Mullen speaks on injuries, Kentucky QBs, offense and playing on the road

Looking well-rested and perhaps even rejuvenated, Dan Mullen met with the media for his weekly press conference, talking a little bit about his own team and a greater amount about his opponent this week – Kentucky.

“Our guys hopefully are rested and ready to go, come back and get to work this afternoon,” Mullen said with the off week now behind them.

We’ve got some pertinent notes and quotes from the head coach, and we’ll have plenty more from both him and his assistants over the coming days.

  • Injury report: sophomore tight end Malcolm Johnson is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game, as are offensive guard Tobias Smith and defensive tackle Devin Jones. Freshman cornerback Cedric Jiles is out with a broken hand, and likely won’t play for several weeks, Mullen said.

On Johnson’s possible return and the impact it would have on the offense, Mullen said, “It’s huge. We’ve gotta see what he can do. He hasn’t done any live stuff yet.”

  • Mullen said Johnson is basically just now starting training camp as far as his stage of returning to action.
  • Last year in Lexington, Mullen said, UK stacked the line of scrimmage with as many as nine defenders, forcing MSU to pass, which then-sophomore quarterback Tyler Russell did effectively.
  • Mullen will be hoping for more of the same from Russell on Saturday.

“We do put a bunch on him,” Mullen said. “He’s a guy to make plays throwing the football and get people to respect it so we can run the ball.”

  • As for the Wildcats’ quarterback, starter Maxwell Smith is likely out for Saturday, meaning freshman Jalen Whitlow – who played the majority of the game against South Carolina this past weekend – and fellow freshman Patrick Towles – who hasn’t played yet – will both see time on the field, according to reports out of Lexington.
  • Mullen said he watched tape of Towles in high school and came away impressed.

“He’s a complete quarterback,” Mullen said. “Throws the ball really well. State player of the year. Has all the tools.”

Of course, MSU doesn’t have any film of Towles, who they consider to be more of a passing QB, like they do of Whitlow, who is a more athletic player.

“From what you saw, he threw the ball really well,” Mullen said of Whitlow’s performance against USC.

Beginning this weekend, MSU plays seven SEC opponents over an eight-week span after only facing one conference foe over the first five weeks of college football action.

As both Mullen and his players have said, this is when the road gets tough.

“You don’t want to call the first four games preseason, but it different, because there’s so many conference games now,” Mullen said.

It starts Saturday with State’s first road SEC game of the year.

“Any time you’re on the road, you want to start off fast,” Mullen said. “You get the opportunity to take some of the emotion out of the stadium at that point.”

Oh, another note on Mullen and Kentucky: this will be the fifth time he’s coached at Commonwealth Stadium. He went on the road to Leixngton twice as an assistant, and this is his third trip to Kentucky as a head coach, as a quirk in the new schedule has MSU playing UK on the road for the second-consecutive year.

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