Then again, Mullen arrived at the special location prepared for the second full week of preseason work in a fine mood. "It's great. I mean for us, those first five days I kind of consider practice. We're in training camp now."
Which was the first-year head coach's plan all along. Having completed the NCAA-required five ‘acclimation' days of single sessions on the regular practice fields, Mullen was ready to take his team to a setting that hopefully ramps-up the intensity…and productivity. So far, so good he reported.
""We worked hard. We went out and worked real hard, made some mistakes and have to get better, and we came in." Well, there was a bit more to it than that. The morning session was structured much like Friday's practice, when State had the first full-contact work of this preseason.
"I was pleased they came out with that energy today," Mullen said. "The big one is to see how they come out this afternoon. They were excited the first day in pads, today the first day in training camp, but this afternoon is the one we'll see how we have to get them motivated to give two good efforts in one day."
With pads on and hitting underway the first fall injuries are cropping up. Mullen said first DE Brandon Cooper (eye) was held out a third day after his Wednesday incident. "That's one we don't want to fool around with, Brandon's been out there and he gives great effort." First ROG Tobias Smith, who went down in goal-line work Friday, was also sidelined. "We kept Tobias out today with a little ankle sprain, but we expect him to be practicing by Monday, that's the hope." Second DE Trevor Stigers was back to work after going down groggy in full-team drills Friday.
"Nothing big on the injury front," Mullen said of Saturday morning, "just bumps and bruises. And there will be continually more as we go along." Though a couple of Dogs did have issues. First DT Pernell McPhee had what was evaluated as a minor concussion but did require attention; as well as an ambulance to take him for a check, since the usual cart wouldn't carry his bulk. Freshman WR/KR Brandon Heavens tweaked a hamstring but is not expected to miss much.
Mullen also confirmed that reserve tackle Dakota Merritt has left the roster. "He said he didn't want to play football any more."
As for the new-for-'09 venue specifically designed to provide a private camp setting, the coach was more than satisfied. Moving all the equipment and personnel required to run a college practice is no small matter itself, much less positioning everything and everybody in a setting not designed for such things. Yet, "It actually went smoother than I thought it would," Mullen said.
"I thought there would be some logistical issues for the first time, but it went pretty smooth. We're pretty fortunate to have a guy like Jody Wright who organizes all our day-to-day operations."
State will be back at work around 5:00 today, with this session to run maybe fifteen minutes shorter. It will be a non-contact practice as well. "We'll probably do a little more run-game in the morning and a little more pass-oriented in the afternoon," the coach said.
"The nice thing right now is our guys are going out, fighting and giving some good effort. As you get in now day-six of installation we have a lot, a lot of things to clean-up. We have a long way to go execution-wise. But as long as we're coaching the execution and not coaching the effort we're going to continually get better."
Which the coach, and on every other day or so selected players, will be reporting over the course of this closed week. The cattle will also be limited from media access, unfortunately, so their opinions of the spread-offense's progress remain unrecorded. Mullen did note there was no interference from bovines watching from the nearby hillside, but…
"We may have to go earlier tomorrow morning just so we beat the cows out to work."