August 7, 2013 12:18:05 PM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen is stressing the importance of communication to his freshmen in practice.
During the Bulldogs' split sessions last week, MSU grouped the younger players together to give Mullen and his assistant coaches time to assess, to teach, and to get to know the newcomers.
"A lot of the one-on-one time we spend with freshman is getting them to understand yes, we're talking to them," Mullen said. "As crazy as this sounds, in a big-group setting they sometimes are confused during practice and saying to themselves, 'Is coach talking to me or talking to the group?' " Mullen said. "In a split-squad deal, they know we're talking to them specifically about their technique or maturity or just supporting them when they're frustrated."
Mullen expects first-year players to get frustrated if they don't have success early. He will try to accentuate that point by putting them in difficult positions to highlight how much work they have to do.
"They need to understand in high school they might have been able to just rely on being more athletically gifted than everybody else on the field, and that was OK," Mullen said. "You put them in a situation here where everybody is athletic and big and then you find out who wants to compete. You find out who is better technically and mentally."
Mullen spent a lot of time last week working with freshman defensive end Chris Jones, the nation's second-best pass rusher in the 2013 recruiting class according to 247Sports.com, on fundamental pass rushing techniques. The five-star recruit from Houston spent a lot of time going against two offensive linemen and worked with the fourth-string defense.
"I think the key for young players like him is to just remember to get better today than you were yesterday," MSU defensive line coach David Turner said. "I've been doing this for 28 years, and kids today are coming in faster and stronger every year. With that being said, I expect kids to come in thinking they'll play and force me to find a way to put them in that first game."
Receiving depth surprising MSU coaching staff early on in fall camp
With the loss of four wide receivers to graduation from the 2012 team, young pass catchers are doing the best they can to impress the coaching staff.
Last week, the first-string offense included junior wide receivers Jameon Lewis and Robert Johnson and sophomore Joe Morrow.
However, Mullen was surprised by the effectiveness of the combinations in the first practice. He credited the experience of fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Russell for helping to get the Bulldogs off to a fast start.
"With a lot of the young, talented players out here," Mullen said Sunday. "The key is them continuing to focus on their technique and on your skill. You have to master the technique."
Junior college receiver Jeremey Chappelle, a three-star recruit out of Tyler (Texas) Community College, made some impressive grabs across the middle. Chappelle hoped to use the summer to build momentum after he had eight catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in the spring game at Davis Wade Stadium.
"I like the attitude of the team because we're putting guys in positions they have never been in before and the adjustment has been better than expected," Mullen said. "To compete in the SEC, we've got to have solid depth and a lot of the young guys have come with that correct attitude."
Redshirt freshman Brandon Holloway is back with the pass catchers after spending time this past spring with the running backs as a emergency option. The highly touted prospect with 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard-dash has his teammates excited about what he could add to the offense this season.
"The guy I was telling some people about after practice is Holloway because he's what we need in this offense because he just makes plays," MSU sophomore wide receiver Jameon Lewis said. "Whether you hand it to him, throw it to him or on special teams, he'll be special because you'll know immediately he's on the field."
Rain forces MSU indoors
Weather forced MSU to move inside the Palmeiro Center on Tuesday.
"We did the smart thing today and went inside," Mullen said. "If we'd have stayed, it probably would've still been raining. I'm the rainmaker. You could schedule practice outdoors with me at any time and it'll probably rain."
Mullen said Tuesday night he was impressed with how his team adapted to stopping practice and moving indoors and then completed the final hour of practice indoors.
"We even moved the practices at farm back later because we did a study," Mullen said. "The average rain fall comes at 4 p.m., and sure enough rain came later this year. We're going to schedule practices wherever they need a drought fixed around the country."
Mullen said MSU is still installing its basic offense and defense sets with the players still in summer school. Finals for the summer semester are Friday, so major installations won't begin until Saturday, when MSU starts two-a-day practices.
"We're going to have a scrimmage after that," Mullen said. "It's like phase two where we move into the hotel, get school over with and get down to work."