Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen stopped by the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo this afternoon as part of his week-long Road Dawgs Tour, and his message to fans and alumni present was simple: Keep the momentum going.
He started with what he called a "state of the program address," in which he talked about the young talent on hand (he said 39 of the 85 current scholarship players, which would include the 2011 signees and last year's redshirts, have four years of eligibility) and the challenge of living up to the expectations created by last season's 9-4 finish, which included another Egg Bowl win and a Gator Bowl triumph over Michigan.
"The future's going to be fantastic," Mullen said. "The scary part for us is this year's team. Because since I've been here we've always played with a chip on our shoulder. … Now for the first time since I've been here – and the first time in a long time – it's the opposite. We have to go prove everybody right."
He likened MSU's journey toward prominence to that of a mountain climber scaling Mt. Everest.
"We've reached base camp one this year, but we can't slow down, we can't stop. … We want to see the view from the top of that mountain."
Mullen took some questions from fans after his talk, including one about the quarterback situation. Senior Chris Relf is the returning starter, but Mullen sounded the same theme he has all offseason – that it's still an open competition.
"It'll be an interesting competition," Mullen said. "I don't think that position's settled going into the summer. I guess Chris is the leader right now."
Mullen also said tailback Nick Griffin, who could miss the early part of the season because of a torn ACL, is actually faster than backfield mate LaDarius Perkins. That's saying something, because Perkins told us a few weeks ago that he ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash last spring, and he thinks he's even faster now.
Griffin is 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, so if he's really that fast, watch out. Mullen said he'd hoped Griffin to be the "star" of the spring before he got hurt.
Mullen spoke with the media afterwards, and I'll have some video of that later, and I'll have a story in Friday's Journal.