning and you can specify on how each kid learns to get them the help that they need."

So the ‘dog ate my playbook' excuse might not go well? "Yeah, that'd be bad if they lose it. It's a much more expensive notebook that they're losing if the ‘dog ate their homework'! But I think the kids like it. I mean that's how they do thing in their world. I'm still learning how to write on it with the pen, what's it called, the stylus? I can use my finger. I mean that's how they take their notes in class, I have the little Brookstone keyboard because I'm more of a typer, I kind of get all my stuff done that way. But I think you've see it, I think it's helped not just in football but in the classroom."

How will other tight ends step in now? "It's kind of tricky. Brandon Hill had a funeral yesterday, and Derrick Milton had a funeral yesterday. But for this time of year it is all about opportunity. It's the next guy in, the next guy up, especially this time of year there's a lot of opportunities out there. We stress for those guys these are the opportunities. Because you're getting a lot of reps with ones and twos and threes; come game day there are 70 reps to be had. So the opportunities are going to start becoming less and less and less and less. So when guys aren't there it kind of opens the door for somebody else to step in and take that opportunity."

Does that change the approach for guys at say wide receiver where players aren't coming back? "I think that position is such a wide-open competition, everybody knows it is your opportunity to perform on a daily basis. There's not anything set in stone. Nothing has been decided at that position I promise you that in the depth chart or any of that stuff who is going to play, who is not going to play, who's starting, what the rotation is going to be, any of that. It is just pure opportunity to see at the end of training camp who has made the most plays, who does things the right way and put us in the best opportunity to get on the field and go."

Will you be watching for more energy Monday morning? "I think we'll be OK. I mean they got to sleep in a little bit today, and we went indoors today. With that, we expect tomorrow to be a grind for them. And we want to make sure that they're prepared to go and give what we're asking."

You and Les Koenning have the longest tenure for head coach and offensive coordinator in this league, how have you lasted this long? "Am I? That's pretty crazy right there. I might have to go and make some changes, I guess! I'll stir it up right now! I read sometimes there are teams that do this, make changes this time of year!"

"I think you know philosophically it is that match. It's always important. I'm more of an offensive-minded head coach and a quarterback-oriented head coach, so you have to have somebody in that position that you're going to meld well with, you know what I mean? That there can become a lot of tension and conflict or one of those things. And I think that Les and I have a good relationship that we're a good fit together. It's kind of how our personalities mesh, that we've not the same because that probably wouldn't work; and we're not completely different, that probably wouldn't work. I think just a nice combination, that certainly helps. I'm the same with a lot of our other offensive coaches."

When you talked about the family aspect of coaching, he had never heard that? "You know what, I think we get lost sometimes in coaching. I want our guys to be honest with you, I look at them and I tell them we might not be able to pay you what other schools in this league pay everybody. But as part of a quality of life here I want our coaches to have a good quality of life. I don't want any coach to look back on our staff and I certainly don't want our kids to look back and say hey, my dad was never around. I know they're probably going to say that already because of how much time we put in."

"But there are certain things, I mean first day of school having your dad able to take you first day of school. Or have your dad take you trick-or-treating or making sure you're s pending time with the family at Christmas. I mean honestly during the season if there is a big Little League game or rec league games that dad can show up and do that. So we might not be able to be the coach like other people do but we're still going to be around enough that you have that great quality of life. So I think that's certainly helped with keeping coaches here because they can look and say hey, you know what, I can be a football coach but I can also can be a husband and a father here as well and live that sort of lifestyle."

INJURY REPORT: "We'll give you the full injury report. Malcolm Johnson is out, he probably won't be back until the start of school. Which is OK. Rufus Warren, sprained ankle, he'll be questionable for the next couple of days. Fred Brown is out with a broken wrist that he did mid-summer. Fred Ross has a groin issue, he's been day to day. Gus Walley is out possibly for the season, he just had to have Tommy John surgery. He's not a pitcher so he has a chance to still come back! But he'll be out. Damien Robinson is back practicing today. Shelby Christy is still red-jersey, that's from the off-season shoulder from before he even got here which is the issue for us because that's four wide receivers and three tight ends. It makes it tricky, there's not a lot of options out there."

"P.J. Jones is back doing individual. There's guys like P.J. and Kaleb (Eulls) who have been dinged-up. Denico Autry had a little wrist deal. To me, we're much slower putting those guys back in because let's give them the chance to make sure they're 100% healthy because you know what they can do. They're all doing individual so they can do other things of that nature."


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