Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen joined the rest of the league coaches on the SEC West Teleconference on Thursday.
Here is a transcript of Mullen’s time on the call:
Mullen: “It was a good spring. We got a lot of work in and have a young football team. We got a lot of quality reps for guys this spring.
“I’m sure like everybody else in the country, from the end of spring practice in mid-April to August 2nd we can’t be on the field with our guys with a ball. The season is really going to be determined on what guys do between the last practice of spring to the first practice of fall camp of what they do on their own and how hard they’re going to push themselves, what sort of commitment to excellence they’re going to make over these next summer months will determine what type of season we’re going to have this year.”
Is there any update on Jeffery Simmons’ situation with the team?
How has the evaluation of Simmons’ situation gone?
How did the four quarterbacks wind up this spring?
Mullen: “I don’t think anybody clinched the job and I don’t think anybody put themselves out of consideration for the job. I think all four guys are continuing to battle. I think the thing for them is going to be over these next few months.
“No one has been a starter before. No one has had to go lead that team over these summer months. I think this is an unbelievable opportunity for all four of them or one of the four to go separate themselves in their work ethic, grind and commitment to excellence between the end of spring and start of summer.
“I’m hoping at least one or two of them start to separate themselves in the work they put in this summer when we show up for fall camp.”
What is the timetable once camp begins to naming a starter before the opener?
Mullen: “I never put a timetable on it because I have no idea how much they’re going to do on their own over the summer. As soon as somebody separates themselves then I’ll start to do that.”
What do you remember about the way Marcus Lattimore played when he was at South Carolina?
Mullen: “Oh boy. I know he was a hard runner and a good kid. My biggest deal remembering Marcus Lattimore was during recruiting. I thought he was a really high-end, high character kid. We weren’t heavily recruiting him. I don’t think we made his cut.
“But I remember during the recruiting process him always being a tremendous, first class kid and handled himself. It was obviously a tragedy for him to get hurt during his career and football not to finish the way he would have liked it to finish.”
What does it say about Lattimore with the response he received around the SEC when he was hurt?
Mullen: “I think a lot of people saw that because a lot of schools recruited him. I think we had the opportunity to recruit him and you saw what a first class kid he is and how he handles himself. I think everybody wants to see those guys succeed. That’s why we’re in this profession, to see young people achieve goals and help develop young people to become successful – not just in football but in life.
“When you see one of those young guys that has his head on right and is trying to do things the right way for the right reasons and is a first class kid, you really want to see them succeed in life. I think that’s why he got so much support from everybody around the league.”
How did things go with a new defensive coordinator and how challenging has it been for your defense having so many changes the last couple of years?
Mullen: “It’s different. There’s good and bad. I think everybody brings a little different personality to the table. The guy up in front of the room changing can be difficult sometimes and sometimes it’s very positive.
“I think right now it’s very, very positive. I think our kids have responded really well to the new defensive staff and the coaches that we have here this year. Our guys have really responded well and really like them. I think we’ve got a chance to be better this year than we were last year on that side.
“The one thing as a head coach is you have to set the standards of what your program is going to be. I’ve always tried to set the standard of what our defense is going to be. The philosophy of our defense doesn’t change. There might be a new guy talking up in front of the room but the philosophy of the Mississippi State defense doesn’t change and won’t as long as I’m the head coach.”
Are you okay with playing the first few games with multiple quarterbacks before you make a permanent call?
Mullen: “Absolutely. One of the parts of being a head coach is you have to be very flexible. No situations are ever the same. I think if you paint yourself into a corner and say this is the only way we’re going to do it, you’re not going to be very successful.
“This year’s quarterback scenario being a question mark and up in the air, we’re going to kind of sort through it until someone has separated themselves and gives us the best opportunity to win. If that person separates themselves to be No. 1 then we’ll start looking to who’s going to be No. 2 that way.
“But I never like to paint myself in a corner and say this is a timetable or this is what we have to do. The key is you have to have more than one quarterback ready because you’re a play away from the No. 2 guy going in there to play. The team has to understand that and we have to be ready for not just one but multiple quarterbacks.
“We’re going to sort that out and if it’s decided by the end of the first week of training camp, third week of training camp, game week or Game 4 of the season, we’re going to have to be able to adjust to what’s best for the team.”
Did you go live in the spring or will you in the fall to see separation in the quarterbacks?
Mullen: “Yeah, we were probably the only people from the teams that I’ve seen in the spring game where the quarterbacks were live and were every scrimmage in the spring. I won’t do that in the fall.
“They haven’t played a lot of live situations so even in the spring game the quarterbacks we live. I think that allowed them to go potentially make more plays and build confidence but also put them in real football situations. That was important because guys haven’t played.
“Some people probably shook their heads because the quarterbacks were live. In scrimmages, everybody tries to protect those guys but I wanted to make those guys live to see how they did and how they’d respond to that because I can’t have their first live action in a couple of years be on game day in the fall.”
Juniors De’Runnya Wilson and Benequez Brown weren’t drafted. What advice will you give to future players and have you talked to them?
Mullen: “I’ve talked to all of them. The advice I’d give to future players is the same advice I gave to them. Make sure you’re doing your research and be very, very smart. Try to listen to people that hopefully you trust and are going to help you make the right decision.
“I think too many times in the process, people are trying to sell kids everything and trying to take advantage of these kids. They are trying to sell them a dream. Sometimes when people tell them the truth and reality, they don’t like that. It’s not just in this situation but most people in the world like to be told what they want to hear and not what they need to hear sometimes.
“In the past we have had some guys leave early and be very, very successful. We kind of knew that was going to happen and we talked to those guys. One of the players came up that was drafted this year and said something great to me, which I love to hear from young men. ‘Coach you don’t always tell us what we want to hear but you’re always going to tell us the truth. It’s amazing how you tell us how things are going to be and how they end up working out that way’.
“I told him it’s because I care about you and I want to make sure you guys are successful and understand the situation you’re getting into. I think guys in the future are going to have the opportunity to look at that situation and hopefully listen to people that give them advice and make good decisions off the advice they get.”