Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen joined the rest of the league’s coaches on the SEC teleconference today to discuss spring practice and future scheduling. Mullen also spoke about the tragic tornadoes that claimed the lives and homes of people around the Magnolia State.
Here is a transcript of the call…
Mullen: “Let me start off first, obviously all our prayers here at Mississippi State go out to all the families that lost homes, that lost love ones in these storms we just had that really just ravished our state. Our student athletes, as well as myself, all of our coaches, everybody in our university family, our athletic department they were in action yesterday setting up a tent city here for relief efforts. I know a lot of our students are working. My wife and I are also going to be very involved in getting to the relief efforts and we can get down there and help those in need out. As the state’s university, we need to try as best we can to be out front to help all of those in need. I know it’s a tragic time for all of that.
“Gets back to football, it always takes a backseat when you have these things. I thought we had a great spring as a team. I’m happy with the direction our program is headed in right now. We got through the spring keeping everybody very healthy, for the most part. No serious injuries coming out of the spring practice. We need to keep moving forward and hopefully build on the success we’ve had over the last several years.”
Your thoughts on the new scheduling?
Mullen: “I think there’s so much change going on in college football right now. A lot of people ‘hey, what do you think of the new playoff?’ I don’t know. It looks good, but we haven’t been in it. Until we know how the whole system is going to play out, we don’t know if it’s going to be a good or bad system right now. I think the the SEC with our scheduling, we’ve had an awful lot of success in the past with it. It’s worked fairly well. I can see with all the other questions going on in college football, to not make another change, lets see where we’re at. This past season we played Oklahoma State. We’ve tried to schedule teams from all the five major conferences in the past. We haven’t had a lot of luck in teams wanting to schedule games with us. Obviously now it’s demanding, we’re going to continue to try to do that. We’re playing Southern Miss this year in our opener. I know on a national level it’s not much, but I know for everybody in the state of Mississippi, it’s such a huge game. A great series that hasn’t been played in a while. In scheduling, we’ve been very proactive in trying to play quality games, or games that mean a lot to the people here in the state of Mississippi.”
Do you have an opinion on 6-1-1 or 6-0-2?
Mullen: “I’ve been involved in 5-1-2 and 6-1-1 in my time in the league. The 6-1-1 and the 5-1-2 that we had prior to that has put a lot of teams in national championship games. I’m in favor of that as we continue to move forward until we think that we need to do something to change to make things better.”
Do you have fears not being able to get a team to come to Starkville?
Mullen: “No. One, we want to try to maintain being able to play seven home games a year like we’ve done. There’s some teams in the league that are playing up to eight. Our goal is to have seven home games a year moving forward. The hardest thing for me is the short turn around. We had teams scheduled before the change on the schedule for that year, but we have made an attempt to schedule teams from those leagues. We’ve reached out to a lot of different people and never got a lot interest in teams wanting to play home and homes with us from the bigger conferences. But we’re going to continue to do so in the future. For some of the schools it’s a little easier because they have that every year rival that they play in a non-conference game that is already from one of those conferences. They kind of have one of those games already scheduled in. We don’t have that local rival to do that with. Playing Southern Miss, we went out and said ‘hey this is a big rivalry in the state of Mississippi, lets try to do something we that.’ In the future that may come off the table then.”
How did the Oklahoma State game work out in terms of marketing the brand?
Mullen: “For us in the game, we didn’t play very poorly. When you take that one game into consideration, we had two season-ending injuries and then another one that greatly affected our season with our quarterback missing a lot of games. In retrospect in the injury department it didn’t rep well for us in that particular game. For our kids, I think that was a great game play in. It was an honor to get invited to go play in that game. Hopefully we get to do that more. I know we want to compete against the best. As a team that almost won their conference championship, I think that would have been the third or maybe fourth conference champion we played on the field. That was a good experience for us.”
Can you assess your quarterback play through the spring?
Mullen: “The guys continued to work really well. With Brian Johnson coming in as the new quarterback coach this spring, he brought some fresh, new ideas to the table. I think they responded well to that. You have two guys coming back that have starting experience. Even though Damian Williams only started one game, Dak (Prescott) started a couple, not with any real significant starting experience, but those guys have started games. You got to see them really continue to take strides in the right direction in their development and moving into the future. We had Nick Fitzgerald graduate high school early, which is obviously a huge advantage for young men to be able to do and get a spring ball under your belt. Those guys will be competing together into the fall to see how it goes. One big thing at the quarterback position, there’s so much extra development, that those guys have to do on their own. We can’t be around them now throwing a football until July 30 when they report to camp. It’s such a skilled position. How much they’re going to go work on their skill in their personal time between now and July 30, will really determine what the pecking order will be going into the season.”