Mullen starts spring a day early, gets into depth chart and breaks down roster in advance

Good news, football fans.

Spring football practice starts today.

Probably. Maybe. If it’s not windy.

Dan Mullen decided to move Mississippi State’s opening period up a day, so if you’re in the area, feel free to stop by the practice fields at 4 this afternoon when the action gets started.

425014_483240348355119_1187940702_nWe caught up with Mullen this morning in anticipation of spring practice beginning, plus MSU released its pre-spring depth chart, which you can find the entirety of here.

I wouldn’t recommend reading too entirely much into it, but there are a few notables.

One of the most noticeable changes is junior Kaleb Eulls switching to defensive tackle form defensive end, where he started the previous two season.

Mullen compared him, in style, to former Bulldog Fletcher Cox, saying he’s someone who can play both spots at any given time.

“He’s had the ability to move around,” Mullen said. I wanna see how he can handle it.”

There only appears to be one other position change, and that’s junior Christian Holmes. He practiced at tight end early on in bowl practices, and apparently the coaches liked him enough to make the switch from linebacker permanent.

The switch, Mullen says, highlights what the offense intends to do: use the tight end more than ever. We wrote the other day about the Bulldogs are likely to employ more two-tight end sets and help cover some of the inexperience at wide receiver, a line Mullen repeated today almost verbatim.

On the injury front, the head coach says MSU will be without sophomore corner Taveze Calhoun and junior running back Nick Griffin for the entirety of the spring.

Sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott will also be out for most of the action, but Mullen said he may still do a little throwing here and there, just nothing with significant movement and certainly no contact.

With Prescott out, MSU is down to just one scholarship quarterback for practice purposes.

“You’re not gonna see anybody near Tyler Russell,” Mullen cracked.

Across the board, MSU has more open starting spots than perhaps any other year since Mullen arrived, with all the starting receivers, both the corners, a pair of defensive tackles and a linebacker all graduating.

“We started our spring meeting with that word opportunity,” Mullen said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for guys to get on the field.”

On the defensive line, Mullen seemed to have a fair bit of confidence in his ends, saying true junior Preston Smith has begun to blossom and will start the spring as a starter, while senior Denico Autry, a junior college transfer, has taken on the role of pace-setter and leader.

On the inside, Mullen is relying on talent over experience, as her doesn’t have much of the latter.

“We’ve got a bunch of bodies and guys that need experience,” Mullen said. “It’s gonna be very effort-based for me on the line.”

At another spot of need, receiver, Mullen is interested to see how players react to the transition from young backups to vetted starters.

Sophomore Joe Morrow and juniors Robert Johnson and Jameon Lewis no longer have Chad Bumphis and the gang around to lead them.

“RoJo, Jameon, Morrow,” Mullen listed off, “you go in the receiver room, it’s no longer ‘boy they’re developing, they’re gonna be good in the future.’ They’re it.”

The Bulldogs will have one more familiar face, too, as Michael Carr is back with the group after missing last season.

The receivers, of course, have a new coach, with Billy Gonzales taking over for the now-departed Tim Brewster. The good news there, Mullen says, is that “Billy G” is familiar with the offense, having worked with each other so much in the past.

At cornerback, the refrain is similar. The top three players are gone and so is the coach.

Making lemonade from lemons, Mullen actually likes that. He loves having Deshea Townsend as the new coach and thinks having the coach and players be new at the same time works about as well as he could have drawn it up. Everyone is fresh, everyone has a new start.

At the position, Mullen is expecting junior college transfer Justin Cox to play corner. While he’s a bit behind as far as being used to practice and how MSU does things, Mullen raved about his potential and it sounds like he could be a starter at some point.

Along with Cox, Mullen expects young guys like Cedric Jiles and Will Redmond to immediately make the transition from not playing to vying for a starting job, while junior Jamerson Love is the only corner with much real game experience.

As spring begins, competition for starting gigs certainly is a storyline, but the primary goal for Mullen, he says, is just to teach.

“At the end of spring, we’re 0-0. We’re not preparing for a game. We’re developing and teaching.”

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