The head coach had missed all of Wednesday’s work for example, leaving the staff in charge while he attended to recruiting among other winter items. “Just scheduling,” Mullen said today. “Trying to get practice in with final exams and fit with all the other things I had to get done. But it was good to be back out there today.”
It really did seem a good day to get work done, this time outdoors. Mississippi State spent the two-hour session much as they had Wednesday operating indoors, the only real difference in script being able to execute full-speed and full-field kickoffs and coverage. Otherwise the position drills, the pass/skel period, and the 11-on-11 competition ran just as the day before.
Well, there was one other difference from Wednesday. Indoors, the first-teamers had been allowed to watch the team-vs-team periods by their backups and redshirts. Today though the varsity went to a separate field and ran sprints with strength coach Matt Balis while everyone else competed.
There were no new injuries noticed during practice. Second-team OG Ben Beckwith did report on crutches today with a brace on his right ankle, after going down in team-on-team work Wednesday. Starting QB Tyler Russell spent most of the afternoon in the re-hab pit rather than throwing in drills as he had yesterday. Mullen explained the starter will work day-on and day-off for the rest of this week so he can hopefully be ready to practice full-speed Monday. Russell sprained his right ankle late in the Egg Bowl. He wore a full-length wrap brace yesterday, but a smaller one today as he was not dropping-and-throwing.
And CB Cedric Jiles was also in the pit today, having practiced a good bit yesterday with his cracked right hand.
Friday’s practice begins at 11:15am and is open to the public. Following the Thursday session Mullen spoke with media.
What is getting accomplished with the young players? “Just getting their first taste. A lot of guys haven’t had the opportunity to run our offense or our defense, really since back in training camp or the bye-week. So they’re getting their opportunity to get refreshed, learn the system; so as we get into the off-season here they’re coming in and watching the film it’s a little bit fresher on their mind as they are developing.”
You said receiver and cornerbacks were two areas you would really look at? “Yeah, with these guys leaving new guys are going to have to come in and play those positions. We’ve got a lot of experience walking out the door at both those positions. So we’re going to have a lot of new faces there, new guys that are here and new guys that are coming in.”
Do you like the response of the young players being able to run the offense or defense? “Yeah, I like the energy, the effort. That’s what I evaluate, the effort. There is an awful lot of coaching and teaching and mistakes being made out here, but as long as they play with the effort that we demand you can make improvements off of that.”
Richie Brown said you gave some freshmen the choice to redshirt; they said if they did and stuck around the last couple of years would be good. That is good foresight for a young player? “Yeah. And I think when they come in and those guys see…you really let them go through summer and go through training camp, and have that meeting before the season starts, after they’ve been there for a while. And they see where they are at and their improvements.”
“Obviously this time of year you wish there were some guys that weren’t redshirting and (you) could put out there on the field and in special teams and to take reps and to do all that stuff. But with how its all set up right now you wouldn’t do that. And these guys right now had a great year of learning, to get that underneath their belt and get ready. And you know, they’re still freshmen next year; that’s the neat thing.”
Is Dak Prescott taking advantage of his opportunity to get lots more snaps? “Absolutely. He’s getting to run the whole show and get a lot of the reps right now. Tyler is getting some good rest. And I think that’s really just going to help him as he continues to move forward.”
Does Tyler have an ankle? “An ankle sprain. He should be good to go, he’s been throwing. I think he threw yesterday. We’re going to have him doing some different things but he should be good to go. We start practice Monday, kind of our game prep, and that was our goal all along to have him out here ready to go.”
Is it hard to keep him out of things, yesterday he wanted to throw? “What we did with the trainers, is every other day with that. He’ll be back out throwing tomorrow, and throw a day, rest a day. The whole key was to make sure he was ready to go Monday.”
Nick Griffin sounds to be in a good mood after his second injury? “It’s just a tragedy. That’s twice to a young man. Non-contact, I mean just running down the field injuries. That’s the sad part about it. But with him, I think the confidence he gained in playing the best football I’ve seen him play the last couple of weeks of the season coming back from the first injury, is going to give him more confidence coming back from this one.”
Do you have veterans already looking at Northwestern? “Yeah, they should be. Finals are done now and not a lot going on around town, I think most people have left! They get some down time so they should really be all starting to look at it. The young guys get the opportunity to watch this film, older guys should really be looking forward, into a little extra time with Northwestern.”
Are there similarities between Christian Holmes and Marcus Green at tight end? “(We’re) Just finding what he can do. I know he has really good ball skills and I think he’s picked it up pretty quick and done a good job. He’s going to go back to linebacker on Monday for the game and it's a decision we’ll make going into January which way he goes.”
How much has Gabe Jackson meant? “He’s done a great job. All those guys. All my first recruiting class. Those guys always have been pretty special to me. Gabe has done a good job developing each year and I think he looks at it. And we’ll sit down when we find out all the information on his future. He has a lot of developing still to do over the next couple of years but I think he’s going to have a bright future and a lot of years of football ahead of him.”
When did it start clicking for Jackson? “We knew when he was coming in as a redshirt freshman he was going to be a player for us. It was just how fast he was going to pick everything up and he picked it up pretty quick.”
Josh Boyd has been picked up for the East-West Shrine Game? “I’ve been running around recruiting. I haven’t been in the office yet today.”
He could turn some heads there? “The bowl game is a big game for him and he still has a lot to do. This time last year Fletcher (Cox), there were a lot of questions what he was going to do and then when he had the opportunity to show everybody what he can do, he took it to another level.”
Could Holmes play both linebacker and h-back? “We’ll probably keep him one way or the other, but that decision won’t come until spring. He’ll be playing linebacker still in the bowl game.”
In recruiting do people understand more what Mississippi State is about. And do you hear people get Ole Miss and State mixed-up? “I think the success we've had over the last couple of years has really opened a lot of eyes for people. There’s a lot more for us in recognition, not just name recognition but recognition of our program and recognition of our accomplishments. We’ve been ranked a bunch this year, we were ranked each of the last three years and we’ve played in New Year's Day bowl games. I think that recognition has picked up a lot. When you get down to Florida, when you get to Texas, when you get to Georgia, it’s more than when we first got here.”
How much do you show recruits film of John Banks winning awards? “Not just him. We’ve had first-round picks each of the last two years. Three years in a row we've had an All-American on the team. We show those guys that and they see it’s not just a one position. It’s a lot of different guys who have had success in the program. I think that makes an impact on people.”