It was Dan Mullen’s turn on the SEC coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday. With Mississippi State hosting Kentucky on Thursday this week, Mullen and the Bulldogs are in their usual Friday schedule.
Here is a transcript of what the fifth-year head coach had to say about the matchup with the Wildcats.
Mullen: “This is like a day off. This is a Friday for us. Today’s a Friday and tomorrow’s game day. We’re excited to get back out in front of a national television (audience) in a Thursday night game. Everyone around the country watches that game and it’s a great opportunity for our players and our program to go show what they can do in front of a national TV audience.”
How much have you had to talk to your defensive players about targeting rules and maybe having to go a lot lower in trying to make a tackle?
Mullen: “We talked about it last year and every year since I’ve been here. With the emphasis being bigger on it this year, I think players pay more attention. But we’ve always talked about it. I don’t want a 15-yard penalty, never mind the ejection.
“We spend time on it. At practice and at training camp, anything that would have been close we’ve shown that as a team. Also the league office does a good job each week of sending us video clips that we show to our team of plays that are on the edge and those situations to try to get our players to avoid getting the targeting penalty.”
Does it concern you as an offensive guy that the answer seems to be go lower which means more ACL injuries and knee problems?
Mullen: “I think you’ll see that down the road if this leads to more lower leg injuries. It is such a fine line. You can tell everybody to just go low and target the knees every time when tackling but we don’t make that huge an emphasis of it. We just want to go low like around the midsection of the player. If the offensive player sinks at the last minute then you’ve got to be even lower. But I think the research will tell us if that’s an issue in the future.”
Are the Thursday night games something you’d like to do as much as possible?
Mullen: “I love this opportunity especially when you’re in that double bye week year that we have when the calendar falls this way. It was a bye week for both us and Kentucky. It’s a great opportunity to get to play in this game and we both had a bye before it. We both have had that time to prepare. Sometimes when you play on Thursday night you’ll have that short week and that can be a massive turnaround.
“But with how the schedule fell this year I think it’ll be a great opportunity. I love playing in these games and an opportunity to play on this stage.”
Jalen Whitlow is hurt and it looks like Maxwell Smith will be the guy for Kentucky. They’ve used two quarterbacks a lot during the year like you do. How do you go about preparing for that and does that give you an advantage preparing for that with your quarterback situation?
Mullen: “I think so. What we both do is we don’t run a different offense with different quarterbacks in the game. They maybe highlight or the statistics trend one way more than the other but Kentucky’s situation is quarterback is very similar to ours. We don’t run a different scheme when we put another quarterback in. 80 to 90-percent is going to be about the same then there will be a little different flavor that matches one guys strengths a little differently than the other guys strengths.
“I think our defense is on that same page and knows whatever quarterback is in the game not to expect a whole different game plan. You can expect them to run their offense with a slightly different twist at the end.”