At 1 p.m. today, Dan Mullen will meet with the media for his weekly press conference. Mississippi State beat Troy over the weekend and hosts Louisiana Tech for Homecoming this Saturday at 11 a.m.
Live updates to follow. In the meantime, enjoy the latest episode of This Is Our Plate, a trip to Harvey’s in Starkville making pepper-honey salmon with Chef Carnell.
Mullen is here! Talking about the Troy game now, continues to express his pleasure with the defense, as well as the offense, especially with the big plays. Only thing he didn’t like was the slowed performance in the second half. Mullen said some of the guys came out and “kind of hit cruise control” after the break.
“I love the edge we played with Saturday,” Mullen said. “If we can keep that up, we’re going to be in good shape.”
Looking ahead to Tech, Mullen said they have a very talented team on both sides, including standout players on both sides of the ball. Of note, he’s very complimentary of Tech QB Jeff Driskel. Said he saw him on film a lot over the years at Florida and thinks he got too much blame for struggles at UF. Said he considers Driskel to be an extremely talented and confident play-maker.
Combined with “one of the best running backs in the country,” he says, Tech’s backfield becomes very dangerous.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mullen said it’s more of the same. Talented, confident and several veteran players. He expects a big challenge this weekend.
Moving back to his own team, Mullen asked about sophomore WR Donald Gray. Said he makes a lot of big plays, but also has some “glaring errors” that most people don’t notice. “He’s a guy who’s really learning to play at a high level” and has a great deal of talent and play-making ability. Said he’s moving in the right direction.
As for SEC D-Lineman of the Week Ryan Brown, Mullen said he’s the leader of the group right now.
“As a whole, the defensive line played the best game they’ve played all season,” Mullen says. “And I think Ryan was the beneficiary of that.”
Has Nick Fitzgerald separated himself as the No. 2 QB if Dak goes down? “Not at all,” Mullen says.
He said Fitzgerald goes into games currently as the de facto No. 2, but that if Dak were to go down for an extended period of time, it would be “wide open” to replace him. Said fellow freshman QB Elijah Staley was also sick Saturday. They told Damian Williams, who they’re planning to redshirt, that he might have to be ready to go.
On that note, Mullen did say Fitzgerald did an excellent job playing so much against Troy. His strong play, along with Staley’s, Mullen said it makes it much easier to redshirt Williams, which is what he wants to do.
Ideally, Mullen said, Williams would have redshirted his first year on campus. It all sets up for a fun quarterback competition next spring and fall.
“The second 15 walks out the door, the slate is wiped clean. Whatever you’ve done in the past is gone now. Whatever you’ve done in the past was with 15 in front of them … Somebody’s got to omega not just as a great quarterback, but as the leader for the future.”
On the injury front, Mullen said they expect starting tight end Gus Walley and left tackle Rufus Warren back this week, but could be a little longer for WRs Joe Morrow and Gabe Myles.
As for freshman Elgton Jenkins who played for Warren Saturday, “I thought he did OK.” Mullen said he had a few missed assignments, but having that full game of film and the experience will be really good for him long-term.
Interesting to hear Mullen talk about Prescott here. Said he’s gotten better as a quarterback. “He’s making plays this year that he wouldn’t have made last year.” He doesn’t mean running for 50 yards and trucking a safety on the way into the end zone. Mullen says Dak is getting through his progressions, reaching his fourth read and “making unspectacular plays” that don’t necessarily look impressive at the moment but are indicative of growth as a passer and in his ability to read a defense.
Talking special teams now, Mullen said he’s been very pleased with the return game. Asked how Fred Ross got the punt return job last year, Mullen laughed and said, “because he caught the ball the most.”
Mullen says what’s important to track in returns isn’t necessarily how many big returns there are, but how good a job the returners do of fielding punts. he said a lot of people will make the wrong decisions and end up losing a couple yards, which adds up over the course of a season. Ross, he believes, does a great job of fielding punts and getting all possible yardage.
At field goal kicker, Mullen talking now about Westin Graves. He said Graves head the best week leading up to the first game and that, since then, he’s been confident and consistent.
The confidence has been important for a young player. “Even when he makes a mistake, he knows how to fix it right away.”