After nearly a two-week break, Mississippi State returned to spring practice on Thursday afternoon. And almost expected, Bulldog head coach Dan Mullen saw some things that were not as pleasing to him and his staff.
"Really sloppy today," said Mullen. "But this is really the first time I've ever done this where we took a break. So I want to see how we do tomorrow. You come out here a lot more advanced than you would Day 1 but it is almost like Day 1 all over again. We got to clean some things up tomorrow and the nice thing is we will be fresh and we won't be tired. That's for sure. Hopefully we get it cleaned up tomorrow and practice more crisp."
The Bulldogs also hosted a high school coaches clinic on Thursday and that also affected the Bulldogs' normal practice routine on Thursday. So combined with the break and extra people on hand, Mullen said it was a new challenge for his squad.
"I've never done it before so I spent a lot of time reviewing where we are and what we need to improve on," said Mullen. "And we had our high school coaches clinic going on and there's all these high school coaches here. That was kinda another little distraction for them and kinda changed our practice routine because of that.
"But we'll see and watch the film but more importantly (it's about) how we come out tomorrow and Saturday (for the scrimmage). Saturday is the scrimmage day and that is really where we'll see how I feel about it."
However, Mullen did see the squad retain a lot of different things that were installed in the first two weeks of spring ball.
"That was a lot of carryover," said Mullen. "We started doing the team stuff and a lot of individual (work) because of the clinic. But when we didn't do the team stuff, that wasn't Day 1 stuff and it was a lot of the package in and mixed in there. So there was a lot of retention."
Entering spring practice this year, Mullen noted the quarterback race would be "wide open". Senior Chris Relf has taken the bulk of the first-team reps but is being battled by sophomore Tyler Russell and redshirt freshman Dylan Favre. Also new to the mix is freshman Dak Prescott, who is just a couple of months removed from graduating high school early.
"I've seen some good things," said Mullen of the quarterbacks. "I am waiting for someone to show me something even different than they've done. You know, Chris is steadily improving and has been real steady. Tyler has done a nice job of throwing the ball and Dylan comes in and makes a lot of plays. What I want to see is Chris come in and make the plays. I want to see Tyler have that demeanor on the field and I want to see Dylan manage. You know, work on their weaknesses."
And like all positions on the field, Mullen said no one has a guaranteed starting spot, especially at quarterback.
"I don't know and I don't even look at it that way," said Mullen. "We just let them all go and we will evaluate them all. For (Relf), he is going to have the edge in experience and in the confidence. He's been in a game when things have gone bad and he's had to fight through that. The other guys are still trying to figure all that stuff out."
After practice on Thursday, Mullen was also asked about his newest addition to the program in Clemson transfer and senior linebacker Brandon Maye. He is expected to arrive in Starkville this summer and join the Bulldogs in summer workouts before suiting up for fall training camp.
"It's competition and everything is gonna be that way," said Mullen. "The great thing with Brandon is, Brandon's a great kid, obviously, and high character and played a lot of football. That maturity and that experience and the type of character kid he is, I think that will make the adjustment a lot easier for him if it wasn't that situation."
Along with the high school coaches, there were also a few more familiar faces in the crowd on Thursday. Former Bulldogs and current NFL players Anthony Dixon, Kyle Love and Brandon McRae were all on hand and Mullen said it was good to see those guys again.
"Yea, Brandon McRae is out here, Anthony and Kyle Love," said Mullen. "It's great for us to get all the former players and NFL players back and good motivation for our guys. Hopefully it shows a lot about our program that they want to come back and work out here a little bit in the offseason."
Mullen even joked that Dixon was still on a tight lease now that he is back working out in Starkville due to the NFL lockout.
"Nah, we still manage him and (Dixon) will tell you that," said Mullen with a laugh. "He still has to deal with me and (Matt) Balis on a daily basis and we get him on the scales and make sure he is doing what he's supposed to be doing. But really, it is great to have them back and great for our young players. And you know what, it's neat they want to come back and work out here."
The Bulldogs return to the practice fields on Friday before holding their first spring scrimmage on Saturday. Practice will open around 4 p.m. on Friday and is set to start at noon on Saturday.