September 22, 2009 9:19:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen had one priority when he was hired.
Not long after Mullen took the MSU job on Dec. 10, 2008, he visited defensive lineman Pernell McPhee and punter Heath Hutchins at Itawamba Community College.
Mullen went to Fulton to make sure McPhee and Hutchins were committed to playing for the Bulldogs.
Both players said the were and enrolled at MSU in January. They went through spring practice and summer workouts with the Bulldogs and have made a difference in the first three games.
McPhee''s performance Saturday in MSU''s 15-3 victory against Vanderbilt helped him earn Southeastern Conference Defensive Lineman of the Week honors Monday.
McPhee is the third Bulldog to win the award since it started in 2004.
"He''s a critical part of our defensive line," Mullen said. "He gives us some explosiveness at defensive end and has the size and ability to where we can move him inside if we need to play defensive tackle."
Mullen said McPhee has added depth and gives MSU a playmaker on the defensive line who "can cause havoc."
McPhee just had three tackles against Vanderbilt, but two of them were sacks.
"He gives us a whole lot better pass rush," MSU defensive tackle Kyle Love said. "Last year, people said our weakness was our rush off the end. Now that he''s here, we have that, so it makes the defensive line complete. We can get a rush up the middle and on the ends."
McPhee led a defense that allowed only 33 yards rushing on 29 carries.
Hutchins is second in the SEC with a 43.12-yard average in 16 attempts. The punt coverage unit has only allowed 6 return yards.
Change of pace
Mullen said the Bulldogs won''t hesitate to use a no-huddle offense to increase the tempo of a game.
It all depends on the situation for Mullen.
"If we see something we can attack with tempo we''re going to do that," Mullen said. "I do like to control the pace of the game and have some good time of possession at the end of the game."
MSU dominated the time of possession against Vanderbilt (38:09 to 21:51).
MSU''s running backs have gained 665 yards rushing (221.7 yards per game) in the first three games.
That total is 20th in the country, and fourth in the SEC.
Game time announced
The kickoff for MSU''s Oct. 3 home game against Georgia Tech has been set for 6:30 p.m. Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast will televise the game.
The game also will be available on ESPN Gameplan and ESPN360.com.
The time for the Oct. 17 game at Middle Tennessee has been set for 3 p.m., and also is scheduled to be broadcast by CSS.
All the Bulldogs could be ready by the end of the week to play Saturday against LSU.
Mullen said redshirt offensive guard Tobias Smith, of Columbus, and junior tight end Brandon Henderson (ankle) were back at practice Sunday. Both players have been bothered by ankle injuries.
Henderson was limited in what he could do, but Mullen was pleased with his progress.
1. Doctors: Fitzgerald healing faster than expected COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Vivians continues to raise her level of play COLLEGE SPORTS
3. McCowan dominates on, off court for No. 5 MSU COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Ole Miss men beat Sam Houston State COLLEGE SPORTS