Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference on Monday to discuss the top-ranked Bulldogs bye week and preview their match-up at Kentucky this weekend.

The following is a transcript of Mullen’s time at the podium. You can also watch Mullen’s press conference by clicking the links here –> Part I Part II

Opening Statement:

“I am pleased with last week’s game. Different guys stepped up and made plays when we needed them to make plays. That game is behind us at this point and we are moving on to a very difficult Arkansas team. They play excellent defense. They have a great defensive line and they run to the football very aggressively. With the style of defense that they play, they have been very successful against a lot of high potent offenses this year. Besides a couple of big plays at the end of the game they were able to slow down Texas A&M, which is one of the best offenses in the country. They really shut down Alabama who has an explosive offense as well. They present a great challenge with the physicality and speed of their defense. You do not get many opportunities with the ball against them. They have the biggest offensive line in the United States, including the NFL. They are a big, physical outfit, and they have two of the best tailbacks in the country. They have a quarterback who can really throw the football and is very efficient. Because of how well they run the ball they get some pretty good looks for him in one-on-one coverage. That presents a huge challenge for us this week.”

On the teams ability to respond:

“A lot of that is toughness. There are a lot of guys who have been in the program for a while and understand that we are here to play 60 minute football games. They also understand that the other team is going to make plays. The key when that happens is to put the ball down and play the next play. We have some maturity in our program, so when those things start to happen guys do not really worry that much about it. They understand there is nothing they can do about the play that just happened. They don’t get caught up in the panic and let a situation get out of control.”

On the playoff system:

“Our focus is on beating Arkansas. As soon as you start thinking too far ahead and not on beating the next opponent, you are not going to be very successful. That has been our approach. If we are able to beat Arkansas our focus will go to UT-Martin which is a big Homecoming game for us.”

On Kaleb Eulls:

“Eulls is a guy that has bought in to our program and believes in what we do. He works hard every day. He is not the biggest guy on the defensive line or the fastest or the strongest, but he really works his technique and fundamentals. He gives maximum effort and he is always going to give everything he has. On top of all of that, he is a great young man. He has been like that since he came in. He is still Eulls, a guy that is going to come in and give his best effort every day.”

On the 1B defense:

“When you look at it, statistically the 1Bs had 22 plays and the 1As had 50 plays. Then there was some mix and matching on the other plays. In 22 plays, the 1Bs gave up more yards and more than double the points than the 1As gave up in twice as many plays. Those guys know their reps are contingent on how the perform in games, but we are not going to change who we are. We will still continue to rotate guys in to the game. A lot of younger players who have not put in four years of weight training and conditioning might enjoy the pat on the back a little bit more than everyone else. The older guys get a pat on the back know how much they put in to get there. The younger guys have to understand how hard they have to work, so we put a lot of emphasis on that at practice yesterday. We are making sure the effort level of the 1B defense is where it needs to be.”

On special teams:

“We feel pretty confident in [Jamoral] Graham fielding punts, especially while [Jameon] Lewis was hurt. Hopefully this week he is 100 percent. He was cleared this week, but as soon has he got sore we wanted to pull him. Hopefully he will be able to go the full game this week. The field goal was right on the edge. We have been working a little bit with [Logan] Cooke on field goals because he has a big leg. The miss was all my fault because I told him that with all the adrenaline he might rush and over stride, which would cause him to miss to the right. I told him to relax, and he took my coaching really well. He was so relaxed he stepped short and hooked it to the left. That is a good thing that he was listening to what was going on and tried to do what we told him to do. It was right on the edge of [Evan] Sobiesk’s range. I would have felt confident putting him out there, but I do not want to put him out there beyond his range and have him get out of his rhythm, because he is kicking the ball very well for us.”

On [Brandon] Hill:

“Brandon returned to the game on the last play. He should be good to go for Saturday. He might be sore, so we are going to limit him a little at practice. We got out of Lexington pretty healthy.”

On the combination of [Josh] Robinson and [Dak] Prescott:

“I think it has been pretty good for us. We want to make people defend all 11 guys on the field. When the running back is putting up big numbers and hitting explosive plays he draws a lot of attention. That takes a lot of the pressure and attention off of Prescott, which will allow him to make bigger plays. If you look at our receivers, we have 10 different guys who have caught touchdown passes this year. When you talk about having a balanced offense, it is not always just about run and pass. It is about putting guys on the field that they have to defend.”

On offensive linemen wanting to attempt a pass:

[Blaine] Clausell has a hose. He threw the ball 75 yards the other day in practice. He is up there with our two young quarterbacks. The older guys can not throw it as far as those guys can. If we ever have a really long Hail Mary we might have to put Clausell in at quarterback because he can probably throw it 75-80 yards.”

On Prescott’s interceptions in the last three games:

“I evaluate them all differently. He had pressure in his face with the one on Saturday. I would rather him quick check the ball down instead of taking a shot down the field while getting hit. The one in the end zone against Auburn I did not mind because he had one-on-one coverage. He probably should have put the ball a little more toward the pylon, but I liked what he was doing there. The only bad one was when he under threw [De’Runnya] Wilson on the sideline, and even then I knew what he was trying to do. I just did not like his read off of that coverage. I only get upset when quarterbacks make bad decisions and not when they are just trying to make plays.”

On [Fred] Ross and [Fred] Brown being more involved:

“We rotate a lot of guys at receiver. We want to keep guys fresh so they are ready to make plays in the fourth quarter. We don’t spend a lot of time designing specific plays for specific players. When they are in the game we expect them to make plays. That really allows us to rotate guys. We are going to rotate guys and make it hard for the defense to lock in on any one guy in particular.”

On preparing for an offense like Arkansas:

“I do not know if it is any more or less difficult, it is just different. LSU is a very physical team like Arkansas. We play a wide variety of teams in the SEC, and everyone is different. Even all of the spread teams are a little bit different from each other. We will be a little different on defense than we were last week.”

On turnovers and penalties:

“I am pleased with the penalties. The turnovers are frustrating, even though we only had one last game, because our goal is obviously zero. I don’t just look at the turnovers but also what are behind the turnovers. We have only lost the turnover battle one time this year. If the turnovers are consistently the same thing then we have a problem, but if they are different guys in different situations we just try to keep correcting it moving forward.”

On Josh Robinson:

“He is a great guy to be around. He is a lot of fun to be around because he is always smiling and upbeat. He is mature with that as well. There is a big difference with being funny and being a clown. Guys that are funny know when to be serious and guys that are clowns are clowns all the time. He is funny now. He used to be a clown. That makes you appreciate him even more because you know when the time comes he is going to focus and get his job done while still having that great personality that lifts everyone up around him.”

On working Lewis back in after missing a month:

“The great thing is that I know he is hungry. During pregame we were talking to trainers and they said he was moving ok, but he is desperate to get back on the field. We are going to protect our players and not put them in harm’s way. I would have loved him to be able to play more, but I do not want to put him out there not at 100 percent. I think the fact that he got some reps will help his confidence moving forward.”

On similarities between Anthony Dixon and Josh Robinson:

“There are definitely a lot of similarities. Dixon always had a hop in his step and a smile on his face. Robinson may be a little bit more goofy. Dixon loved being on the field. I love both of those guys.”

On Dixon coming back to Starkville this weekend:

“Maybe he will stop by and see me. The last time I saw him he looked a little chunky, so I made him get a work out in before he left. He walks into the room and he is always upbeat and always excited. That energy is given off to people. None of it is fake, that is just who he is. It makes him fun to be around.”

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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