Thus, while the rest of the Bulldogs were excused around 5:30 Wednesday, the frosh were kept on the far practice field for some running, or rolling, or three-point hopping, and all sorts of other conditioning-type stuff. It wasn't the bodies being toned-up, though, but the minds and hearts per their coach.
"Making sure they know what our expectations are around here," said Mullen, who didn't seem overly surprised college kids could lapse in their initial semester in some areas. But he also wanted to adjust those attitudes now in Mississippi State's open date. Or what the coach called a ‘pseudo bye-week' earlier in the day during his SEC teleconference.
That is because the Bulldogs (3-3, 0-2 SEC) next play on a Thursday evening when they host Kentucky in a 6:31 game at Scott Field. So instead of a full free weekend this time, Mullen is allowing them just Saturday and part of Sunday off. If, he added, there are no other academic items to address following the Thursday update he receives.
State has already had Tuesday and Wednesday practices, and will have two more before the short break.
The first six games you've gone through a lot of injuries and players, what has it been like for you? "It is a lot of injuries, I don't know if I've ever had this many it seems like before. I'm sure we have, but it just seems like a lot. Injuries in the secondary, injuries on the line. Running back, quarterback, everywhere. But you know what, that's what I do and fortunately within our program we try to prepare a lot of guys to get ready to go. We recruit guys to come play. And a lot of guys have got opportunities that maybe weren't thinking were going to get opportunities, and they've taken advantage of them and done a great job."
In August if you'd known all those situations would happen where would you think you would be now? "Boy, I don't know. I'm sure I would say hey, I hope somebody steps up and next guys steps in and does their job. You know, that's where it is. It's always hard, you never know when you come into a season. I was looking at the teams we've faced, someone showed me that they're 28-10 or something, one of the hardest schedules in the country. I might not have thought like the first half of our schedule actually, opponent-record-wise is tougher than the second half of our schedule. Nobody would have guessed that."
It's a one or two game difference between the halves? "Yeah, it doesn't soften up all that much for us! But you know, I mean that's part of what it is. But you didn't know how that's all going to play out when the season starts."
Have you seen guys step up as you hoped? "Absolutely. Absolutely. And there are some guys haven't stepped up as much as they need to. But I think they've learned that and had an opportunity and they've taken advantage of that opportunity. Maybe right at that moment they didn't but they made sure they got themselves ready to go in the future."
The 4th-and-4 on the eight yard line against Bowling Green, how much did Devon Bell's struggles play into that decision? "None. I'm sure he would have made that, I mean we'd make that over and over. I don't know, if we would have lost the game I would have been called a dummy, I mean we won the game so I look I guess smart. Whether a smart move or not, it's one of those gut feelings you have. I mean, just looking at the situation I had the gut; I felt this is the situation I want to go for, I think we can get it. Almost did."
Are you worried about Devon from a mental standpoint? "No, you know what, he's a pretty mentally tough kid. He's done a really good job this week at practice of not worrying, about his technique, his fundamentals he's been really good at practice this week. It's just working technique, we change one little thing on his plant foot with that. And when you talk to him he's very professional about doing his job. It's not like ohhh, the world is coming to an end. We adjusted one thing with his plant foot and it seems to be helping. And he's very conscious of working on that stuff."
You mentioned this morning third downs on offense and defense, and two-minute defense. How do you address that this week? "We've done some two-minute situations at practice. I mean you just try to make sure guys…it's one of those deals you don't always get the intensity of a real two-minute situation sometimes at practice during the week. So this is an opportunity where we can turn up the intensity and pick some situations to change and work on it a little bit more."
Last bye week the guys had a weekend off, what is the plan for this week? "Well, right now tomorrow is a ‘Monday'; Friday is a ‘Tuesday', then they're off to Sunday night…if the academic report comes back good tomorrow at my academic meeting. We're here to get an education, so…"
You mentioned trying to get some guys healthy, how are they coming along? "Good. We'll see, I mean we've held a lot of guys out the two days we've practiced this week. And even the guys that are starters, they just did a little bit more of individual stuff and just two-minute. You know, kind of picked and chose what we want those guys doing, and get a lot of young guys reps."