"Silly things that we've got to get corrected," Mullen said today. "Alignment issues and all of those things that a lot of times you see in the first game. We've got to get that stuff fixed."
Mullen was meeting with media following a Saturday practice. A much shorter session than was held at Scott Field on Friday evening, and for that matter indoors. The coaching staff chose to change Saturday's workout to go inside the Palmeiro Center, where conditions were cooler and the pace much less stressful.
"We were just trying to clean-up some things today," Mullen said. "We did some special teams stuff. But it was a little bit quicker, lighter practice today just because we had so many reps last night."
The ‘so many reps' comment is no exaggeration. The coaching staff went into the evening with no less than 130 snaps scheduled, split between first and second units with quite a few matching like-on-like. As it developed there was a good bit more mixing and matching of teams though. In fact some #1 players either barely participated or never lined up at all for a real snap.
Not that they had an easy evening though. In fact as first defensive end Pernell McPhee said, he would rather have been knocking helmets with the offensive line than performing conditioning work off to the side. Strength coach Matt Balis was not going to waste an opportunity; nor did Mullen exactly regard it as giving anyone a free pass Friday. He called it measuring out the number of snaps to who needed the most after-scrimmage review.
"I didn't need to see everybody," Mullen said. "There's a lot of guys that I've seen play live in big-game situations. It was more for us to evaluate the younger guys. A lot of it was us counting reps and making sure the right guys got the right reps for us to evaluate."
That evaluation began practically as soon as the coaching staff returned from Scott Field last night, though the real review was held this morning prior to practicing, Mullen said. And upon this further review he was able to give the entire evening a generally favorable comment.
"It was good. Obviously when you scrimmage each other the defense is going to want to be better and the offense is going to want to be better. That's what we want as a staff from head coach-on. Besides the early part of the scrimmage where we were sloppy like you see in a lot of first games, we've just got to tidy-up some mistakes."
Statistics were not kept for the scrimmage, per the coach's preference. So there were no numbers provided Saturday to offer outside clues about who took what turns with whom, or how well particular players performed. Such as at quarterback, which with the season approaching assumes all the more importance in how Mississippi State will approach the opener.
"The scrimmage went pretty good," presumed #1 quarterback Chris Relf reported today. "We came out and gave a lot of effort. Overall it went pretty good." How good, the lone veteran triggerman had no statistical notion. "Nah, I can't remember. It doesn't really matter. What we're trying to do right now is come out and work hard, just give 100% in everything we're doing."
That ‘we' part is correct, too. Because whatever Mullen has in mind for the first game, at this preseason point he is keeping the competition open at quarterback. Relf said he spent Friday running the first and second offensive squads; whereas younger contenders Tyler Russell and Dylan Favre have been taking turns with all three units. For now nobody seems concerned about setting any pecking order.
"Tyler is doing pretty good, and Dylan is doing pretty good," said Relf. "We're learning from each other, we just come out here and compete every day."
For his part Mullen saw mixed quarterbacking results last night. "They started slow, the middle was great, finished a little slow. But we're going to get it picked-up. We've just got to have that consistency."
Mullen has put in place a new fall injury report policy with no comments on cases until Thursdays of game weeks. It was confirmed by a MSU spokesman that first right-guard Tobias Smith was part of Friday's scrimmage. Defensive lineman Gabe Jackson left Palmeiro on crutches with his left ankle in a cast, but that has been an ongoing problem for the underclassman since camp opened.
Mississippi State has both Sunday and Monday off with no media availability of coaches or players planned. Practices resume Tuesday. Originally Mullen thought by that day to have his team shifting into a season sort of routine. Now, "We've got a little bit more to get cleaned up, then we'll get into game-prep near the end of the week."