Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen joined the rest of the league’s head coaches on the SEC coaches’ teleconference to preview the Bulldogs upcoming battle with No. 6 Texas A&M.
Here is a transcript of Mullen’s time on the call…
Mullen: “We’re excited for this week’s game. Obviously it’s a great challenge for us with a team that’s one of the top teams in the nation coming in here to play us at home. We should have a great crowd, great excitement and a great atmosphere.
“They’re going to be a great challenge for us. They’ve obviously got a very explosive offense, probably the top offense in the nation with skilled players at every position. They’re deep at the skill positions and have enormous tight ends who are very athletic. They have one of the nation’s best offensive lines and a great quarterback who makes plays, distributes the ball well and gets the ball to their playmakers.
“They have three running backs that can make things happen. They have a much improved defense from where they were last year. I think they have one of the top pass rushes causing sacks and tackles for loss. They make big plays on the defensive side of the ball too.
“It’s a great challenge for our team. We’re hoping to have a great crowd and hopefully our fans give us home field advantage on Saturday and we get ready to go play.”
How does Texas A&M look different than the last couple of years with Johnny Manziel at quarterback?
Mullen: “I think they’re probably better at wide receiver. They’re just as good on the offensive line. Where Manziel maybe would scramble to beat you with his feet, Kenny Hill kind of scrambles to keep plays alive and makes throws down the field. Not that he doesn’t or can’t run, but he scrambles looking to throw more than run first.”
How have you challenged your offensive line this week in Dillon Day’s absence?
Mullen: “They’re a veteran group. He’s out there as a great leader of our team. He’s out there motivating the guys. I know he wants to be out there on the field with them so he’s out there motivating them and helping them get ready. We’ve moved a couple of different guys around to be able to handle whatever faces us during the game.”
This is a big weekend for the state of Mississippi. What does this say about Mississippi State and Ole Miss football?
Mullen: “I don’t know as much about them but I know for us, we came here to build a winning program. I think we’ve been able to do that and consistently win to put ourselves in a great position. I think it’s fantastic. It’s great for the state of Mississippi and everybody that lives here because they take a lot of pride in football in this state. It’s fantastic for everybody in Mississippi to have that pride for their football programs and to be able to go support it.”
If you had a preference, would you like to see this as a lower scoring game or does it matter?
Mullen: “It doesn’t matter. I don’t see that happening but I’m great either way. I think our guys can play either style. For us, it’s all about getting one more point than they score however it shakes out. I just don’t see it being a low scoring kind of battle in this one. If it is, that’s fantastic.”
How much will Dak Prescott being able to run slow down what the Aggies try to do defensively on the edge with their pass rush?
Mullen: “I’m sure they feel like they’ve got pretty athletic guys who can go chase him down if he does start to scramble around. They’ll want to try and keep him contained in the pocket as best as possible. They won’t want to let him improvise. When you have a quarterback who can improvise, the best thing to try and do is keep him contained in the pocket.”
How has Prescott improved from a year ago?
Mullen: “In every way. He works his tail off on improving his fundamentals, his knowledge of the offense as well as his knowledge of the defense and how teams play against us. He has a habit out there of making reads and picks things up much faster.”
How much difference do you seen in this Texas A&M defense compared to last year?
Mullen: “I think they’re playing with a lot more confidence this year on the defensive side of the ball. They had a lot of good players on defense last year but they got into some shootouts and I think that can get into your head sometimes. I think this year they’re playing with a lot more confidence on the defensive side of the ball and believing they can stop people.”
How much difference does Brandon Harris make versus Anthony Jennings for LSU?
Mullen: “I don’t know because (Harris) just played at the end of the game against us. He made some nice throws and they made some nice catches but we kind of had all of our backups in at that point. He didn’t play a whole lot earlier in the game against us so that’s hard for me to say.”
How will your offensive line be without Day and who’s going to be at center?
Mullen: “We’ve got a couple of different guys we’re going to mix in there to mix and match that stuff. Obviously we’ll miss (Day). He’s a leader for us and a team captain. To me, he’s done a good job this week of preparing the guys that have to play. We’ve got to be prepared for multiple people to play at that position and see how they handle it in there.
“Obviously when you have a guy out that’s a three-year starter and a team captain, you’re going to miss him when he’s not out thereplaying.”