STARKVILLE — Transitioning into game-week, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen has decided to give his players more time to focus on Saturday”s season opener against Memphis.
That decision meant less time for media interviews for some, and none for the majority of the Bulldogs, who kick off the season Saturday against Memphis.
Player availability following Tuesday”s practice was nixed in an effort to help players acclimate to preparing for a game and not because of Monday”s news of quarterback Chris Relf”s mild finger injury coming from another player, Mullen said.
“We”re in the first week getting ready for game-week and it is a transition for us being in the first game and getting the whole mindset different to play the first game,” Mullen said. “I figured I”d be the spokesperson for the team this week and let everybody get ready to play football.”
As for Relf, he walked off the practice field without any kind of support on either hand. Monday, Mullen denied Relf had an injured finger, while linebacker K.J. Wright said he did. The collective opinions of both Mullen and Wright, along with the other players available Monday, is Relf will play Saturday.
The lack of media access to players, which now includes no access to the first few phases of practice, follows a string of scaled-back efforts to limit information. Earlier in the preseason, Mullen announced he would only comment on injuries on the Thursday prior to game day. The program also opted not to release stats from the lone fall scrimmage held two weeks ago.
Mullen rubbished the notion that the media”s lack of access will become a growing trend, noting Mississippi State”s fan and media access during other periods of the year.
“We don”t close spring practices where a lot of schools I know do,” Mullen said. “We open up the first couple of days of camp, but when you get into gameplan and getting ready for the season, you just want the team out there.”
Secrecy, by most accounts, is a positive in sports. The less information an opponent can gain in preparing for a game, the better. That”s exactly the approach Mullen is taking.
“I don”t like anybody having information on us,” he said. “What we do within our team, we want to prepare our way and get our players ready to play. That”s real important to us. Information and what other people have, I”m really not that interested in what they get to find out.”
It took Mississippi State nearly the entire 2009 season to select captains before Anthony Dixon and Jamar Chaney were chosen before the Egg Bowl.
The Bulldogs know who their 2010 captains will be before the season starts as Mullen announced Tuesday that seniors Derek Sherrod, of Caledonia, Pernell McPhee, Chris Wright and K.J. Wright will be the team”s captains for the season.
The vote was initiated by Mullen and voted on by the MSU players.
Mullen said “guys had stepped up” and provided leadership earlier than players had last season, which in his eyes, was a product of players settling into their roles and providing the example coaches look for.
“In the second year in the program, it”s a lot easier to name captains because they understand what the leadership is about, what our players are expected to do and what we”re looking for in a team,” Mullen said. “So we”re really excited to have those guys be the captains of our team.”
Of the four captains, Sherrod is the only offensive player. The three-year starter is one of the elder-statesman of a young offense that Mullen hopes to see produce the leadership he”s seen from the team”s defense.
“A lot of the younger players need to step up into those roles,” he said.