March 20, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State football team will begin to "Spread the Fun" next week when coach Dan Mullen opens spring football practice.
After a week of spring break where some of his assistants were finishing moves to Starkville, Mullen said everyone will be ready to get down to business.
Mullen, who was hired Dec. 11, 2008, after Sylvester Croom resigned Nov. 29, will try to start out with a clean slate with the players.
"I told them in our first meeting that what you''ve done in the past here, good or bad, doesn''t mean a whole lot to me," Mullen said. "What you do in the future really means a lot. That''s what they''ve been told from day one, and that''s going to be the case every day in practice."
Mississippi State will begin its 15 NCAA mandated practices at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The Bulldogs will work out three times the first week, then four days the following three weeks. Weekday sessions begin at 3:30 p.m. and Saturday''s practice gets underway at 10 a.m.
Mullen has opened all practices to the public and encourages MSU fans to be involved with the program.
"We have a great fan base and a great Mississippi State community," Mullen said. "I want them to see what''s going on the field. For our players, you put 3,000 people out there on the hill watching practice, it''s going to increase the intensity of some of those team drills when some of those people start cheering for them. We''re excited about it, and I want the fans to be able to embrace the program more than they already to do."
Mullen doesn''t anticipate any problems with open practices.
He warns he could become animated while dealing with issues.
"(It will be a challenge) probably to keep my cool because I get pretty fired up at practice," Mullen said. "I have pretty high standards and expectations of what I want to see and how I expect things to be.
"There will be a learning curve for our players, so I''ll try to keep myself somewhat calm through spring so I don''t go too nuts. I don''t want fans to think the head coach is a screaming lunatic on the field."
The Bulldogs will go into mid April with spring practice. The Maroon-White Game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 18 as part of Super Bulldog Weekend.
Mississippi State Athletic Director Greg Byrne said anticipation is building and he wants to see how fans receive the spring football game''s late afternoon start.
"We wanted to showcase the spring game a little more than we had in the past and decided to give it a try after the baseball game," Byrne said. "Early indications are it has been received really well.
"We''re excited to unveil coach Mullen, his staff, and the changes in the program. We''re also thrilled to have coach Cohen in a big series against his former institution (Kentucky). I think it will be a great time for everybody."
The beginning of the Mullen era is being billed as the highlight of Super Bulldog Weekend.
Mullen said there is much work to be done before the Bulldogs reach that point, but he believes the players are willing to work.
"I think a lot of the guys bought in to what we''re trying to get done," Mullen said. "They''ve put in a lot of effort with the work they''ve done (in offseason conditioning). They''ve come a long way from the first workout to the last workout. I think we''re in shape good enough to go into spring practice.
"I''m looking to find guys who will play hard this spring. If we only run three plays, we''ll only run three plays, but we are going to play with great effort. That''s one of the things we''re looking to get done. It''s the same thing defensively. I''ve met with (defensive coordinator) Carl (Torbush) and that''s the main focus on defense."
Mullen has been preparing for his first spring as a head coach by organizing the offense, defense, practice schedule, meeting times, and listening times. He said focusing on the big picture takes more time.
In his meetings with Mullen, Byrne can tell he is anxious to get things started.
"He''s ready to get out on the field and the kids have been working extremely hard with offseason conditioning," Byrne said. "Now they are starting to convert to coach Mullen''s system. There''s a lot of anticipation on everybody''s behalf."