Mississippi State concluded its second week of spring football practice on Saturday afternoon. Afterwards, head coach Dan Mullen shared his thoughts on the first five practices and the improvements he’s seen during that span.
Five days into drills what is your general impression?
“Our effort is good. Today was an interesting day. Because we had installs and today was really a review of the first four days. And you really saw some separations. A great day for the younger guys, you know when you put it all together, you’re putting multiple days together and kind of going all-in with everything, of how far behind.
“They kind of think they know it until today and then they’re like whoa, hold on a second! So I think you really see separation of older and younger guys within that, with the learning process. But I think the attitude, the scheme, everybody is doing a pretty good of it all.”
What have you seen from Jamaal Clayborn at center?
“He’s working at it. Again, he’s a guy where today when you have an installation and he’s doing a good job of that; now when you put the whole package in in one day, I want to see how he handles it.But his attitude of taking on that responsibility has been really good.”
What about him said that he’s a center?
“You know, we just look at all the guys and how you mix and match them together and all that stuff within the lines. He’s got athleticism, he’s got ‘bend’, he’s smart because he’s got to make all the calls to handle all that stuff. So I think as we looked at it, he’s a guy we wanted to that opportunity.
“We’ve got to find a couple more though. Jocquell Johnson’s in there, trying to learn it the first time. Really the first time for both of
them playing center. Nick Proby is doing a good job with the threes. By the end though we’ve got to find one more guy maybe that can move in there.”
You have to replace some defensive linemen, talk about the competition there?
“It’s good. What you’ve got see is the level of play. Because there’s a lot of guys that have played on the d-line maybe, whether started or not. We’ve rotated a lot of guys in the past so we expect a certain level out of them.
“But there’s an awful of repetitions available. When you look at Preston Smith, Kaleb Eulls, P.J. (Jones), Curtis Virges, all those guys walking out the door; there’s a lot of reps that played in games available right there in those spots for people that will jump up and go take it. Again I think guys are learning. It’s that mix of the effort and then the mind not slowing-down your effort. You can only think so much and then you’ve got to go play.”
What do you see in the safety competition?
“It’s good, because first you’ve got Kendrick Market not out there. So the key to that is guys are having to lead. I mean if he’s out there it’s a big crutch that he’s going to make all the calls, and get everybody lined-up and put in the right position.
“By him not being out there it’s forcing a lot of people into some mental strain out there. Not just in learning the system but making all the calls, making all the checks and the adjustments and getting everybody lined up.”
How are the mid-year enrolled guys picking it up so far?
“They’re figuring it out a little bit. I think a lot of it is just like the offense. I don’t know if they’ve gone at this tempo, speed of practice, against this level of competition constantly. So the biggest one is adjusting to how fast everything is every single snap.”
Who has been that guy on defense to replace the energy and be the leader?
“I think we’re waiting to see a bunch of those guys, to see who is going to come out. Kendrick Market and Taveze Calhoun are two of our biggest leaders on the defense last year; they’re not practicing. So I think it’s great that those two are going to be showing up in the fall to be those type of guys.
“But its interesting. You see some other guys trying to do it. I don’t know that one person has really stepped out in front. But I think
a lot of guys are trying to have the juice and the energy to be different types of leaders instead of one having to share it through a
bunch of guys.”
You have had a lot of seniors come back to teams, what is the difference for a guy like Dak Prescott in this situation?
“Well, I mean there’s just a lot of comfort level for him out there. The things he’s working on are different from what a lot of other guys are really working on out there. You’re trying to get to graduate level things, of how fast he can make decisions. How much he can anticipate throws and put things into tighter windows. Because that’s going to make him an even better player next year.
“So you just watch his pocket movements, sliding movement. I thought the one thing he did a great job moving, in big team-pass period today with blitz pickup and he did a great job sliding, moving in the pocket; creating, buying time for himself and trying to anticipate getting the ball out fast into windows.”
Dak talked about helping younger quarterbacks. Is that part of his maturation process?
“Well it’s huge. If you can teach something, then you really, really know it. And to me he should be able to teach the offense to anybody at this point. He should be able to teach the offense just like the coaches can teach it. Because he’s been around it for so long now. So I think that also gives you more confidence, when you are teaching, when you are helping the younger guys. It gives you more confidence in that you know it inside and out.”
In year-two what do Elijah Staley and Nick Fitzgerald need to do to get on the field?
“Elijah, the one good thing being banged-up with the patella deal, we rested him today but he’s taken reps in 7-on-7. So he’s actually getting reads and reps.
“I’m pleased with what I’ve seen out of Nick so far. He looks like a very, very different player even than he did in winter at bowl prep. You can see he’s invested in the off-season, invested in learning and knowing what is going on out there on the field. He looks a little bit more like a veteran player within the offense than he did even in bowl practice. It’s c’mon, you ought to know this by now and he looks like he knows what he’s doing out there.”
What has stood out about Nick?
“To me? Decision making. I tell you what, he’s doing a great job moving his feet in the pocket and getting to a second and even third read at times. That decision making, that’s the key. Because it happens fast out there on the field. I’m pleased with his action, when he knows in the first read you’re getting to it he’s on time. But when it’s not there and he has adjust to get to two or three he’s done a really good job.”