Dan Mullen came and Dan Mullen spoke.
The rest of us listened, as he had plenty to say in his 21-minute Monday press conference.
A quick injury update from the head coach: sophomore tight end Brandon Hill is “doubtful” this week after spraining his ankle against Auburn, while fellow sophomore tight end Malcolm Johnson is also still “doubtful” with a pectoral injury.
Mullen informed us true freshman defensive back Xavier Grindle is out for the season with a knee injury.
As you can imagine, Mullen was in a jovial mood and had mostly good things to say about his team’s performance over the weekend.
But his main message was clear: the Bulldogs have to avoid complacency. They have to handle expectations.
As Mullen pointed out, MSU has generally had to recover from early losses, but now, they’re starting fast and must not take their foot off the brakes.
Warnings aside, the head coach was generally pleased with what was going on around him.
Perhaps more than anything else, Mullen was happiest about improvement on the offensive line and thought the play of the interior guys was impressive.
In particular, Mullen said redshirt freshman guard Justin Malone made big strides from game one to game two.
The head coach said Malone didn’t play very well against Jackson State, but attributed the poor performance to nerves, saying Malone was much better and more confident against Auburn.
“I was really happy with the experience Justin Malone received on the field,” Mullen said.
Of course, the man in front of Malone did well, too. Mullen said senior right guard Tobias Smith
“is coming out of the game with a lot of confidence in his knee.”
Naturally, Mullen liked how his quarterback Tyler Russell did Saturday, though he did nitpick a few plays, saying Russell forced a couple passes into tight coverage. It worked out of course, Mullen joked, but it did make him nervous.
“He understands when he wants to take a chance and when he doesn’t,” Mullen said.
After the last two weeks, Mullen says we are all seeing Russell become the quarterback he knew he could be.
“Tyler played really well on Saturday and led us to a big victory,” Mullen said. “That’s the evolution of Tyler Russell.”
We also got an update on special teams, one of the only issues for MSU on Saturday.
Mullen actually said he wasn’t overly-concerned with Onterio McCalebb’s kickoff return for a touchdown.
“If we lose a game because of something Johnthan Banks did, I’m not gonna lose any sleep,” Mullen said.
Mullen said Banks, as well as Cam Lawrence and a few others on the field, thought it was going to be a touchback and were a bit surprised when Auburn returned the kick.
As for field goals, where freshman Devon Bell was 0-for-2, and is 0-for-3 on the season, Mullen said he won’t likely be changing that up.
Bell has been the best kicker in practice every week, Mullen said, and both he and his coaches know Bell has the talent.
When it comes time to kick in a game, Mullen said the problem is pretty simple. Bell gets anxious. Mullen thinks if Bell can slow things down and get confident in games, everything will be fine.