Thursday Football Scrimmage Briefing

It was a scene right out of a NASCAR victory lane. As Dan Mullen took the seat he was handed a clean new adidas visor. A maroon one with white logos, which he was supposed to don in place of the usual white and black-trimmed model he's featured during fall camp. But then that's part of coaching college football, pleasing a sponsor.

And, presenting the Mississippi State message to fans who might watch later through various house and outside media modes. "It should be a tribute that many people are paying attention to what the heck you guys are doing!" Mullen quipped at the reporter corps circling the desk.

The coach's good humor certainly had to be an encouraging sign since Mullen was coming straight from Mississippi State's first full-practice scrimmage session of this preseason. For about two hours the Bulldogs, in their secluded special field, went through the checklist of offensive and defensive situations as if playing a game. No statistics were recorded, much less reported from the closed scrimmage. So after tugging the nifty new visor—which was afterwards left on the desk for future such use—into place, Mullen answered such queries as the press corps could come up with.

Q: Tell us everything that happened today at the scrimmage. "We went out, we scrimmaged, we ran some sprints at the end, and we came in! You know, we didn't keep score. If we would I'd say the defense would have won the day. That the defense performed better than the offense did as a whole. They made a couple of mistakes that were bigger mistakes we have to get fixed. But for the most part the defense I thought was ahead."

Q: Was that what you expected? "It's tough because you have to watch a lot of the film to see what is going on on everything. We'll get to see that a little bit later. I was hoping the offense would perform a little bit better than they did today and execute at a little higher level. They were a little herky-jerky. But I'm pleased with some of the play of the defense, the consistent play of the defense."

Q: Who stood out on defense? "I've got to go watch the film, I couldn't tell you. I mean they kept fighting all day long. Even if they give up a big play they came back and responded the next play. That was positive."

Q: What were some things the offense did well? "Hmmm. We had a couple of guys make some big plays, and looked fast. (WR) Chad Bumphis looks fast on a couple of plays. (RB) Rob Elliot looks fast on a couple of plays. One of the big things offensively was to try to find some play-makers, we've got to go back and watch the film and see hopefully we have a couple we can get the ball to."

Q: Were there mistakes with ball-handling again? "No, no, no, just poor execution. A guy running the wrong route, a guy missing the protection, quarterback reading it the wrong way. The neat thing in the game of football that makes it such a beautiful game is you need eleven guys to do their job. One guy doesn't do their job, the rest will fail, that's what makes it such a great game."

Q: Do you have any estimate how many plays you ran? "I want to say the ones got about 55 plays, and the twos about 45 plays. All different situations."

Q: Did you go over any special teams? "Yeah, kickoff return, punt, extra-point, field goal, extra-point block. So we got some special teams in."

Q: How did it look? "Good. We're getting better. One of the things with special teams we're really trying to hammer in on the personnel, it might not look perfect because we're giving a lot of different people opportunities to go do things. But it's letting us evaluate who we think can help us on special teams this year."

Q: How has Anthony Dixon looked? "He looked pretty well. He's worked hard for us. I think one thing, Anthony loves to play football. So he has very few issues when you walk out on the field. That's the great thing about Anthony, he's a great kid and everybody loves him. When you step on the field he loves football and that's where he's at his best."

Q: Anything new on his punishment? "No, we're still working it out. He's in the process, he's serving different punishment things right now. At some point when we get it all figured out in the end we'll release what all his punishments were."

Q: You said the defense overall won, were there any areas the offense came out ahead in? "I didn't keep score at each single drill. I'm not real sure. It's tough to say because the offense was herky-jerky. So they probably did some things good they think about, but I'm also thinking in the same situation they did some things bad. You know, we go back to the wall and make a big play, get out of there, and then the next two times they go they don't move the ball a yard. So it's that sort of deal."

Q: Are there any developments injury-wise? "No, I asked Paul Mock coming off the field today and he said nothing new for us, same old same old with the guys. They said Derek (Sherrod) could definitely go by Saturday, we might hold him out till next Tuesday just to make sure. He's played a bunch of football so he'll be alright getting back in time. Tobias Smith, we'll know more when he gets the cast off in another ten days. He missed maybe one meeting when he was doing the surgery and I think that was it."

Q: You mentioned Bumphis' speed, has he impressed you as a freshman? "Yeah, he did a couple of nice things today. The freshmen receivers, we had a couple of them come in and brought two things: they brought depth to the position and they brought some excitement. And competition, at all positions any time you have depth you have completion. So I think that's what's starting to hopefully raise the play of everybody. We'll see when we watch the film tonight if it is because a lot of them are still learning. But hopefully it's raising the play of all those guys."

Q: People think of the spread as four or five guys out there, do you think they will be surprised how often you go to a tighter set depending on personnel? "That's tough, because I kind of know what we're going to do! The spread offense, people make such a big deal out of it. Most NFL games, I turn on a game and the majority of them run the spread offense. So is that a pro-offense now or not a pro-offense? What is or what isn't? I think everybody is just trying to create good matchups for the players on their team, put them in a position to be successful. I imagine most good offensive coaches try to utilize their personnel and do what they do well, if that's putting five receives on the field you put five receivers on the field. If that means putting your quarterback under center put him under center, in the shotgun put him in the shotgun. I call that smart coaching more than whatever the offense is called."

Q: How did the quarterbacks look today? "It's good competition. It's real good competition. I'd say there is nobody that is in the lead right now. I'd say Chris (Relf) and Tyson (Lee) are dead-even right now. As Tyler (Russell) learns…if Tyler had come here in January and had the opportunity to go through spring I think it would be a three-man race. Just the fact that he is mentally behind everybody else hurts him a little bit. But that will be a wide-open race right to the end."

Q: Will there be any things that might be priorities after this scrimmage that stick out? "I think our coaching staff now, especially since we don't have practice Sunday or Monday for the first day of school, we have a lot of time for the coaches to sit offensively for us to really… I have a good feeling now for what our guys are going to do well, so I think now we can focus on the plan a little bit more and tidy-up the direction our offense is going to go in."

Q: What can your guys do well? "Let's see. The running backs can run the ball well. We've got some receivers that have specific skill-sets, so we have to utilize each one of their skills. I wouldn't say we've got a guy that is an all-around wide receiver here at all, a guy that can do-it-all wide receiver. So we have to kind of place the receivers where they need to place. I like our linebacking crew a lot, we've got to make sure we have those guys on the field as much as possible."

Q: You mentioned competition at positions, how long do you keep it that way? "Until someone wins! You know?! I mean, to me that competition always got to be going. What we want to find is if guys deserve to play they're going to play in the game no matter what their positions are. If they compete, then how they practice, how they perform will determine how much they deserve to play. That has to do a lot with the competition."

Q: What are the plans for tomorrow? "We have freshman orientation in the morning, checking out of the hotel, a lot of that stuff. So we're probably not going to get together with them until the afternoon. In the morning we have a prep-day for the older guys, get the classes all signed-up. The freshmen have to go through orientation, move out of the hotel and move back in their dorms. So we'll get together at 1:30. That will also give the coaches a good chance to watch the scrimmage and make any corrections we need to."

Q: How much longer will you practice at this field? "We finish their Saturday afternoon, so when school starts we'll come back over here. It's fun over there, I like it."

Q: Did the cows participate today? "You know what, the cows were out there strong day-one. They've really slacked-off the last couple of days. The dogs at the vet hospital, they were fired-up this afternoon."

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