Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen joined the rest of the league’s head coaches on the SEC Coaches’ Teleconference on Wednesday.
Here’s a transcript of Mullen’s time on the call….
Mullen: “You get into Week 2 and a lot of times people expect to see a lot of improvement from Game 1 to Game 2. I always do that with our guys. I was pleased with our performance last week. I think we have some veteran players so their adjustment into game week I thought was solid. Their approach and getting ready for the game, that transition from training camp practice into getting into that game week routine, they did a really good job of that in that adjustment.
“There’s plenty of things we need to improve on coming into this week. UAB’s a team that’s got a new coaching staff. I watched them play in their huge win over Troy last week. They put up great numbers with their power running attack and a tough, physical defense. They didn’t give up many points. They’re going to be playing with a lot more confidence and swagger and are a much different looking team than they were last year. We’re going to have to play well and we’ve got our hands full.”
Can you assess the play of Chris Jones in the opener?
Mullen: “He did okay and made a couple of nice plays in there. I think he had a sack. But he still has a lot to work on technically to become a great, every down player. He’s made some big plays but still has a lot of work to do to become a great technical, every down player.”
How many positions do you think (Jones) can play or do you envision him playing this season?
Mullen: “Right now he plays d-tackle for us and then we’ll move him out in some nickel situations to d-end for us. That’s where he’s lined up now. Now that could always change depending on if we stay healthy, that’s what we see him doing. If there’s injuries that happen then you never know how you’re going to have to use guys.”
How meaningful was it to see Jay Hughes make some big plays coming back off his injury?
Mullen: “That was fantastic. He’s always been a leader for our team. Even last year he was a leader and got hurt in the opening game and missed the entire season. He’s a guy that was voted captain by his teammates. To get to see him not only come back on the field but to make an interception at the end of the first half when they were driving and then score a touchdown off the blocked field goal early in the second half was huge.
“It was huge for him and his confidence. He’s a guy that’s worked so hard to come back off an injury. He does everything the right way within the program and he gets to see that all that hard work pays off. It’s a great message to all the other kids and allows him to continue to be a great role model for the guys in our program.”
With an experienced quarterback coming back in Dak Prescott, how thicker is the playbook than having a newbie on board?
Mullen: “The playbook doesn’t change, what you use in the playbook does. The playbook is always kind of there. We always tweak around the strengths of our quarterbacks. To me, we’re a play away from having to go to our backup quarterbacks and you want all those guys to be prepared. You set the standard by the quarterbacks who are ready.
“I don’t know that we’ve really expanded a whole lot this year for Dak. What you do is, you get him to make better decisions, understand why and give him more flexibility to check plays or get us into certain plays if he sees a look that he likes. The ability to do that is there. We have more of an experienced quarterback so you can tighten the reins of how to use the offense.”
What areas do you think you need to improve on the most for UAB?
Mullen: “It’s a very different game for us. They’re a power running football team. They had two backs with over 100-yards last week which is very different than what we saw in Week 1. So we’ve got to do a great job tackling. We had too many yards after contact last week.
“They’ve got a big, physical back that’ll hurt us if we do the same this week. Offensively, we had three possessions that started on the plus side of the field and got zero points. You can’t do that and expect to win a lot of games. We’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities with the ball on the plus side of the field.”
Dez Harris and Rashun Dixon haven’t played in a football game in a while, what was their journey like from camp to the game?
Mullen: “That’s always a really neat deal. Dez is a guy that got hurt before his senior year in high school and redshirted last year. He’s out there playing and you just see the preparation.
“You can see a little bit of nervousness in their eyes. One thing with some newer players, when you have an experienced group when you get in the hotel room on Friday night or during Saturday walk thru’s, some of the young guys have that nervous excitement. The ones that haven’t done it a lot look a lot different than those older veterans.
“It was a fantastic opportunity to get them in a game, to go play and obviously this is a week where you’ll see them have much more of a level of comfort. They understand what game day is supposed to be and what the preparation is like.”