Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen met with the media Monday to review the Bulldogs 48-31 win over Texas A&M  and preview the upcoming matchup against second-ranked Auburn.

Here’s a transcript of Mullen’s weekly press conference…

Below is a transcript of Mullen’s press conference:

Opening Statement…
“Last week, it was a great win for us as a team. Guys did what they needed to do, made plays throughout the game we that needed to make. Obviously, we got the home-field advantage with our fan base staying, especially the student body, but our entire fan base stayed the entire game to give us that home-field advantage. We’re really excited to have College GameDay here. It is really neat for our program. I think last week, they saw the type of atmosphere we have here. We want to have a sellout crowd this week. I think there’s still standing-room only tickets that they’re still selling at this point to give us that home-field advantage. I think that is so important coming in here to this game. It’s really exciting for the state of Mississippi right now with the success that both universities are having. We end up as coaches locked away sometimes so you don’t get to see that excitement that’s all around. I know with people around the state, there’s a lot of pride with everybody around the state of Mississippi and what we’re able to accomplish on the football field. That’s fantastic that we can be a part of that. That is really exciting.”

“We have a tough matchup this week with Auburn. They will be the best team we play so far. Every team we’ve played so far this year has been undefeated going into the game. It’s another one. You look at Auburn and the type of team they are, the team knows how to win. Obviously they are the defending conference champion. They got to play for a national championship last year. Their guys know how to win. They’ve played in big games and know how to play in big games. They have one of the top defenses in the conference. You look at them, they have a lot of talented players. They roll a lot of guys through on the defensive line. They got big, physical linebackers. They have great athleticism in the secondary to cover you. You go to the other side of the ball, they have, I think, the most experienced quarterback in the league. He leads the league in rushing (by a quarterback). They’ve got big-play wide receivers on the outside. Obviously, they’re a great running team with a big, physical offensive line and a bunch of different backs they’ll throw at you including their main guy who is the third-leading rusher in the SEC. Really another a huge challenge for us this week with a great team coming in. Should be a pretty exciting game, should be fun and should be a great atmosphere. We’ll be ready to go play.”

On advice quarterback coach Brian Johnson gives quarterback Dak Prescott during games…
“It’s great. The one thing, with Brian getting to be upstairs, he really gets to see everything. I think a lot of times, when you’re upstairs it’s like watching the game film. It really all lays out there to him. For me, I’m kind of back and forth sometimes with them, then I’m with the defense every once in a while. Even though I had Brian (as a player at Utah) for a year, when he’s talking to (Prescott), it is how I like talking to quarterbacks and how I want it done. There’s a lot of discussion with what went on. They come off the series, they just go through the series, ‘what did you see? Why did you do this?’ Dak talks through everything that happened, then Brian says, ‘if there is something we made a mistake on, this was where the mistake was. Maybe you didn’t see this happen out there on the field. This is what happened on the back side of that read.’ I think there is really great communication about what’s getting done on the field.”

On wide receiver De’Runnya Wilson…
“He’s a hard worker. He’s got a great practice work ethic on the field. With playing basketball last year, he missed a little bit of the offseason. I still think he still has a lot of improvement he can make, but he’s got very, very natural ball skills. I think with the ability with his ball skills and his body control certainly helps him, and his size with that mismatch. When he gets himself in position, he’s very natural catching the ball and allows him to make a lot of big plays.”

On being the head coach of a highly-ranked team…
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. It’s fun. Still down in there in the meetings trying to figure out how to score some points and how to shut them down. I think all of our coaches on our staff, everybody is proud with what we’ve been able to build here a little bit. This has nothing to do with our goal. Rankings and all are really cool. The only one that I see is that we’re 2-0 in the SEC with six games to go, so we haven’t accomplished all that much yet, but the rest of it is kind of cool.”

On recruiting Dak Prescott and potential for national accolades…
“When you talk about all those national awards, and Heisman’s and stuff like that, I think our offensive system helps that. I’ve been blessed to have some really good quarterbacks, but a lot of the quarterbacks that succeed at the highest levels within our system get mentioned for all these awards, it’s fantastic, but you don’t look at guys in recruiting that. I look at a guy who was a winner. He’s a guy who had an unbelievable work ethic, a desire to be great at whatever he was doing. You saw that when you were around him. You talk to his high school coaches and talk to people at the high school, that’s what they say. He’s got a drive to be great. Those are the type of guys you want because they’re going to really develop and they’re going to push themselves and maximize their ability to become the best they can be. We’re a developmental program so I love guys who have that desire to want to be great. You saw that in him. I still think he’s getting better every single day. We had a great practice (Sunday) night. We improved as a team last night, and I think that’s really important for us.”

On developing young players and player stepping in for injured starters…
“We have some older guys on the team and the experience aspect of them knowing that, we always talk about, ‘you have to do your job. You never know when you’re number is going to be called to make a play. You never know what play in the course of the game is going to be to change that.’ I tell our guys every week, ‘if you know what play is going to be the deciding factor in the game, let me know so I can make a great call.’ You never know which one it’s going to be. You have to be ready and you have to prepare that way. I think with the leadership within our program, the older guys, do a great job for our younger guys so they get to know to be ready. The fact that two of those three guys went down during basically warmups that we figured they couldn’t play. It certainly made me sleep better and probably everybody else. There’s no real pressure on Logan Cooke. He got about 30 seconds notice to realize he was going to go kick the opening kickoff. He didn’t really have time to get nervous about it. He just had to go do it. I think guys within the program, they see that. They’re ready for when their number is called. They’re given that opportunity to step up and perform at the highest level.”

On calming down after big win against Texas A&M…
“Here’s the thing for us, we’re playing an even better team this week so we’re going to have to play better this week than we did last week. The only way that’s going to happen is we work harder at practice. We work harder at everything that we do, and we become a better football team. I think the reality of that within the program, I think when everybody looks at the emotions that go on is fantastic in the sense of accomplishments. I have a lot of pride in our university, and I have a lot of pride in the state of Mississippi. I think a lot of the emotions are in what has gone on in the state. You have the top two universities in the state ranked No. 3 nationally. That’s pretty special for all the people here. I think you’re always hearing about maybe what Mississippi is last in, or if we’re ranked high it’s something not great. To be considered one of the best at something that’s really dear to everyone’s heart in the state, everybody in the state can celebrate, not point fingers or any of that stuff, everybody can celebrate. That’s the emotion. The reality of it all for us is we have to get to work and be a better football team. Except for being able to feel good this week and that our guys are probably getting patted on the back around campus, we haven’t accomplished anything close to what we want to accomplish. The difference between a pat on the back and a kick in the rear end is about six inches. We have to make sure we keep in the high-end of those six inches right there because if not, it will turn to the second.”

On maturity of Dak Prescott surrounding national attention…
“We talk to him about that stuff. When you have that deal with him, the talk is he got here being Dak Prescott. If he really likes kind of what’s going on with it all, continue to be Dak Prescott. If you don’t, then change and go be something else. You’ll also see different results that come along with that. I think when you look at it that way, that’s what it is. He’s a young college kid that’s having a good time. I tell him, ‘don’t take yourself too seriously.’ Any time you take yourself too seriously, find the people that will keep you in check. It’s very easy for me not to take myself too seriously because I go home and I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old and a beautiful wife. I’m Dad to them, and that’s all I really am. That’s kind of cool. My son is really juiced when we win. He’s really into the rankings right now. I’m starting to compete with some other people out there for his favorite. He likes the winners. I have a great group of friends, and you get texts from your friends, but a lot of them are still kind of busting your chops about stuff. I said to (Dak), ‘the people that have always been there for you, that are always going to act the same, they’re always going to act the same in everything else. Take it with a grain of salt. Have fun with it and enjoy it. Sometimes it will be there, sometimes it won’t.’ All that attention, all that hype – that’s constantly changing. You just kind of take it for what it is. The reality behind it all and the people that are constant, those are the things that really matter.”

On wide receiver Gabe Myles…
“I thought he did really well. We continue to stress and remind him that Jameon was in a very similar situation that Gabe is in. Jameon (Lewis) was a high school quarterback, went to a state championship. They have very similar backgrounds, and they have to come and learn this new position. You see Gabe doing some things well at that position and still learning in other aspects of it. What I was pleased with is we didn’t skip a beat. He didn’t flinch. (Jamoral Graham) got to go in and take some of those reps, too. He didn’t flinch. They were ready to go. I credit a lot of that to one Billy Gonzales who does a great job with the receivers and making sure they are ready, but also to Jameon making sure that they guys who are at his position that back him up are ready to go play as well.”

On learning lessons with hype at Florida…
“In this league, it’s all about the next game. It’s all about the next play. That’s what you’re as good as. To be honest with you, if we win this game, the next game will be even bigger again, so that’s all that happens. That’s kind of how we view it. Is this a big game? Absolutely, bigger than the last one. If we win it, it probably won’t be as big as the next one though. For our guys, I think, they’re just focused on us as a team and us constantly getting better. Coming into this season our goals were to win more than two games in the SEC. That’s all we’ve really done so far so we still have a lot to accomplish.”

On defensive coordinator Geoff Collins facing Auburn’s offense…
“The personality changes over three weeks. You go from the two-tights I-formation pound away football to the five-wides throw it 62 times in the game to the balance, a team very similar to us, in running play action. It’s going to run it, spread it out to run it, but also has a great play action game and the option components, maybe not in the traditional sense people view the option, but the run-pass option on all the plays and a really athletic quarterback that can run the football and is a dynamic player. It certainly is a challenge for our defensive guys because there’s really not lots of carry-over from one week to the next. There’s a lot of carry-over for what we do in what we do ourselves, but in how that applies to the team you’re playing, there’s not a lot of carry-over.”

On injuries to Jameon Lewis and Devon Bell…
“We’ll see how they go. They’re kind of rest injuries. (Sunday) we had a bunch of guys rest. Our guys were juiced. They were flying around last night on that practice field which was great to see. We’re a little bit light with those guys. We’ll see. In talking to the trainers afterwards, they feel there is a good chance they both could play Saturday. It’s not one of those this is the exact time. Neither of the deals is this is the exact timeframe for the injury. There’s a good chance they’ll both play Saturday, but it’s going to be one of those we’ll see as the week progresses, how they do.”

On running back Josh Robinson meeting expectations…
“I know my expectations of everybody is extremely high. He’s a tremendous kid and such an unbelievably positive attitude. I always knew he had a lot of talent, and what you saw coming into this season was him developing maturity. The key to that was maturity and not losing the personality that makes him who he is and so much fun to be around, but the maturity of knowing how to take care of his business. We thought he could do some really big things. Dak gets a lot of attention, but within our offense, everybody has to do their job. As we spread the field, we try to make the defense account for all 11 guys that are out there on the field. If one guy is a real weak link, then they only have to worry about 10 and they can start to take things away from you. Everyone needs to do their job. I think Josh has done a tremendous job of getting tough yards when he needs to get tough yards, hitting explosive plays when there are opportunities to hit explosive plays, catching to ball out of the backfield, blocking when we need him to block. That’s the maturity of just, ‘hey, give me the ball and I’ll show you what I can do when I go run with it,’ it’s being a complete football player, and that’s what we need out of everybody on our team.”

On Auburn’s defense…
“In watching them on film, they’re certainly going to be the best defense we face this year and most complete defense. They have a great defensive front. It’s one of those that you look at in classic SEC style. ‘Who’s this guy?’ And it’s a different guy every time. They’re deep. They roll those guys through up front and a lot of deep, talented players on the defensive line. They have the linebackers that are big, physical guys, then they’re athletic enough to go play a lot of man coverage and give you the one-on-one matchups on the outside to stop the run within what they do. They’re a very well-coached outfit. (Auburn defensive coordinator) Ellis (Johnson) does a great job of taking things away scheming people and putting his players in a good position to be successful. They’re certainly well-deserving to be one of the top defenses in the country.”

On Heisman hype on Prescott and how it has changed from previously coached quarterbacks…
“Through the past I’ve gotten to go a couple times to New York with players, with Alex Smith at Utah and Tim (Tebow) at Florida. We’ve going through the first five games, I don’t ever that being much of the deal. I used to remember like Game 8 or 9 the hype would start building up. Maybe I’m off on that, and maybe it was always that way and that we didn’t just notice it. The year Tim won it, I think it really hit, he accounted for seven touchdowns against South Carolina one night, and it really exploded after that. Alex was putting up ridiculous numbers every single week. Then all of a sudden we started getting ranked and getting noticed and climbing the polls, and he continued to perform and every stat was so much ahead of every other quarterback, I thought, in the country that year. But it wasn’t until later in the season. Even after Tim won it, I don’t remember it being that much. He was always going to get it because he won it once as a true sophomore. I thought that was pretty unique to do it as a sophomore. The hype was around him, but I don’t remember it being that hyped up this early in the season. We have only played five games. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen. We have another eight weeks to go. That’s when it’s really important – how you’ve done in the total body of work.”

On Dak Prescott’s performance in practice compared to in games…
“He’s pretty good in practice now. He does a good job. He understands what’s going on and understands coverages. In practice you’re always trying to work different things. Dak’s a guy that really works hard at his techniques and his fundamentals and developing himself. I think he takes a lot of pride in doing it practice at an extremely high level, because he’s always going to be a little harder in the game with everything that’s going on, and in the game it’s not going to play out exactly the way you think. I think a lot of that is his comfort in the offense, his comfort in preparation and playing other teams and his growth and development as a quarterback. Throughout his career here and hopefully beyond here, there is going to be a lot of more speed. There’s going to be a lot of bumps on game day that come and speed bumps that happen. It’s his development and continual growth that is really, to me, the most important thing. Just even looking to Saturday with different plays, a touchdown to Fred Brown. He does a great job and knows where he’s going with the ball, knows what the coverage is, looks the safety off, very relaxed, very balanced and makes it very accurate throw. He wasn’t trying to figure out what was going on. He knew and did his job. That’s a major part of it – understanding what’s going to happen and then you can really be relaxed back there.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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