Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen joined the rest of the league’s head coaches on the SEC coaches’ teleconference to talk about the Bulldogs’ upcoming game against UT Martin.
Here is a transcript of Mullen’s time on the call…
Mullen: “We’ve had a good week of practice so far. Our guys this week are continuing to stay focused and trying to improve on some issues that we have.
“We want to create more three-and-outs on defense and get off the field a little bit faster. Protecting the ball on offense is a huge deal for us. Our red zone defense has been pretty good this year but we missed a couple of opportunities in the last game on red zone offense.
“A lot of our focus this week is looking at how we can improve. We’re on our guys every day about improving every single day. Today’s Wednesday’s practice has to be better than last Wednesday’s practice. We’ve got to raise that bar every single week.”
“We need to continue to improve throughout the season. We want to peak at the end of the year, not here in the middle.”
Do you go out and recruit diamonds in the rough or guys that weren’t highly recruited by other schools?
Mullen: “Not really. We consciously try to go out and look for players and try to get in as many high schools as we can. We try to rely on high school coaches and recommendations.
“We really trust our own evaluations on guys. I look at a lot of the rankings, some of it is right on and some of it I disagree with how some people rank. We try to go find as many players as we can and go dig them up and rely on what high school coaches are telling us about a kid.
“We do our own evaluations of where a kid is now and where he projects to be three years down the road. We trust that evaluation. We’ve hit a bunch but we’ve also missed a bunch too. It’s never an exact science.”
How many of those hits were finding guys that were overlooked and how much of it was development once they get there?
Mullen: “It’s both. Sometimes guys get overlooked. I use their star ranking on if they are overlooked. I don’t look at who all has offered them. We look and tell them why we like them and tell them our plan and how we will develop them.
“Development is a huge part of it all. Everybody wants to know on signing day how you did. My standard answer is to check back with me in three years and I’ll tell you how this signing day went.
“The (2011) class that we signed with Benardrick McKinney, Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson, we got bashed that we had a terrible recruiting class that year and we lost in recruiting that year. Now it’s three years down the road and it looks like we won with recruiting that year.
“I like to save judgement with that stuff because how a guy plays in high school has no affect on how he’ll play in college. They still have a lot of development they need to get once they get here. We take a lot of pride in developing our players.”
You coached with Doc Holliday at Florida. What do you think are the reasons for his success at Marshall?
Mullen: “You knew Doc would be a good head coach. He’s a great recruiter and has a great repor with his players. He’s a really good motivator. You could tell that he had that presence that he’d be an excellent head coach.
“I think you can see that now. Doc has done a good job recruiting players that fit their program. They play hard and believe in what they do. I know some of the assistants up there and he does a good job of making sure he has coaches that are going to put players in positions to be successful out there on the field.
“I couldn’t be happier for him and the success that he’s having there.”
Marshall is one of three teams that is undefeated but are not in the College Football Playoff Top 25. What do you think about smaller conferences trying to get in?
Mullen: “I have no idea because I think everybody is still trying to feel out how the selection committee picks everything and what all their criteria is.
“I certainly have no complaints at this point on how they’re selecting teams. I kind of like what they’re doing so far. But there’s a lot of football to be played. I think throughout this system that they’ll look at it that way.”
How would you evaluate Dak Prescott over the last couple of games?
Mullen: “He’s done a very good job for us. He’s continuing to develop every single game and continues to improve. We don’t expect guys to play perfect every game. They are going to make mistakes and have to learn from their mistakes.
“The key is how do they respond to those mistakes. Are they making the same mistakes or are they correcting it and moving forward? He’s done a very good job of that.
“His most important job is to manage the offense and be a great leader for us. The last couple of games he’s done a very, very good job of that and kept us in a position to win games.
“My ultimate stat on a quarterback at the end is your wins and losses. During the last game he had to go throw and set a career-high in passing. Other games he’s distributing the ball more. There’s no specific role for him every game except to lead us to a victory and do whatever it takes to win. I think he’s continued to do a very good job of that.”
Now that Prescott is a Heisman Trophy contender, are there some criticisms that are coming out?
Mullen: “That’s part of the attention. At the beginning of the season, if I’d have told you that we were 8-0 then I’d imagine Dak would be a Heisman contender.
“In our style of offense, how we use the quarterback and how much we put on him – a lot of our success is based on the quarterback playing well. Our style of offense leads to a quarterback that plays very well getting that national attention.”