Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen joined the rest of the league’s head coaches on the SEC Coaches’ Teleconference on Wednesday.
Here is a transcript of Mullen’s time on the call…
Mullen: “We’re really fired up to get this season going right now. We’re finishing on the high notes that we had last year with a lot of guys coming back. We have a lot of experience. I know (the players) are ready to get back out onto the field and play again and see what we can do.
“Guys have been working since last January so almost nine months of putting in work for this time of year for 12 games and hopefully up to 15 games. All that work goes into this time of year. The anticipation and build up to finally go get the reward that you get after putting in all that hard work in the offseason. We’re fired up and ready to go.”
On your depth chart, you have less freshmen and first year players than anybody else. What’s it like getting to the point where you don’t have to use brand new guys?
Mullen: “Our staff has done a good job developing players. We’ll play a lot of young guys. We’ll have guys come in and really develop within our program and see the rewards of what that development is. It’s fantastic.
“We’ll still have a lot of young guys play for us but we like to play a lot of players too. I always look at depth charts in the post game to see who played the most plays. To me, that’s really where a depth chart has some weight. That’s what guys are competing to do on our team.”
What does a tight end with the dimensions of Malcolm Johnson give an offense?
Mullen: “We’re trying to create mismatches out there on the field. That’s what our spread offense is about to put guys in advantageous situations.
“Having a guy like Malcolm Johnson, who creates mismatches, you don’t want a small guy on him because of the size he has as a tight end with the ability to block. You can put bigger linebackers on him but because of his pass catching skills, those are the mismatches you look for. You like guys with multiple skills that can create mismatches and how we can possibly take advantage of it.”
What impact did having the targeting rule and a disqualification last year have on how the game was played?
Mullen: “We don’t want the penalty before it so we always taught about not doing it. The only strategy we really imposed at practice was we showed situations where you’d be disqualified in that play or situation.
“In the end it had a lot of impact in games. There were games where you had some pretty significant players not able to finish a game because of that rule. It’s a rule and we always adjust to the rules with what we’re doing.”
Do you like the new rule this year when the quarterback is in a passing posture and cannot get hit below the knee?
Mullen: “Yeah. To me, any hit that is designed with an intent to injure is a bad hit.
“If a guy is crawling on the ground or rolling and goes low on a quarterback then you have no problem with that. But if somebody takes a shot at a quarterback going with an intent to injure then you’ve got to protect people. That’s what the rules are about, protecting these young men.”
There are some schools who shy away from playing in-state schools that are non-conference opponents. Tell me about the decision to schedule Southern Miss and why it makes sense for you guys.
Mullen: “When I got here and talked about the history and tradition of the program, a lot of people said this used to be such a big game and a game that every year people looked forward to. I started getting questioned if I’d be interested in scheduling that game.
“We looked at it as what’s good for our university and the state of Mississippi. I think it’s a pretty exciting deal for the state of Mississippi. All the buzz around the state right now is pretty special with the excitement that fans of both schools have. I think it’s a great thing.
“Scheduling those in-state rivals does so much for the state of Mississippi. On a national picture this game is not that big but in Mississippi this game is a huge game. It means so much to so many different people and it’s exciting to be a part of it.
“I’m glad we scheduled it and glad we’re a part of it. I’d encourage other people to do that if they have that opportunity. It creates a lot of fun buzz within your state and is a neat deal to do.”