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Year 2: Expectations high at rejuvenated Mississippi State

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#1
MaroonMan08

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I really could care less about the article, I just like hearing what the players say.  They're very enthusiastic and I hope that can be turned into W's...

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -Here's a word not often heard around here this time of year: Enthusiasm.
As the start of football season approaches, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen feels it everywhere he goes. Mullen was worried the faithful would lose it over the long offseason, but there are no signs of fan fervor tailing off for the Bulldogs.
"We kind of created this frenzy,'' Mullen said. "As you're looking at it at this point, season ticket sales are up. When you go to different meetings and clubs around the state everyone's really excited for the season, so I think we've really raised expectations for State fans and really brought them back to life.''
That kind of reaction to a 5-7 season is unusual. But it's not the final result that has Mississippi State faithful amped. It's the way the once lifeless Bulldogs played, pushing several opponents to the brink despite what was considered the nation's toughest schedule.
The team was always on the attack and everyone loved it.
"He wants us to compete, always compete,'' safety Charles Mitchell said. "He brought lots of energy to this program and fun, a lot of enthusiasm.''
There's that word again, but the Bulldogs learned enthusiasm only gets you so far last season in a number of close games. Mullen has spent the offseason preaching the value of finishing plays and finishing games.
The schedule isn't much easier this year, though. The Bulldogs' road schedule is brutal with games at LSU, Houston, Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss. That has had Mullen watching those record season ticket sales this season.
"In the Southeastern Conference, when you're playing on the road there's a lot of tough environments,'' Mullen said. "That's why it's critical that we do sell out our stadium, that we do sell out our season tickets and we have great support at home because if you're going to have a great year it always starts with winning home football games.''
Mullen has several notable gaps to fill if Mississippi State is going to make the postseason for just the second time since 2000. He feels confident in the defense, which returns Mitchell, defensive end Pernell McPhee and linebacker K.J. Wright.
But there are several pressing questions on offense, the most notable are at quarterback and running back. Though Chris Relf rushed for 133 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in a 41-27 win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, is he ready to take over as full-time starter? And if he's not, is redshirt freshman Tyler Russell the right fit for Mullen's run-first offense?
Mullen has said the competition is too close to call and showed last year he doesn't mind playing two signal callers. But Relf has been preparing himself to take over the team after playing in 10 games last season while sharing time with starter Tyson Lee, and has gotten positive reviews.
"I think he's had a great offseason,'' Mullen said. "He picked up where he left off this offseason. If you look at what he's done and the improvements he's made, he didn't just sit and get satisfied with that game. I think that really gave him some confidence to grow as a quarterback this offseason and become a much better all-around player.''
The bigger question may be at running back, where the team must replace bullish record-setter Anthony Dixon, who rushed for 1,391 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Bulldogs rushed for 999 yards more than they passed last season, and that run-first philosophy won't likely change. Mullen will turn to four players to take on Dixon's heavy workload. Though they group has little experience, the rotation gives Mullen a welcome flexibility.
Junior college transfer Vick Ballard is a power runner at 220 pounds while co-No. 1 Robert Elliott is more shifty, and the speedy 190-pound LaDarius Perkins is a threat in the open field.
"The neat thing about them is all of them bring a little something different to the table,'' Mullen said. "Two of them might run the same play but with a different guy running it, it's going to have a different look for the defense, which kind of makes it a little more challenging for them.''
The Bulldogs also need a young group of receivers, featuring sophomore playmakers Chad Bumphis and Brandon Heavens, to become consistent playmakers and are relying on promising youth along the defensive line as well.
All those young players have a year in Mullen's system, though, and that might makes a difference.
"Guys are attacking things, not just trying to survive,'' said Quentin Saulsberry, one of five returning offensive line starters. "Everyone was overwhelmed with a new coach and a new program (last year). Guys are more understanding of what has to be done and what's expected.''




#2
DawgsInPTown

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7 wins including a bowl. Dan the Man is going to take us to the promise land! Ok so its not the promise land, but any bowl sounds good at this point.

#3
1dawgfan09

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Excited much???? Heck yes. Come on Sept. 4!!! I am looking foward to demolishing Memphis.
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#4
Weston M

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First thing's first: Beat Memphis. After that, I'd settle for a competitive, very close loss to a good Auburn team.

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#5
SECats

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You guys should have a good year.  Mullen is an excellent coach.
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#6
WDE

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Weston M said:

First thing's first: Beat Memphis. After that, I'd settle for a competitive, very close loss to a good Auburn team.

I was trying to explain to my wife last night why people in *kvegas are excited again about football. She really didn't get it at all. Regardless how you're record ends up its nice to have everyone looking forward to a season as opposed to almost dreading it. :D
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#7
MerlinsJizzSack

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Weston M said:

First thing's first: Beat Memphis. After that, I'd settle for a competitive, very close loss to a good Auburn team.


I see the people in starkville are still settling for less. Good to know ya'll still know your place;)

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#8
bulldawg28

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No settling here......Auburn will be the 2nd victim and the rebels the last of the regular season...:nod:

#9
MerlinsJizzSack

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bulldawg28 said:

No settling here......Auburn will be the 2nd victim and the rebels the last of the regular season...:nod:


Settling to losing to auburn atleast

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#10
bluelightstar

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41-27 now gtfo
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#11
MerlinsJizzSack

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bluelightstar said:

41-27 now gtfo


Yesssir

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#12
Weston M

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RebelFan4Life said:

I see the people in starkville are still settling for less. Good to know ya'll still know your place;)

No, just another difference between us two. We go into a year excited about perhaps taking the next step toward respectibility. You know, humbleness. None of this garbage:

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#13
bluelightstar

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There was also that garbage that showed up in my mailbox
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#14
DawgsInPTown

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SECats said:

You guys should have a good year.  Mullen is an excellent coach.

CDM is great! We're overdue for a decent season.

#15
76

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Weston M said:

No, just another difference between us two. We go into a year excited about perhaps taking the next step toward respectibility. You know, humbleness. None of this garbage:

Yeah real humble:

DawgsInPTown said:

Dan the Man is going to take us to the promise land!