Monday with Mullen

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen held his weekly press conference Monday to discuss the Bulldogs’ bye week and preview their home game against Auburn this weekend.

Opening Statement:

We are excited to get back into a game week. We are excited to have a home game. We have not had a home game in a while. The last two were on the road and then last week was a bye week so it is good to get a home game. It is a big game obviously in conference for us with where we are right now being 1-1 in the SEC so this is a huge game for us. Obviously, it is a big challenge playing Auburn which is a very good football team. When you look at what they have done, they are throwing the ball in the end zone which the chance to beat Clemson earlier in the year. Big win over LSU, a couple of big blowout wins. They are an excellent football team and we are going to have to come out and play at a high level in all three phases. They have talent across the board. They have talented players on the field. It will be a great challenge for our guys if we come out and respond from having a bye week and just have a great week.”

On when did they start looking at the Auburn team…

The end of last week. We get a lot of recruiting done during the bye week, the coaches. They spend a lot of time recruiting and then we evaluate our program to see where we need to improve and what we need to work on. That is done earlier in the week. Thursday and Friday we start looking at Auburn. We get a little jump start ahead just game planning.”

On Auburn being better on defense this year…

“They have a great defensive front. No. 1 (Montravius Adams) for them, who would have easily been a first round draft pick for the last year, is back. To have a guy like that back, that sets the tone. Defensive end No. 55 (Carl Lawson) is healthy. They also have a couple guys who are top recruits in the country; a lot of talent that way helps. They have some great corners outside on the edge to shut you down. If you can shut down and have great defensive coverage, you are going to be pretty salty on D.”

 On defensive players Will Coleman and Cedric Jiles returning from injury … 

It helps because they are experienced players. Obviously it has been a big mesh. We walked off the field last year’s bowl game and you are expecting your seniors to be your leaders and I think there are at least seven to eight we were expecting to play this year that are no longer on the field playing as much or because of different circumstances. Anytime you get a guy back that has leadership potential and they have not played in quite a while, leadership wise it is just good to see a veteran body out there because a lot of their focus is going to be getting themselves ready to get into game shape to get ready to start playing again.”

On Martinas Rankin and Elgton Jenkins at left tackle … 

They both play in the game and we rotate them a lot like the running backs just by series based on who is doing well. If one guy is doing really well, we usually stick with him in the fourth quarter.”

On Cedric Jiles getting back for his senior season…

I think one thing with Ced is that he has had so many injuries during his career. I think initially, it is extremely frustrating because he has missed two full seasons and had another injury. I think for him, the fact that it is not going to be a season long injury really motivated him to work to get back and get himself the ability to get back on the field, even if it is in a limited role just to be able to play for us this week.”

On Deion Calhoun’s development…

He has worked really hard, both in the off season and on the field. He has great potential. You see him make great plays. He still makes some experienced mistakes which to me are issues for him, but what I have seen is those constantly improve from week to week and not making the same mistakes over and over again. I think everyone has a good feel and he is a guy we are going to depend on and he is going to continue to grow and have the opportunity to be a great player for us down the road.”

On Ashton Shumpert and Aeris Williams accompanying Brandon Holloway at running back …

All of the backs run with a little different style. Even when they are running the same play, they hit in a different way. To me it does gives different options and you are not running a different play for the offense, you are running the same play, but it will hit differently depending on what back is in the game and I think all three guys are doing a great job and giving us balance at the running back position. The good part is you have three that are going and the bad part is you do not have that one back that has huge numbers for us like we have had in certain years, but I am okay with splitting them all up.”

On Auburn’s quarterback difference between last year and this year…

If you watch game one, they rotated a lot. They played all different quarterbacks and rolled in. It looks like they have settled on Sean White and I think that gives him some confidence out there on the field. He has been in the system a little longer and I think he understand the offense and they are going to build around his strengths. They are going to do things around what he does well and you have seen him when they do that. Like all of us, you kind of get a couple of weeks in the season and you are trying to see what direction, what type of team you are going to have this year then you start building in that direction. They have been able to put together some of the things he does well and been able to execute good decision making to make him an accurate passer, very willing runner. It may not be the game breaker that some guys are. Auburn reminds me a lot of how Dak Prescott was a runner for us. He is going to go get you some tough gritty yards when he needs to and can extend plays and make things happen with his legs when he needs to.”

On his memories of the Auburn game two years ago in Starkville …
“Winning. It was a great game and an unbelievable atmosphere. It was the best atmosphere here that I have seen since I have been the head coach. A lot of people have said to me it was the biggest game in the history of the school. It was a special day for everyone here on campus and getting a big win like that. It was a great memory that everyone involved that day will have.”

On the team’s first month of play …
“Execution and playing with confidence. There are a lot more plays there to be made than we are making. A lot of that comes with confidence and experience and being out there on the field and playing. You get in there in the game and it’s happening, the game always happens a little faster for young guys than practice does. With everything happening that fast, can I still block everything out and worry about executing this play to the best of my ability? You see confidence with guys. Trust what you are doing. Guys had the opportunity to see some of those things. The play is right there. If I just trust what I was doing, essentially stop thinking and trust that you know what to do. That’s what we saw a lot on film.”

On trying to have success against Auburn’s third down defense …
“You have to execute. They can play great coverage on the back end and they can really rush the passer with a bunch of great defensive linemen. You have to be able to protect a little bit and you have to get open. We practice it a lot in situations.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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