Bulldogs Move Into Season Preparation Phase

They had their day off, if attending the first classes of a new school year as students counts as ‘off'. Regardless, the Bulldogs were back to the athlete half of their identities with a Tuesday practice. "It's a different schedule for everybody," Coach Dan Mullen said. "So you've got to break that in."

The real difference per Mullen is in how and what Mississippi State is practicing now. Two-a-days and sessions on South Farm are finished, so the Bulldogs are back on the north side of campus. They are also just beginning to do some drills that will apply specifically to their opening opponent on August 31.

"Now it's different preparation," Mullen said. "You're not 100% game week, you're cleaning some stuff up still from training camp, but it's a lot more game-week orientation. Now training camp is over, it's focus on getting ready to play the game. It's kind of like a bye week right now, where you're working a bunch on Oklahoma State but you're also working a bunch on fundamentals and cleaning things up from training camp that we want to get fixed."

Jay Hughes said today felt like a game week, do you feel the anticipation building? "Well, that's the focus. And it's better from guys like him as the leaders of a team they need to take that charge and make sure we are transitioning ourselves that way. You know, with school going on guys aren't showing up now ‘til 2:15 with classes all day, in the morning and all that. So it's getting used to that transition, getting used to going to school and not just doing football all the time."

Is the secondary ready for Oklahoma State? "Sure, they're doing good. I mean we'll find out when we go live against them. It's a different offense than what they see in training camp a lot, so I mean that is going to be the interesting thing. That'll be a different challenge for them, a different style offense than they see every day at practice."

Hughes said it's a different feel in the secondary this year, guys are relying on each other more? "Well it has to be. That is what you want in your team, that's what we always tried to build last year, you know. When you look, you want a team that everybody expects to make the play, they're not looking around for someone else to do it. Now last year you had some guys that when we needed it they would always make it. But for us, especially a small senior class, as we keep building this team for a lot of guys when your number is called you're expected to go make the play."

Have you started scout team work? "Oh yeah, we started that the last couple of days, after the scrimmage we did a little bit. Not as much as full-blown as we would be game week, but there is a bunch of scout team work going on."

How has Devon Bell progressed from last year to this year? "He's doing really good, for me. I love for a young player his maturity out there on the field, he takes things very very seriously. You look at him, kickers sometimes can drive you crazy! But Devon is just a very focused, hard worker at everything he does. And I like that. He's still got a lot of room for improvement, he's got a lot of natural talent. It's making it consistent talent every single snap. But he really works hard at doing that."

Do you see that leadership out of Hughes, he said it was difficult last year to tell a John Banks what to do? "Yeah, I do. I mean, Jay is a guy that certainly leads by example. I know that I mean in everything that he does he does things the right way for us. But it is a different role now that he is in that position where not just doing it the right way; he's got to make sure and be vocal about making other guys do it the right way as well."

With a few receivers still limited how is the rotation working in practice? "We're rotating them all, getting ready to see who can play. There's not a lot of experience there. We're going to play anywhere from six to eight receivers in the first game, so we've got to see who's ready to go. And whoever is ready to go we'll roll them out there on the field."

Who takes the leadership role in the receiver group? "Coach Gonzales! RoJo (Johnson) and Jameon (Lewis), they've been around for a while. Now they're not the most vocal guys but they've been around for a while. So when you watch them, I think they're very comfortable leading by example in how to prepare, how to do things the right way even though they might not be used to jumping in other guys' faces. They know how to prepare, how to do things the right way and so that helps."

What makes Oklahoma State's offense tough to defend? "One, they run so many plays. That's a huge deal. All their quarterbacks that they play are very, very accurate. And they spread it around to different receivers. One of the things I believe in and they do a good job of is not always focusing on one guy. Their offense isn't designed to get one guy the ball, it's designed to spread it around and take what the defense gives you. And when you do that it makes you pretty effective."

Do you have to plan on playing more guys on defense? "Yeah, you do. You get ready to do that. That's part of their deal, is getting as many snaps as you can in the course of the game. But we like to rotate a lot of guys on defense, to me a perfect game is people playing about 35 snaps to 40 reps. So if we have to go 45 reps, that's an extra five reps a guy; you can still survive that."

How do you replicate the speed in practice? "It's tough. I mean there's a lot of different ways you can teach it, and you do different drills that maybe are even more speed-oriented than execution-oriented drill. And try to go even faster so they're used to the speed. Mix other parts of things that have the speed and the execution as well. So there's a lot of different variables we use."

Is there a specific drill for deflecting passes or speed drills? "Yeah, but it's incorporated into a lot of different things when you prepare for a team. There's about five or six different things that you do that as you change scout teams you change to get things ready, that's what you do."

Some defensive guys like P.J. Jones and Denico Autry have been dinged-up, is this the point you get them back more reps? "Yeah, everybody is getting ready to go now. You've got to get ready for the game week. Even the older guys. Now when you're down to one a day they're getting their reps, and getting ready to play the game. To me it's guys that have played a lot know how to get ready to play the game, it's getting them ready to go play."

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