Mississippi State is set for the opening to the 2012 season with Jackson State coming to town this Saturday. On Monday, head coach Dan Mullen took to the podium to talk about the start of the season of college football.
It will also be a return to the field for offensive lineman Tobias Smith.
The Columbus native has battled his share of injuries during his career. He’s had surgeries on both ankles followed by a knee injury that ended his season against LSU a year ago.
Now, Smith is healthy and Mullen has a plan for his return to the gridiron.
“Right now, the plan is that he is going to start for us,” said Mullen. “I want to let him break himself back in. I don’t know if he will play the entire game, but I will see how this week goes and see how he holds up and how he feels. Hopefully, we will get some solid play out of him, but we don’t know how far he will go.”
Bulldogs have personality
Each year without fail, coaches quickly point out how this year’s team is a different team than the ones before, Mullen is no different.
Offensively, the Bulldogs now have Tyler Russell under center. He is considered a gunslinger, which is something new for MSU.
“There's that personality of the expectation of making bigger plays in the passing game because you have the receivers and a quarterback who really expect to execute the pass game at a very, very high level,” said Mullen. “Now, our personality is never going to change. We want to run the football and be a very physical team, but when you throw in the expectations the guys have in themselves of making plays in the passing game can make you a more explosive offense.”
Mullen has the approach of "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" on defense. Under Mullen, MSU has been aggressive and he feels that philosophy is working just fine.
“Defensively, we've always been a physical, attack, run to the ball defense," said Mullen. "I like that. What I want to see is those young guys buy into that excitement. I want to see 11 guys on the ball on every play being excited. I think the guys who have played, lead, have that experience and show that excitement. These young guys just (need to) follow the leader. Guys are running to the ball, being excited, go be excited and go run to the ball, too.”
Heavens finds new home
Last week State fans learned senior wide receiver Brandon Heavens would make the move from his usual slot position to the X position on the outside.
The move was made simply because the Bulldogs finally have depth at receiver and Mullen is looking to find a way to keep Heavens on the field.
"It's just getting the balance of getting the guys on the field," said Mullen. "We've got five senior wide receivers and we want to make sure we get opportunities to get them on the field. He is, if not our fastest, then one of our fastest wide outs so he gives that deep threat going on the outside that he can vertically stretch the field with his speed. I think his experience makes it a very easy adjustment for him because he's played a lot of football (and) knows all the positions, can easily move them back inside and gives him the opportunity to get him on the field."
Plan for Prescott
Mullen has been clear throughout the preseason that backup auarterback Dak Prescott will see this field against Jackson State.
The freshman signal caller lacks live experience at the college level and with depth being an issue, early snaps is key to the progress of Prescott.
“We haven't discussed the exact, hey, he's going in on this series yet," said Mullen. "We probably will have that plan to get him on the field. It might not even be for a whole series. It might be situational for a couple of players here or there. I just want to get him out there and get him to call a play in the huddle in front of a big crowd on TV. (We want him to) get a snap even if you've got to hand it off. Whatever it is, just go out there, function in your first play and get that off your shoulders. I think that first play is the hardest one.”
As far as the hurting Bulldogs, wide receiver Malcolm Johnson has a pectoral injury and his status is week-to-week, while Hunter Bradley is out for the season with a knee injury out for season, and offensive lineman Templeton Hardy is listed as doubtful because of a sore ankle.