Sunday conversation with Dan Mullen

Dan Mullen expects Tyler Russell to play against Auburn. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Dan Mullen expects Tyler Russell to play against Auburn. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

STARKVILLE – Dan Mullen held his weekly teleconference with the media Sunday afternoon following Mississippi State’s 51-7 win over Alcorn State.

Up next for the Bulldogs will be their first conference test on the Plains against Auburn Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

“Rock and roll, I’m ready to start SEC week this week,” Mullen said. “There’s nothing more exciting than SEC football. Our opening game will be played on the road against obviously a tough Auburn team so we’re excited to go play.”

Mullen did not have the latest injury update during the noon teleconference but expected senior quarterback Tyler Russell to practice this week. He stated that if Russell was healthy enough to go then he would be playing quarterback and if not, sophomore Dak Prescott would remain the starter.

“I won’t know Tyler’s situation,” Mullen said. “He might not be cleared early in the week. We want to be very cautious with head injuries and are very protective of our players. We want to make sure they are cleared and ready to go before we put them in that situation. I expect him to be ready to go for the game but I don’t know what day this week he’ll be ready to practice though.”

Russell did not dress during Saturday’s game while Prescott went 12-of-19 passing with 174 yards and three total touchdowns in his first career start, playing in only the first half.

“I thought he handled the offense pretty well,” Mullen said. “He missed one or two reads and there were about two to three checks that he could have made. But overall his performance was graded as a champion.”

Senior running back LaDarius Perkins also did not dress during Saturday’s game due to a sprained ankle. Mullen expects Perkins, who is a former Auburn commitment, to be available against the Tigers this week.

Seven new starters were in the lineup against Alcorn State but Mullen expects all players who missed Saturday’s game to be available for the SEC opener with the exception of guard Justin Malone, safety Jay Hughes and tight end Gus Walley – all of whom have season ending injuries.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver Fred Brown will also be cleared to play after being ejected from the Alcorn State game following a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Brown was flagged after making his first career catch (an 11-yard reception) and spiking the football in the third quarter. He was ejected on the next drive in the fourth quarter ending his debut with two catches for 27 yards.

Mullen says that the team will handle Brown’s punishment internally.

The fifth-year coach of the Bulldogs is pleased with the job true freshman De’Runnya Wilson has done so far. In his first two games, Wilson has hauled in four passes for 48 yards.

The former Mr. Basketball in Alabama only played one season of high school football.

“He’s a young guy who has the ability to make plays,” Mullen said. “We’ve just got to get him to be a consistent football player. He hasn’t played a whole lot of football really either. That’s a critical deal for us is getting him caught up to speed with the speed and consistency we need him to play at week in and week out.”

Fellow true freshman wide receiver Fred Ross led MSU with three catches for 46 yards in Saturday’s game and is another young playmaker Mullen is counting on.

“Fred’s played a little bit more football and is more of a polished player coming out of high school,” Mullen said. “Unfortunately, he missed most of training camp with injuries so that’s what kind of slowed him down a little bit. But I thought he’s done a good job and took a big step forward last game.”

One area of offense where the Bulldogs still have room for improvement is on third down. State was just 2-of-16 in week one and were 5-of-13 on Saturday.

“We are going to study that this week,” Mullen said. “We’re going to look at our plan and exactly what we’re doing. That is probably the most disappointing part of our game right now is on third down. We’re going to really look into that and really make sure we can improve that area.”

The Bulldogs are 5-of-10 on fourth down conversions.

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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    What kind of an assessment is that of the head coach on 3rd down conversions?
    ” we are going to study that this week”. It seems to me play calls are predictable and the defense is able to stop them most of the time or the calls are okay and poor execution is responsible for the low rate of success. In either case, poor coaching is the culprit. We are paying some good salaries for these coaches and I’m not so sure we’re getting our moneys’ worth.

    • Wesley Grissom

      Thats not all he said about third downs he also said

      “We’re going to look at our plan and exactly what we’re doing. That is probably the most disappointing part of our game right now is on third down. We’re going to really look into that and really make sure we can improve that area.”

      I would take that to mean they are going to look at what they have been doing and figure out how to improve on it. I think we are getting our money’s worth. He is winning the games we are supposed to win and we are getting upsets about as often as Sherrill or Croom ever did. Dan has won more games in his first 5 seasons than any other coach in the schools history and he is only 2 games into his 5th year, he got us to 3 bowl game quicker and He beat Ole Miss 3 years in a row for the first time in over 70 years. I’d call that getting our moneys worth

      • SLOWDAWG

        Really? Where were we five years ago? Bottom of the SEC west. Where are we today? Bottom of the SEC west. The outlook is not so good for this year, maybe 6 and 6, if we are lucky. I hear a lot of hype and expectations, but I don’t see much performance on the field. Where is the intensity and excitement on the field of 2009 and 2010? It seems to have changed to business as usual and “failure to finish.” You may be happy with that, but I’m sorry I am not. I see the direction as down, not up and change is required to improve the outlook. If Mullen can fix that, great. If not, let’s give someone else a chance.

        • Wesley Grissom

          Dude are you looking at the top of the SEC West? Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M. Those programs all have tradition it easy for them to recruit top recruits and therefore have better teams because they have the tradition. What’s our tradition? Sadly its mostly losing. It takes time to build a consistent winner when your tradition has been like ours. It took Jackie 8 years to get to the West final, 10 wins the next year without beating a ranked team. Mullen has had a little over 4 years and has done more in that time than any coach before him. Whether you choose to see it or not they are moving the right direction. We play in the toughest division in college football, one where if you win it you are probably going to be national champions and its hard for anybody to break into that elite level from nothing. Unless there’s a major regression from the team like happened under Sherrill and Croom then Mullen is moving the right direction. We are winning the all games we are supposed to for the first time I can remember. We aren’t losing to Memphis, LA Monroe, LA Tech, Tulane, Maine or ties to lower level competition like we have in the past. Now we work on winning games that we aren’t supposed to.

          • SLOWDAWG

            I yield to your strong optimism and hope you are right-on, however, in my humble opinion we peaked in 2010 and are on a downward slope leading to our former status of being the doormat in the SEC. Most successful coaches I have observed take responsibility for poor performance on the field and declare they will fix it. They don’t say ” we are gonna study that and check our plan to see what we are not doing and really look into that and really improve in that area.”

  • Cid Riley

    Not too long ago State would’ve maybe scratched out a 16 to 14 win over Alcorn St. Auburn will be a good benchmark game, but whether MSU wins or loses’s just one SEC game.

  • If MSU could get the big time players,we could be on the same level with LSU or Bama’s!Hell,we only get 1 or 2 4,5 star players each class and that cant put you up there with those big time schools.They getting 8 more of those each class.Just be happy we are getting there!Jones and Shump helping us get those players with their success.Complaining doesnt help,because you’re not in Mullen’s face telling him how you feel,lol!Suck it up and get some Dawg in you!Quit crying on here and whining and sh-t and toughing up Slowdawg!Gotta call him out!

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