Yo, we got Dan Mullen on the SEC coaches teleconference today, our last chance to speak with him before the No. 15-ranked Bulldogs take on Middle Tennessee State on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN2). He spoke many words, and he called LSU the “defending national runner-up,” which I thought was an interesting way of putting it. He also talked about quarterbacks, his offense, and made pains not to be specific about why redshirt freshman defensive tackle Nick James hasn’t played the last two games after seeing action in the first four.
To the highlights.
• From Mullen’s opening comment: “Our guys right now, the focus changes a little bit with some of them midseason. But our leaders have stepped up this week and done a really good job of keeping the focus on preparing for this game, on preparing ourselves to continue to improve as a football team.”
• On how the relationship between starting QB Tyler Russell and backup Dak Prescott has helped the latter: “You look at the leadership that Tyler brings, not just a leader on offense, but also just in the meeting room, leader of his position group. And the work ethic he’s put in, how he prepares, and Dak gets to see that and learn from how he does it. They feed off each other’s success. When Dak throws a touchdown pass, there’s no one more excited than Tyler.”
• Any reason James hasn’t played the last two games? “No.”
• Is it because of the way the defensive linemen have rotated, or what? “It depends – I don’t really check to see exactly how many, who’s played or not. With every single guy on the team, there are a bunch of guys that are in that position, depending on the game, depending on how many reps they get.”
• On parity in the SEC West: “It’s the toughest division in all of college football when you just look at the depth and the quality of teams that are on this side of the league. And even teams that have down years are still pretty good teams. Arkansas, they’ve been a top-10 team at a different point during the season and slipped, but you see them, they still have the potential, and they still play like a top-10 team. I’ve seen that on film. Alabama, obviously defending national champion. LSU, defending national runner-up last year. Those two teams have really kept their game right at that level.”
• On designing his offense around personnel: “To me, we’re a pro offense. We’re going to try to take our personnel and create advantageous matchups against the defense. If it involves running option, we’re going to do that. If it involves throwing it a lot, we’ll do that. If it involves power running, we’ll do that.”