Dan Mullen talks upcoming season at SEC Media Days

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It was Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen’s turn at the podium during the annual SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama Tuesday.

Mullen, who is entering his ninth season leading MSU, and the Bulldogs made a bowl game for the seventh consecutive season last year despite a disappointing 5-7 record in the regular season.

“We’re looking this year hopefully to make it to our eighth consecutive bowl game, which would be a great fete,” Mullen said. “One of the things when I came here was to build a program that wins on a consistent basis, and I think we’ve been able to build and do that, and I’m really proud of that, proud of our players, what they’ve been able to do for us, coming off a year last year and making a bowl game in a very unique way to me. We made a bowl game last year because of academics, not because of our wins on the field.”

The Bulldogs enter the season with questions marks on both side of the ball, but most notably on defense where Todd Grantham will step in as the team’s fourth defensive coordinator in as many years after coming over from Louisville.

“Defensively, a different personality with Todd Grantham on the defensive side of the ball, running our defense,” Mullen said. “It was great to get somebody of his level to come to Mississippi State and run our defense.”

Grantham will lead an inexperienced group into the 2016-17 season as they look to improve on a unit that ranked 93rd in the country in scoring defense last year allowing 31.8 points per game and 110th in the country in yards allowed per game. 

“Defensively, a whole start for us on defense this year,” Mullen said. “A lot of players, we got — I don’t think — we don’t have one senior on the defensive line. And it’s going to be a young group at the linebacker position, going to be glad with some young players.”

On offense, the Bulldogs will be led by second year starter junior Nick Fitzgerald who replaced Dak Prescott last season.

“One of the things, there is always comfort when you have a quarterback that’s played coming back,” Mullen said. “We have Nick Fitzgerald starting last season for us coming back, had a pretty solid year last year, lead the SEC in total offense, had a great year running the football.”

Mullen built his career by developing quarterbacks and will be looking for Fitzgerald to take the next step in his progression this season.

“You can coach someone to throw,” Mullen said. “Now, there’s all different levels of that, but you want to look at the things that are harder to coach. And if they have certain part of those skill sets, then they have the potential for the things that are coachable. For you to really grow and develop with them and help teach them, they’re going to have a huge upside as players.”

Fitzgerald will be joined on offense by running back Aeris Williams who became the starter last season. Fitzgerald may have to rely on his legs even more this season after running for 1375 yards last year as he will have a young inexperienced offensive line in front of him.

“Upfront, on the offensive line, one thing, we only have 30 combined starts on all of our offensive line coming back,” Mullen said. “But we have four different offensive lineman that have started at least one game in their career.  So even though there’s a young group with maybe not a lot of experience, guys have been in the moment. Guys have started.  Guys have played, and that’s important to us.”

The Bulldogs open the season Sept. 2 at home against Charleston Southern.