By JOEL COLEMAN
It’s not often Dan Mullen gets to relax on the football field. Yet Friday afternoon, with temperatures near 70 degrees and school over for the semester, Mississippi State’s seventh-year leader seemed to be enjoying himself as his Bulldogs prepare for their Belk Bowl contest against NC State on Dec. 30 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“There’s a lot of teams not practicing right now,” Mullen said. “My wife enjoys bowl practice too because, not that she doesn’t enjoy my time home with the family, but I think she thinks there could be too much of that too. There’s nothing better (than bowl practice). There’s no final exams. There’s no school going on. Right now we’re coaching and teaching football and not even worried about the game plan just yet.”
MSU used the two-hour practice to get back into football mode. Mississippi State has been away from the game since the regular season concluded with an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss on Nov. 28.
“They haven’t played since Thanksgiving weekend so it’s been a couple of weeks since guys have played and if you’re a scout team guy, it’s been even longer than that,” Mullen said. “We’ve lifted, but haven’t done any football stuff. So I think today was really just to get back the body and mind and get yourself ready to go in football and get loosened up.”
Mullen said he hasn’t put much focus on NC State just yet, but he is familiar with the Wolfpack. Simply checking NC State’s schedule lets Mullen know the Bulldogs will have a battle on their hands.
“I know they’re an excellent football team,” Mullen said. “You catch some things during the season. They had a lead on Florida State early and that’s an excellent football team. They’re a team that battled Clemson to the wire. So you know they’re an excellent football team. They can score a lot of points on offense. They can play good defense. Flying here and there recruiting, I’ve watched some game film as I can, but we haven’t had the chance to sit down and meet and get into the meat and potatoes of all that.”
Mississippi State hits the practice field again today at 11 a.m. The workout is open to the public.
Ryan Brown, Walley injured
Defensive end Ryan Brown won’t play in the Belk Bowl.
Brown was at practice Friday with a cast on his right leg and Mullen said afterwards that his senior defensive lineman won’t be available against NC State.
“He had a stress fracture in his foot,” Mullen said. “That’s something that he’d been dealing with for most of the season really and it really limited his practice time for the back half of the season. Just for his future, the best thing to do is just do the surgery and put a screw in his foot and he’ll be out now for the bowl game.”
Brown played in all 12 games this season for MSU and totaled 39 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.
Tight end Gus Walley also likely won’t play in the Belk Bowl due to concussion issues. Walley played in eight games this season, catching 19 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
“I don’t expect (Walley) back for the bowl game,” Mullen said. “He’s had several (concussions), so we’ll see where he’s at for the long-term future here.”
Mullen did indicate that senior long snapper Winston Chapman, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament on Sept. 12 against LSU, may see action in Charlotte.
“He said that he’d really like to snap in the bowl game,” Mullen said. “So there’s a possibility he could come back. We’ll wait a couple more weeks and let the doctors, if he gets the approval to do it, probably put a big cast on each leg and see if he can snap for PAT field goals or something.”
Zach Jackson leaves team
Senior linebacker Zach Jackson’s MSU career is over as he has left the team.
““He had an opportunity outside of football to go take so he decided to move on and go do that so he won’t be with us for the bowl game,” Mullen said.
Jackson played in Mississippi State’s first 11 games this season, but didn’t see action in the Egg Bowl. He totaled 44 tackles, four tackles for loss and had one sack.
Mullen addresses Hughes rumors
Footballscoop.com reported on Friday that Mississippi State safeties coach and recruiting coordinator Tony Hughes is a strong candidate to become the head coach at Jackson State and if terms can be reached, Hughes could be announced as early as Monday.
Mullen addressed the report following practice.
“I don’t anticipate anything, but you never know what happens this time of year with college football,” Mullen said. “There’s always changes everywhere. So we’ll see if there are staff changes. I don’t plan on making many changes within our staff. If guys get other opportunities, then we’ll adjust or deal with it if that stuff happens down the road.”
Savage to oversee strength and conditioning
With strength and conditioning coach Rick Court departing Mississippi State to take a job at Maryland, Mullen said Nick Savage will oversee that aspect of the Bulldogs’ program for now.
“That’s something else we’ll evaluate after the bowl game,” Mullen said. “We’ve got a really good coaching staff here with our strength and conditioning, so Nick Savage will run things through the bowl game and we’ll evaluate that at that point as we look at other candidates or potentially promote from within.”