Three days out from their meeting in Athens, Georgia coach Mark Richt and MSU coach Dan Mullen took to the weekly SEC teleconference this morning. Both coaches fielded several questions about State's offense, which has put up some big numbers but struggled a bit the last two weeks.
Richt, having faced the Florida offenses once led by Mullen, knows how good this MSU offense can be when it's clicking.
"I look at them as one of the best offenses in the country," Richt said.
He talked about MSU's run-first preference, and the challenge of facing a big QB like Chris Relf.
"They've really got an outstanding run game. And then what happens is when you spend so much time trying to stop the run, and especially knowing the quarterback can run, you've got to get into a defense where you can only have one high safety or no high safeties," Richt said.
He added, "You've got to really have a good knowledge of what you're doing (in that offense), too, and coach Mullen certainly knows what the heck he's doing. He does it as good as anybody."
Question is, will MSU be able to execute at a high enough level Saturday to beat Georgia? There have been some timing issues in the passing game and some blocking issues along the offensive line. Mullen gave a good synopsis of his offensive philosophy when asked to by an AJC reporter, and he talked of the delicate balance that must be kept to make it go.
"When you're off offensively, you don't have to be very far off," Mullen said. "You have to be one guy off, and when you're trying to play two freshmen offensive linemen right now, one guy off gets you out of rhythm in offense and kind of really slows you down."
He later said, "When you turn on film a lot of times, it's one error here or there. It's one thing caused something to be that issue. We're not changing a whole lot of what we do, because we're not far off from where we want to be. We just have to be cleaner and execute better."
You want more coach talk? To the bullet points, then.
• On his offensive line: "It's a work in progress. With some of the injuries that we faced, some before the season, some during the season now, it's going be a very fluid situation. We probably won't decide on the starting lineup, the actual five that are going to play, until Saturday." (That reiterates what he told us Tuesday.)
• He said LB Brandon Maye, who missed practice last week as well as the Louisiana Tech game with a concussion, is practicing this week.
• On kicker Derek DePasquale, who's 7 of 8 on field goals this year: "I guess it's one less thing I have to worry about, that I feel comfortable he's going to be prepared, knows how to prepare. He gets out there on the field and gets his job done. That's a pretty good comforting feeling to have as a coach."
• On MSU defensive linemen Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox, who MSU coaches are wanting more from this week: "D-linemen, sometimes those interior D-linemen, they don't show up statistically. They show up by force and double teams. They show up by pushing the pocket in the quarterback's face. They show up by making a running back take a right turn or a left turn instead of splitting the defense. They show up when they free up a linebacker to make a hit. It's hard to say how productive defensive linemen are, especially from a statistical point of view."
• On MSU's cornerbacks delivering big hits: "They've got some hitters – in fact, every single one of them are hitters. Some people will let their safeties be the guys that'll make the hits, but they roll a lot of coverage strong and weak, so each corner has an opportunity to be that eighth guy in the box, so to speak."