Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen joined the media on the SEC Coaches’ Teleconference for seven minutes this morning to discuss the Bulldogs league opener against Auburn this weekend.
Here is a transcript of his appearance…
Mullen: “It’s the first SEC game of the year here at Mississippi State. The whole time I’ve been here and even prior to my time it’s been against Auburn every single year. I think that adds a little bit of a rivalry aspect to the game because I think the first game is so critical in how you start your year off in conference play.
“I know our guys are ready. You only get eight opportunities to play eight SEC games every year and it’s exciting for our guys. We’ve had a good week of practice so far coming off of that last game, we’ve got guys healing up and getting guys back on the field. We’re excited to get out there and go play.”
When you prepare for Auburn knowing that Melvin Smith is on the other sideline, is there any concern about offensive signals or have you changed things since last season?
Mullen: “We try to change things up every year just because of those situations. I know teams aren’t supposed to videotape guys signaling but I don’t know that everybody follows that rule. We’re pretty cautious about that so from year-to-year we try to change a lot of those signal things up.”
Two games into the season would you say you have the identity defined on this team or is this team yet to be defined?
Mullen: “We’ve got a young group of guys on our team. Last game we only played five seniors on offense and defense. I think it’s a pretty young team. As they come together, I think it’s still developing that overall personality of the team. I think they are working hard as a group and I like our effort and the team aspect that everybody brings. It’s a pretty unselfish team of guys that are all working together to achieve wins.”
After two games, how different does Auburn look last year to this year?
Mullen: “Obviously they are very different schematically. They’ve got some new faces out there on the field playing a lot. They are a very young football team. They don’t have a lot of seniors on the two-deep on the defensive side of the ball. They do have some more I think on offense. You do see a different team. Obviously they are very different schematically on both sides of the ball.”
What are your thoughts on Tre Mason, (Auburn’s) running back?
Mullen: “He’s a very, very explosive player. He’s a guy that when he gets into the open field that’s extremely dangerous because he has such great speed. He’s dangerous in the return game as well because of his exceptional speed in the open field. But he also runs very physical between the tackles, that’s what’s impressive. Obviously he has that open field, special ability but he brings a physical aspect to his game as well to be able to run between the tackles. It makes his tough to defend.”
What are your thoughts on the budding rivalry with Auburn and what was it like last year finally breaking through with a win?
Mullen: “It was huge. To me, that was one of my top wins because every year you start off with them. It adds that natural rivalry. I’ve always felt like that wherever I’ve been, just that first conference game. Especially for us because every year it’s Auburn. If it rotates it’s a little different but every year when it’s that same team and a conference game it makes it huge. I think that was a great win for us and our program last year to get that victory.”
What are your impressions of Auburn’s quarterback Nick Marshall?
Mullen: “When you look at him, he’s developing as a passer. What I mean by that is he does a good job on throws. He has talent and hits open receivers and creates big gains in the passing game. Even in the first two games you’ve seen him get more and more comfortable in that drop back passing game. That obviously makes him very lethal in the play action game because you have to account for him in the run game. If he gets one-on-one matchups he’s very accurate throwing the ball.
“The danger aspect of him running the ball always makes it tough. Then you see his growth and development as a quarterback and as a drop back passer would give him every aspect of what you’d want in a quarterback.”
What did you learn from defending Johnny Manziel last year?
Mullen: “You’d better make sure you don’t let guys get into the open field. You have to have guys that account for the quarterback. If you don’t have guys accounting for the quarterback and he gets into the open field then those guys can hurt you.
“It’s also a big deal when you have guys like that to finish plays. On a normal play you give great effort for four to six seconds. When you play a really athletic quarterback then those four to six seconds can quickly turn into 12 seconds. So you’ve got to keep finishing plays of extended plays against a quarterback who has the ability to create on his own.”