"It's gone much better than we even expected," Mullen said Saturday night. "I think the turnout was almost double what we expected going in at every single stop along the way. The excitement and support that we're starting to build is growing, and it's great for me. I couldn't be happier with all the support we've seen from everybody around the state."
Mullen was talking after one more speaking turn; that in front of almost nine thousand fans at Humphrey Coliseum for the basketball game, and victory, against Vanderbilt. At intermission the head coach publicly presented his current assistants, the four new members hired in the past month and those remaining on the Bulldog beat. Of course, the folk Mullen wanted to make the best public impression on Saturday night was the collection of high school seniors who were making weekend official visits. Those prospects were applauded just as much as the basketball Bulldogs upon arrival at The Hump, following the man who wants to be their coach.
Per NCAA regulations Mullen didn't discuss these or any other prospects, just the general state of State's recruiting campaign. "Our guys are really working hard and our (current) players are doing a good job. We find out on February 4 how it all goes."
That's also the benchmark date Mullen has set for finalizing his first State staff. He had expected to be one coach closer to completing the corps by now, but Friday the first-time head coach got a first taste of how fast thing can change in these matters. Because after just two weeks on the MSU job, Frank Wilson accepted another SEC offer. The former aide at Southern Mississippi and Ole Miss has re-cast his lot with Tennessee now, another program building a new staff.
"It's tough but that's kind of part of the business, when fellows get opportunities," Mullen said of the abrupt reverse, clearly taking the high road. "You just wish him the best." And while Wilson was hired primarily for his reputation in recruiting this area of the South, his brief-time boss does not see this as much of a setback to State's efforts in this area.
"Not really. He was our assistant coach involved in it, but Rockey Felker is working right now doing that and he's been here forever so he knows all the stuff going on. And Ryan Hollern is our director of recruiting operations. So I think our staff has not really missed a beat this whole weekend."
Meanwhile Mullen is holding to his staff-plan of not announcing specific position and coordinator roles for these coaches. Not yet. Because there is bigger business to take care of, he said. "In my mind we're pretty close, but our whole focus now is all recruiting. What we need to do is wrap that up.
"After Signing Day we'll take care of all the recruits, then we'll get to exactly what positions. Because right now our coaches anyway are 24-hours a day recruiting. That's what we're trying to get done."