Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen addresses the media on Monday. (Photo by Lee Adams, SDN)
By DANNY P. SMITH
Dan Mullen doesn't want his Mississippi State Bulldogs to be a one-year wonder.
After finishing last season with a 9-4 record, including a 52-14 domination of Michigan in the Gator Bowl, MSU's third-year head coach is ready for more.
He doesn't want his Bulldogs to fall too far behind now that they've experienced success.
"The consistency of the program is how we want to go," Mullen said Monday during his media day press conference. "You don't see championship programs that win a championship one year, fall off the charts for three or four years, then come back and win another championship again. Championship programs are consistent winners, then find a way to have that special season.
"That's what we want our program to be and that's what we're building toward."
The Bulldogs were able to reach and win the Liberty Bowl in 2007 under the leadership of coach Sylvester Croom, but it took three seasons for MSU to achieve another winning season and qualify for a postseason bowl.
Although last year's nine-win season was enjoyable for Mullen and the Bulldogs, he has his eye on Atlanta, Ga., and the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. That has been a goal from the moment Mullen set foot on the MSU campus.
It doesn't put any added pressure on Mullen that the Bulldogs were listed at No. 20 in the preseason coaches poll. He won't be totally happy unless MSU is in a position to claim an SEC title.
"I'm sure our expecations are higher than anybody in the media or how anybody votes us," Mullen said. "Our goal is to get to Atlanta and nobody picked us first so our expectation are higher than anybody else's. They are handling those expectations very well."
Practice meant to be fun
Mullen has a hard time believing that the Bulldogs dread training camp.
With a grueling summer of conditioning under strength coach Matt Balis, Mullen said this should be the best time of the year for MSU players.
Mullen wondered why any of the Bulldogs would want to go back to running hills, stadium steps, squatting 500 pounds or working on the leg-press.
"To me, the whole practice is meant to be fun," Mullen said. "If you're not having fun out there, you are in the wrong game. If you are not loving this from the first second to the end of practice, then you've got a problem to me.
"This is the greatest time of the year for our kids. I can't imagine how much fun NFL players have because all they have to worry about is playing football. (This time of year) our kids have no school and no other issues. All they have to do is the minute they wake up to the minute they go to sleep and hopefully dream about it when they are sleeping is football."
Life on the Farm
Mississippi State has spent the last two days of practice off campus out on the South Farm.
Mullen likes the isolation that kind of atmosphere presents and that's why he keeps taking the Bulldogs there.
"It's different," Mullen said. "One of the reasons you go out there is because it's different. The mindset of our players is this is training camp."
It's all part of the different seasons that a college football team goes through.
Mullen breaks it down to spring practice, summer conditioning, preseason training camp and in the season.
Life on the 'Farm' is part of the training camp cycle and one that Mullen looks forward to.
"It's a great time," Mullen said. "Everybody is fresh and everybody is excited to see what kind of team we have. When you get out there on the Farm and it's just us, it's a special feeling and there's a lot of bonding within the team."
No linebacker front-runner
Mullen was honest enough to indicate that he has no idea which direction the Bulldogs are going with linebacker.
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After the graduation of K.J. Wright and Chris White, there are some definite holes to fill in that part of the MSU defensive backfield.
It seemed that Mullen went through half of his roster when considering the possible players who might contribute at linebacker. He listed Deonte Skinner, Cameron Lawrence, Brandon Wilson, Matthew Wells, Chris Hughes, Brandon Maye and Ferlando Bohanna in the mix.
"All of then are kind of standing out right now, getting their reps and getting ready to play," Mullen said. "It's a long time before we figure that stuff out. Most of the guys are still just learning the defense and we're installing right now."