Moving on: Mullen and players discuss new coordinator and challenges of replacing Prescott

Moving+on%3A+Mullen+and+players+discuss+new+coordinator+and+challenges+of+replacing+Prescott

MCT

Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen calls to his kicking team before a field goal attempt at the end of the second quarter against Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentukcy, Saturday, October 6, 2012. Mississippi State defeated Kentucky, 27-14. (Pablo Alcala/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

Tyler Waldrep

When coach Dan Mullen accepted the head coaching position at Mississippi State he wanted to change what the country expected from Mississippi State.

In 2014 he had the Bulldogs ranked No. 1 and in the thick of the College Football Playoff discussion until the team lost to Alabama on the road in November.

Last season many were surprised when Mullen’s team managed to win nine games last year- a record that Mullen said gave the Bulldogs consecutive nine-win seasons for the first time in school history. So the Bulldogs know how to exceed what it is expected- but now they have to do it without quarterback Dak Prescott.

“You know, one of the things that, good and bad, he was almost such a strong leader that other guys didn’t have to step up,” Mullen said. “…Our coaching staff have to step up and help fill whatever void of leadership there is, left by Dak, and hope either we’re filling it, that void, and as we’re filling it, we’re developing people to take that place”

Mullen said it still remains a four-way competition to replace Prescott as the new starting quarterback, and that he has yet to see any real separation at this point. There will likely be growing pains for the Bulldog offense no matter which guy wins the job.

“The veteran quarterback is going to look and say it’s not here, I’m going to check it down, I know Coach will call that play again later and hopefully I’ll get the look I want for that shot,” Mullen said. “Younger quarterbacks, sometimes you call that shot and they’re thinking Coach is calling a play for me to go make it happen, and they’re going to throw that ball up and that’s where mistakes happen.”

When those mistakes happen Mullen expects older guys like wide receiver Fred Ross to go over and help the quarterback out by remaining positive.

“I just want those guys to know that if you make a mistake it’s okay, it’s not the end of the world, because in this game of football you are going to make a mistake,” Ross said. “ I’m going to drop a pass, you’re not going to complete every pass.”

On the defensive side Mississippi State has to adjust to life under the Bulldog’s third defensive coordinator in three years, Peter Simon. He spent the previous two years as USC’s associated defensive head coach, linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator.

“Playing defense doesn’t change,” defensive end A.J. Jefferson said. “Every defensive coordinator we’ve had come here might dress it up a different way, but it’s all the same thing. They want us to be juiced and have energy and just go out there and play – to love what we’re doing and have fun doing it. Tackling is one of the ones that all the coaches touch on. That, being juiced up, and having fun, just loving being out there on defense.”