Dan Mullen spent nearly a half-hour with reporters this afternoon putting a bow on spring practices – here's some video. The Bulldogs held their final practice Tuesday, three days after the Maroon-White game. The final practice was used to focus on fundamentals and set the guys up for a productive summer.
"I think the hardest thing for us now is Aug. 4 is the next time we're allowed to be around the team if they work out," Mullen said. "That's a long time, and football's really the only sport that's like that. We have no access to the players right up to the start of the season. That's why we kind of set it up that way so they don't just finish with the spring, they finish with something that we can show them what they need to continue to work on and have a foundation for when we come back for the fall."
Mullen believes the summer is a crucial time as far as moving the program forward. After going 9-4, winning the Gator Bowl and achieving a No. 15 ranking in the final AP poll, the Bulldogs are burdened with the kind of expectations that haven't been seen around here in a long time.
"If we take some good strides forward between now and then, I think we'll have a great year," said Mullen. "If guys kind of go through the motions and they're not pushing themselves to the next level on their own, it'll be a long season for us."
That's where the veterans and strength coach Matt Balis come in. Balis is the only coach allowed to work with the players before Aug. 4 (the tentative start date for preseason camp).
Mullen said having him in that position gives him a lot of peace of mind.
"I tell people, the hierarchy on the football staff is I'm one, he's two. … That, to me, is the hierarchy of this program, of how decisions are made, who people report to, how the program's run. You have to have somebody in that position that you trust."
Here are some more quotes and notes from Mullen, and there will be even more in the Journal and on this blog in the coming days.
• On QB Chris Relf helping offset some of the inexperience on the offensive line: "When you have a quarterback who's going to be very relaxed in situations, that now is able to make sure we're always going in the right direction with things, he can help some of the younger linemen. You always want that strength one place or the other."
• RB Nick Griffin (ACL) underwent surgery April 1 and is projected to be cleared to play by Oct. 1, Mullen said.
• On the quarterbacks: "We have some guys that all expect to start next year that are competing. What you're seeing is a significant rise from top to bottom in the performance level of the quarterbacks, because if you do want to compete to be the starter next season, the standard's going to be very, very high to get out there on the field and get your playing time."
• On the linebackers' progress: "There's still a lot of unanswered questions there. I didn't doubt maybe the talent level that we had there, the biggest question (is) the experience level you have there. … We've got to make sure they're SEC-ready this September and not just that they're SEC-caliber players, but that they're actually ready to perform at that level come this September."
• On how he's changed as a coach since coming to MSU: "I'm probably more relaxed now than when I first came in. I maybe delegate some responsibilities a little bit better. I'm still kind of a control freak – I just like things done, and I like them done the right way. But I'm also much more relaxed in letting our coaches go coach, and I want to evaluate the effort that players give."