Mississippi State conducted its first scrimmage of the fall Thursday night. Head coach Dan Mullen met with the media on Friday to discuss the scrimmage.
With a day to look at it what is your evaluation from the first scrimmage? “We’ve got a lot of work to do as a team. We’ve got a lot of young football players, a lot of young guys on the team in our two-deep. Especially when you scrimmage and are playing ones, twos, and threes. We’ve got another scrimmage Friday so we’ve got to take a huge step forward.
“Because installation now is pretty much done. There’s little things we’re adding here and there, little packages on offense, little packages on defense. But most stuff is in right now. So now we’re going to find the guys that are committed and want to learn and want to get on the field and want to excel at a high level.”
How did Elijah Staley’s transfer go down, did you talk? “Yeah, we met and talked about it. I appreciate how he handled everything. He handled everything really well. I don’t that stuff very lightly, it was a very mature conversation about the future and where we’re at and where he’s at and what he feels is best. So we supported him in that decision.”
How easy was the conversation? “I don’t know that it’s easy. But I think the fact it was a thought-out, mature conversation…we went through all different steps of all different scenarios and possibilities. I think when you do that, it’s not an emotional decision.” “I’ve said, quarterback is a tough position. We’ve got four guys, none of them are seniors. Guys want to play. So they’re going to look at it and say OK, am I in the best situation for me? It’s a little different than other positions, I think, at the quarterback position sometimes.
“So I wasn’t shocked by any of it. But like I said, the conversation itself was a mature conversation with well thought-out decision points. So I think that’s much easier to have those conversations about young peoples’ future.”
What was one of the main reasons he wanted to go elsewhere? “I think he just felt opportunity for him where he was at. I think he was getting a great opportunity here. I think in his decision he thought I might not be ready right now and is that going to put me behind later on?” “And to be honest this is the time for him to try to go get a fresh start somewhere. If you wait too long sometimes you can’t get that fresh start.
“Well it’s all based on eligibility. I mean, if he goes and sits out this year he still has two years to play. Where if he didn’t, he’d be down to one.”
Are the snaps still divided evenly with the three quarterbacks or is it close to time to break it down? “No, we’re going to try to be even all the way through next week’s scrimmage. And then if it’s defined itself we’ll start doing it. But until it defines itself we’re going to keep it the same.”
This decision helps evaluate because it gives 33% reps instead of 25%? “Yes and no. I mean, each quarterback now has 8% more throws so they’re going to be a little bit more tired! They get more reps but the wear and the tear on the guys, we’ve got to stay healthy or it can trickle bad in a hurry.”
What was your impression of the quarterbacks last night? “I didn’t think they played very well at all. It’s fixable things, stuff that they got into a game situation and instead of managing the offense you look, fundamentals weren’t very good.
“Everything kind of happened fast for them instead of just trusting their reads, doing what they’re supposed to do, great fundamentals, technique. They kind of started slow, made some mistakes, and started trying to make plays and that made it worse.”
Did Staley play last night? “No.”
The offensive line has more experience back this year and backups who played, how have you seen that group so far?“They’re coming along. We’re still trying to get the depth right because you’ve got to have more than five to make it through a season. So we’re trying to let those guys play with different combinations on the field, move some guys, move the chess pieces around so guys are having to play with different guys on the field.
“But it’s coming along. We’ve got some young guys, that’s kind of very split. We’ve got a bunch of seniors, we’ve got a bunch of young guys; and there’s no one in the middle. That’s what is interesting.”
What have you seen from Martinas Rankin after the redshirt year? “It gave him an opportunity to know the offense and be ready to play at this speed and potentially compete to be a two-year starter instead of being a role player and competing to be a one-year starter.
“So I think that helps him long-term in his career.”
What have you seen from Maurice Smitherman at safety? “He’s done a good job. Maurice is a physical player. He played corner physically for us, plays the game with a physical mindset. So I think the transition to safety is easy for him. He’s a really sharp kid. So having to do adjust, make calls and do all those things has come pretty natural.”
He said he was going to play safety and probably go back to corner after the scrimmage? “We’ve got to see. I think he’s doing a really good job where he is and he’s competing, starting to get reps at safety. We’ll probably stick with that and just see.
“But you’ve got to be ready, this time of year you move a couple of guys around. We’ve got guys moving, playing some multiple positions. Because you’ve got to be ready with injuries and other things that happen through the course of a season, for guys to be multiple.”
How have Gerri Green and Jonathan Calvin made the transition at viper? “Good. Gerri is playing a bunch of different spot. John Calvin is playing different spots. But I think you want to because you could be starting at one spot, a backup at another. We always want to get the best players we can on the field situationally. If there’s injuries we might have to move some pieces around to get the best guys on the field. And the more guys you have that have had flexibility, especially in camp, week-four they might have to make an adjustment but it’s something they have done in training camp even if they didn’t do it in the first three games that much.”
Fred Ross told us he wanted to be 100% by the first scrimmage, was he close to that last night? “I don’t know about that, he didn’t do anything. He won’t do anything the next scrimmage either. He might be 100 percent, that’s good. You can be 100 percent cheering on the sidelines. I know when I want him 100 percent and that’s going to be that first Saturday in September.”
How quickly has Jordan Thomas grasped the offense? “He’s struggling a little bit. Like anything it’s a lot faster than what he’s used to being in, the speed of the game. He’s a big, athletic guy. What he’s got to do is get used to using his tools.
“Because there’s a lot of other big, athletic guys that are out there on the field. But if he’s bigger, stronger than somebody physically he needs to dominate him. If he’s more athletic he needs to athletically dominate him. Not just kind of do his thing, where he’s maybe better than everybody at the previous level. So I think learning that adjustment is always the hard one for guys, especially not having a spring to go through. This is all the first time for him.”
Jamoral Graham seems confident at cornerback, what kind of progress do you see? “Well, he definitely doesn’t lack confidence in anything that he does. So I guess corner is a good spot for him because you’ve got to have a short memory, you’ve got to be a confident guy to go make plays.
“But I think he’s coming along nicely, starting to make plays, starting to be more consistent. As we told our guys, especially young guys, it’s a huge transition from being a playmaker to being a consistent player. There’s a massive difference between the two. So what you have to do is be a consistent player that has the ability to make great plays. The sooner guys learn that the sooner they’re going to become starters.”
The defensive staff said it helps being all new, how have you seen that help them? “Well, I think for everybody that just working together there is no pre-disposed anything. So they can work very well together. There is good and bad with that I guess at times, too. Because I’ll educate them on some things on the field and say hey, I’ve seen this before, I’ve seen that before out of our guys, we’ve got ot manage this situation or that situation.
“But I think for the players it’s a little refreshing because they know hey, I’ve got a chance to prove to these guys what I can do. And I think for the staff and them working together we’re all new, we’re all together; I think it allows them to kind of bond together a little bit better as a whole.”
Have you had a chance to talk to Josh Robinson since the other night? “No, I haven’t talked to him. To be honest with you what I saw a little bit was probably was some irresponsible journalism. That’s about all I know about the whole situation. I didn’t really spend much time (to) even look into it.”