Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen joined the rest of the league coaches on the SEC Teleconference on Wednesday.
Here is a transcript of Mullen’s time on the call:
Mullen: “We’ve got a comeback home game against a tough opponent. Everybody saw last week within the league how you’d better show up and play if you expect to win every single week.
“So we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did last week. For us, I want to see a lot of improvements within our program as we continue to grow. We have a lot of veteran players but there’s some young guys that are getting on the field and you want to see them take huge steps from week to week. We must improve on every facet of our game – our preparation, our practice and our performance on Saturday.”
You and Urban Meyer were at the forefront of the spread offense using running backs and receivers in non-traditional ways like the H-back position. What are you looking for in that position and what are some of the challenges of creating space?
Mullen: “The first part of that question, what you’re looking for in those guys is a great football player because there are so many thing that you ask them to do that it has to be natural. They have to understand the game and spacing within the game and a natural ability to run the football.
“At H-back your going to ask them to be a wide receiver, running back and even with Percy Harvin a ways back we’d even line him up at quarterback. You have to find someone who played football a lot outside as a kid so they understand all the aspects of the game and it comes natural to them.
“When you create space for them, what you’re trying to do is you have this great athlete and you want to put the ball in their hands and find different ways to do it. If I have a great player and I want to create space for them with the ball in their hands, you want to have a lot of different ways to get the ball to them in the open field. If they just play receiver, I can double team them and they won’t have a catch all day.
“Whether you run a route and they catch it, whether you run a jet sweep and hand it to them, whether you throw it to them on a quick screen, whether you motion them into the backfield and pitch it to them, whether you line them up at quarterback and snap it to them, there’s a lot of different ways you can get the ball to them in the open field.”
Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley haven’t gotten a lot of game action. How important is it to get them some game reps since Dak Prescott is a senior and won’t be around next year?
Mullen: “It’s more important for this year than even the future. Next year they’ll have a whole other year under their belts. They are a play away from getting on the field right now.
“We’d love to get them more reps that we have. We haven’t force fed them on the field. I’ve watched them and watched their preparation. I’ve handled every quarterback situation very uniquely and very differently from year to year whether I force them onto the field in a situation or see how a game situation plays out to get them on the field.
“I’d like to get both those guys reps because I’m not sure which one of those guys would be the full-time guy if something happens to Dak.”
What were two or three takeaways from the LSU loss that you can build on?
Mullen: “I liked how we played in the second half, specifically at the end of the third and fourth quarters. We stopped playing hesitantly. Guys on the field expected to make plays.
“Coming into the season, we had a lot of guys with experience but we don’t have a lot of guys experienced at being in a starring role. I think in that second half guys accepted that role more and we played at a much, much higher level in the second half of the game. They have to understand that you have to play four quarters that way if you want to have a chance at winning in this league.”
Is it a function of 3’s moving up to 2’s in that starring role?
Mullen: “No, I think it’s guys that were 2’s moving up to the 1’s. They played a lot in a role last year but didn’t have to make all the big plays to win the game.
“Everybody asked me what we did at halftime to change and play so well in the second half. I just told everybody to take a deep breath, relax and go make the plays we do at practice. Expect to make the plays. Just because you’re on the big stage in the stadium, don’t get tentative or hesitant. Be confident and don’t be thinking out there on the field, just go play. I think guys did that.
“You fully expect Dak Prescott to go do that from the first play of the game. With Beniquez Brown you expect the same thing. But there are a lot of guys that haven’t been that way that we expect to make big plays. They did in the second half.”