Mullen, Dogs Dive Into 2014 Preseason Work

No, the unseasonably cool conditions weren’t THAT unseasonable. Dan Mullen was wearing the windbreaker today for another reason. “It’s a ‘fat jacket’. I had a good summer! Not in Coach Court’s part of the building either, some quality eating establishments. So I have my rubber jacket on for training camp now.”

Soon enough Mullen and everyone else will be back to serious August sweating. And really, it could have been sizzling Thursday and still everyone involved with Mississippi State football would have been happy to hit the practice field. This was the opening day of 2014 camp, and whether from energies pent-up since spring ball or the high hopes for the coming season, or most likely both, it was a good way to begin preseason.

Just ask the head coach. “It’s great to be back on the field. I know I’m fired-up to be out there doing football. Our players, you see the energy, the excitement, they’re juiced and excited to be out there playing. This is why we work, to go play. Our coaches, I think everybody, the trainers, everybody’s excited to be out there on the field getting back to some football action.”

“I thought the guys came out today with great energy, great excitement, ready to go play. And I’m pleased. Obviously they don’t let us put pads on, so you’ve got to be careful, keep everybody safe, and limit a little bit what you do these first couple of days for safety concerns. But put stuff in, we threw stuff at people. We have such a wide mix on the team from old to young guys. Training camp is going to be a lot of different things to a lot of different people this fall. But overall I’m just thrilled to be out there, I’m fired-up, juiced, ready to keep going.”

Players have talked about how many were working on their own this summer, what does that tell you about the team? “It’s great. One, it tells you you’ve got a lot of leadership amongst the team. You have guys that are setting the standard within their position group, within the offensive, defensive units and overall on the whole team.”

”A lot of the young guys are going to follow the lead. I mean even the redshirt freshmen and even some sophomores are still trying to figure out what’s going on. But when you have guys that have played a lot of football, that are setting the standard very high in what they’re doing, how hard they’re working, how much they’re putting in; you know, it’s easier to follow that than trying to get it done any other way.”

Have you had a group take initiative like that here? “No. I think 2010 we had a good group of really older players. But I think they were still getting used to what the program was and how to be a great team. I think by the end of the year that group obviously figured it out.”

”But I think this group, when you look at the experience guys have, the competition out there… The defensive side of the ball when you have a lot of guys with playing experience coming back, the competition is huge to get your reps. Everybody knows that. So you’re looking at somebody else doing something, you say I’d better do more than him if I want to go play. And you have that at the key positions on the offensive side of the ball as well.”

Ben Beckwith talked about working this summer to speed up the offense, what is behind changing up the offense? “Well, I don’t know if we’re going to do that. We’re a ball control team and all that stuff. But to me, we want to wear people down. I think there are a couple of times wher a younger team last year that we maybe wore down in the fourth quarter playing deeper teams. Having that depth, getting all those guys ready, and having the ability to wear people down is huge.”

”But our priorities in how we run our scheme is all going to be the same.”

How much does it pay off in summer conditioning having almost everyone on campus? “The number-one thing, it changes the safety. It changes how you do things through conditioning tests and all that stuff. I mean I got the wrong strength coach in here I guess if we have to do all that stuff! But I think with the safety, you know all these guys have been out there, been conditioning, been running, been training and in the weightroom. More so I guess for the younger guys and bigger guys you know where their level of fitness is going to be coming into camp. Especially here with all the heat we have, it’s just huge. You’re always worrying about safety but that’s one part you’re not thinking about all the time, our guys should be in shape.”

Do you expect any further clearances for new players? “Well we can only bring 105 to camp. So there’s still a lot more possibilities with other people coming out there. But we’ll see how the NCAA plays that out and then make decisions from there. The 105 that are here, that’s always a fluid situation with guys potentially coming and going. But we’re always going to have 105 in camp!”

Is Ferlando Bohanna still participating as a coach? “Yeah, he’s working as a student assistant coach right now. We went back-and-forth with the decision whether to medical redshirt or not, or try to come back. I think he could have been cleared to play. And where concussions are with him and people right now, it was a great discussion he and I sitting down. Saying hey, he’s more comfortable redshirting and playing out his last year as a coach, helping other guys just in his long-term future.”

Chris Jones said he’s more serious this year, have you seen that already? “Well I don’t know, we’ve been out there for two hours! Ask me that in three weeks!”

What is your early impression on Rashun Dixon? “I don’t know, because again we’ve been on the field for two hours, and no pads on or any of that stuff. But my experience with guys like that, he just seems to have that demeanor. Just a little bit older guys, a little more maturity, he’s been through a lot more. He’s not coming off the high school field out here to practice, he’s coming off professional fields out here to practice. I think he has maybe a better grasp of what it is to be a pro and how to handle your business than some of the younger high school guys. So I think the adjustment will be pretty easy.”

Around the SEC more teams are going to closed practices, what are the benefits? “We’ve done it before with both. I mean, our philosophy right now is I want our guys focused on our goals of becoming a championship program this year. The spring, we open every practice up so that gives everybody that opportunity, you’re a longer way off. We’re down now to 28 practices until we play so I want that focus and locked-in a little bit more than maybe the sideshow of opening practice. You always hear me say a guy will run the wrong route, make a great catch and everybody claps and cheers. I don’t want that distraction, I want them knowing they ran the wrong route no matter what they did, we’ve got to get it fixed.”

The NFL is charging for admission to practice, do you see that in college in the future as a profit to be made? “Well, I tell you what, that’ll be told me I’m sure by our athletic director! If we can sell tickets to practice and people buy them and jack up prices on hot dogs and Cokes and all that stuff, I might get a memo saying you know what, we’re opening up some practices right now!”

”But I don’t know that that’s the goal of everybody. But how much college football has changed the last couple of years, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Is everyone full-health for the start of camp, such as Jay Hughes and Justin Malone? “Yeah, we had all 105 out there practicing today. That’s a pretty good deal. If they’re not in the 105 and were on scholarship last year, chances are they’re on medical redshirt or transferred.”

What is Dee Arrington’s situation? “Dee, same thing, medical redshirt. Trent Simpson I think is going to transfer, I think he’s really going to try to go back and focus on baseball.”

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