Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen met with the media on Tuesday to talk about how the Bulldogs have fared through eight games and how they are handling the off week.
On practice schedule with the bye week
They’re gonna be off Friday and Saturday. What we try to do with that is Thursday’s a Monday, Friday’s off, Saturday’s off, Sunday’s a Tuesday, Monday’s a Wednesday, Tuesday’s a Thursday, Wednesday’s a Friday, Thursday’s a Saturday. So there is a full game week preparation. It’s been a long season so far instead of giving them the time off and then practicing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the game week right there, I wanna give them time to go home and take a little break and get a weekend without school as well.
On Dak Prescott dealing with changing spotlight
I think he handles it all really well. When the spotlight’s on him a couple of times during big games, then its not on him, I don’t think it really affects him. I think he’s good with whatever, I do think though he’s really growing, I mean his maturity level and his preparation, how he handles the game; he’s a much better player this year than he was last year, I think. So for him I think he would feel the same way, that he’s playing better this year than he did last year and he’s seeing all the extra work and time and his continued development as the reason for that. I don’t know if its less of a spotlight or anything like that, its just his continued work ethic and development that you realize he’s going to continue to get better.
On player development after injuries
All the guys want to play, so because of injuries he had the opportunity to get on the field and play some and he did last year. I think he was great with that opportunity and so now when you look at it, and talking to him, as coaches, sometimes we visualize things a little differently because we’re not looking always just today, I’m looking long term for everybody as well. So a lot of times we redshirt guys, its not maybe because of the situation today, it’s what could be the situation in the future that could be really beneficial to them and the program, and I think the way you’re watching him play now he’s starting to really understand the offense, understand the speed of the game, he’s really make things happen, and I think he’d love to have one more year to come back and play again and play at a high level as a veteran player.
On Prescott playing in different game situations
He understands what it is were going to ask of him in different games, and he understands it’s going to take what the defense gives and like I say, I don’t think the game plan was any different Saturday night than other games for us in a lot of ways. Statistically, its like, oh look what happened, but a lot of that’s what they’re doing too and how the game’s going there are a couple of situations for him. (On the option play touchdown) They all rush the back, he runs into the end zone, they all chase the back, he keeps it on the last touchdown and runs it into the end zone, we spread the field, they all run out, he runs it into the end zone. Why did he have so many touchdown runs in this game that he didn’t have in other games? They weren’t playing us that way in other games and I think he really gets that. I don’t think he’s into the stats as much, like “I’ve got to put up numbers,” I don’t think he really cares about that. He understands some games are going to be bigger than other games, it may be smaller than others, and I think as a leader he gets that.
On Darrion Hutcherson’s development with more playing time
I’m starting to see it the last two weeks, two to three weeks. He’s getting reps, getting playing time, and you’re seeing him improve. It helps because he’s getting more reps, not only in practice but in games. It’s the same thing, the more experience you get, hopefully the better you become, and he’s getting that experience right now.
On progression as a team
I think it’s the development of the program as a whole, of what we’ve tried to build. One of the things is I want to have a program that’s competitive every year. Well, if you’re going to have a program that’s competitive every year, you’re going to have depth in there. As guys leave and move on, there are other guys and sometimes you’re going to have a little more of a special of a group or a combination. But we want to have a program that can compete every single year and when that happens there are guys that are ready to step in, and even though they might not be primed ready to step in, they still have the ability to step in and make plays.
On Taveze Calhoun stepping up as a leader with injuries in the backfield
He’s a captain, a leadership committee guy for us. He understands it, the other guys are still around, Will (Redmond)’s here, Poke Dawg’s (Kendrick Market) all around. They’re here around the program, around the guys, they’re still out there, so I think the leadership role for him is more of a playmaker on Saturday and I think you understand that as an older guy, “I might even have to play at a higher level now that this guys out”, and make some big plays like he did Saturday night now that the other playmakers are outta there, the older guys. But I think that’s more of a gameday deal, and a lot of the younger guys, they look, and the older guys are still around the program.
On Taveze Calhoun’s performance against Kentucky
I think for the defense, its something they can build on. I think Taveze expects to play at that level because he’s a veteran guy and has played a lot of football for us. But I think the turnovers are going to come and when they come, they come in kind of bunches and all of a sudden. So all of these turnovers are going to start coming in bunches right now and here’s Taveze making those plays I think that’s going to give everybody else the confidence of “hey, we’re right, let’s just keep going and we’re going to start making those plays.”
On defending De’Runnya Wilson
In the red zone I think its you’re getting a lot of man coverage and some one-on-one opportunities and man-to-man because even when you’re covering him you can’t get to the ball. Where the ball’s up here and he’s up here and you’re down here, the ball’s in front of him and he’s got you boxed-out and you can’t get your arms around to it. And I think it does make him a tough miss-match and I think the one thing you’re watching with him is he’s learning to be a better route runner. He’s a guy that hasn’t played a ton of football still cause you look at his development; his first year he came in and played, that offseason he played basketball, last offseason he was banged up for spring. I think he really is starting to learn to become a better route-runner right now and that’s going to be huge for him in the future.
Ball placement beats any coverage even if a guys covered or its not the right read. If you put the ball in the right spot, he can still beat the coverage and so I think they understand that with the receivers that we have, where to put the ball on guys.
I have no idea. I’ll be honest with you my answer will probably be in February. Ask me in two years how it goes too. I think a couple of years ago it went pretty well because the guys are panning out and there are some pretty good players. We’ll see come signing day and see how those guys develop and pan out. Recruiting over the past few years has gone pretty well for us
I think we’re certainly more of a passing offense this year than we’ve been maybe in some years past.
On passing offense
I think that everybody’s understanding of where our strengths are and let’s play to our strengths and I think we’re fortunate, I’m fortunate, having a coaching staff that’s been together awhile and that our offense has enough flexibility in it that we can highlight strengths in different players , whether we’re going to have to grind the ball out running with the tailbacks or were going to be more of a quarterback/running back running team with an option football, or were going to be a little bit more of a run/play action team. This year we’ve had to be a little bit more of a dropback team. As everybody says we kind of pull 70% of the play book each year and highlight that 70% and I think our guys have adapted to that strength and what this years strength is for us as a team
On Prescott’s passing
If he wasn’t [adjusting], we’d probably be going down a different path right now, I think he’s got comfort with his receivers we have some experience with the receivers, he understands our offense and has the experience to make things happen.
He’s gotten the opportunity to get on the field and play and you’ve seen him improve from week to week. He got a lot of reps in spring, going through spring practice, bowl prep last year, when pope-dog was out. So he’s starting to get those reps and all of a sudden in training camp he suffers another injury, so he’s been getting a a lot of those reps all along.
On Jake Thomas’ absence
He’s going through some injury stuff right now and he’s trying to get better.
On offensive line progression
I think they’re doing a good job of coming along and finding what they do well. A lot of guys haven’t played a whole lot in that group. What I’ve been happy with is you’ve seen the progression, especially the last three games at home, that big home stretch. I thought, “we have to have a lot of improvement,” and I think we’ve played better every single week. We have to continue to do that, we better play better or were going to have a harder challenge the next game going on the road against Missouri and we’re going to have to play at a higher level at that one and I think a lot of times as the season goes on and you expect that very week is going to be a tougher challenge than the previous week, so you better be continuing to improve throughout the year, and they’ve done that.
I expect everybody to play.