Spring football has wrapped up across the SEC, and we caught up with all 14 head coaches this morning on a teleconference. I’ll have some highlights in tomorrow’s Journal, but right now let’s focus in on what MSU coach Dan Mullen had to say. He went eight-plus minutes and touched on young players, quarterbacks, offensive tackles, and high expectations, among other things.
I’ve got the entire transcript for you right here. Enjoy.
“It was a real good spring for us. We have a young football team with only 11 seniors on the roster next year. A great opportunity for young players to get a lot of reps, to gain some experience for our guys out there on the field and to start to build the foundation of what will be our 2013 football season.”
Are there two or three young guys who stood out in the spring?
“Not real sure. Some of the young linebackers, I was pleased with the play of some of our young linebackers, with Richie (Brown) and Beniquez Brown and Zach Jackson stepping up. They add to a crew with Benardrick McKinney, who played last year, Deontae Skinner, Matt Wells and Ferlando Bohanna, Chris Hughes. They’ve really added some good depth right there for us. Also excited with the young secondary players. You look at Jamerson Love and Justin Cox, Cedric Jiles, Will Redmond – those guys in the secondary really showed some athletic ability, showed some talent, showed that they have the potential to do a lot of good things for us. Our key is to really accelerate them to get them SEC-ready by the fall. They showed they have the ability to do it, now we just have to get them the maturity and the experience ready for this fall.”
QB Dak Prescott’s toe injury, still expect him to be full-go by August?
“He should be cleared full-go, they said, by the beginning of July. He’ll have a whole month of being fully cleared before we start training camp. We expect everything’s right on progress with him, on schedule.”
Tyler Russell’s spring, where is he going into next season, and how valuable to have an experienced QB?
“It’s huge. There’s a lot of experienced quarterbacks that are coming back this year in the league. That’s great for our whole league. But as far as Tyler goes, a fifth-year senior, he’s a guy that has experience on the field, has played in just about every stadium that we’re going to have to play in this year on the road. He understands the pressures and expectations of being a Southeastern Conference quarterback. That’s just kind of the periphery right there. On the inside, he knows our offense inside and out, understands why we’re trying to do things. His input, whether it be game-planning, his input on checks, his input on decision-making overall is huge because of that experience he has because of the understanding and grasp of our offense he has. We expect him to have a huge year this year.”
Is this season comparable to your first year at MSU as far as the youth of the team?
“The first year, everything was new for everybody. It’s not really comparable to that, because that’s a Year 1 deal, where everybody’s trying to figure out what your expectations are within the program. I think our guys understand the expectations. I always think that when you have a small senior class, your seniors, those are the guys that are desperate. They know that this is the end for them. And they kind of play, they lead, and everything they do is with that, their career winding down. I always think some younger guys sometimes always think, I have more time, so they’re not quite as desperate out there on the field. That motivating fact is getting everybody to play as if they’re seniors is a key component. Unlike the first year, I think our guys understand the program, they understand their expectations. We as a coaching staff just have to do a great job of making sure everybody plays with that desperate mindset, that this is their most important year, this is the year that matters.”
Any kind of lingering disappointment from the Gator Bowl loss to Northwestern?
“Yeah, this is the first year we haven’t won our last game of the season. But I do think with a lot of guys here, it is a motivating factor for them coming into spring, that they’re not pleased with how the last year ended. Sometimes it’ll put a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, that they’ve gotten a little bit more oomph to them going out there on the field because they kind of have that chip on their shoulder with how last year ended.”
How did the offensive tackles progress this spring?
“That’s a strong point. You’re looking at three guys with experience coming back for us at that position from last year. And only one of them right now is a senior, so that’s a real positive for us as we move forward in the program. I see those guys all getting comfortable. It’s hard to say, we have potentially three starting tackles, which is a good position for us to be in going into the season. Not just that there’s a competition, that we could see some rotation of guys there as well just making sure that everybody is getting the playing time they deserve.”
Damien Robinson said he’s feeling more comfortable, less pressure, does that go for the line as a whole?
“There’s a lot of guys that have been together for a while. They understand what we’re doing, and they’re playing with a little bit more confidence, which certainly is a big plus.”
As you raise expectations for the program, what’s the most important part of taking that next step?
“What we have created here is a level of stability and a level of high expectations. When I first got here, the expectations were, boy, I hope we go to a bowl game. Now that’s become the norm for us, and when you build that foundation up – I believe to win a championship, you have to have a solid foundation. It’s not just going to come from nowhere. So you have that solid foundation built, and those are steps towards us progressing to win a championship .When you win consistently, the next step for us is to obviously compete for a championship consistently, and when you start to do that, you’re going to find that you win a championship. That, to me, is the progress that we’ve build in this program and the expectations that I have of our program. Those expectations have really spread through our fanbase. It’s really spread I’d say outside the program. Inside the program we have real high expectations, but it is starting to spread outside as well.”