Bulldog Coach Evaluates Progress of Four Install Days Ahead of Spring Break

The coach was early for Thursday’s post-practice talk. Not so much by choice, but by Ma Nature cutting the session short a period. “Lightning ruined the kickers' day,” Mullen said. “No PAT/field goal at the end. They get a couple more days to practice I guess.”

Better news was after four practice days Mississippi State’s coach is comfortable cutting the club loose for their spring semester break. With, he said, a warning. When the Bulldogs reassemble in a dozen days, they must show retention of what has been installed so far.

The transcript follows:


What do you think after four practice days? “We’re working. I like our attitude. Guys are working, you had two days of pads. There’s some new faces out there so what happens is you start OK, and then it starts to compound with different installs.”

“So we have four different installs in right now. A big key to me is this. If you’re going to do the split like we’ve done over spring break this year, we don’t practice for 12 days. So you have the opportunity to be healthy and come back fresh, ready to go.”

“But, the critical thing is these four installs, guys have got to review them constantly over spring break. So we come back sharper than when we left. If they do nothing and get confused when they come back, it will be a big problem for guys getting opportunities to get on the field.”


You have more mid-year guys than usual, how has that gone? “Well, it’s great because it gives you one more depth. Those guys get the opportunity to get reps and these are invaluable reps you’re getting in spring practice.”

“Any time a guy can graduate early, they get this opportunity to get these reps to give them a chance to get on the field to go play. A real opportunity to go learn the offense. You have to think the guys that came in early are not only getting the spring right now. When they come back in the summer they kind of know what’s going on. When we go to fall camp it’s the second time through the installation. They’re a little bit more confident and comfortable with what’s going on.”

“With the new guys its kind of the first time and they’re in the same overload that these guys are now. So it’s a big advantage.”


Is it any advantage with the guys who have been in D-I? “I don’t think so. I think they just probably understand what the program’s going to be, a lot. It’s just a little different level, the speed, the number of guys, all of those things. They’ve been around that before, where some of the guys haven’t been a lot of times spring ball or junior college your numbers aren’t as big. You’re not used to maybe the intensity at which we go.”


With Fred Ross gone what have you seen from the receivers so far? “They’re doing a pretty good job. The great thing is one guy leaves but a bunch of guys that have played are back. So even though there might not be the big name at the receiver position there’s experience at the receiver position. Guys that have played some football.”

“I think they’re going to have the opportunity to be deeper at the receiver position than we were last year, with just that experience level.”


To see guys like Brett Elliott and D.J. Looney you coached before, now they’re on your staff, is that different for you? “I feel old, you know?! I laugh, I was coaching Brett Elliott and some of these kids we’re recruiting now were like one year old and all that. And I’m holy cow, you’re getting old.”

“No, it’s great. Because you like to see it. You take so much pride as a coach in what your players do. Whether it’s the guys that have come back to coach; whether it’s the guys starting their own business or successful or moving up in companies. Tyler Russell coming in the office the other day and his career path moving forward.”

“Guys in the NFL you take pride with that. Just at any level, older guys. Go to play in Timmy Tebow’s golf outing last week and all the amazing things he does. As a coach you just take pride in seeing the success that these guys have as they move forward in their life and knowing that you maybe had a little something to do with that. So it’s great seeing those guys here on a daily basis, knowing that you helped them get here.”


With the linemen rehabbing, how are you patching things together on the line for team work? “Yeah, we’re moving some guys with two starters out right now. The great thing is creating some depth. When we get into fall camp and throw those two guys that are starters back into the rotation, you’re going to have the opportunity to see.”

“I mean there’s five guys that are treating themselves as starters this spring. There’s guys that are trying to compete for the starting job. And then there’s two more adding to it. So we have a chance you hope to feel good about ten offensive linemen, which gives you the depth you need to get through a season.”


Who do you look to to fill the leadership on the defensive line, any of the new guys? “I think the new guys, it all depends on some of them and where they’re at in being comfortable in it. And you look at guys like Kobe Jones and Jeffery Simmons are guys that have great leadership qualities with the effort they bring every single day. We’ll look for those guys really to be the leaders of that front.”


You were joking about kickers. With Westin Graves moving on what are you doing at placekicker? “We had to cancel today so I don’t know what we’re doing! We’ll figure it out. Those guys will be working. I mean it will be a wide-open race for us. And we get another guy coming in this summer, Tucker will be here this summer so another guy to go compete for that starting placekicking spot.”


What do you expect to see out of Leo Lewis? “Obviously a big jump of improvement. Last year got a lot of playing time as a freshman. Now I think that’s behind him. He knows what it’s going to be like during the season. So this is a big off-season for him.”

“A lot like it is for Fitz and some of those guys that now they’re coming into an off-season having played a lot. Now knowing what to expect with the season is going to hold for them and how to prepare the right way to improve, to get ready for the year.”


What did Reggie Todd gain in his redshirt year? “Ahhh, a couple pounds? Like probably 15 to 20 pounds!”

“No, Reggie hasn’t played a lot of football. So he has the opportunity right now. He’s gotten a lot stronger. Especially when you’re a football/basketball, AAU all that different stuff, you’ve never spent an off-season in the weight room. So you’re starting to see a guy that’s a long stronger and being able to come in-and-out of routes. He’s got great size, it creates mismatches on the field.”


What are your plans for next week? “A lot of quality time with my wife and my kids. We might go spend a couple of days at our lakehouse. And just get away.”

“Probably caddying, you know? I might get to play some golf, too, but probably more caddy for my son. Even when we play together I end up caddying a lot, I don’t just get to play. I have to caddy, too.”


You mentioned the first day Keytaon Thompson did not have a confused look? “I’m really impressed with how he’s absorbing it. This next twelve days is going to be a huge opportunity for him to kind of sit back, hopefully; we’ve talked about it. And absorb over the next twelve days.”

“The work he puts in on his own, just walking through things over the next twelve days. If he can come back and absorb those first four installations he’ll be fine the rest of the way. So I think this is critical for him. Because it starts to compound when you have all of this going in.”

“But if he can take a step back and review those first four installs he’ll be fine the rest of the way. And he’s picked it up pretty quickly.”


What is the next step for the tight end group in its development? “Well, to become playmakers. It was a really young group last year. We’ve got a couple of guys that have played some football right now. To use it, there’s some great mismatches there with size and athleticism. And they have got to become a bigger part of our offense. And get to guys where we’re trying to get them the ball, instead of guys that are learning and doing their job they’re becoming star players on the team.”

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