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July 22, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We will continue on with Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen.
COACH MULLEN: I'm only going to Twitter today, since that's the new way to do things. 'I am on stage.' I'm tech savvy right here. I'm only going to answer questions through Twitter or Facebook, so I can be the cutting-edge young coach up here (laughter).
I'm really excited. It's neat being here. You get to see events like this. For me, especially as a first-time head coach, getting here and seeing, it's the great thing about being in the Southeastern Conference, you get to these events, just traveling around all spring, seeing the passion that the students have for every one of these schools in this conference. You travel around, the passion the fans have for every one of their schools, representing their states in this conference. You get here and you see the passion the media has for this conference. I think that's what makes the SEC special.
I feel very fortunate that Mississippi State University, our president, Dr. Mark Keenum, and athletic director Greg Byrne, have given me the opportunity to become the head football coach. It was a great honor to get that opportunity. I think after meeting them, you see the youth of our athletic director, you see the youth of our president, you're gonna see that we have a program and a university that's heading in the right direction. I'm really excited. I'm really excited.
I feel very fortunate. The people in the state of Mississippi have welcomed me and my wife, our newborn son, who they remind me, I tell everybody he was born in Mississippi, so he's not a Yankee like me. He was born there, so he's safe. You know what, they've welcomed us with open arms. Everywhere we've been in the state, the people have come around and embraced us, made us feel welcome.
It's amazing for someone that hasn't spent a whole lot of time in the state of Mississippi in their life beforehand, to come in and feel that warmth, that welcoming, to see what a great, tremendous community Starkville, Mississippi is to live in, great place to raise a family, just seeing the sense of community everybody has, the family values the people of the state of Mississippi have. It's been really exciting for us. It's been a great move.
Obviously, when you start off coaching, you want the opportunity to become a head football coach. I think since I was a young, since a graduate assistant back at Syracuse University, I take my notes of Coach Paul Pasqualoni did there, the things I would do if I ever got the opportunity to become a head coach, things I might do, things I might not do, I kept a big notebook.
To be given that opportunity finally is a big thing. To be given that opportunity in the Southeastern Conference is even greater. You know, where football is obviously no more important than right here in this conference.
So I'm excited. I can't wait to get this season going. We got the opportunity. When we got it, had to hit the ground running recruiting, got through that. Spring practice, that was neat. Had a lot of fun. Got to see what type of hand we've been dealt a little bit in spring practice.
But now summer has been a little bit long. I'm sure summer has been long for all of you, too, right now, trying to create some interesting things to write about. We're ready to get this thing cranked up.
The excitement for our program has been off the charts. When I was hired, we went out, I wanted to give the state of Mississippi a team they could be proud of on and off the field. We promoted our program. They returned by having 31,000 people show up for our spring football game, which was a record in the state of Mississippi. To see that passion the fans have, the excitement they had, drove our team harder to work even harder over the summer.
I think that had a big thing to do with our team recording one of the highest GPAs in school history. I don't know if before that spring game if we were quite on that level yet, but that finish that our team had when they saw the passion the fans had, having a record crowd turn out to watch them in essentially a controlled spring practice scrimmage, you know what, it gave them a lot of motivation going into the last couple weeks of school and obviously rolling into summer.
I got to travel around in the south, now that they don't let us go recruit in the spring, had to find something to keep me busy on the road. So we got to travel around and meet a lot of booster groups. Had huge crowds everywhere we went. Got to see the excitement in everyone's face, the passion they had for their university. I think we sold over 37,000 season tickets to this point. I'm hoping we get to 40,000 before the season starts. Any team that comes in, we want to make Starkville one of the hardest destinations in the league. I'm hoping our fans follow through with that and make it a tough place.
Also very excited about the staff I was able to hire. Obviously, I'll start with our defensive coordinator, one of the key positions for me, being a first-time head coach, being an offensive-minded person, taking over a school that has a great defensive tradition. I wanted to go out and get someone I could really depend on. And being able to get a Carl Torbush, someone that has been weathered as a coach, been through a lot of different things in his career, a lot of different experiences, had a lot of great defenses throughout the years, also has had the opportunity to be a head coach at two Division I-A schools, bounce some ideas off, see how we want to handle different situations.
You look at the rest of our stuff, we have a staff that has a lot of roots in the south, guys with strong ties to the state of Mississippi, ties to the state of Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, those ties that we have with our staff to the south has been great. I feel very fortunate to put together the staff that I've been able to put together.
Excited to see them. I know they're just back from getting a little break. They're excited to get ready, get rolling.
Most importantly, obviously as a first time head coach, any head coach, I do feel our strength coach, Matt Balis, we have the best strength and conditioning coach in the country. He's done an unbelievable job preparing our guys for the season, teaching them the mental and physical toughness that we need.
Can't wait to get this going. If you don't know, September 5th, our first game, it's going to be upon us real soon. We're excited to be involved in such a historical game. Obviously you take the first time a Southeastern Conference school is playing a SWAC school. We're excited to be involved in such a historical game, have it be an in-state rival on top of that, the excitement it's creating in the state of Mississippi, it's amazing. Can't wait to get that kickoff here.
I know I'll probably be a little bit nervous before kickoff. I put the pressure -- I hear Jackson State has a heck of a band, I put the pressure on our band director already to get ready to compete against them at halftime. But looking for that game to get going. I feel very fortunate we get to play a great in-state rival in such a historic battle my first game as a head football coach.
That will be on us before we know it. Getting excited. Can't wait to get back on the practice field. It's going to be important for us when we get out there to me to see, for us to be successful offensively this year. We have to have great carryover from spring till now with our team. They can't come in as a blank slate, forget everything we taught them in the spring. When you're installing a new offense, they have to have that carryover. We're going to be a spread offense.
I'll give you all my definition of a spread offense. I don't know if we're spread option, spread passing, spread running or just spread. To me, we're a multiple spread team. We're going to be a team that goes out there, spread offense. I want to make sure the defense has to defend the entire field sideline to sideline. Through personnel and through formations, we want to create advantageous one-on-one matchups, where I get a player in the open field matched up against someone that he's better than. That's the spread offense, the offense we're going to run. The biggest thing we have to do is make sure our personnel fits that.
You don't have to be five receivers or four receivers to run a spread offense. You can run it with -- we could run it with three backs, two tight ends, get in the wishbone formation one time and spread the field to create the matchups the next time.
So our staff right now offensively, we're evaluating our players, our personnel, to make sure I'm putting my players in the best position to be successful, seeing what they do well, putting them in that position to be successful. People say, How much are we going to be like the other schools, Utah, Bowling Green, Florida, where I've coached the offenses in the past, how much you're going to use?
I can tell you this, as on offensive coach, we use about 60% of our offense each year. Take our playbook, only 60% of it applies to each given team you have. What we have to do is make sure we pick the right 60% of it to apply to the personnel that we have, then use that 60% to the best of our ability, have our players execute at a high level. If we do, we'll have the opportunity to be successful.
So our quarterback battle will go on until I find that we have one true leader and a guy that's gonna win football games for us. That might be in two-a-day camp, that might be right before the first kickoff, might be week four for us. That's the most important part of that position, not how you run, how you throw, but how you lead, how you win. Whoever is going to manage our offense to give us the best opportunity to win football games will be our quarterback.
That's a key position in the spread offense. You look at -- I feel really fortunate. I've coached some good ones with Tim Tebows and Alex Smiths, Josh Harris, Chris Leaks. All different shapes and sizes, but they all have the passion about winning the game of football.
Defensively, we will continue that great tradition Mississippi State has had in the past. Carl is doing a great job. We're going to be an attacking defense. If you come watch us play, I want 11 guys running the ball every single play, giving maximum effort every single play. That's important to me about defensive football. That sets a tone for your team, sets tempos for the game, having a defense that does that.
Offensively, really our whole team is going to play that way. If there was a perfect offense or a perfect defense, everyone in the country would do the same thing. So I think the most important thing for our football team to do is make sure that we play with that great effort.
I'm going to be coaching our special teams. I will be our special teams coach. We'll have all our other assistants help me with different phases, but I think that is a very important thing, for the head coach to be coaching the special teams. I'm going to run the whole show that way.
I guess if there's any issues on the special teams, we play a game, you come right to me, I'll answer all those questions for you when it comes to special teams.
I think that's a key part. The three components obviously in the game is offense, defense, and special teams. I think special teams is something that you can control with a mindset. Grew up playing some basketball, too. Put it in that mindset, they say, it doesn't take a lot of talent to rebound. It takes a demeanor, it takes an effort, it takes a desire to get the ball.
To have great special teams, I don't know if it takes all that tremendous talent. Takes tremendous desire, passion, willing to give unbelievable effort. That's what you'll see out of our special teams this year.
I'll share with you our team goals for this year. What will make this a successful season for me. Share that with you right now. If you turn on a game film, watch a team, all 11 players on the field on any given snap, play with a relentless effort, play with a passion for the game of football for 60 minutes of that game, we'll have a successful season. We share that with our team because, I'll tell you what, if that's what we worry about, I'm not worried about what's going on on a specific play. All 11 guys go out there, give everything they have for the man next to them, for every play, for 60 minutes, we'll have a chance to be a very successful team. Everything else from that point will take care of themselves.
That's really one of our main team goals. You see our team play, hopefully if you do, hopefully win enough games y'all want to show up, watch us play one week. If you do come to that stadium, you're going to walk out of there, my expectations, I'll be proud of my team if you walk out of that stadium and say, Wow, did you see how hard those guys played every single snap of that game. They played with relentless effort, they played with a passion for the game of football, they get after it, all 11 guys, for all 60 minutes of the game.
That's basically a quick deal. I was going to talk. I heard some people say the easy way out of this room would be to stand up here, prepare a 60-minute speech, 40-minute speech. I can prepare my 40-minute speech, 39 minutes, 15 seconds, take one question, get on out the door. None of you would be real happy with that. I heard people would get bored and leave.
There's some different things about our program we have going and I'll take any questions anybody has right now.
Q. You talked about putting things in the notebook, the dos and the don'ts. What are the dos that you bring with you to Starkville being with Urban Meyer all that time?
COACH MULLEN: One of the big dos that I take from him is that effort, that attitude that a team plays with. The biggest do in that is that attitude is developed in the off-season through your strength coach, through those off-season workouts when you can't be around those players.
Probably one of the biggest dos of all would come from a Mickey Marotti, watching what he did with that team in the off-season, to prepare that mental and physical toughness to get them ready to play in a football season. I think that's one of the biggest things.
Everywhere I've been with Urban, that was one of the biggest things you noticed about that team, you win a lot of football games at 5:45 in the morning Wednesday in February. That is where you win a lot of football games. That was a big do of programs that Urban ran and I believe in. There's obviously a lot of similarities because he and I had a lot of similar beliefs for the years we spent together.
There will be a lot of similarities between our program and the programs that he's done at Bowling Green, Florida, and Utah.
Q. Can you talk a little about Kendrick Cook, what kind of impression he made on you?
COACH MULLEN: Kendrick has done a real good job for us. He's a young guy. Starting off real young in his career, still growing and developing physically. But Kendrick is one of those guys that's made a great impression. He's on our leadership committee, representing the tightend position for us. If you watch our teams play, we got to utilize, like I say, spread offense, that personnel and diversity. The more you can do, the better you are.
We're going to use Kendrick in a lot of different ways, whether he's attached, a motion fullback, or flexed out, to do those sort of things.
Obviously Kendrick is a great student. In our program, we believe in being a champion. A champion is not a sometime thing, it's an all-the-time thing, the way of life you live. Kendrick is one of those guys that has been a champion for us in our champions club, on our leadership committee. One of those guys that comes in and gives you everything he has every day, whether it's in the classroom, whether it's in the weight room, whether it's out on the field conditioning or a practice.
I think Kendrick has the opportunity. He needs to continue to physically develop his body, mature. When he does, he has the opportunity to be a pretty big impact player for us.
Q. You talked about wanting to be a head coach ever since you got in the profession. Are you surprised or intimidated that your first shot at it comes in a league that has so many famous head coaches, coached in the NFL?
COACH MULLEN: It's pretty exciting. You're a first-time head coach. I guess when you walk into that first SEC head coaches meeting there, I mean, meeting Urban Meyer, that's not a big deal, I've had to put up with him for years. But you get to see guys you grew up watching, guys that you -- Steve Spurrier. Unbelievable fan of Steve Spurrier. Getting to see guys like Rich Brooks, all the success they've had at every different level. It's quite an honor.
I think to answer your question, directly about being excited, I'm real excited to be here. One thing that makes this league great is the excitement, is the passion, is the importance. I'm going to tell you what, when you know that you're gonna have a sold-out stadium wherever you show up in this league, with fans that are nuts, going crazy, either cheering for you or against you, but they have a definite opinion one way or the other, it's that important to that many people, makes it awful easy to get up and go to work every morning. It makes it awful exciting when you get off that bus, you see that energy, that excitement. It makes the SEC different than everywhere else. That's what makes it a lot of fun.
For me, I couldn't be happier with this opportunity to be in this league, to be at the highest level. As any competitor wants to be, if you have the opportunity to compete, you want to compete at the highest level against the best there is. I think if you put the résumés together of a lot of these coaches, we're in there. We're at the highest level.
At this point, I'm the only undefeated coach in the league. I have my little sticking point until we get this season rolling. I can be real happy if I can come back here and say the same thing next year. That would be a pretty neat deal.
Q. You have a new offense, obviously. They were running a West Coast offense. You talked about your quarterback play, how it's improved in the spring. What are your expectations from that position this fall?
COACH MULLEN: Well, you know, the one benefit we have, we have really our returning player coming back, Tyson Lee, that was the offense he had run in high school and junior college. Last year was his first year in a non-spread offense. So that adjustment for him I think makes life a little bit easier coming out of it. Chris Relf was not as much a spread quarterback coming out of high school. So maybe it's a little adjustment for him. He's done a nice job.
Tyler Russell, ran a shotgun spread offense in high school. Some of the similarities for those guys. There's some carryover from their past.
I think the competition at that position is going to be pretty stiff for us. I think if you look at it, having a guy like Tyson Lee starting us off right there, his leadership, being a senior -- if you want to build a good team, I think if you go back and you look at championship-level teams over the last several years in college football, they either have a great or senior quarterback running their football program.
I think that's an important thing, 'cause like I said before, that position is not really about how you throw, how you run, those things, it's about the leadership and the demeanor that you present, how you manage your team into victories, 'cause that team is going to take on a lot of personality of that quarterback of how they play.
So I think to have that success, you need that. So we really need Tyson Lee to step up for us, to be a senior, to give that leadership. We might rotate the other guys and play more than one quarterback, but we do need him as a senior to be a steady leader and a winner for us out there on the field, to get our program going in the right direction.
Q. In your experience in the SEC, what is the biggest challenge faced by inexperienced quarterbacks and how do you make up for that shortcoming?
COACH MULLEN: You know, I think one of the bigger things that you see is the talent level, speaking as an offensive coach, through quarterbacks, the talent level of the players in the Southeastern Conference is pretty high. It's one of the few places -- I've never coached in the NFL, but I imagine it's the same way when you go watch NFL films, you have to game plan players sometimes, not just schemes. You have to look at somebody and say, Okay, well, our tackle is going to block this defensive end. No, he's not.
So you might have to put two guys, put a back, chip a back off him, do different things. It's that player level that really makes you have to think and change some different things. That's the toughest adjustment as a coach, and also I think as a quarterback, coming into this league. The toughest adjustment, in high school you look and say, Okay, cover three, this is what's going to happen, I'm going here with the ball. All of a sudden you have a free safety that can actually, if you lob the ball up in the air, he can get sideline to sideline to make a play on it.
That talent level of individuals, that also goes with the scheme. It's not just the scheme. That makes it a big adjustment.
Obviously coming from the high school level to the Southeastern Conference, the speed of the game, those young quarterbacks look at you and say, Coach, it looks like they've got 18 guys playing defense. They're all over the place.
The best way to combat it is to put a quarterback in a position to be successful, do things they do well. I look back -- you know, one of the guys I think we did the best job ever with that was with Tim Tebow his freshman year, put him out there, gave him experience in games. I still don't know if he played eight plays a game his freshman year, even though the perception was he was playing a lot.
We always had him in a position to be successful, doing things he did well in very small packages and built his confidence level up, because as that confidence level rises at that quarterback position, you feel like the game is slowing down for you. As soon as that game slows down for you, then you have the opportunity to be successful. That's the most important thing in developing these young quarterbacks.
Q. You've been part of a staff that the won two BCS championships now in the last three years. How do you respond when people say, That can never happen in Starkville, Mississippi State? How do you answer that question?
COACH MULLEN: For us, I think it's only been 10 years since Mississippi State has been to Atlanta to play for a Southeastern Conference championship. I think in today's world, in this league, national attention, you win the Southeastern Conference championship, you have the opportunity to play for a national title. So for us that's never -- I came from a staff there, I don't think our goal at Florida, mine never was when I talked to my guys -- your goal is not at the start of the season to win a national championship. I've coached an undefeated team and didn't get the chance to play for a national championship. Your goal is to win the SEC championship, then that was a bonus.
The first national championship at Florida, we weren't even going until we found out UCLA beat Southern Cal at halftime. We didn't even have the opportunity, even if we won the game, to play in that. I think that part of it.
That is our pressure for us, that we look -- our goal is always going to be to find a way to start in the season, how do we get to Atlanta. Then that first week in December, our goal will be, How do we win in Atlanta. That goal for me, as long as -- wherever I coach in the Southeastern Conference, that goal to me is the same in Florida, the same as it is in Tuscaloosa, as it is in Baton Rouge, as it is in Athens, Georgia: How do we get our team to Atlanta.
Once we get there, how do we win once we're there. That's the approach we're taking. If we follow that approach, get ourselves to Atlanta, find a way to win that game, maybe we'll have an opportunity for a bigger prize at that point.
Q. What has been the toughest challenge for you now that you are a head coach, maybe something unexpected that's come up that you've had to prepare yourself for?
COACH MULLEN: You know what, fortunately I had a good mentor in Urban Meyer. I don't know that a lot of stuff was unexpected. Urban has done a good job of promoting his staff, helping his staff, teaching his staff, so that when the opportunity presents itself...
I got to spend a bunch of time before I left about the road ahead, about the other issues, the non-football issues that you're going to deal with. The administrative issues, the discipline issues, the motivational issues, the dealing with how are you dealing with it when you have 85 children that you're responsible for, and someone lost their girlfriend that day, and their girlfriend broke up with them, and they're not going to be in a good mood, they're upset about something, to every other issue that is non-football-oriented that's going to be out there.
Then I think probably the biggest difference is I expected that coming in. The biggest adjustment is learning how to deal with that in your schedule of things, how to budget your time around those things. To be honest with you, I don't think you can prepare for that type of experience until you're actually sitting in the chair taking it on, solving, dealing with all those issues. I don't know if there's any way to really prepare for it until you're actually in that seat.
So it has been a learning experience for me this whole time. Even though I expected it coming in, every day is somewhat a new learning experience for you as a first year head coach.
Q. Could you disclose who you voted for for quarterback for the all SEC team?
COACH MULLEN: I was going to start with that statement right there. Believe it or not, I voted for Tim Tebow. Probably surprise for a lot of guys. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he's a heck of a player (laughter).
Q. What is it going to be like this year staring across from him on the other sideline?
COACH MULLEN: You know what, it's going to be a real neat experience. When you spend three years of your life, when you spend more time with Tim Tebow than you do with your own wife, which I did, you get that close relationship, you know that's something that's not going to change. You know what, it's going to be a unique part of our relationship this year, where we get to go against each other. You know what, then it will probably be a growing experience for that in the future.
I don't see my relationship, my respect, my love for Tim Tebow to change because he's on the other sideline, or 10 years down the road. He's such an extraordinary young man.
You know what, I'm a pretty competitive person. If you've never met Tim, he's a pretty competitive person, if you haven't heard. I think it will be a neat day for us to compete against each other. We'll have a lot of fun doing it next October.
Q. Can you describe going into August with this team, with this group, what are the most important things in your mind for this month?
COACH MULLEN: You know, the first most important thing is to pick up where we left off in the spring. We have to pick up right where we left off. If we've taken a step back in learning the offense, in learning the defense, in learning the special teams, that's gonna hurt us going into this August getting ready for the season.
You know what, the second most important thing is developing a tight bond. In that effort we need for us to be good on Saturdays. As that team looks for that trust on the field, as every player in every situation we put them in, I know that the 10 other guys out here with me are gonna do their job and do it as hard as they possibly can, then I have trust built within a team.
If we can get that done, I think a lot of the other things this season hopefully will take care of themselves.
Q. Talk about the opportunity developing this program in comparison to the way the program that you was with, Utah, Florida, working from the bottom to the top of the conference.
COACH MULLEN: You know what, it's always a challenge. I happened to be with Urban at Bowling Green, Utah, and Florida. Thankfully for the position I'm in, I've gotten to see how we've gone about building them. In each program, it was built a different way. I mean, the general philosophy behind it was different -- sorry, was the same, but a lot of the specifics are different.
I'm very excited to take this over, this program over, where, you know, you take over a state -- in a state, we're the state university there, we have a lot of prospects. One of the things that intrigued me about the job was when I think eight of the top 20 players in the state were committed to Mississippi State, and they didn't have a head football coach. A lot of the kids in the state like to play and represent their state university. Also the talent level in the state of Mississippi, I think that's a big challenge for us.
But the excitement of going in and building that program, having the ability to build a program with local players, you know, whether it be players from Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Atlanta, anywhere, that five-hour radius that we concentrate on recruiting in, is really exciting. You know what, those guys go home to their hometowns, a lot of you are from, they still get a lot of that attention. So it's real important to them.
I'm real excited to build our program that way. It's gonna be a unique deal. It's gonna be different how it was to build a Bowling Green, build a Utah, build a Florida, because we have uniqueness at Mississippi State we have to build upon.
Q. How important is it to have Jamar Chaney back? Do you have enough receiver depth for your offense?
COACH MULLEN: Having Jamar back is huge. To give him credit, here is a young man going into a senior year, suffers a really tough injury. Is able to redshirt that year to get the next year of eligibility, and a new coach shows up. From day one, Jamar Chaney walked into my office, said, Coach, I'm going to believe in everything you're doing, I'm going to be a leader of this team.
He has. He said, Whatever you need me to do or tell me to do, I'm gonna follow you.
So, you know, he's probably our most valuable player coming into the season right now, I would say. The team follows him. The team respects him so much. The effort he's given and everything we've asked him to do is unbelievable. It's just fantastic having him back, and having a personality back like that, especially when you take over a new program, to have such a strong personality, someone that you expect to be such a great leader in your program, to help build that foundation of what we want, and the message we're trying to get across to our team on a daily basis.
Q. What is it going to be like going up against Urban this year?
COACH MULLEN: It will be a neat deal. I'm gonna have fun doing it, you know. Probably have to make sure I change all my signals. I'll pay attention, see if he changes his signals a little bit so we know what's going on.
It will be a fun challenge. Obviously, I've learned so much from him. He's helped me develop in my career for so long. That competitiveness is going to come out with us that game day for us. My wife and I made some great friends living in Gainesville, with people in Gainesville, with people in the Florida family, the university, obviously within the athletic department and the football team. I look at it more as a fun day than maybe something that's kind of different, you know, or that crazy.
I think that's a game I'm excited to go play, really get to see those guys and have fun playing against 'em, you know.
Probably be the No. 1 team in the country when they come rolling in. That's always an added challenge. It will make it even more fun.
Q. Do you think the advantages and disadvantages are going to go both ways?
COACH MULLEN: Yeah, I mean, you know, what I worked with Urban for 10 years. I think, you know what, we probably know each other's tendencies at certain times, have a feel for when somebody is going to do something, whether it's calling plays, how they're gonna approach a certain part of the game.
But I think that probably goes both ways. I think he knows me pretty well, and I know him pretty well. When it comes to football, that will go both ways. I'm going to have to think about doing something, then do the complete opposite of it to maybe keep him on his toes, do something they're not expecting.
Q. In your dealings with Tim Tebow, did you find any weaknesses in his game? Can you kind of give us some of the dirt on him off the field, things that maybe were annoying to you?
COACH MULLEN: Annoying? Boy, you know, he can be a little stubborn in his beliefs sometimes. He has very strong beliefs in his faith, if you don't know that one.
You know, weaknesses in his game? I don't know. I wouldn't consider anything a weakness in Tim's game. I will give this to him as one of his strengths, in having weaknesses. If you identify a weakness or something that he's not doing well, he wants to work as hard as he can to correct it.
Everyone has weaknesses in their games. Someone like Tim Tebow really understands the fact that to become a great quarterback, he has to continually hone his skills every single day and improve.
There's nobody that is staying the same in life. You're either getting better or you're getting worse. He's someone he believes when he gets up every day he needs to get better. Pete Manning, I imagine, is trying to improve himself as a quarterback every single day. Tom Brady is trying to improve himself as a quarterback every single day, you know, to defend against weaknesses in their game.
Tim Tebow, we spend time on that, really understands that he needs to continually improve himself every single day. I don't know if there's a specific weakness in his game, but I can tell you what, he has a long way to go to improve where he wants to get to in the end in his own mind. He's going out every day to make himself a better football player.
Dirt off the field? I'll say this about Tim Tebow, if you do get the opportunity to meet him, spend time with him, he's one of the most unique people in the world. I probably have more respect for him than anybody I've ever met. Just an amazing kid. Just an amazing kid. He taught me a very valuable lesson in life: if you can make an impact on someone's life, it's your obligation to do that. And he is one of the most amazing young people out there.
Q. Can you talk about your previous relationship with Coach Torbush, what told you on the decision to bring him on?
COACH MULLEN: My previous relationship? When I was at Utah, we played him when he was at Texas A&M. Never met him. I'd never met him before in my life. Obviously, when I was starting coaching, he was the head coach at North Carolina. I'd known a lot about him. It was a very good situation for me as I came in. I wanted to get a defensive coordinator that had very strong personality, very experienced. I was hoping to get someone with head coaching experience that I could run ideas by. Amazingly enough, it came about by -- I got a faxed résumé. I know résumés come through the machine all the time. Secretary is like, Here is your stack of people that want to come work for you on the desk.
I'm flipping through. I saw Carl Torbush. I recognized the name. His son was in high school. Kind of stepped away a little bit, gone back to his hometown, let his son finish high school. There's not a lot of security sometimes in the coaching profession. Had wanted to do that.
So I'm like, Is this that same Carl Torbush? I called him up. He said, You know what, Dan, I really would like to get back in the highest level of coaching if it's the right situation. Seeing you there as a young head coach, I see the offensive things you've done in the past, have a lot of respect for things that have gone on in watching you in the past. That would be a situation that I'd kind of be interested in.
He came down for an interview. He and I hit it off. Spent a great deal of time together talking football, talking philosophy. Really I feel very fortunate that the person I was looking for almost fell into my lap.
Q. Do you feel you and Coach Meyer are going to be somewhat legendary in having changed the face of offensive football in the SEC, with the spread type of offense that y'all use? You mentioned Coach Brooks. How is it going to be playing against Coach Brooks in a Mississippi State uniform rather than a Gator uniform?
COACH MULLEN: Well, the first part, you know what, I don't know if it's a big deal. I think this. I think when Urban and I got together, our first staff at Bowling Green, we decided we wanted to do -- have a little bit different style of offense, went through and kind of -- did that spread offense, and it worked for us. We just continued to tweak it and tweak it all the way.
You know, I think learned some lessons along the way while we were there. I don't know if it's gonna change college football. Our goal was always to stay ahead of the curve, that cutting edge part of it. If that means we're gonna be running the wishbone five years from now, you know, or maybe we'll be back in the two tight end, power-I formation when everybody else goes to the spread. Because we want to stay kind of ahead of the curve. I think that's the type of coach that Urban is; that's the type of coach that I am.
I would say, I think, I don't know if we deserve all the credit for it. There's a lot of coaches out there that deserve a lot of credit for it, the spread offense. I think people have looked at it, seen a lot of the advantages of running it, and it's really trickled down to high school. Maybe that is what's gone about and changed a lot of the game of football, is these quarterbacks, guys that go out and really -- the spread offense allows you to utilize your quarterback again, not just turning, handing the ball off, and defenses have to account for that quarterback. I think people find that a great equalizer, you need to utilize all 11 guys on the field on every single play.
Maybe it has changed. But we'll see. I don't know if it will be that big a deal in the bigger picture of things.
You know, getting to go against Coach Brooks, obviously someone that you have that much respect for, I feel very fortunate. As a guy that I've gotten to speak to now on several different occasions, has always been great to me. As a young head coach coming up, every time you see him or talk to him, you know if you ask him a question, he's going to give you the answer, he's going to help you out. That's a really neat deal.
So obviously, I'm excited, as I will be playing Kentucky, our crossover game each year, it will remain a little bit of a rival, just like it was when we were at Florida. Lexington, a great place to go up to play. We go up there. They have great fans. A great game day experience up there. You know what, I see that rivalry continuing just as it's been the last couple years.
Q. Could you talk about the two players you have with you today, KJ and Derek, talk about as juniors why you chose to bring them here today?
COACH MULLEN: You know what, it might be something I continue to do. We call on our seniors to do a lot of different things. Obviously, they get a lot of attention. I wanted to bring two young men out, two young men that I think are going to be very good players, have big roles in our team this year. Obviously, two of our better players on the whole roster. Really, to me, to start exposing them to this stuff so that they get used to doing these things.
If you met Derek, he's a little bit of a shy guy. He needs to come out of his shell a little bit. Maybe this will break him out of his shell a little bit today.
You know what, I think it is important. Those are two guys we're going to depend a lot on. I know our seniors do get a lot of attention. And usually a lot of the times they're the spokesmen for our team. I wanted to give these two guys that are juniors the experience to do that right now, so next year when they roll into their senior year, they're ready to be the mouthpieces of the team on a daily basis.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
End of FastScripts