July 25, 2017 2:27:13 PM
As a quick note before getting into the meat of the blog post, here's a quick explainer just to let you know what I'm getting at with this 4 Downs thing. There are obviously plenty of things that are of note that don't necessarily make my plans for full stories and/or notebooks, so this series of blog posts coming at you randomly throughout the season (I hope to get them done at least once a week during the season) is as good a place as any for that. You're welcome.
All of that is basically to say: there is absolutely more coverage from MSU's media day coming. This here is simply a group of items not addressed elsewhere in my coverage.
Here we go:
1ST DOWN -- PLAY CALLING SYSTEM
Give credit where it's due to Logan Lowery of The Daily Journal who thought up this story idea (which I assume he's writing in full at some point, but I'm just keeping to this short bullet for now). The head coaching position has taken on a change of late, primarily in how it handles calling plays: 15-20 years ago it was very uncommon to see any head coach calling plays, but now every head coach gets asked about who handles that responsibility because the previous working assumption -- coordinators handling that -- is gone.
The situation at MSU is particularly interesting with a three-man brain trust among Dan Mullen, John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales. Mullen and Hevesy both attributed their system working to sheer time with one another, as Hevesy has been with Mullen for the duration at MSU and Gonzales is has been around for several years, too. I'd venture to say no one has a playcalling system quite like MSU's, but all involved feel confident in it.
2ND DOWN -- LOFTY ACADEMIC GOALS
I was struck by something defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons said in his appearance today. He said he took much more pride in being on the All-Conference honor roll than he did seeing the field as a freshman last year and he wants to be an Academic All-American before it's over. He said something that was basically a paraphrase of one of the best quotes I've ever seen from a high school coach about college football: "They're going to use you to win football games. That's OK. Use them to get a degree."
Simmons has been and may still be a bit of a lightning rod in the college football community given his incident with a female before arriving with Starkville. He answered a series of hard questions about it in the spring and did the same to a lesser extent today to some TV stations. I'm not going to dive into that whole issue, but I can at least respect the kid for seeming to have serious dedication to his academic success.
3RD DOWN -- DEVELOPING THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Hevesy said offensive line is the most difficult position to develop. He admitted he is a bit biased as the offensive line coach, but he said it's due to the lack of an offensive lineman's ability to hide: a wide receiver, for example, can be kept on the back side of the play except in specific scenarios that match the strongest parts of his skillset, but offensive linemen don't have such a luxury. If a lineman's having trouble getting a clean block in pass protection, an opposing defense is going to find out quickly and attack that guy as long as the offense will allow them.
4TH DOWN -- FRESHMEN IN THE RETURN GAME?
Referencing a quote from special teams coordinator Greg Knox from the spring in which he said he won't be afraid to include freshmen in the race for MSU's kick and punt return starting spots, I asked Mullen which freshmen would be thrown into that mix. I was hoping for a list, or at least a loose list, of guys that would be given reps at the position -- I didn't get it.
Instead, Mullen said he is not limiting freshmen to any kind of roles in these first days of practice. He said he's going to put the incoming freshmen into a bunch of different situations and see which ones stick. I'm taking that to mean that almost anyone with either return game experience or the athleticism to do it -- be it defensive backs, running backs, wide receivers or whoever -- will be given the opportunity to do it.