Dan Mullen Post-Practice Press Conference

“It’s good to see everybody. It’s good to be back out there. As a coach this is part of the stuff you love, being out on the field and coaching football, especially coming off of summer. You have been away from a break; you have a lot of new faces out there, some young people and some older faces that you’re going to see hopefully take a step forward in their careers this year.”

“It’s a pretty exciting time. Good energy out there today. Everybody is still trying to figure it out. Even the older guys are still getting used to being in the flow of practice. I like the energy. We do have a younger team in a lot of ways even though we have older players, so we’re going to roll a lot of guys through during training camp and give a lot of guys experience.”

“The preseason schedule is weird this year. We have three weeks in school before we play game. We will have two full weeks in classes and then a week of game week before playing a game. It will be a different deal of how we go through things. It was fun to be out there.”

On safety Kendrick Market’s return from injury? “It was good to see him out there. We are going to be careful with him. He’s clear and he’s ready to go, but I still want to be careful with him. Missing a couple reps today isn’t going to hurt him. He’s played a lot of football for us. It’s great to see him back there and feeling see him healthy and confident. We want to make sure we take care of him so he will be ready to play. He will be ready to play that game come Sept. 5 mentally, physically we have to make sure he is ready to go.”

On quarterback Elijah Staley’s health? “His is still a little bit longer because his was a little bit later. It’s an extended injury, especially a guy his size. It’s good to see him out there. He is still not at full speed, but it’s good that he’s back doing things. He can do just about everything he’s just not at full speed. We have to protect him a little bit. When you have some of those more significant injuries you really have to protect guys. Some of the guys who have injuries that can cause longer term issues, you’re going to be more careful with them.”

On Market’s return ahead of schedule? “On getting the trainer’s reports and medical reports, we thought he would be ready for the season. He’s a head of schedule with being ready for training camp, but we’re going to make sure we protect him.”

On the team’s returning experience? “I think there’s a lot. You’re held to a much higher standard. If you were in the rotation you have to be considered a starter, and you’re going to be treated and expected to act that way. When you look at certain positions where there are multiple starters, it’s great for the young guys because they say, ‘hey, for me to crack this lineup, I have to play like a third starter at this position.’”

“At other positions where guys know they aren’t going to get handed that role, we might have to move somebody else in to take that role if you’re not going to be ready to play at the level we need you to. I think it is an advantage that those guys have that experience, and when they get out there on the field there is a lot of familiarity. We’re kind of a weird team; not a lot of seniors and not a lot of sophomores. There are a lot of juniors.”

“So if you combine the juniors and seniors, there are quite a few numbers of players that have played in football games who are older guys. Then you look and there a lot of young guys. It’s an interesting break. These guys are going to set a standard, and these guys are going to have to get up to that level if they want to crack the lineup.”

On the freshmen’s size as a group? “They have good length. I like long, athletic players. Year-by-year sometimes it changes, but you look and we’ve had bigger linebackers. I like being big on defense. I watch Kentucky basketball and they are a long, big-time defensive units. You take the field on us and we look kind of like the Kentucky basketball defense out there.”

On the competition at running back? “It’ll be interesting to see if someone separates themselves. Guys are competing for reps at this point, but if someone separates themselves as it continues to go they’re going to get the majority of the reps. I think with the different skills sets the guys have they bring something different to the table. The big adjustment, especially for young players, is not what they do with the ball in their hand; it’s what they do without the ball is what is going to judge how fast you are going to play.”

On redshirt freshman linebacker Gerri Green? “I think he’s got really good leadership potential. He does things the right way. He’s a hard worker. He worked to improve his athleticism in getting bigger, faster, stronger throughout the offseason. What we need from him is translating that on the football field and translating that to being a better football player. He’s a guy we would like to see do that quickly to get himself in the rotation.”

On settling the backup quarterback order? “It’s a ways right now. We have seen guys do different things. I thought Nick Fitzgerald had a really good spring. We have to see that translate and improve coming into fall camp. I’ve seen Damian (Williams) play in games before so he has that experience. Those two guys have the edge over (Elijah Staley and Nick Tiano) right now just on experience alone. We’ll see as camp goes. I don’t think I have ever had five quarterbacks in camp before. The great thing with Dak and his experience, they are all going to get experience to go with the 1’s. We’ll pull Dak and on different days let different guys go with the 1’s for certain drives to see how they do.”

Comparting defensive end Ryan Brown to Preston Smith? “I guess they look similar in a lot of ways because they are both real tall, long, athletic players. They are a little bit different. Ryan is probably a little bit more stronger and maybe technically sound. Preston had a lot of natural ability. A little bit different player even though they are some similarities.”

The expectations for defensive tackle Chris Jones? “Play like we expect him to play. He gets a lot of the preseason hype and all of this stuff. But you have to play that way. I think the worse people are preseason All-Americans. If you are a preseason All-American you better finish a postseason All-American. If not, you have done a really bad job because people thought you were supposed to be good and then you didn’t do it. With a guy like him, we need him to play like a big-time player. Play with a sense of urgency to try and dominate games.”

On cornerbacks Will Redmond and Taveze Calhoun? “The great thing is that they both have experience. Will is not officially a returning starter even though he has made a lot of plays. We expect a lot out of those guys. I feel pretty good about those guys. The keys are the next two guys because we want to be able to roll people through. That’s what we are going to be looking more than those two. I think we expect big things out of both of them.”

Wide receiver Gabe Myles? “He’s dynamic with the ball in his hand, which we knew that. As a former high school quarterback, if you put the ball in his hand he can make things happen. It’s going to be him improving as an all-around wide receiver, which we really hope this is the year he takes a step forward in that role.”

Progress by the young players in camp? “It’s so different. Not only will they be physically tired because they are probably going harder than they have gone before, it will be tougher competition out there on the field. Then there’s the speed and mental aspect of adjusting to that. I think everyone is going to go at a different pace.”

“There is a lot of times of if someone has the physical ability to go play when that mental part will catch up, or if they have the mental part are they going to get ready physically? Sometimes at camp you don’t get to see. A lot of them might not start, but a guy right now who hasn’t been through training camp before and will be exhausted physically doesn’t look as good but mentally has it, the all of a sudden you get into where you’re back in school and they physically come back and mentally have it, and you say this guy is going to be ready to play.”

“It’s such a hard deal until you get much closer to game week to see if when they will have that opportunity of when it clicks for them.”

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