Mullen previews second fall scrimmage

Mississippi State will hold its second fall scrimmage under the lights of Davis Wade Stadium on Thursday night. Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen discussed what he wanted to see from the scrimmage as well as a few other topics following Wednesday afternoon’s practice.

On the expectations for the upcoming scrimmage…

“A lot cleaner. You really want to have a clean scrimmage. By clean, I mean good execution on both sides of the ball. You don’t want to see big plays made because of mistakes, bad drives because of mistakes, or touchdowns given up because of mistakes. You want to see good football being played, and guys making plays within the scheme on both sides of the ball. If you do that, then you feel comfortable going into the season that you can execute on offense, defense, and the kicking game. ”

On the number of plays in the upcoming scrimmage…

“The number of plays probably won’t be different, but how we do it will be different. It will be much more game-oriented. We will just start drives at different places, and we’ll add a lot more of the kicking game. We will make it more game-realistic than the last scrimmage, which was very positional. We just replaced the ball, and there were only extra points and field goals in the last scrimmage. This next scrimmage will have all phases of the kicking game in it. Right now is a little bit more game-oriented scrimmage to get us ready for the season.”

On the players’ reaction to the week of practice being more situational…

“Good, because you are doing a lot of third down, red-zone, goal line, all the different two-minute situations, last plays of the game and everything that is a situational deal. There is a lot of learning because there is a lot of, not just executing the play, but understanding the situation you are going to be in and how that play is going to play out—just the little things like time management, space on the field, spacing on third-down and how that spacing will differentiate on offense and defense on those plays, spacing in the red-zone and shortening the field where you have to defend and the space where you have that you can go execute. They just have to get in those areas, and be in more of a game-like situation to get a feel for what they need to do.”

On how he simulates those game situations…

“We go pretty fast, anyway, so that I won’t worry as much about. It’s more about ‘There is this much time on the clock in the game, and you are down and need a touchdown or a field goal.’ If you score in the red-zone, you are going to win games. We scored in the red-zone 75 percent of the time in the regular season games we lost last year. If we score in the red-zone we win both games going away.  Understanding those situations of how you have to execute and come away with points and how to stay on the field on third-down. If you catch a ball for four yards and it is third-and-seven, and you start trying to dance and make people miss, that’s okay. On first down, you might hit a home run. You better know where your first down marker is on offense and defense. All of those situations you have to get used to playing in a game-like manner.”

On junior linebacker Richie Brown…

“He’s had a pretty good training camp and he’s getting better. He’s a guy who is going to be much more in a starting role—he’s got to make a lot more calls, get us in the right defenses and get us lined up the right way. He’s the guy that’s got to be ‘the one’ now. Last year, he got to come in as the relief guy, and now he is the guy that people are going to look to. So, it goes beyond just your scheme and playing football. It goes into leadership, which will be important for him this year.”

On the kicking game…

“It’s the fine line between statistical analysis and gut feeling of who is going to do it in a game situation. That’s a very different deal. It’s not something I plan on making decisions on all the way through game week of where we are at statistically and who is where we need them to be. In every phase—kicking off, punting, placekicking, all of that stuff is something that we will really evaluate who is going to be in the best position to make us successful.”

On the kick returners and punt returners…

“We will have a good idea of who our returners are going to be. You have to have a couple of them, and that is going to be really important.”

On former Bulldog Tyler Russell signing to play in the Canadian Football League…

“I saw him in the office today. I am really excited for him to get that opportunity to go back out on the field and play. I know he will go in and work his butt off. He has to learn the system as fast as he can and get ready to go. But I am really excited for him to get that opportunity and I know that is something that he really wanted.”

On former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett talking to the team…

“You can learn from people who have been through it and experienced it. The players hear a message from me or an assistant coach so many times, and it gets a little old. But if you hear a message from somebody that’s been through it recently, even if it’s a little bit of the same message, it comes across differently and has the opportunity to impact people. All the different messages we try to get are different because everybody brings a different story to the table, but hopefully it gets in. Even if it doesn’t get to everybody, it gets to certain guys and even if a couple of guys can get a certain life message out of it of how to improve their lives, that is important. We are here to build young men to be champions in life, and not just football. That is really important that they get that and get the experience and see many problems or successes other people have and how they can get themselves on the right path.”

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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