HOOVER, Ala. | We have made it through the longest of the three days, which began with Coach Boom and Dan Mullen, and concluded with that wonderful man Les Miles. The main focus on this blog today, of course, is on Mississippi State. So that is where we shall begin.
I posted some player videos earlier. Well, I have a few more of Johnthan Banks, Gabe Jackson and Tyler Russell. Banks' chat was the most interesting, because he went ahead and gave us a tease of Egg Bowl week by guaranteeing a win over Ole Miss, which MSU has defeated three consecutive seasons.
"I'm not being disrespectful to TSUN, but it's going to be a great feeling to go out and be 4-0 against the school up north," Banks said. This is one of those quotes that ultimately means nothing but will get as much play as anything on the message boards and whatnot.
Quite a few people today were bent on comparing Banks to his cornerback counterpart at LSU, Tyrann Mathieu. I'm not sure why, because they are very different players. Banks didn't take any of the bait thrown at him.
"I ain't going to get into that," Banks said when asked who was the better corner. "I know it'll be all over Twitter. I ain't going to get into that." (More on Mathieu and Twitter later.)
Prior to Banks and the rest of them meeting the media contingent, I got to speak with the senior about coming from a small town (Maben) and adjusting to SEC football. Some very good stuff about his growing confidence and how it's tied to those two interceptions he made of Tim Tebow as a freshman. That angle will anchor my Banks feature I'm writing for the Journal's annual football preview magazine.
On to Russell, the junior quarterback who's taking over the offense full time this fall. We talked with him last week about having more pass-friendly schemes, having the freedom to run his own show, working well with Mullen, and so on. He talked a good bit about those themes today.
"I love that challenge," Russell said. "Just to know that he might have a play he'll call, and I can see it, and it might not be right. So I can change that at the line, where as earlier in my redshirt freshman (year), I would just go with it because I thought it was the best situation, not knowing that I needed to change the play. It definitely gives me a lot more confidence to go up there and make the changes at the line."
A common question today dealt with MSU's place in the SEC West and whether it can move up the ladder. Most outsiders probably don't think so, but the Bulldogs do. That's the topic of my main story for tomorrow's Journal.
Russell: "I think a lot of people that come to Mississippi State might think, can we really play with Alabama and Florida? You watch them as a kid, and they're always on TV, and it's in the back of your mind. But now the times are changing, and anybody in the SEC can win at any given time."
OK, let's go to the new videos.
• For Banks, CLICK HERE
• For Russell, CLICK HERE
• For Jackson, CLICK HERE
We spoke with Mullen twice as well – before he started making the rounds and then in the main media room with the rest of the hacks. Highlights to follow.
• On facility upgrades (football complex, stadium expansion): "A lot of people look and say, oh, we have a plan for new facilities. We're actually following through with that plan."
• On what he's learned about being a head coach the last three years: "I think I'm more relaxed, worrying about things I can control and not worrying about things that you can't control. That first two years you just want to – every little thing you want to control and you're kind of nuts about. Now, I look back, even when issues come up, someone would come to my office, and they're ready for me to kind of explode about this issue, and I look and say, OK, it's something that we can't control. Those are things I guess I don't worry about much, and it keeps my blood pressure down."
• On Russell's progression through redshirting and sharing snaps: "Through all of that, through all of those outside pressures that these young guys face, their families face, answering quetions of, 'Why didn't you start as a true freshman?' – he hasn't let that affect him. He's really been worried about his development, his progress as a quarterback."
• On Russell being different from most QBs Mullen has coached: "He's probably a lot like (former Utah quarterback) Alex Smith, who was really a pure drop-back passer."
• On how much and what part of the playbook will be different with Russell at QB: "I'll be honest, I've said 30, but there might be 40 to 50 percent of your playbook that this is what you're going to do. You'll adjust it to maybe only 30 percent in that year's team."
• On his favorite MSU billboard: "I think the neatest one was the three-in-a-row one, our three Miss Mississippis in a row."
Five other coaches spoke today. Arkansas coach John L. Smith was entertaining. When asked whether he hoped to coach in Fayetteville beyond this season, he said, "Well, certainly. Do I look stupid?"
Nobody else was particularly interesting, except of course for Miles, the LSU coach. I leave you today with this sampling.
• "There's an enjoyment with the idea that Zach (Mettenberger) can make that deep ball throw very comfortably."
• On the EA Sports commercial he filmed (CLICK HERE for lulz): "The lines were narrowed so that I could perform them effectively. I really thought that Mike the Tiger stole the show. We didn't get along on the set."
• On cornerback Tyrann Mathieu's recent Twitter spat with Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron (CLICK HERE): "I can tell you that no game is won in a Twitter page. It's a nice, pleasant pastime, very much like media days." (Has Twitter been around long enough to be considered a pastime?)
• "We enjoy playing night games at Tiger Stadium. It's the place we would like to compete at."