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’re treating this like a Friday for us in getting ready to go. I think we had a good week of practice in prepping for this game. We’re on the same page of what we need to do to get ready for it coming off the bye week.
“We had the opportunity to get the guys a mental breather for a couple of days and get a little break. But I think we’ve responded from that this week at practice and are ready to go play in a really tough environment against an excellent Missouri football team. We’re going to have to play a great game as we always do if you want to win on the road in the SEC.”
How does Missouri’s defensive ends affect what you do in the read-option part of your offense?
Mullen: “It doesn’t. They are just excellent football players. That’s one thing about this league is that you do get to face excellent football players all the time. So it doesn’t really affect you schematically.”
You came to Columbia to visit with Missouri’s staff while you were at Florida. Is there anything you remember about that trip?
Mullen: “No, I just have a lot of respect for the way they run their program and what coach (Gary) Pinkel has been able to do. They’ve had a lot of different staff changes and obviously personnel but it was a great trip.
“I was watching their up-tempo and they were really going fast. I was watching how that affected people and was looking at the success they’ve had offensively. I was thinking about possibly adding that to what we do.
“But it was a great trip. You always want to look at the success they’ve had within their program and what you can take from a great program and what they’re doing to make it such a great program.”
Can you tell any differences between Texas A&M and Auburn both having new defensive coordinators this year?
Mullen: “They do what they do. (John) Chavis has run the same defense and had the same schematic type of deal since I first went against him in ’99 when I was a grad assistant at Syracuse. There are similarities from then until now. I faced (Will) Muschamp a long time ago when he was at Auburn the first time around.
“Those guys do what they do. They know their system. The key is to get guys to play hard and understanding the importance of getting guys to play hard.”
Do you think the style that John Chavis plays with fits the talent that Texas A&M has?
Mullen: “Obviously it does. But the one thing you notice that Chavis does is, he’s going to tweak like any good coach to the strength of his players. I think they do a good job there of what they want to do schematically to highlight the stars that they have on their team.”
What have you seen from freshman quarterback Drew Lock and do you think you can do anything on defense to confuse him since he’s so inexperienced?
Mullen: “When you look at a young quarterback, I think he’s gotten some experience and has played in games. He’s going to have that comfort of being out there. Once you’ve gotten into a game and started, played at home and on the road, those jitters kind of start to go away.
“Obviously the experience factor, you can’t do much for that. That nervousness of being out there on the field goes away after you’ve played a little bit. I think the one thing with him you can see he has played and has some experience. He looks comfortable out there on the field.
“We’re fortunate to have an experienced guy (Dak Prescott) that has taken a lot of reps and seen a lot of things. He processes things really fast within our system. He’s gotten to rep things over and over.
“When you’re a young quarterback, you just haven’t gotten as many reps. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it as well or you can’t get hot or light it up on anybody. You just haven’t had as many reps over and over for the consistency of it. I’ve seen him improve over the games that he has played.”
How much does Dak Prescott influence the game plan itself?
Mullen: “He’s very involved in our game planning. He’s finishing his master’s degree in December so he has a lot of say in what we do with what he likes and doesn’t like within the plan. That’s pretty comforting.
“He’s always going to be on the same pages as the coaches since he is involved with putting in the plan. On game days it’s great because you feel pretty comfortable as a coach because you have a guy out there that understands the situation and is going to make good decisions within a situation.
“When you have that it really opens things up for you to be able to take some more chances while you’re out there on the field, knowing that he’s not going to make a bad decision. He’s not going to just force things down the field and that’s a pretty comforting feeling as a coach.”
Missouri leads the SEC in a lot of defensive categories. What do the Tigers bring to the table defensively?
Mullen: “They have a great defensive line. They have athletic, explosive playmakers at defensive end that can cause you problems on the edge. I think what does make them very difficult is guys that are inside. It’s hard to step up in the pocket with those guys with the size they have inside.
“They have athleticism at defensive end and great size inside. They can really create problems with those guys. That’s where they start from and the rest of the defense feeds off the defensive line with how they play.
“That’s a huge part of it. You’ve got to be able to manage the guys up front and give your quarterback an opportunity to throw or give the backs an opportunity to get some yards. It’s not easy to do which is why they’re one of the top defense’s in the league.”
You were on those Bowling Green staffs that beat Missouri a couple of times. What did those wins mean for that program at the time?
Mullen: “It was huge. The first time was the first game at Bowling Green at Missouri and that was huge for the program and I imagine for Urban Meyer‘s career. You want to get that first win and for it to be in the first game on the road at Missouri, I think that was huge.
“Boy, that was a long time ago. I think they came to Bowling Green and we had a big win at Bowling Green. We had an excellent football team and that really catapulted us into the national spotlight there.
“It certainly helped everybody’s career that was involved at that time. I think it kind of put Urban Meyer into the spotlight. We had a lot of young assistant coaches on that staff and everybody seems to have done pretty well after leaving Bowling Green.”