How many ways can you ask Dan Mullen about Tennessee’s explosive offense?
More than one, but still not enough to keep Mullen’s Monday press conference from being probably the shortest one of the season.
Mississippi State’s head coach even used it himself.
“It should be a really exciting game,” he said.
I tend to agree with Mullen.
And so does defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, who called the match-up of MSU’s defensive backs against UT’s wide receivers “NFL players going against NFL players.”
Although, oddly enough, All-American cornerback Johnthan Banks downplayed the prevailing story-line of the week.
Banks said it’s just another game, that all SEC opponents are tough and he’d just as soon go without all the attention.
He sounded like a captain who doesn’t want his team to get too caught up in the hype. Though he did admit the Vols have quite the set of receivers, and their offense will be the best MSU has faced all year.
While Banks isn’t getting wrapped up in the excitement, Mullen didn’t hold back.
“The first thing that jumps out to you is the explosiveness of their offense,” Mullen said. “They have NFL-type players at every position.”
You want more praise from Mullen? Good, because he doled it out, this time in the direction of star pass-catchers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson.
“They’re the two best receivers we’ve played this year,” Mullen said. “On top of that, the best passing quarterback we’ve played this year. It’s a big challenge for our secondary. It should be fun.”
Fun. Exciting. Explosive. Mullen is breaking out the superlatives this week, and rightfully so.
Even in the backfield, Tennessee has talent with sophomore running back Rajion Neal, who’s fourth among SEC running backs with 92.0 yards per game on the ground.
“Solid back,” Mullen said. “Catches the ball out of the backfield well. Runs well. … He’s an SEC running back.”
A couple quick injury updates from Mullen:
- Sophomore tight end Malcolm Johnson is probable and expected to make his season-debut on Saturday, which as we’ve said, is a pretty big deal.
- Senior defensive tackle Devin Jones is probable, as well, which helps MSU’s depth on the line, adding in with the return of tackle P.J. Jones against Kentucky.
- Freshman cornerback Cedric Jiles is still out with a broken hand.
We’ll have plenty more in the coming hours and days from MSU’s coaches and players as they begin what is, to this point, the biggest week of the season.