Mullen Meets, Greets The SEC Press

Well, he did say he intended to send intermittent and informal notes about the event. And when Coach Dan Mullen came through the door, sure enough he had the phone in hand and thumbs on the keyboard. But of course his primary purpose in Hoover today was talking with the SEC's assembled media and giving the good word about Bulldog football for 2009.

Seven months after his hiring as Mississippi State's head coach, Mullen reported to the Wynfrey Hotel for his first appearance at the league's annual ‘kickoff' event. The coach was accompanied by a couple of his junior starters, offensive tackle Derek Sherrod and linebacker K.J. Wright, for the two-hour press fest. Or the official conferences, that is. Because Mullen and players took time to talk with most of the Mississippi media outlets that regularly covers the Bulldogs, before meeting the rest of the conference press corps.

A transcript of that first, less formal talk with Mullen follows, beginning with a curious—and technically illiterate, which pretty well identifies him—reporter asking exactly what he would be ‘twittering' today. "Oh, I don't know! We'll see! I might see some funny things going on that I'll ‘twitter' later, about how amusing it may be."

Q: And what would amuse a head coach about media, or do we want to know? "You know, for a first-time head coach here I get to go around and enjoy it. I should bring a video camera myself, like one of those events I can record and maybe ten years… Or if I can get some experience under my belt like some other coaches in this league maybe I'll be a little bit testier at these things!"

Q: As a first-time head coach, not just today but has anything been particularly surprising? "I wouldn't say surprised is the word. Because being with Urban (Meyer) and getting ready to become a head coach and talking to him about different things, you know what to expect with the non-football part of the job. All the administrative duties, dealing with all the issues you have to deal with on a daily basis, those things. But I think the biggest one is until you start dealing with those things on a daily basis you really don't know how much of your day it's going to consume."

Q: There are going to be a lot of comparisons with Meyer, how would you compare it in terms of how you will coach? "He and I worked together so long we probably have a lot of similar philosophies, whether that be from offensive and special teams philosophies to off-season conditioning philosophies and how we run our program, of course academics and those sorts of things are similar. I hope eight years form now somebody compares my record to his; I'll take that record eight years from now, I'll tell you that much!"

Q: How often when you're driving home alone are you thinking about being a head coach? "What I've done, since I wanted to be a head coach I've had a big file I kept back from when I was a graduate assistant at Syracuse, of things I thought were good if I had my own program this is what I would do one day, kept a big notebook of what I would do and put together a coach's manual. You could go flip that notebook open one day and kind of apply some of those policies to schedules, how we would organize things, how we were going to motivate. I've been doing that for a long time."

Q: How often have you opened that notebook this year? "Probably three or four times. I just kind of do it just to remind myself of certain things. I go through the file of all the different things, to-dos and not-to-dos, memos, motivational deals. Every couple of months I've kind of gone back and opened it just reading through, making sure I'm not missing out on something I wanted to do or adding something to our program that I thought was going to be good."

Q: You're obviously a high energy guy, where does that come from? "Know what, my Mom laughs every day, she's like ‘I really apologize that I raised a complete workaholic'. And for someone who teaches probably sixty to seventy hours of ballet classes a week in her mid-60s, to say I apologize for giving you that trait!... But you know what, it's just always been that way. When I was a little kid I was always involved in as many activities as I could be involved in, I just always had to be doing something. So maybe I picked a good profession that keeps me busy year-round."

Q: Do you have any worries about burnout? "I don't. I think I'm very fortunate. We'll get away on vacation with the family in summer for a week and I'm one of those people that I am weird on that, I can go sit on a beach, pop open a chair and read a book…and kind of absorb sitting on a beach and reading a book for a day and not have to worry about a lot of other things sometimes. When I'm able to do that that it really re-charges your battery and gets me ready for the rest of the year."

Q: How would you explain the spread offense? "My version of what the spread offense is, is trying to create matchups, make the defense defend the entire field sideline-to-sideline. Try to put personnel in formations to create advantageous matchups to get your player one-on-one in space against someone that maybe he's better than. That's really my philosophy of what the spread offense is; you're running, throwing, option, all of that. People will say you're spread-option; I guess we're multiple-spread. We'll get under center. And if the best way to get a matchup is to get under center and put two tight ends and two backs in the game that's what we're going to do, whatever the best way to create those matchups."

Q: Is it difficult or easy to install? "You know what I've learned? It's tough to teach but it's very user-friendly. It's one of those things that once you know how to use it, it's a great, friendly offense that has a lot of multiple things you can do, very easily, to make adjustments. The tricky part is learning it the first time over; but once you've got it, it's a very friendly offense."

Q: There have been cases here of first-time head coaches coming here and looking nervous in front of 500 people. (Mullen chuckles) "Really! So should I do that and pretend that I'm not?! You know, my Mom teaches classes in ballet and I was raised in the theatre when I was young. Performing for a crowd is no big deal! I've been coaching football, been in the SEC for four years already, it's 24/7 when you're in this league. And the great thing in this league is whether you're a head coach, whether you're a coordinator, or taking notes on the sideline, someone probably got the spotlight on you. This is the SEC, so it doesn't stress me out that much."

Q: One thing a head coach dreads is that call at night, you've had one. How will you deal with that? "This is not the first one I've had. And anytime anyone calls…I'll tell you the worst one I had was 2:00 in the morning, they called twice and I ran and got the phone; and it was a wrong number! I guess it turned out to be the best, but at two a.m. you're really scared what is going to happen to you!"

"Each piece has it's own deal. There are so many different variables with each situation that goes on. For us, we've got to investigate everything and find out the details of everything and find out what the appropriate discipline is going to be for each individual, what is going to be the best for that individual. There's some times you can run guys to death, you know, run them, run them, run them. And there are some guys that can run forever and it's not really that big a deal. There are all different things that you do, and we're going to handle each one individually. So I'm not sure how we're going to handle all of them yet."

Q: Is there a chance anybody will miss game time? "There's a chance that will happen. That's obviously a big one, kids love to play so to miss game time is a big punishment for somebody. But again we haven't decided exactly what is going to happen with any of our individuals yet."

Q: Are you going to wait for the legal process? "Yeah, part of it is there. We have to let the judicial system on some of these guys run its course. That may in some cases entail some punishment as well. But we'll let the judicial system on several of these people run its course, then we'll see where we're at."

Q: Where do the other running backs coming off their injuries stand? "Christian Ducre is doing well, I mean he probably could have played in the spring game if we wanted him to; we did not need to that day. Arnil Stallworth is progressing really fast, the benefit with Arnil for us is it's a win-win situation. They say he's doing about 60% and a great job running in a straight line, he hasn't had to make the cuts yet. He has a redshirt year available so if it's into mid-season and Arnil is not ready to go we can say hey, you have the ability to redshirt. And if he is, we go play. Rob Elliot they say is 100%."

Q: Coming out of spring you had one evaluation of how much had been installed; has that changed over the summer with review? "No. I think the whole deal for us is to keep installing; but also keep evaluating what fits with the different personnel, who has made improvements from spring to summer. And make sure we have the best eleven guys. I'm not going to run one of those wild offenses I get sent in the mail sometimes that has no linemen, so we're probably going to play with five linemen! And then we'll figure out who the next six best players are on offense and try to get them on the field and build the offense around those six players."

Q: When do you think you will make a decision about playing a freshman quarterback (Tyler Russell)? "When he's ready. When we feel he is ready. I would never put a player on the field that I don't feel is ready to play yet, is not prepared. Also whoever gives us the best opportunity to win games. That is who we are going to continue to evaluate at the quarterback position."

Q: Have you had a chance to look at him at all? "We're not allowed to in the summer. I know a lot of people say that (Russell's passing) but I've never seen the kid throw a football in my life! (Receiver) Brandon McRae said it was OK, he could throw decently! I've never personally seen him throw so August 3 will be the first time I see him pick up a football and throw it, so I won't know what we have until then. I know it was nice for him to get into school early and get both summer sessions, just as a young guy to get comfortable with his surroundings and how to get to school. And as a freshman you're looking at the map sometimes figuring out how to get to class, never mind how do I check a protection on third down! So to get a little more experience of college under your belt is a good thing."

Gene's Page Top Stories