First scrimmage in Davis Wade, mixed reviews following

If the offense is good then the defense must be bad, right?

And if a receiver catches a pass, then a cornerback had one completed on him.

1003332_644467342232418_1425592055_nIt’s sort of a no-win for Dan Mullen when asked about Mississippi State’s first scrimmage of the fall, this one in Davis Wade Stadium, with cranes and concrete for a picturesque background. (The camera guy in the north end zone had to wear a hard hat and safety vest while he taped everything.)

But, Mullen did offer a few thoughts, as did the players, and I’ll share a couple of my own.

To this point in the fall, the young receivers have generally been impressive as they replace all three starters, but the scrimmage may have been their worst day yet. One of the receivers said they totaled seven drops on the day, while Mullen mentioned the same, expressing his general displeasure with their performance.

He did say, however, his receivers did little things right, like running routes and making blocks. Of course, the point of receiving is to, you know, receive.

But where Mullen didn’t make an excuse, I will. Yesterday was MSU’s first day on the farm, in the middle of the day under a 90-something degree sun. It was by far their toughest practice of the fall and you could see how weary they were when they returned to the Seal complex afterward. Then, they continued with football activities until well after sundown, before returning to the field at 8 a.m. this morning.

Do they need to have better days than today? Absolutely. Do I blame them for being a bit mentally exhausted today? Not so much, and both Mullen and receivers coach Billy Gonzales said lack of mental focus was the issue.

One of the bright spots at receiver has been sophomore Joe Morrow, the 6’5″ outside pass-catcher who has spent a significant amount of time with the first team.

While expressing disappointment in the receivers as a whole, Mullen made a point today to compliment Morrow, saying he had a tremendous summer and his best camp to date.

On the opposite side of the ball, Mullen raved a bit about the pass rush his defense created today, applauding defensive ends Denico Autry, Preston Smith and Ryan Brown.

I said this same thing to someone while I watched the scrimmage, and afterward Mullen talked a bit about how Brown and Smith have filled out their bodies, putting on weight as both were a bit skinny.

Smith, who led the team in sacks last year as a sophomore, and Brown, who now enters his sophomore year, were both talented enough to play as true freshmen. Combine those two with Autry and a herd of young talent (including Chris Jones who has continually been impressive) and MSU’s pass rush may make a significant jump from its low numbers last year.

While the pass rush was good, the run blocking by the offensive line was also solid, Mullen said.

And that’s exactly what you’d expect. Left guard Gabe Jackson and center Dillon Day are up for nearly half a dozen national awards already between the two of them, so MSU being strong up the middle for the running backs isn’t exactly a shocker.

One thing I thought was interesting that Mullen talked about was what he did with Tyler Russell. I was on the defensive sideline so I never noticed, but he purposely put Russell in difficult situations. And not just difficult, but uncomfortable.

Mullen was talking about how well Russell knows the playbook and how Russell will tell him what plays he wants to run.

That’s a good sign, Mullen said.

So when Russell told him what he play he wanted, Mullen called something completely different.

He’s gotta get better at his weaknesses, Mullen said. As nice as it would be to pretend everything will be always be easy, Russell has to be ready for adverse situations.

Hopefully, Mullen said, this helped.

Today and tomorrow are final exams for summer school, so we won’t get to visit with players tomorrow, but the good news for them, according to Mullen, is camp “really starts” next week.

It’s a full week of no school, no going out, nothing but football.

This last week has been mostly installation, and after finals the fun stuff starts.

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