Monday Press Conference With Dan Mullen

"I had a pretty good night, throwing the ball. I was loosening the arm up, getting ready to go. I've got to petition the NCAA to maybe take a few snaps out there! I know that's probably everybody's biggest question or concern, I wish I had a better answer for you."

[See full video of Dan Mullen's press conference at the bottom of this complete transcript.]

"But I'll let you be as frustrated as I get sometimes and I'll give you my trainer's response: ‘well, everybody is day to day right now'. It sounds like the weather report, right? 50% chance of rain today, pretty safe saying that right? 50% chance of sun, 50% chance of rain."

"No, we've got to see what's going on with those guys as the week goes on. As I said, they came in, they're getting better, they get treatments today. We don't practice again until tomorrow afternoon. So we'll see where everybody is at at that point. If not…"

"Fortunately, you know you sit there sometimes scratch your head and say boy I wonder if it was right to play Damian (Williams) at all this year. And at this point it's looking like it was the right decision, thank goodness we did that for a situation. Give him a lot of credit on Saturday night, to sit there and say hey, go get it big guy and to come in and perform. You know, obviously liked to have seen him perform at even a higher level. But he came in, the stage wasn't too big for him. He was ready to go, came in and made a couple of nice throws and filled-in. I think in his mindset, he'll get himself ready to play this week if he's got to be our guy, if he's got to start for us depending on the health of the other guys."

"The rest of the injury status for us this week, it's pretty much status-quo. Talking to the trainers there wasn't a whole lot. We've got a couple of guys with the flu out right now, but that happens I guess this time of year. Deontae Skinner, they said again day-to-day, they think he should be good, that he was really close to playing. They said like a state-of-emergency of guys being able to play. But you have to look out for the health of young men and long-term futures. Hopefully all of his symptoms all go down and he's able to play this week which would be the thought."

"This weeks' game, a great, challenging game for us. You look at the type of team they have right now, Brett a first-year coach you're trying to get into the program he's trying to build right there. It looks like they're playing a lot of young players, have some very talented guys. They have two extremely talented running backs and a big, big physical offensive line. One of the better running teams in the conference, and have run it on everybody. You look at the average, sometimes averages can be deceiving statistically speaking, they've had success running the ball on every team in the league. So that's a challenge on that side of the ball."

"And defensively they've got a great front, they cause a lot of pressure on you. You watch them on film, I think they've played good defense. They've been bit a lot by big plays it seems like to be because you watch them play good defense, play good defense and then all of a sudden there's three big plays and they're giving up points. So the challenge part for that is I don't think you can go into a game saying we're just going to just go bombs away or look and hope we get the three 80-yard touchdown passes. Because you want to play consistent offense. I think they're going to be physical outfit, a big physical front, we're going to have some challenges moving the ball on them."

How many first-team reps has Damian had this season?
"I think he had nine or ten first-team reps Saturday night, maybe 12? I forget the number. He hasn't gotten a lot of first-team reps, he got a couple last night, but those are also watered-down first-team reps because the first team really doesn't practice much on Sunday, so it's kind of the normal crew he's in there with."

"We'll see. I think a lot will depend on tomorrow, and a lot depends I guess that available or being able to play question that comes up which it always sounds iffy. A trainer says he's available but he's not going to be very effective out there on the field; that's a tough decision to make. To me, I have to make decisions as a coach almost as a parent, you know. That's your son you want to put out there. For me, myself, I'll chop my finger off and go play; so your finger is going to bother you, I've got nine other ones. We're that crazy, nuts sometimes. But looking at kids, we treat these guys like they're your kids, you're a lot more cautious with them probably than I am with myself. Not a very healthy way to live and I'm sure my wife doesn't appreciate that! But that's the reality of the situation, so you want to try not to let them play. And if Damian's healthy and the other guys aren't, well, we'll go with Damian."

At the end of second half it seemed you have a problem running with that goal line-backfield?
"Well, Perk does a good job. Perk's got a lot of good short-yardage runs for us, and ran in a lot of short-yardage runs. What did we get it down to, second-and-one. We missed a block up front, so it didn't matter how big a back we had in. Not a missed assignment, we just missed a block, so it didn't matter how big a back we had in there. When you have a 310-pound guy four yards deep in the backfield not much is going to happen for you in that situation."

"Third down we went to the pass, end up with a penalty; and third down honestly we were planning on going for it there on fourth down. I was hoping to score on third down to be honest with you! But if that didn't work we were planning on going for it in that situation. The question came up of why they took the penalty? Because I think they thought we were going to go for it again on fourth-and-one and said hey let's make it where we have to stop them on third down where they're definitely going to take the field goal; than a fourth-down and short play where we have run/pass options available to us and put it a little more statistically in their favor. So that was that situation."

You mentioned Brett Bielema's note sent to you after Nick Bell's passing, how much of a surprise was that?
"It was. You are surprised. Because you get calls from different people, and you have things that go on. You get a call from Nick (Saban) or Les Miles or something like that, they're in the conference, you see them all the time; they give a quick call wishing you the best. I know it's a tough situation. But to get that; to take the time to write a full letter out and send another thing with it, I thought it was a really neat deal. And not knowing him, just seeing him from afar, I think I'd met him once at the Fiesta Frolic type of deal they used to have. It just shows the type of character of a man that he is. And it's little things like that I tell our guys, I try to think that way too in my life. You don't know how you're impacting other people, try to do the right thing. He probably doesn't even remember writing the letter maybe, but it had an impact on me and I think that just shows the character he has as a coach and how I think all of us for the most part try to live our lives."

How does the defense build on what might have been their best game?
"Well, play better. It wasn't good enough. I mean, a great defensive game is to hold them to one less point than we scored; and a great offensive game is score one more point than we give up, is how you look at it."

"But I thought we played physical. And the matchup I don't know how much it a relates to this week's game. Because they like to run the ball and they're a big, physical running team. So I think that last game and this game can tie together. We've got to get in the cold tank and get all the bruises healed up and everybody kind of healthy and get ready for another punch-in-the-mouth, physical game. The last game of the season, I think they're a little bit more spread you out, run around, and more open field game. So I think you can look at the last game and say that kind of ties to this or whatever. But every game in its own way has it's kind-of uniqueness. You kind of know what you're getting when you're playing Alabama, you knew that going in. And we're expecting a physical game."

What makes Little Rock a difficult place to play?
"I don't' know, I think anywhere on the road is tough to play in the SEC. I don't know that it's more difficult there than it is in Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge or Auburn, or here in Starkville. I think a lot of people think it's awfully tough to come here to play. And a lot of that is the passion of the fan base."

"Obviously I'm not happy that we didn't win the game compared to other games, but a lot of people have said we played well on Saturday. Lo and behold it was our best environment, loudest crowd, we had our best recruiting weekend. All of these things tie-in together. It's amazing how that works."

"And you're going to Little Rock, a place where their fans are very passionate about playing. It's a loud, hostile environment and that always gives you a great homefield advantage in this league and it makes it always very difficult. Our fans gave us that Saturday night, made it difficult for Alabama to come in play in, inspired our kids to play at a high level. And certainly that helps you in recruiting an awful lot as well."

Players seem more focused and encouraged by the progress they see?
"I think that's important for us as we're building the program and continue to build the program in the future. I think our young guys, a couple of things I want when you have young players is one you have to get them to understand to expect to make the plays. Don't look around for other guys to make the plays."

"I go back last season, on defense a lot of times guys would be looking around at a key moment of the game. One that really jumps out to you of a whole season, Tennessee get all the momentum, they're making play, play, play. And lo and behold there's John Banks ripped the ball out, recovers the fumble, does everything all on his own. And everyone's like that's why you're the captain, that's why you're here. He's the guy to make the play."

"And I think young guys sometimes are looking to who is that guy, instead of saying hold on, that guy is me and everyone out here. I'm the guy that is going to make a big play to win the game and I expect to do that. That is a step that you come forward. But I do think with our young guys, that also is important, they look at this and again it might sound funny, that we're 4-6 of saying that we're not that far off. I think our guys look and are realizing we're not that far off and if I make my plays…stop looking for somebody else, I'm the one that needs to make this play. And when a young team starts thinking that way instead of getting discouraged, instead of saying what the problem is, when they look and can say we're really not that far off and I'm going to be the guy to expect to make the plays moving in the future, great things can happen to you. So I do think that shows bright for us as we continue to build the program here."

With the talk swirling at Southern Cal and Texas A&M, or with Florida, how do coaches deal with what the last couple of weeks and all the stuff surrounding other jobs when you have jobs to handle?
"You always just have to completely block that out. Like one question, are you on the hot seat? Well, I hate to break it to you, if you're coaching in the Southeastern Conference…I've been on the hot seat here for five years now. I mean go over to Tuscaloosa and ask, you might not think…wait ‘til they lose a game. If we had won on Saturday night he'd be on the hot seat! You're about a game away in this league from that situation."

"The SEC and the passion in the SEC, moreso than everywhere else maybe except for the NFL…but you can still lose six games in the NFL and win a Super Bowl probably. You lose six games in this league, look out. That just comes with the territory and I think you have to accept that as part of coaching in this league. To be honest with you with all that stuff the toughest part is not on the coaches, I'm in my office from 7:00 in the morning ‘til 11:00 at night, I don't really see normal people in public. Except for you guys! And I don't think you're that normal!"

"One of things I think is always tough on us is families. When Will's (Muschamp) kid has to go to school, when my wife has to go to the grocery store, Brett's wife goes out for dinner. When you get in this league sometimes your families are out there in public a lot more, and that is a huge stress to me. If I ever think about one thing, I'm much more concerned about any effect it has on my family than it has on me. I mean, like you guys know I deal in the realities. I'm so far past last Saturday's game into this week's game. Some say do you think of your record; I have to think about what our record right now to even thik of what it is, to take your focus off the task at hand which is beating Arkansas."

"But I think it is tough on families sometimes around the league. And with Kevin (Sumlin) I'll put it this way: you're either on your way out the door because you're winning or on the way out the door because you're losing. I guess for Kevin you'd rather be out the door for winning than losing. Peoples' opinions of me around here, I've had both and I'll take the winning over the losing. And I'm still here, plan on being here a long time."

It almost seems you and Bielema have the same personality?
"I don't know that. But I will say this, I think to survive as a coach in the Southeastern Conference you'd better have some confidence. I think I'm a pretty shy, introverted person in some ways; and a pretty humble guy. If you ask some people who know me they'd think the complete opposite!"

"But when you come in, and very much like me, you're trying to put your personality into your program. People often say to me maybe I don't needle as much, you know, the school up north or other people much as I used to. I haven't changed that. I think it just comes off that I'm not new and out-there all that much, that they know where we are so the program is a little bit more established. Brett is not going to change who he is and the type of football they play. That's his personality, he's that type of coach. Now three years from now it will sound a little differently to everybody. So everybody's got their own deal though!"

What did you see from Evan Sobiesk's missed field goal?
"I was more disappointed with his extra point than his field goal. I might sound crazy right there. But I think he hit the field goal clean, he just aimed the wrong way. I mean we looked at his plant-foot, we were on an angle and he aimed way too far an angle. He had great height, great explosion, it was dead-straight kick. So in the ways of coaching that right there he kicked it with a lot of confidence. The PAT was a little bit shakier, the second kick after he missed the first one he looked a little shakier even though he made that one."

"The one thing the guys know, we do have confidence. Those are little things that we're always working to fix. And you look, you have a true sophomore and a redshirt freshman kicking for you a lot. They're young guys coming in big situations and are still trying to figure it out. Both of them, Devon (Bell) and Evan, have enough talent that when they get 100% on their technique and 100% on their confidence we could have some of the better kickers in the league. Just right now they're kind of dealing with making sure the technique is right and then with the confidence issue on top of that, that's always huge. That comes from outside, they know inside the building we have confidence in them. I guess I've got to make it harder for them at practice or scarier for them at practice. They seem to do well at practice, I must not be intimidating enough at practice. It used to be they were more nervous at practice of me standing over their shoulder than they were in games. Now it's gone the opposite way, I must be too nice."

What is the mindset of the team needing two wins to go bowling, and not trying to win ‘two games' Saturday?
"Well, yeah, we just need to win on Saturday. With them the focus obviously is all about this. We talked about the Texas A&M game was a great learning experience; I know we needed to come back and score a couple of touchdowns, well you can't score the second one until you score the first one. And what did we score, 21 points in the fourth quarter? ‘Boy we've got to score all these points'. No, you don't. You've got to score the first one and then worry about the second one next. Our guys have been able to do that."

"I was talking to the team, I didn't even know this when I brought it up to the team. Just historically speaking of things this team can accomplish, if we win the next two games and finish 6-6, that doesn't seem like a banner season. But we will have won in the state of Arkansas against Arkansas for the first time in the history of the University, in 100-something years. That's pretty historical. We'd have gone to four consecutive bowl games for the first time in 100-some years. So in historical context there's an awful lot of things this team can accomplish. They're not going to be the next team to go win something, they're going to be the first team to do something."

"So our guys in the motivation of winning this week and finding a way to get to a bowl game if we're able to win this game, there's an awful lot to play for in every one of the game. Never winning in Arkansas before, I don't know how many times that we've won four out of five Egg Bowls. I know we have but I'm going to say in quite a long time, like well before I was born. 1940s? So before most of you were born, right? I mean Jim (Ellis) called that game here! So in the historical context of the team we talk about that, as we want to build a championship team we're building a foundation. There's a lot of programs out there the foundation was built and they're doing something that's been done before. Where we're trying to build a foundation to do things that haven't been done before. And I think our kids really can understand that and see the positives and the opportunity to go do that. And they want to take advantage of it."

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