There are two coaches each year I usually dread hearing from — Dan Mullen and Gene Chizik. That doesn’t mean they’re bad guys, bad coaches or that I hate their schools/teams/etc. It does mean they’re sort of bland. (In Chizik’s case, bland is an understatement.)
Mullen might be the fastest talker in the league (though Will Muschamp and Gary Pinkel certainly have given him a run for his money this week). Let’s see how he does today…
* Mullen says he’s excited for the season. Though he doesn’t have a veteran team, he likes the squad’s attitude.
* The coach also talked up his team’s GPA early in his opening remarks. He also praised MSU’s administration and mentioned the new facilities going up in Starkville.
* Quick opening statement from Mullen… quicker than his usual approach. He seems a bit more comfortable this year. Heck, this is his fourth Media Days event.
* Asked about his sometimes shaky relationship with quarterback Tyler Russell, Mullen credited the player and his family for dealing with “outside pressures” from fan and media expectations. “I expect him to have a huge year,” the coach said. Mullen said he knows the system and that the staff will give him “the keys” and lot of play-calling responsibility at the line of scrimmage.
* It didn’t take long for the “you’ve only beaten Ole Miss in the West” question to pop up. In response, Mullen said the first SEC game — against Auburn — is always important because it’s a two-game lead for the winner over the loser.
* Mullen says you have to bring “your A game” every week regardless of division, when asked about the strength of the West Division.
* MSU’s coach is clearly more comfortable this season. He’s not rushing as he has in year’s past. He seems friendly and upbeat. Big improvement over past year’s performance.
* Asked about tougher academic standards, Mullen says he’s sorry that some players won’t be rewarded. He says it takes depth away.
* Mullen said there will probably be some billboard plans for the fall. He claimed he only sees the billboards after they’ve already been designed. Ole Miss fans are scoffing at that.
* Mullen says Russell compares to Alex Smith in terms of style — more passer than runner. He says only a portion of MSU’s playbook will be used, which is normal. But this year the percentage used might differ from what’s been used in past seasons.
* “I try to play nonconference games within our region,” he said when asked about a nonconference game at Troy. Mullen said he wants players’ families to be able to see them play. He said taking a bus to a game saves money. MSU doesn’t have to spend “millions and millions” to jet across the country. A novel spin.
* Mullen’s really doing a good job this year. Relaxed.
* The coach says the secondary is the strength of State’s defense, especially with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox now gone. State will have to adjust to his departure and the secondary will have to pick up some of the slack.
* Asked if the gap between State and Alabama/LSU/Auburn/Arkansas closing, Mullen said his teams has had fourth-quarter chances against those teams. He said he just needs someone to make a play at crunch time. Mullen said that shows that his team is close to those West foes “which means we’re not very far from the national title.”;
* “As much as we always try to prevent head injuries, in the game of football that’s always going to happen.”
Our overall grade for Mullen’s “performance” based on comfort, friendliness, openness… we’ll give him a 5 on a scale of 1-5. Totally different Dan Mullen this year. As noted above, in his fourth Media Days he seems much, much more relaxed and friendly. This wasn’t a Rat Pack show at The Sands, but in past years, Mullen’s seemed to have a bit of an edge to him — not unlike Gary Pinkel yesterday. That was not the case today.