STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State head football coach Dan Mullen holds his weekly press conference Monday afternoons in the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex. Free on-demand video of each week's press conference will be posted in the story rotation (main and football pages only) on HailState.com, along with an associated transcript.
Dan Mullen Press Conference Transcript - 11/11/13
“It's a great opportunity for us this week. Any time you have the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the country, that’s huge. There are only nine teams in the whole country that have had that opportunity so far this year. It’s unique. You don’t always get this chance, so it's fun for our guys.
“It's a great challenge. Alabama is a team that leads the nation in just about everything. I don’t know that they have many weak spots. They’ve got a strong offense, a physical offensive line, one of the best offensive lines probably in the league or the country. They have two big-time running backs. They’ve got a fifth-year senior at quarterback who knows the system and is a competitor, winner, and can make all the plays they need him to make. They have great wideouts on the perimeter to throw it to. You look at last week and they rotate tight ends in. They bring one in and I just watched him run away from LSU’s entire defense on one play. And then they bring in a bigger guy who is 6-foot-6, 310 pounds and is bigger than most of our offensive linemen.
“And they’re more of a defensive team I guess, right? That’s what they’re always known for. So a great challenge on that side of the ball. They’re deep. They have five-star players as backups. They have five-star players sitting on the bench not getting tons of reps. They have talent at every position.
"Statistically you look at what they’ve been able to do and it’s pretty impressive on the defensive side of the ball. They had the one game where Johnny Manziel put up a bunch of points. He made a bunch of plays running around and improvising and put up a lot of yards. Despite that, they still lead the conference and are rated near top of the nation in just about every defensive category.
“But, a great challenge for us. They’re averaging winning every game by around 31 points so we’ll have our hands full. A unique opportunity and we’re going to enjoy that and go out there and play with great effort for sixty minutes and see what we can do.”
What is the difference planning for a Manziel and for a balanced offense?
“Well, it’s very different. You have to make sure everybody takes a lot of ice baths this week. Last week we had to stretch out an awful lot and hydrate because we were going to be running around all over the place. This week you’d better get in that ice bath and get your body healthy, because they’re going to pound away at you.
“Not that they don’t have the talent to spread it out and throw it any time they want, with all the great receivers they have and the great fifth-year senior quarterback, a guy who wins. Just within their style it’s going to be a much more physical game.
"What you do is you look at film of the guys and you make corrections within the general part of our defense. A lot of stuff from last week won’t really apply to this week. You’re going to see a very different style. A lot of it is much more in correcting some overall issues we have, and just changing the mindset for this style of offense you’re going to play. We have to take our schemes and see how they applies to Alabama."
Talk about De’Runnya Wilson’s emergence at receiver.
“He’s done a good job. He’s a guy who in training camp we thought made some plays and he has continued to develop. You look at it and he had some good matchups Saturday. It’s tough because I think a lot of people look at statistics and say, ‘Wow he had such a huge game. Where has he been?’
"Sometimes it’s the matchups and the looks you get. He had some matchups on Saturday and we took advantage of them. You don’t always get that.
“But the great thing is, you look at what he did when we had a good matchup and it was impressive. He went and made the play. That’s what we need to do.
"We are very young at the receiver position. There’s not a senior in their room. I mean coming into this season, we brought back 72 receptions from last year, out of 249 completed passes. It was a such a young group. It’s great to see them develop. And develop as a whole. De’Runnya has done a good job of that, taking steps forward. But other guys have as well, too.”
Has there been any discussion with Rick Ray of De'Runnya Wilson playing basketball lately?
“Not yet because it’s football season still. When football ends, hopefully in January sometime, we’ll make the transition with him getting ready to go into basketball and do that.
"Rick and I have a real good relationship so it’s let’s make the best way that we can get transitions to work and make sure we’re taking care of De’Runnya. For both of us, that's the most important thing.”
When did you realize in training camp the potential for Dak Prescott to overtake Tyler Russell?
“Well, during training camp we grade everything. Coming out of training camp there wasn’t a huge separation in the grades, which is what you want. You like the opportunity to have two quarterbacks ready to play. As you can see from what we’ve had, you can get into a game situation like the other night when Dak gets banged-up. Tyler has played a bunch, he’s into the flow of the game, he comes in and the second play bangs out a touchdown pass. He’s ready to go at the drop of a hat.
"It's the same when Tyler starts the game for us and gets a bunch of reps early. Dak came in Saturday and the first play we score a touchdown. The guys are ready to go. When you can have that without a huge separation between the two, it’s a pretty good safety net to have.”
Is there an update on Prescott and Deontae Skinner?
“Deontae got a stinger. We didn’t know until Wednesday afternoon right before practice that he wouldn’t be able to play. We had to make some adjustments. Christian Holmes had to go back to linebacker with Ferlando Bohanna already being out. Dee Arrington is out for the season and he was kind of a bigger safety who could fill into that spot at linebacker. Christian actually did a good job Saturday.
“Dak is the same way. He got a stinger. They said he’ll be questionable this week, but we’ll probably know more Wednesday of his availability. He didn’t practice yesterday, which at this point and time of year, anybody who plays over around 40 snaps really gets minimal work on a Sunday. It wasn’t like he's in or out, or this is the time. We’ll check three different times today where he’s at, where he’s progresssing. We’ll check tomorrow and hopefully he’ll be able to practice Wednesday.”
What is your review of what is happening at the end of first halves?
“Unfortunately I guess every one is a different situation. I think for us it’s the mindset of our guys. You can look at certain times during the game. We fell behind in that game Saturday, but when the team got together and talked, there was confidence. I think everybody on our sideline felt we were going to win that game, until time ran out. They felt we were going to find a way to come back and find a way to make plays to win that game.
“To me, it has to get to that same mindset, where we’re going to find a way right now. When we get on that field, everybody there believes we’re making this stop in this situation right now. And it’s really just that simple.
"The big play Texas A&M hit was an out-and-up. We jumped the out. If he would have thrown the out, it might have been a big play. We could have had a pick-six and swung the momentum other way for us. But he threw the out-and-up.
“Those are things we have to do. I think it becomes a confidence factor. If it’s one specific, one exact thing we’re doing … it isn’t. I think it’s just the mindset of our guys, of the belief we are going to make this stop in this situation. That’s the way it has to be."
How do you change that mindset?
“You have to talk about it. It’s how you think. When you look at it, you have to say this is what is going to happen. I’ll be honest with you. Earlier in the season we played LSU and fell behind by a couple of scores in the fourth quarter. I think doubt crept in our guys’ minds. They may have thought, ‘I don’t know, maybe we can’t make a comeback.’
“We’ve erased that doubt. I think you have seen that over the last several weeks with making stops in the fourth quarter on defense. And then the thought becomes, ‘Hey, we’ve fallen behind. That’s OK.’
"We scored more points in the fourth quarter last week than we had in a couple of games prior to that. That attitude of don’t worry about it, we can find a way to do it is starting to be there, even though we haven’t been doing it yet.
"I think if the team believes that's the direction we’re headed, you will see the improvements with a lot of young players. Those guys then start to think, 'Hey, you know what, if there is a complete focus on doing this, everybody gets together, we’re going to find a way to make it happen.' Not that we haven’t focused on any of it before, but I think that jumps into our guys’ minds. That mentality of, we can make it happen, we can find a way to get the job done."
Was punting the role Devon Bell was signed for?
“Originally we recruited him as a punt-kickoff guy. He did a really good job as a true freshman kicking field goals and kind of won that job. I think in the process of winning that job, he really took a step back as a punter. Now he’s gotten into taking that step forward again as a punter.
"We chart everything throughout the week. When he started punting for us, in the weeks of practice he kind of had surpassed Baker [Swedenburg] all week in statistical numbers. We decided to make that decision.
"Devon's ability in the pooch-punts and pinning them inside the ten, that was something we saw earlier and something we wanted to take advantage of. It’s something he just has a really good knack for. So that was something we were going to plan on using him all along in. And then just the rest of it he’s really picked up his game.”
How frustrating are special teams' issues? Is that on you more than anything?
“Well, everything is on me in this program, so I’m frustrated with just about everything that happens. The frustration for me, and I look at it with our team, is putting the complete game together when you have a lot of young guys.
"We’ve had some really good special teams games during the season. Saturday certainly wasn’t one of them. There are other games where we’ve had some great defensive efforts, and then we’ve had some poor defensive efforts. We’ve had some really good offensive efforts and some poorer offensive efforts.
“It is putting everything together as a team and playing at a very, very high level. In this league, the type of schedules we play and type of schedule we’re playing this year, you have to be on you’re A-game. A B grade just won’t cut it. A B will get you things around your neck on graduation day in college, but a B in the SEC football field is getting you a loss, which is a failure. It’s an A or an F in the SEC. And that’s us as a team, an entire team.
“It's obviously frustrating, because they were all things we can control. And give their kids credit, when they had opportunities to make plays they made some plays. We did some decent things in the return game, some punt returns. And had a couple of silly penalties. We did some good things in the kicking game. We pinned them inside the 15 on two punts. We had them inside the ten on a kickoff, or inside the 20 definitely on two to three kickoffs, and then you give up the big one. So there are the positive/negatives. It’s putting the whole game together to me. You have to be on it for the entire sixty minutes.”
You basically shut down Jadeveon Clowney, and barring one catch you did Mike Evans. How are you taking away the other team’s best player, barring Manziel obviously?
“In both games I don’t think we completely took them out games. Our focus was not how do we take guys out of a game completely. Our focus is more on how we limit what they do. If your plan is to take this guy completely out of a game, and they’re great players [it may not be successful]. If Mike Evans still jumps up and makes a spectacular catch, there’s not much you can do about it.
"And Clowney, I guess I lied when I said he’s going to get his sack and he didn’t. But it is where you put the focus on. We have a plan to help contain what they’re going to do. Our focus is not to completely stop them, just to contain them.
"When you do that, the guys can play with a little more confidence. Because when the guy does make a big play they’re not like, ‘Oh our plan was to make nothing happen.’ Our plan was to contain it as best we could.
“And it’s hard for me to go yell at our defense because our goal against Texas A&M was to stop the run. We did. We held them under 100 yards rushing, which hasn’t happened very much for them since Johnny Manziel has been there. So within our plan, they made a lot of plays. We looked at, I think, 50 percent of their third downs occurred after he started scrambling outside of the offense. Twenty five percent of their pass offense and 30 percent of their rushing yards were scrambles. Two of their touchdowns were scrambles and extended plays. That’s something we knew going into the game. What happened we just have to be ready for and not let it impact the entire game. But obviously it ended up being a big part.”
You've used Chris Jones at end, tackle, and last week over the ball. Is he impacting offenses?
“The thing I’m really proud of with Chris is that he’s understanding as a freshman. He is making the plays, which is him doing his job. He doesn’t have to get a sack for him to help be responsible for a sack. He doesn’t need to be the one to make the tackle to result in a tackle.
"There’s some maturity in understanding that, because guys want to make plays. I appreciate the fact he is very conscientious in fundamentals and trying to do it the right way. Now, he wants to make plays, but he's understanding that sometimes his job is to get double-teamed and somebody else makes the play. I appreciate that, for a freshman, he’s really bought into that and really understands that. It’s allowed us to give him flexibility, because he’s not just trying to go out and do his own thing. He’s trying to do his job within the scheme.”
With Russell in the offense gets yards but isn’t getting the points. Is there something you’ve noticed?
“I think part of it is when you get down in the red zone, when you shrink the field like that and there are more players in the box, the quarterback run game becomes a little more valuable. The threat of quarterback run becomes more valuable for you, especially in red zone situations.”
“Tyler has done a decent job running the ball at times this year. He’s a very different style runner, but a capable runner in doing things. So part of it is probably is our fault. When we get down in the red zone, we need to stick with it. Tyler can run it, too. He’s fast in the open field, but the great thing with Tyler, he does have that toughness. He’s not a guy who is going to shy away from contact. He is a tough, tough kid. So for us, I think we’ve got to do a better job of utilizing him in that role. It’s stuff that he can still do."