By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – There’s still some work to be done on Mississippi State’s $25 million football complex. Same goes for the team now inhabiting it.
On a damp Friday afternoon, workers milled about the facility, which had its massive front doors swung wide open to the unseasonably warm air. Just inside, scaffolding reached up to the second level, and plastic sheets covered much of the foyer’s floor.
A few finishing touches, a little more landscaping, and the 80,000-square-foot Leo Seal Family Football Complex will be ready for all the college football world to see. It’s functional enough right now that head coach Dan Mullen and his staff have moved in.
“Coming in it’s almost like coming to a new job that you know all the players, know all the coaches, know how it’s set up, know what your expectations are, the fan base knows who you are,” Mullen said. “It has that excitement feeling; I think it’s the same with our players.”
He added that the Seal Complex is “the premier facility in the Southeastern Conference, which probably means we have the top facility in the whole nation right now.”
That’s probably debatable, but it certainly sets a high standard for the program to live up to. The Bulldogs have recorded three consecutive winning seasons, but this past season ended with five losses in the last six games to finish 8-5.
MSU fell to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl, 34-20.
Mullen is eager to move on from 2012 and shake off the poor ending, noting that last Sunday marked “the birth of the (2013) team, and we have a one-year life with this team to leave their mark on history. And I know they’re fired up ready to get after it.”
Gabe Jackson sure is fired up. The All-SEC offensive guard, who recently announced he’ll forego the NFL Draft and return for his senior season, has gotten a look at the new weightroom.
“I went downstairs, and I was like, man, I’m ready to go get me a workout in,” Jackson said. “And some other guys were going to the Sanderson (Center) and working out, so everybody’s ready to come back.”
MSU moves forward with some changes to its coaching staff. Geoff Collins was promoted to defensive coordinator, replacing Chris Wilson; David Turner was hired as the defensive line coach; and Deshea Townsend was hired to coach cornerbacks.
Turner coached at MSU from 2007-09, so he served under Mullen for one season before heading to Kentucky for three years. As the program has grown, Turner said so has Mullen.
“I know Dan has matured as a head coach,” Turner said. “Other than that, I think he understands the demands of the position a whole lot better, I think he handles it a whole lot better, I think he’s done a good job of getting (coaches) around him to handle the football part so to speak.”
As Mullen has matured, his goals have remained the same, chief among them competing for an SEC championship. He sees the Seal Complex as a step in that direction, and as a sign of the school’s commitment to building a winning program.
National signing day isn’t far off (Feb. 6), and Mullen believes prospects will look at the complex and the direction of the program and believe what he believes.
“They come here to Mississippi State, they’re getting the best,” he said. “They’re going to have the best facilities, they’re going to have the best coaching, the best on-the-field treatment, best strength coach, in their complete development, the best academic staff, all of those things.”
“I think they see our commitment to excellence as we move forward.”