SEC Football Media Days: Dan Mullen on Dak Prescott, Nick Fitzgerald, and more

PROVO, UT - OCTOBER 14: Head coach Dan Mullen of the Mississippi State Bulldogs gestures to an official during their game against the Brigham Young Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium on October 14, 2016 in Provo Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
PROVO, UT - OCTOBER 14: Head coach Dan Mullen of the Mississippi State Bulldogs gestures to an official during their game against the Brigham Young Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium on October 14, 2016 in Provo Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images) /

Dan Mullen and Mississippi State will meet with the media in Hoover today. How is the coach feeling heading into the 2017 campaign?

The 2016 season didn’t exactly go the way many wanted it to.

After winning nineteen games over two seasons with Dak Prescott leading the charge, the Bulldogs underwent a rebuilding season last fall. Nick Fitzgerald and Damian Williams battled for the starting quarterback job through the first three games of the season. Once Fitz took a hold of the position, he never looked back.

Fitzgerald excelled in Dan Mullen’s offense. In 2015, Mullen designed the offense to prepare Dak Prescott for a pro-style offense. Less run plays, more progressions. The shift in scheme obviously worked, as Dak went on to star for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. With the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year out of town, Mullen again rebuilt his offense.

Nick Fitzgerald was a former three-star triple-option quarterback in high school. While he has developed throwing the football during his time in Starkville, it is clear that he still has ways to go in certain areas. Therefore, Mullen adjusted the offense to bring out Fitz’s talents.

The Bulldogs ran a run-heavy, spread option style of offense. While the team was still learning to find themselves during the early stages of the seasons, the team suffered disappointing losses. But, when the spread-option was fully embraced and executed, the Bulldogs began to find out just how good the team can be.

Aside from a disastrous performance against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the Bulldogs averaged 42.3 points per contest in the month of November. State knocked off then fourth-ranked Texas A&M 35-28, fell to Arkansas in a high-powered shootout 58-24 on Senior Night, and then obliterated Ole Miss in a 55-20 Egg Bowl victory.

Next: Fitz named to Maxwell Award Watch List

How is Dan Mullen feeling heading into his ninth season on the job?


  • Mullen: iPads weren’t even around during my first media day.
  • Mullen: we’re hoping to get to our eighth consecutive bowl game. We have built a program built on winning mentality.
  • Mentions how State made bowl game in unconventional fashion (APR).
  • Always comfort with quarterback coming back.
  • Fitzgerald led SEC in total offense. Needs to continue developing his passing. Hoping he has had a great summer. “Needs to continue to grow, continue to improve, continue to develop.”
  • Aeris Williams is coming back, so that is a comforting thing.
  • Young offensive line, young receivers.
  • Mullen: me and Donald Gray are competing in the shoe game. “Let me know who wins at the end of the day”.
  • No senior defensive linemen.
  • Leo Lewis and Dezz Harris returning to lead linebackers.
  • New faces in secondary. JUCO guys coming in with Jamal Peters.
  • Tolando Cleveland returns from injury is “huge”.
  • Different personality with defense under Todd Grantham.
  • Was awesome to bring in someone of Grantham’s caliber.
  • Martinas Rankin will play left tackle, despite practicing at center in the spring. Elgton Jenkins will move over to center from guard.
  • Need to go into every game “expecting to win” each and every Saturday.
  • Expectations have changed within our program.
  • On QB recruiting: Biggest things is you take things that you can coach and things you can’t coach. Mental toughness, processing information. If they have the potential to improve at the things you can coach, you will grow and learn with them.
  • On Dak, Alex Smith, Tebow, Fitz: all have different traits, but all have things you can’t coach.
  • On Dak: He’s a winner. He took Haughton High School to new heights. He took Mississippi State number-one. He took the Dallas Cowboys to the playoffs. He’s a winner.
  • Talks about Dak celebrating women’s team victory over UConn.
  • On Fitz: I wasn’t shocked. He was always the most athletic quarterback on the roster since he’s arrived to campus.
  • On LSU: It’s come down to the final play the last several year. You need to be focused on everything you do. The guys have the confidence to make the final play at home against that team.
  • On Fitz bouncing back after LSU, Kentucky, Alabama games: You have to have short memory playing quarterback in the SEC.
  • On Fitz developing: Will be nice to have experience at tight end and running back. Don’t be afraid to take the check down before going over the top. Doesn’t need to force the football, instead take the smart play.
  • On greatest thing Fitz can develop in 2017: Nick has the size and physique build to be a quarterback. Has the running ability and the arm to exceed. “Biggest strides we want to see is consistency throwing the football”. Needs to continue developing at the quarterback position. The more you develop, the more you develop at quarterback.
  • On Bret Bielema becoming a father: greatest thing you can have. Win or lose, you have a loving family to come home to. It’s about loving on your family. I take great pride in moments with my son and family.
  • On Dak’s impact on QB recruiting: Three guys in the Pro Bowl. Having a former player (Dak) that is a one-name basis is special. There are a lot more people around the country that know about Mississippi State than three or four years ago.
  • On TE’s: We have a lot of different personnel we can use. We might use size, but we can also spread it out.
  • On Donald Gray: I don’t know if we have anybody that works harder. Donald is the last person to leave everyday. He makes sure he is in the best shape every day for the upcoming season. “It’s a very rare day I look out the window and Donald Gray isn’t running routes and catching passes.”