Ninth year: Mullen likes progress Bulldogs have made during tenure

Dan Mullen
Staff Writer

Quite a bit of water has passed under the bridge since the first time Dan Mullen stepped to the podium as Mississippi State’s head football coach at Southeastern Conference Media Days back in 2009.
George W. Bush was just a few months removed from wrapping up his tenure as president. Hardly anyone had ever heard of Twitter. It was undoubtedly a different time and a different world.
“I looked it up,” Mullen said on Tuesday from the stage in Hoover, Ala. at this year’s SEC Media Days. “The iPad had not even been released on my first SEC Media Days, so now everybody in the United States has one. There are more iPads than there are people, so it has been a long time.”
The years since that first trip to Hoover have been kind to Mullen. MSU has risen to No. 1 in the country for a period. The Bulldogs have been to seven straight bowl games. Mullen is 61-42 all-time as State’s leader.
Now, as Mullen prepares for another year in Starkville, his eye is firmly set on furthering MSU’s success.
“We’re looking this year hopefully to make it to our eighth consecutive bowl game, which would be a great feat,” Mullen said. “One of the things when I came here was to build a program that wins on a consistent basis and I think we’ve been able to build and do that and I’m really proud of that, proud of our players and proud of what they’ve been able to do for us.”
As is the case in college football, the cast of characters constantly changes for Mullen. The players come and go, but the winning has remained.
Still, Mullen says he enters year nine with the Bulldogs unsatisfied.
“To me, my life has no finish line,” Mullen said. “I tell the players that. There is no finish line, so we’re always striving to get better in everything that we do, every single day, trying to improve and reach our potential to be the best that we can be."
Mullen enters this season with talented pieces that look to help MSU as it strives to achieve its lofty dreams. On the offensive side, the Bulldogs’ story starts with quarterback Nick Fitzgerald.
“He had a pretty solid year last year, led the SEC in total offense and had a great year running the football,” Mullen said.
Defensively, MSU turns the page to another defensive coordinator. Now leading the Bulldogs defense is highly respected coach Todd Grantham.
“It’s a whole new start for us,” Mullen said of the defense. “It was great to get somebody of (Grantham’s) level to come to Mississippi State.”
Mullen ran through a long list of potential stars and guys in supporting roles. He thinks Aeris Williams and Donald Gray will shine with the football in their hands. He thinks MSU’s offensive front will be strong behind Martinas Rankin and Elgton Jenkins. He believes Leo Lewis can shine at linebacker with a year of experience under his belt. He thinks Jamal Peters and Mark McLaurin will be playmakers in the secondary.
For now, all those proclamations are just talk. If history is any indication though, Mullen’s group will almost assuredly find a way to get wins. Just how many victories remains to be seen, but Mullen has gotten MSU used to winning football in his tenure. He doesn’t plan on stopping now.
“The time has flown a little bit for me, but it has been a fun ride,” Mullen said. “I’m blessed to be a head coach at Mississippi State and have the opportunity to go into year nine. I think we’ve been able to do a lot with the program over those nine years.”