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Dan Mullen addressed the media on Monday afternoon to kickoff Missouri game week. He talked about the challenge that awaits at Missouri, updated injuries, discussed the progress of his quarterbacks, explained the mindset he’s trying to instill into his younger players and more.
Here are the highlights.
- He liked how they accepted the challenge of overcoming the Georgia loss and fought hard to win a big game against Vanderbilt. He's disappointed that they left some points on the field in the first half with turnovers and a missed field goal.
- He said Missouri is a much better team at home than on the road, so they’ll have to deal with a team that's undefeated and averaging more than 40 points per game at home. He adds that they have a talented defense that can give you a lot of problems with the different looks they present. Offensively, they're balanced and have good skill position players.
- They exited the Vanderbilt game “pretty healthy,” he said. He expects defensive end Jabari Zuniga to give it a go again. Safety Brad Stewart, whose knee injury seemed serious when it happened, is cleared to play. Offensive lineman Brett Heggie missed the Vanderbilt game with headaches, but he expects him to play this week.
- Mullen was asked if he’d ever been a part of a quarter like the one they had in the third quarter against the Commodores. All nine plays went for either first downs or touchdowns. He said he probably has, but it was great execution by his players. He thought they played well in the first half too, but they stopped themselves with mistakes. That was the focus of his halftime message. However, he refused to take credit for the onslaught. "That was our guys making plays more than the play-calls."
- The Missouri game is scheduled for 11 a.m. central time, and the forecast shows the temperature in the 40s at kickoff. Mullen said they’ve played early games before this season, so he doesn’t anticipate it being a problem. He said if they put the ball down in the middle of the parking lot at 2 a.m., you should be ready to go win the game if you’re a competitor.
- On his viral thumb-wrestling speech after last year’s loss to Missouri, he said guys are learning what it means to be a competitor and how to focus on the important things. The players face a lot of pressure and expectations from a lot of people going all the way back to recruiting. "The only motivation you need is someone turns the scoreboard on and keeps score.”
- Freshman guard Ethan White played “really well” in his first start against Vanderbilt, he said. Before he took the field, Mullen joked with him and told him to throw his older line mates Nick Buchanan and Jean Delance under the bus if coach John Hevesy got angry at him.
- Mullen said defensive end/linebacker Mohamoud Diabate played only 19 snap but won SEC Freshman of the Week honors. They're going to use that to reinforce to the young players the importance of focusing on making most of the snaps they get instead of worrying about how many snaps they play.
- He said Kyle Trask showed his mental resolve by not allowing his foot injury after the Missouri game last year to slow him down. He thinks he's going to continue to improve and gain confidence.
- He said Emory Jones "can make a lot of special things happen on the field." The big thing with him is "consistently making unspectacular plays." He thinks he's continuing to make strides.
- Feleipe Franks is out of a cast and into a walking boot, but it's "going to be awhile" for him, Mullen said. They'll be fortunate if they can get him back for spring practice, but he doesn't know if that's a possibility.
- He said Trask understands when to run based on the defense, which he demonstrated on his touchdown scramble against Vanderbilt. He's gotten more comfortable as a runner, and that comes with experience in the offense.
- He said Dameon Pierce didn’t do anything special to get more playing time last week, but he wanted to get more guys in earlier in the game. He thinks they haven't always done a good job of that this year. He talked to certain assistant coaches about doing a better job of rotating players.
- On the midseason firings of Florida State’s Willie Taggart and Arkansas’ Chad Morris, he says, "It's a tough profession that we're in. It's a difficult profession.” He added that it's sad because all of the coaches' families have to be uprooted and move across the country. "It's a way of life more than a job."
- They found some new ways to get Kadarius Toney the ball on Saturday, but they don't want to force the ball into a specific player's hands too much, Mullen said. They want the defense to dictate where the ball goes. "Put him and Emory [Jones] into the backfield, and something exciting's going to happen."
- He said he deals with players’ personal issues a lot, which is typical for a head coach. "That's just part of the deal." He added that head coaching experience helps you not get rattled when things come up in the middle of the season.
- They haven't even thought about the quarterback situation for next season, he said. He expects to start addressing that in December and January.
- Mullen said they use the four senior receivers as examples to the young guys as to why it's important to focus on the right things and worry about the things that they can control. Once they adopt that mindset, the better they’ll start to play.
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