Coach Dan Mullen Monday Press Conference

“I’m pleased with last weeks’ game. We continue to say different guys step up, make plays when we need them to make plays for us and find a way to win games. Different guys have stepped up every game to make plays to help us win.”

“But that game is way behind us at this point, we’re moving on to a very, very difficult Arkansas team. A team that plays excellent defense, they’ve got a great defensive line, they run to the football. A very, very aggressive style of defense that they play, they’ve been very successful against a lot of high-potent offenses this year. I mean besides a couple of big plays at the end of the game they slowed down A&M which everybody knows is one of the top offenses in the country. And really shut down Alabama which has a big, explosive offense as well. So, a great challenge with the physicality of their defense and how fast they are.”

“On the offensive side of the ball what makes it a challenge, with how good they are on defense you don’t get many opportunities with the ball. They’ve got the biggest offensive line in the United States, including pro football. So they’re a big, big physical outfit. Two of the top tailbacks in the country, and two guys over 700 yards already this season at the tailback position. And a quarterback that can really throw the football and is very efficient. To stop the run because they’re so physical and so strong running the ball, they get some pretty good throw looks for him to take opportunities one-on-one down the field. And they have the miss-match with the really athletic tight end.”

“So, a huge challenge for us coming into this game, this week. Obviously every conference game is a huge challenge. They’re just another great SEC team, that we’re going to have to find a way to win.”

Every time a team punches you, you punch them right back, where does that come from? “A lot of it is the toughness. And you look at the off-season and the guys that have been in the program, that have been developed within the program for a while and been around and understand it. We’re here to play 60 minute football games.”

“We understand the other team is going to make plays on offense, they’re going to make plays on defense, they’re going to make plays in the kicking game. They key to that is when that happens put the ball down and play the next play. You’re not always going to feel good, things are not always going to go your way during the course of a game. When you have some maturity, which we have within our program, when those things start to happen guys don’t really worry that much about it.”

“There’s absolutely nothing you can do about the play that just happened. Absolutely nothing. All you can do is worry about the next play. And I think our guys really understand that, so they don’t get caught up in any sort of a panic or letting a situation kind of slip too far out of control.”

As the only undefeated SEC team, does the playoff system start for you in that if you win-out you’re in? “The playoff system I think in the SEC kind of started eight weeks ago. It starts game-one for us.”

“For us our focus is beating Arkansas. Again that’s like coach-talk. To me as soon as you start thinking about more than the next play, more than even the next opponent, to get past that, you’re not going to be very successful. So for us that’s kind of been the approach. We’ll worry about trying to beat Arkansas, and if we’re able to do that then our focus will go to UT-Martin which is a big Homecoming game even though it’s not a conference game.”

You’ve called Kaleb Eulls one of your favorite players, what makes him special? “Kaleb is a guy that has bought into our program, he believes in what we do here. He comes in and he works had every day. He’s not the biggest guy on the D-line, not the fastest guy on the D-line, not the strongest guy on the D-line. But he really works his technique, his fundamentals, he gives you maximum effort. And he’s always going to give you everything he has.”

“On top of that he’s a great young man and he’s been like that since he came in. He’s still Kaleb Eulls, I mean he’s still the person that shows up and is a great kid every day. And everything that’s gone on with him, with the bus incident in high school, a guy coming from a small town into the SEC, all that he’s still just the Kaleb Eulls that is going to show up and be who he is and give you his best effort every day.”

You voiced displeasure about the 1B defense, what was the conversation with Geoff Collins and how did they respond at practice? “Pretty good. The conversation, Geoff had his displeasure with the 1B group, too. We’re all on the same page on that. When you look at it statistically the 1Bs, we were wholesaling; we had 22 plays of 1Bs and 50 plays of 1As or something on the field, then there was a lot of mixing-and-matching for some other plays.”

“But in those 22 plays the 1Bs gave up more yards and more than double the points than the 1As gave up in twice as many plays. Our discussion with those guys on that is, your reps are contingent on how you perform in games. Now you’re going to continue to get reps because we’re not going to change who we are, we’re going to play a lot of guys, rotate in. But one of the things you saw in that, a lot of the guys that are 1Bs…I tell this, a lot of younger player maybe that haven’t put in the four years of weightroom and off-season conditioning and games and battling and fighting; the guys that are a little bit younger and getting the reps, they’re the ones that enjoy the pat on the backs maybe a little bit more than everybody else. The other guys get a pat on the back and say OK that’s great, but I know how much I’ve put in to get here. Some of those guys say I had that one or two tough off-seasons, I’m a young guy, yeah, pat me on the back and tell me how great I am.”

“What they have to understand is how hard they have to work. And there was a lot of focus on that at practice yesterday making sure the effort level of the 1Bs is where they need to be at.”

How much thought was putting into sending Evan Sobiesk out for the field goal, and maybe substituting for Jamoral Graham in punt return? “Jamoral we feel pretty confident catching the punts. We have some other guys that work back there. Especially with Jameon (Lewis) still banged-up, not getting a lot of reps at it; hopefully this week he’s 100%. I want to say he played in the game, Jameon did, and was cleared to play. But as soon as we got sore we wanted to pull him and that’s what we did, and we hope he’ll be able to play a full game this week. So we feel pretty confident with Jamoral back there.”

“The field goal, the field goal was one of those right on the edge decisions for us. It’s something we’ve been working at a little bit with Logan (Cooke) because he’s got the big leg and he’s doing the kickoffs for us. And the funny thing with Logan, I think at Thursday’s practice he hit a 57-yard field goal in a team situation. So he’s got the leg to get it there. Really I look at the issue with the miss, was all my fault. Because I told him, and he takes coaching very well which is pretty good for a young guy; I said listen, the first thing that is going to happen is you’re going to have a lot of adrenalin to go kick that field goal; and you’re going to kind of rush, with so much adrenalin over-stride, and when you do you’re going to end up pushing it off to the right. So just relax when you go out there to do it.”

“But I’ve never seen anybody try to kick a ball more relaxed than he did in this life! I mean it was like kind of tapping it over there! So he took coaching really well, but he was so relaxed he stepped short and hooked it way to the left. So that’s a good thing, that I mean he as listening to what was going on and he tried to do what we asked him to do.”

“But it was right on the edge right there. In that situation in my mind sometimes I’m looking ahead also and saying what happens here (if) this is a fourth-quarter game and we get in the fourth quarter we’ve got to kick a 48-yard field goal to win it? And that is going to go onto Logan’s plate. It’d be tough to ask him for that first field goal in his career, even though I think he’d be fine with it. So in that situation I thought it as an opportunity. It was on the edge for Evan. Evan had been kicking really well, I would have felt confident I guess putting him out there. But again I don’t want to put him beyond his range and have him kind of get out of his rhythm; I think he’s kicking the ball very, very well for us right now. So to force him out of his rhythm? I don’t know. I mean it worked out OK for us, we won the game and Logan’s now got experience. He’s got a kick under his belt, I mean he’s going to have some bigger ones come out I’m sure as the season moves on.”

Is there an update on Brandon Hill? “Brandon was in the game I think on the last play. So he should be good to go Saturday, he might be sore and we’ll limit him a little bit at practice this week for some different things.”

“That’s about it. I think injury-wise we got out of there pretty healthy. Your typical bumps-and-bruises. And I’m going to get an investment in the walking boots because about 30 different guys, some got them on both feet walking around. But this time of the season it’s more of a fashion statement I think for my team than anything else this time of the year.”

How have Josh Robinson and Dak Prescott fed off each other in the rushing game? “I think it’s been pretty good for us. We want to make people defend all eleven guys out there on the field. So when your running back is putting up big numbers and can hit the home run in explosive plays, he draws a lot of attention. Well, that takes a lot of pressure off of Dak. But it also takes a lot of the attention off of Dak which is going to allow him to make bigger plays.”

”I think we have ten different wide receivers or ten different guys that have caught touchdown passes for us this year. That’s a great deal, too. When you talk about being a balanced offense it’s not always about just run and pass and number of calls and yards. It’s guys that we’re going to put out there that you have to defend. I mean if we’re going to have an advantageous matchup we’re going to put somebody in position that can take advantage of that matchup.”

Have you talked to John Hevesy about installing pass plays for offensive linemen? “No, but I did hear it from them! Blaine (Clausell) actually can throw the ball, he’s probably got the strongest arm on the team. They have little competitions, I think he threw it 75 yards the other day. I mean he’s got a hose, Blaine Clausell does. He’s up there with our two young quarterbacks, our older guys can’t throw as far as those guys can. So I guess if we ever had like a really long Hail Mary we’d have to figure something out and put a left tackle and put Blaine at quarterback. Because I think he could probably throw it 75 to 80 yards.”

“But you know what, you look at Arkansas, no wonder they’re able to recruit such good linemen! I’m sure Brett goes into the house, sits down with them, draws up the play and says we’re going to get you as a lineman (and) you’re going to be on plays of the week on SportsCenter throwing touchdown passes for us. So it’s something I’ve got to look at in recruiting circles to keep up with Brett in how he’s getting those good linemen in there!”

How would you evaluate the three interceptions Prescott has thrown the last three games? “Well, I evaluate them all differently. The one on Saturday, he had pressure in his face. I really would rather him just try to quick-check the ball down instead of trying take the shot down the field while he was being hit.”

“The one in the end zone, yeah, he put the ball up. I don’t mind that, I wish it probably would have been a little more to the back-pylon, but it gave an opportunity one-on-one to a receiver. The only bad one I thought was the one he underthrew De’Runnya (Wilson) on the sideline, really was the only bad one in the last couple of weeks. And even that I know what he was trying to do, I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like his read off the coverage on that play. But overall I don’t mind.”

“I get upset when you get bad decisions, when you’re making a throw over the middle and it hits a linebacker right like between the numbers. Like the guy you’re reading or you’re moving the keys on plays, when you start throwing picks to them that’s when you’ve got a problem. Not when he’s trying to make plays.”

Fred Brown and Fred Ross had good games, was it an effort to get the ball to them or just the rotation? “That’s how it works. That’s what I talk about for us when we’re going to put a bunch of guys out there on the field. We rotate a lot of players at receiver. It’s one thing I don’t worry, Billy (Gonzales) handles it, he rotates those guys. Because a lot of it, we want to keep guys fresh for four quarters so guys in the fourth quarter are ready to go make plays. And we don’t really spend a lot of time designing specific plays for specific guys. When they’re in the game we expect them to make plays and I think it really allows us that ability to rotate those guys. And I think it just shows the confidence that the coaches have, that Dak has in all of those guys. That two guys that are listed as twos in the depth chart are your top two receivers in the game. But that’s kind of us. We’re going to play a ton of guys, a lot of guys are going to touch the ball and really try to make it hard to lock-in or key on anybody in particular.”

Is it more difficult to prepare for a non-spread offense like Arkansas? “No. I don’t know that it’s more or less difficult, it’s just different. LSU’s kind of very similar, they’re big, physical football team.”

”You play a wide variety of teams. And a lot of the spread teams, some of them are different than others. So it’s just another style of offense they have to go get ready for. We’ll be a little bit different on defense than we were last week.”

You’ve said turnovers are a mental issue, but you’re one of the best teams in penalties, how do you explain the two? “I’m pleased with the penalties. The turnovers to me are frustrating. Even though we only had one last game, our goal obviously is zero turnovers and to protect the football. The one we had? Sometimes I don’t look at the stats, I look at what is behind the statistics. And I talked to our team, we’re plus-turnover ratio on the season. I think we’re creating turnovers, I’d obviously like to create more on the defensive side of the ball.”

“But the benefit in team football, we haven’t really lost the turnover battle. I don’t know if we’ve lost it in any game. (At LSU) We were minus-one. I know we’ve had a couple of pushes and then a couple of plusses. So we’ve kind of gone that way, even though I’d love the number to be…I think we’re plus-five on the season. You’d love it to be plus-double digits. But it is something we talk about and look at.”

”To me if the turnovers are consistently the same thing then there’s a problem. If they’re different guys, different situations happening, it’s something you just keep talking about and stressing. Our guys I think know that. So if there’s not a statistic, a bump where it’s all in this certain area we’re turning the football over, we just try to keep correcting it and moving forward.”

Josh Robinson has been labeled the Bowling Ball, is there another inanimate object you’d better describe him by? “When, on the field or off the field? I’m sure there’s a lot of different descriptions off the field you could give to him! But you know what, the great thing about him is he’s a great guy to be around. He’s a lot of fun, a great kid, always smiling, always got a lot of energy, always upbeat in everything that he does. Which you love. Which I loved.”

“Now the fact that he’s mature with it as well. There’s a big difference between being kind of funny and being a clown. A lot of that difference is in guys that are kind of funny know when it’s time to be serious. Guys that are clowns have no idea and they’re just a clown. And he’s funny, now; and he probably used to be a clown. So that aspect makes it even more enjoyable to be around. And it makes you appreciate his personality even more because you know that when it is time to be focused and lock in and do you job he’s going to get his job done. While still having that same great personality that lifts everybody up around him.”

Can you expand on working Jameon in after missing so long? “I know the great thing is he’s hungry. Even pre-game warmup watching him, Billy and I were talking to trainers. They were saying he’s moving OK, but he’s desperate to get out there on the field. I think that’s the type attitude you in the guys, that they’re desperate. But I know we’re going to protect our players and not put them in harms way in any way, shape, or form.”

”So I think it was great to get him back into the game. Obviously we would have loved him to be able to play more in that game. But I don’t want to put him out there in not 100%, put him out there in harm’s way. I think it was great that he got some reps, I think that will help his confidence moving forward and certainly get to see him play at the level we expect him to play this Saturday.

Personality wise, do you compare Josh to Anthony Dixon? “You know, there are a lot of similarities between the two. Because Anthony, same way, he always had a little hop in his step, a little bounce, always had a smile on his face. Anthony loves ball. Josh might be a little bit more goofy, like all the time than Anthony was.”

”But running on the field Anthony loved playing football, loved being out there on the field. But it’s always hard for me to compare players because you’re around them so much. I mean I love both of those guys. Anthony, I probably used to make come to my house more; on a Saturday night you’d have no choice, you’ve got to be at my house on Saturday night, Anthony. Where Josh will just call and say what are you doing, Coach? I’ll say I’m watching TV with the kids; it’s like alright, I’m coming over. I’m like alright, come on over! And it will be little kids’ touch football game in the back yard, he’ll want to be a part of it. That type of deal.

”When you have those relationships it’s hard to compare them, because they’re so different. Even though when you see parts of them that are similar it’s easy to compare them too when you get to know them. Like family members, you see them so different.”

Dixon tweeted is coming this weekend… “Oh, boy. OK, good! We’ll see if he stops by and sees me. I grind on him still. I mean I’m tough on the players. He showed up one day chunky, I didn’t let him leave until he got a workout in in the weightroom. He had to go do some cardio before he was allowed to leave.”

Even when he’s not playing a lot now in the NFL people still seem to love him? “It’s that personality he has. He walks into the room and he’s always upbeat, he’s always excited. In the same way that he’s funny, he comes in and he’s got a little spirit about him that you can feel. And that energy, that’s given-off to people.”

”He’s not afraid to be who he is, none of it’s fake, he’s not putting on a show. That’s just who he is. And it makes him fun to be around because he does have that energy and kind of makes you feel like you have a lot of energy and are refreshed. You get a kick out of watching him, seeing him talk. You guys have fun; give him a live microphone, that’s always fun! Not those tape recorders, live-feed somewhere! That’s the courage part with Anthony sometimes. But he’s going to have fun doing it, whatever he’s doing.”


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