Playing in the SEC week in and week out is tough. The Bulldogs have found that out again this year as the roster has been beaten up with injuries in the first half of the season. This week, Dan Mullen is trying to get some of those players healed up but also wants them to be prepared for those aches and pains that will come and to play through them.
"It has been a lot of injuries and I'm not sure we've ever had this many injuries in a season," Mullen said on Wednesday. "I'm sure we have but it's been injuries in the secondary, injuries in the line, running back, quarterback, everywhere. That's what I do and it's our job to prepare all of our guys to be ready to play. We recruit guys to come play. A lot of guys have gotten opportunities and taken advantage of them and done a great job. We've held a lot of guys out the two days we've practiced this week. Even the guys that are starters are doing individual and situational stuff so we can get some young guys some reps.
Mullen couldn't have predicted the rash of injuries that this team would face, especially at the positions of need that they didn't need injured. If he knew this would happen in the preseason, what would he have said?
"I'm sure I'd say somebody step up and next guy step in and does their job. You never know when you come into a season. Somebody showed me the teams we've faced our 28-10 so far this season. One of the hardest schedules in the country. You might not have thought the early part of the schedule is tougher than the second half. It doesn't soften up all that much for us. You didn't know how the season would play out.Some guys haven't stepped up as much as they needed to. They've learned that and taken advantage of that opportunity."
There haven't been some players that have reached their potential and with any coach, there won't be many that they don't want to push past their potential. Overall, Mullen feels that most players have pushed it further.
"Absolutely. And there are some guys haven't stepped up as much as they need to. But I think they've learned that and had an opportunity and they've taken advantage of that opportunity. Maybe right at that moment they didn't, but they made sure they got themselves ready to go in the future."
One of the players that hasn't been as consistent is kicker Devon Bell. Mullen has stood by his kicker since the beginning of his young career and the potential is there with a big-league foot. For whatever reason, Bell hasn't been able to reach that full potential as of yet which has frustrated fans, but not his head coach.
"He's a pretty mentally tough kid. He's done a really good job this week in practice," Mullen said of his sophomore kicker. He's been really worried about his technique and fundamentals. We changed one little thing this week on his plant foot and when you talk to him, he's very professional about doing his job. It's not like the world is coming to a end. We changed one thing on his plant foot and it seems to have helped tremendously."
After Bell missed a fourth-quarter field goal off the upright, Mullen and his team had the opportunity to send him back out on a late drive inside the 10. The coach doesn't want people to be confused with him wanting to put the game away at that point. He still has faith in Bell.
"He would've made that. I don't know. If we would've lost the game, I would've been called a dummy. I guess I looked smart. Whether I looked smart or not, it was a gut feeling I had in the situation. I felt like hey, I want to go for it and I think we can get it. Almost did."
It's been a quiet week so far, but the Bulldogs begin to pick it up as the team begins game week. Next Thursday, the Bulldogs welcome Kentucky for a Halloween night ball game.