“We do not have anybody out with any health issues, or anybody that is out an extended period of time,” Mullen said. “I’m sure guys are bumped and bruised a little bit from coming out of training camp. But I expect everybody to play in the game.”
*If health isn’t a concern this week, getting the Bulldogs on some sort of working schedule related to the 9:00 kickoff is. The time wasn’t set by the home team, who is if anything less happy about a very late start and effects on attendance. FS1 and CUSA booked this one.
So Mullen has scripted this week’s practices on the late shift. Like, 7:30 to 9:30 Monday. “It makes us not get a whole lot of sleep,” he said, along with dining scripts. Remember, players are under strict diet guidelines and that doesn’t change much for a network’s pleasures.
If all goes as schemed Bulldog body-clocks will adjust for the late-evening kickoff. Mullen sounds something like a pop with a house full of teen-agers…which to a large part he is of course.
“I don’t particularly care for starting a game that late with athletes, and there aren’t a lot of activities that the university schedules that are that late. So I’m not a big fan of that. But we’ll make sure we’re ready to play and adjust our schedules around it.” Besides, this regimen will be useful in week-two with a 8:15 kick for Louisiana State at Scott Field. At least that one is a home game.
Oh, and if any wonder, no. While there won’t be a real early Saturday wake-up, the Bulldogs will be rousted out as usual and kept just active enough during the long mid-day with meetings, walk-throughs, and so on.
*For week-one a depth chart was included with game notes. This is not necessarily where Bulldogs stand in terms of necessary substitutions and replacements. It is where the media relations staff has observed everyone practicing more often than not…and to simply fill in slots.
An easy example is the offensive line. There, long-time OT Damien Robinson is being listed as a guard, and the #2 right guard at that. Robinson did play guard early in his career of course but before moving to his original freshman position of right tackle.
Realistically though, if it were a serious substitution situation Coach John Hevesy has said #2 LG Deion Calhoun is the backup at both guard spots. If the Bulldogs take control early and easily, it’s likely Robinson—a sixth-year senior—will indeed get to work with the second squad.
The first offensive line is as expected; returning starters RT Justin Senior and LG Justin Malone with RG Devon Desper, C Jamaal Clayborn, and LT Rufus Warren. One interesting adjustment from spring and early-August practices, is third LT Cole Carter going to right tackle and taking #2 place.
The wide receiver rotations have De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Brown on the outsides with Fred Ross in the slot. They are backed by Joe Morrow and Donald Gray, and Gabe Myles.
After weeks in spring and preseason working with the second defensive line rotation, Nelson Adams is listed as a #1 tackle alongside Chris Jones. James is in the second pair of tackles with redshirt Cory Thomas as a either/or while redshirt Braxton Hoyette is along on the second team at the other tackle. So there is plenty hedging here, not that it matters as all veterans and redshirts should be playing in the opener.
There were no surprises at linebacker, safety, cornerback, or running back as for the 1s and 2s.
*There is a twist at quarterback down the line though. As redshirts, both Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley should get their first live action and Fitzgerald is acknowledged #2. But Staley, who was slowed in spring work after a winter operation, is listed #3 ahead of true junior and two-year veteran Damian Williams.
Mullen said Staley was cleared a day prior to the second August scrimmage to practice full-speed. “So he’s taking some reps over the last couple of weeks and done some really good things. Obviously he’s behind the other guys just in total number of reps. But I do think the opportunities we gave him during training camp I think he really jumped on those opportunities. And he can really make things happen while he’s out there. He’s strong-armed, big and physical.”
Fitzgerald had a strong spring as better preseason by all accounts. He’s taken full advantage of Williams’ falling behind with a pectoral tear in spring. However, Mullen is not locked into what any depth chart says at this key position. Though Williams is being weighed for a redshirt—he played as a true freshman—Mullen sounded as if in a crunch that’s who he’d put in the shotgun.
“I don’t know, we’ll see how that goes this practice week. All of that is usually predicated on the practice week, who’s ready to play. I haven’t decided to who the actual backup will be going into the game.”
One of the things that’s hard to do with the quarterback position is to ask a guy whose never taken a snap to come in and win a game late in the fourth quarter. If you can get them snaps at other points in the game, get them different experiences, there’s a huge benefit within their development. But you’ve got to make sure you’re doing what’s best for the team, putting us in best position to win football games as well.”
*There will be other game-time decisions, in specialists roles. Devon Bell is listed at both punter, his 2014 main job, and placekicker which he did in 2012. Westin Graves is co-listed at placekicker, and Logan Cooke for kickoffs.
Cooke has competed in punting as well, but seems primarily given the kickoff responsibility after some extra attention per Mullen. “We’ve tweaked a little of his technique work,” the coach said.
Mullen won’t tie his hands at this early point though. “When it comes to the kicking situation a lot of that I go through the game week. Those guys can get streaky. We take a huge statistical analysis look at (it) come game day and see where everybody is at. Even through warmups, to make sure they are hitting the ball and that they are on.”
*Also, Mullen said team captains have yet to be selected. “We haven’t held a vote. We’ll do that sometime this week.”
*With Mississippi State a strong favorite in this opener, a natural question is whether Mullen will hold back anything this week and save to spring on LSU the next. Wrong question.
“We’ve got to try to win this game. Like everybody we want to win every game. You can’t win them all unless you win the first one. So for us our complete focus has been on southern, making sure we’re getting guys in the right position to go play.”