Orange Bowl updates from Miami

For the most part, the fun activities and entertainment have ended for Mississippi State (the players, at least) as the Bulldogs have more narrowly focused their mindset on Georgia Tech and the Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl in two nights. However, there were plenty of shenanigans the last few days if you missed anything.

On Sunday, MSU had their beach party on the North Shore, put on by the Orange Bowl, complete with volleyball, football, food and jet skis. We have video below if you missed it, which includes footage of tight end Malcolm Johnson and running back Josh Robinson taking cameras out on the water on their jet skis. Dangerous for the camera, entertaining for the rest of us.

Speaking of dangerous, I snuck out early yesterday morning with a few other members of the support staff here and went on a fanboat ride through the Everglades. Very fun, and a touch scary when our boat inadvertently got stuck for half an hour and we had to have two other boats come out to take us back to safety. Considering we’d just seen an 18-foot python and a 12-foot alligator, it was a bit tense. Very fun, though.

This morning was the first of the more serious events, as the Orange Bowl media day was held. All 100-plus players, every coach and every member of the staff was made available for interviews to the media. We also have video of that, where linebacker Christian Holmes interrupts about halfway through and starts conducting the interviews himself.

Following the interviews, MSU took its official year-end team picture in the stadium. Nice to be able to do it in the sun.

However, as the team has turned its focus to Tech, so will I. The biggest news to come out of practices is that MSU will have a new defensive playcaller for the game. As Geoff Collins left for another job, someone had to replace him in Miami. Dan Mullen told us this week he’s going with cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend as the defensive playcaller, a choice the players seem to be happy with.

“He always talked to us on the sideline. Even though Coach Collins did most of it, he still talked sometimes and gave us plays,” sophomore linebacker Beniquez Brown said of the former Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl winner. “He’s an exciting guy to be around. Every day at practice he laughs, he jumps, he acts like he’s a 21 year old guy. He’s just fun to be around.”

Mullen said the choice was pretty easy. First, he trusts Townsend. Second, it just made sense. Defensive line coach David Turner is too busy working the rotation on the defensive line against a run-first team, while safeties coach Tony Hughes always sits up in the coaches box, something they didn’t want to change.

Mullen was far less concerned with that decision than the task of defending Georgia Tech and their triple-option offense. He said the biggest areas of attention are the cut blocks, which are hard to simulate in practice, and the movement and placement of the fullback.

To prepare, freshman quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has worked as the scout team QB, largely because he ran the triple option in high school. Additionally, Mullen himself has stayed up late and put in extra hours to come up with defensive game plans for the Yellow Jackets, going beyond his usual duties just focusing on offense.

Tomorrow, Mullen and Tech coach Paul Johnson will have a press conference, so be on the lookout for updates from there.

To keep up with all the happenings, make sure to visit www.HailState.com/gameday

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