Mullen Provides Friday Practice Update

Never mind they are into the second stage of preseason practicing; or that they’ve been working down on the Farm for several days already. “Really training camp started today,” Coach Dan Mullen declared.

Today as in Friday, as Mississippi State ran through the morning session with all players unencumbered by external distractions. The second summer semester ended Thursday evening with final exams so that is off everyone’s mind. Plus, Bulldogs are making their transition from regular residences to lodging at the hotel.

Meaning, as Mullen says, it is full-time football from now until the new semester begins August 18. “Just all ball, all the time.”

Mullen gave a quick overview of work after the morning practice, updated one bad injury break to wide receiver Shelby Christy, and got to discuss Thursday’s vote by a NCAA committee to grant the five major college conferences greater autonomy in their operations.

“It was a good work day. When you have days like today it ends up being a different emphasis, which is the mental toughness part of practice. I thought for the most part our guys learned, they battled through. We still have to pick it up at little levels, especially when you face the adversity of heat. And maximize yourself, to me which is everybody within the team. That ones, twos, threes, all of them I want to see really high-quality reps all the way down. Not a distinct drop-off from the ones all the way down to the threes. So that’s important to us. But it’s gone pretty well.”

”Shelby Christy is going to be out. He tore his ACL, he’s going to be out for the season right now. He was planting on the foot and the (right) knee just kind of gave way. So he’s going to be out for the season.”

Are you getting that quality of snaps you’re looking for? “Yeah, we are. A lot of our guys are working hard. The attitude, the tempo of practice is really good. The effort level is good. That stuff is all important to me to see there. Now I just want to see it all together. I want to see the effort. You know, sometimes when guys are like I’m working on technique, it’s hot, I’m working on my steps Coach; and the other times I’m just working to go hard. It’s putting it all together, especially when you’ve got to deal with the adversity of the heat today.”

Do you have any thoughts on the NCAA autonomy ruling? “I think it’s pretty good. We’ll see how it shakes out, to see what steps we’re going to take and how we’re going to go take it. Sometimes you read a lot of those rulings, and people are making decisions…I looked, one of the people on the board making decisions did not have a football program at their school and they’re making a lot of Division 1 decisions. There’s so much diversity within there that it allows hopefully some of the schools that are in the SEC and similar conferences to make decisions that are going to be kind of suited towards that school and in the best interests of the student-athletes at that school.”

Do you have any update on Deshon Cooper yet? “He’s practicing, we’re waiting to see what the NCAA does.”

Will Will Coleman have to redshirt this year? “We’re waiting to see what the NCAA does with that.”

How do you expect autonomy to improve things for student-athletes? “There’s a lot of different things. You look at the ability with the cost-of-attendance to put some spending money in kids’ pockets, they can go get a pizza on a Friday night is going to be important, the change in the food deal.”,p>

”I don’t think we have to take it overboard, unfortunately I think that’s what happens. Some schools take something that is good for the student-athlete and then try to go way overboard and try to turn it into a recruiting advantage; something that they’re going to try to utilize in recruiting more than it’s benefitting the student-athletes. But we’ll see. It hasn’t been any proposals brought forward now, there’s just the opportunity for those proposals. So we’ll see what happens when we get those.”

Has the need for autonomy been a long-time problem or is it a recent development? “No, I think the diversity of the players that we have and the demands that are put on their time. You look back in the old days, a lot of guys would get summer jobs to put some money in their pocket.”

”It’s a different world today. One, these guys are here and in summer in school because we’re trying to make sure we get guys in early. So their opportunities to go get jobs and do other stuff…plus in the job market where it is, it’s not easy to say he, let’s go place 50 guys in the summer jobs for two months and then bring them back to go to school. Those type of situations have really changed the game of football.”

”So when you’re talking, I mean what? Are you going to give them while they’re on campus $100 to $200 a month? It’s not a whole lot for a college kid. And a lot of these kids don’t have parents able to send them some spending money while you’re up there, or that summer jobs are going to be used as your spending money to go to school. It allows them to be normal people.”

You have talked about the familiarity of your offensive staff together, do you think that shows in practice now with the players too? “I do. I think within the staff there is a lot of comfort level in what goes on. And then the players are going to feel that comfort level. Everybody is on the same page. And if there is an issue I think the communication flow is a lot easier. You know, with questions that come up or things we have to tweak or change, the communication flow within the coaching staff is great to get it fixed.”

”And I think also with the experience of the players, they also know with the familiarity of the staff and being together the veteran players come up and say can we try something different? What about if we try it this way? And we’ll talk about it and see if we can make it better.”

Do you like the feedback when players are confident to make their suggestions? “That’s a huge part of it. That’s what you want, because that means they’re thinking about football. And we want guys that are thinking about football all the time.”

With finals over and players move into the hotel, does that change things? “It’s huge. Really training camp started today. Last night we had guys that didn’t get out of finals ‘til 9:00, we have a bunch of guys in grad school. So what you’re looking at now is today is really the first day of camp, we get to move into the whole. And a whole different mindset of things. A lot of the installation is in; a little bit more to install but they get to spend one full week of just all ball, all the time.”

Have you seen the progress of your quarterbacks you wanted? “Well, the two older guys you expect them to know what is going on on the field. You have high standards, you want them to perform. They’re going to have some days they’re performing a little better than other days. But to me the knowledge aspect of it, the leadership aspect of it, I’ve really been pleased with those guys.”

”And the two young guys are really picking things up. I know they get frustrated because they’re competitive and they want to perform at a very, very high level. But as young players I’ve been pretty pleased how they’ve picked things up. I mean at this point of installation a lot of guys have cashed it in, they’re lost! And our guys are still fighting through and really picking up what we’re putting in.”

What have you seen from the running backs? “There’s a lot of guys competing to get carries. From the top all the way to Dontavian Lee and Aeris Williams competing, running the ball hard. That always leads to that level because everybody at that position is looking (to get carries). Nick Griffin is finally healthy, a guy that has been in the program and we know he has talent, does a lot of things really, really well and knows the system so well. That’s huge. And Brandon Holloway is a dynamic player, Ashton Shumpert’s physicality, there’s something that everybody bring to the table and it keeps the competition pretty heated.”

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