On Friday afternoon Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen met with local media to talk about the recent 2012 campaign and the latest changes within the program:
Q: Do you expect any more coaching staff changes?
Mullen: The only one I can control and know of, well, is that I am not going anywhere (laughing). I love it here and that is the only one I have direct control over. I have two kids that are local and Mississippians.
Q: Are there any changes or tweaks you want to make with the offense?
Mullen: We will look and see. I think we set 15 school records passing this past season. Every year is going to be very different. One year we set rushing records and a lot depends and it shows we are always tweaking around the personality of our players. I feel pretty good that we've had a couple of premier NFL running backs and set school rushing records.
We had some experienced receivers and passing quarterback that set school passing records. All of that is really looking at what direction when we get this team together and really evaluate our roster, what tweaks we do. We us probably 60-70 percent of our offense in a given season and 30 to 40 percent of it is put on the shelf. As we get going, the next challenge is what 60-70 percent are we are applying to this year's team.
Q: Any new tweaks like the hurry-up offense or things like that?
Mullen: We've used it before and there are interesting stats that you find. You know, we ran more plays per game this year huddling than we did last year in a hurry-up. So there are so many different aspects of things that we study and look at and also if it fits the personality of the team we have. Not just fits the offense but the special teams, the defense, and everything and that everybody is on the same page.
Q: Any thoughts on freshman Xavier Grindle leaving the team?
Mullen: It didn't come as a shock to me but I give him a lot of credit. He wanted to pack it in a couple of times, I think, during training camp. He just wanted to go home and be home. I told him he had to stick it out and try and how do you know if you don't try. So I give him credit for sticking it out and we enjoyed having him here and he just wanted to go back home and go to junior college.
Q: In talking about tweaking things, how much of a factor did that play with the changes on your staff?
Mullen: A little bit. You are looking at things a little bit and when I evaluate the program and I am always evaluating our program, you never want to rush to a judgement. You don't change just to make changes. You change to move in the right direction. You are always change and things around you are either getting better or worse. But sometimes even when you stay the same you are changing.
We evaluated it and I thought we were going to have to tweak to get some things done. I think you saw that in the bowl game on the defensive side of the ball. When you are playing a tempo team like we were in the bowl game and how we were going to make some adjustments, I thought we did a pretty good job of that on the defensive side of the ball even though we gave up some points.
We didn't play great team football, though, in that game and that is always critical.
Q: I know you can't name any names except for the two junior college enrollees, but are you happy with where recruiting is right now with this class?
Mullen: Am I ever happy (laughing)? But I think our guys are working really hard and players out there see what is going on here. Not just with the direction the program is headed in but the great direction the university is headed in with facilities, stadium expansion, sold-out crowds, unbelievable game-day atmosphere, averaging eight wins a year the last three years and hopefully the drive to get even better.
I want to increase that total and I want to get that average up to 9, 10, 11 wins a year as we move forward. So I think guys see that with players choosing this program and to come play for us.
Q: How big of an impact do you think this facility will have with recruits coming in soon?
Mullen: One thing it shows is the commitment the university has with the football program, our commitment to excellence and our commitment to them as players to give them the absolute best. They come here to Mississippi State they are getting the best. They are going to have the best facilities, the best coaching, best on-the-field treatment, the best strength coach, the best academic staff. All of those things, they see our commitment to excellence as we move forward.
Q: How much did it help with the decision Johnthan Banks made last year as far as Gabe Jackson returning for his senior year?
Mullen: I think a lot. It just shows our guys' commitment. I know we are thrilled to have him back. Getting to sit down and talk with the families, No. 1 I think is a big deal for us. The commitment the guys have with the program and the family and togetherness we have as a program is a big thing. I know Gabe wants to represent Mississippi State and represent the people of the state and show what he can do on the field as well as continue to develop to become a better football player, get his degree and walk out the door successful.
Q: Talk about how it helped Banks to come back for his senior season.
Mullen: It certainly benefited him in the opportunity of winning the Thorpe Award. That is a very, very, very special honor, he has to go down as one of the great players in the history of the state of Mississippi, I’d imagine. I don’t think there's a lot of Mississippi natives that have those national individual awards out there. And that's special.
Financially how it’ll benefit him, we’ll find out here in a couple of months. I know he’s a great kid, and what it does is it does show young people not just in our program, but young people all over the place, about your commitment to excellence as a person. If you’re committed to excellence, great things are going to happen to you, both on the field, in the classroom and in life, and John’s a great example of following through and finishing what you started to be successful.
Q: What are some things you want to improve on with yourself as you look back on when you first got to Mississippi State?
Mullen: To me it was a great season but obviously we didn't finish the way we wanted to finish. I think for a lot of teams it doesn't finish the way you want it to. Fifty percent of the teams have to lose their last game so you never finish the way you want to finish it for half the teams out there. We've been fortunate in the past years though.
But as I reflect on this year, the program is definitely going in the direction I want it to go in, which is the opportunity to win football games and put ourselves in the discussion as the season wears on to go and compete for conference championships, which is our ultimate goal here.
You see the challenge that this conference brings week in and week out is awesome and I love being in it. I love what it stands for and I think when you look at it as the season ends and look back on it, you see the dominance of the Southeastern Conference. Those are the goals we strive for. If you have the opportunity to compete to be one of the best in the conference then you have the chance to be one of the best in the country.