2014 saw the Mississippi State Bulldogs catapult from a mid-level SEC West team to being ranked number one in the nation for five weeks. However, the Dogs limped through the finish line by losing three of its last four games. Double digit win seasons should be celebrated. Head Coach Dan Mullen has worked wonders in Starkvegas. MSU has 13 starters to replace. Here’s a look at Mullen’s Media Days coach speak interpretations:
Paraphrased opening remarks
Experience at Alabama last year helped to focus in off-season.
Interpretation-Strangely, a large portion of the session was dedicated to last year’s Alabama game. Losing on that stage was more impactful than its Orange Bowl loss.
Lost a bunch of guys. Look at positions across the board. 52 guys on roster returns with experience. Fact we rotated guys, players will be ready for the season.
Interpretation–Mullen was tired of answering loss of personnel questions. Move on. He likes his returning players and depth is not based solely on starters returning/lost.
Helps having fifth year quarterback during summer months.
Interpretation-Speaking the truth and having a trustworthy leader is vital. Mullen and his senior quarterback are obviously close. MSU may be picked last in the West (not by me), but with Prescott, the Dogs will never be out of contention.
More efficient scoring in the red zone. Games lost last season was due to lack of red zone scoring.
Interpretation-Comments like these are “uh oh” moment for players. Mullen was giving his players a description of fall camp. Expect a great deal of goal line situations and live red zone scrimmages. Not fun, but necessary.
Questions and Answers (both paraphrased)
Q.-How the team finished losing three out of four, how has that fueled spring summer?
Mullen-Alabama game set it off for us. Stage that game was on, we want to be back on that stage. Helped guys in offseason that’s experienced playing in those kind of games.
Interpretation-I’d say it’s a safe bet that the MSU-Bama game is played on continual loop in the Dog weight room. With several Alabama references, the Crimson Tide is still the SEC standard. By association, MSU gained credibility by being in the SEC race with the eventual champions. Mullen was inferring but not saying that he believed MSU was the second best team in the West.
Q.-Discuss home field advantage in the Egg Bowl?
Mullen–Four in a row home team has won. It helps. Last two times we’ve gone to Oxford we haven’t played especially well. Everywhere you play on the road is difficult. Important for us to protect the home field advantage.
Interpretation-With the game in Starkville this season, Mullen expects to win the Egg Bowl this season. He still won’t say the name of the school to the north.
Q-On wearing new Adidas shoes to Media Days.
Mullen-I try to be swagged up. Got a sock game going too. Talked to Adidas, this is the hottest shoe. I don’t go too overboard with suits, sock game and shoe ware I do.
Interpretation–Hey Adidas, remember us? We’re still with you, throw MSU more money. Also, the swag talk was directed straight at impressionable recruits. Very smart move by a highly intelligent man.
Q.-Coming off a 10 win season, what’s the expectation for 2015?
Mullen-In the West, I can look at every team and make a legitimate argument on how each could win our side of the league. When you’re looking at 7 teams in the west with legitimate chance to win league, you got to be on you’re A game every week of the season. Can’t play ok game and squeak it out in the end.
Interpretation-Camp is almost here. Time to get to work. This was a message to his players. Also, emphasizing to fans and boosters that last year was a significant accomplishment. Losing three out of four of its last games stung a little.
Q.-What you feel ranked bottom SEC West?
Mullen-A tradition, don’t worry that much about it. I look at guys coming back, perception and reality. Returning a 5th year quarterback and multiple 100 yard receivers coming back. 7 different receivers had TD catches. We have guys that have played and started games. Defensively, we roll so many players not returning starters. We don’t view that as a negative. Play with a little bit of a chip on our shoulder and prove everybody wrong.
Interpretation-Thank you SEC writers and voters. Mullen embraces the underdog role. Mississippi State rallies on disrespect. He’s comfortable with low expectation. Following last season’s success, being voted 7th in the West is exactly what he wants to motivate the Dogs.
Dan Mullen downplayed personnel losses. It was obvious he’d been asked that same question sixty different ways. On different occasions he mentioned players that had significant playing time but wasn’t listed as a starter. Even with all those defensive senior starters, in 2014 Miss State surrendered 424 yards per game which was 12th in the SEC. One starter that didn’t depart is the SEC’s best player, Dak Prescott. With Prescott, MSU will be dangerous. Especially in Starkville.