Mississippi State players reflect on developing in Year 2 under Dan Mullen

Mississippi State offensive lineman Darryl Williams answers questions Wednesday during SEC Media Days at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

HOOVER, Ala. — By all accounts, the Gators expect to make a major leap forward in Year Two of the Dan Mullen era. 

But there’s no point in speculating when tangible evidence can come straight from the horse’s mouth.

The three Mississippi State representatives in attendance at SEC Media Days all committed to Mullen while the head coach was in Starkville, and each player dished on the improvements they experienced after more than a year of Mullen’s tutelage. 

“A huge jump. That’s one thing about Coach Mullen, he develops guys to an extreme,” said fifth-year Bulldogs tight end Farrod Green. “I came in skinny, a lanky guy, underrated. After my redshirt year, I was able to perform at the highest level. I’m thankful for Coach Mullen.” 

In the age of the transfer portal, multiple highly rated prospects opt not to stick around if the reality of college football doesn’t immediately match their expectations. 

But Mullen doesn’t do that, said Green; instead, he’s a straight-shooter on the recruiting trail and in the locker room.

“Tough love. Tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Those guys keep it honest and real with you from Day 1 and they push you to the extreme. That’s become more rare in college football today,” he added. “They get the best out of you and it’s for your best benefit.”

And that tough love Green speaks of? Much of it comes in the weight room under the guidance of Nick Savage. The strength and conditioning coordinator who made the transition with Mullen to Gainesville, Savage was mentioned by senior offensive lineman Darryl Williams as part of the reason he started all 13 games at left guard as a sophomore.

“I think Coach Mullen does an excellent job in developing guys, he developed me a lot,” Williams said. “Coach Savage as well, those guys do a phenomenal job developing guys in Year Two, so I feel like (Florida) will be a team to be reckoned with come fall.”

For fourth-year junior linebacker Erroll Thompson, Year Two under Mullen was his first season of collegiate action after redshirting in 2016. 

And when the start of the 2017 campaign rolled around, Mullen’s final year in Starkville, Thompson was more than ready to simply contribute. The Florence, Alabama, native, who had a career-high 14 tackles against UF in 2018,  received SEC All-Freshman honors after recording 46 tackles, good for first among all freshman SEC linebackers. That improvement has only continued as Thompson is now considered the SEC’s best linebacker in coverage. 

The three were in consensus — Mullen’s impact was noticeable more so in Year Two than in their inaugural seasons. That should reassure any fans fearing a drop-off in Gainesville. 

“Once you go into the second year of their program, the way you train, everything, the whole mindset is different,” Thompson said. “You get comfortable within it.”


  1. Just like I have saying since signing day, Mullen and his staff don’t need no stinking star system to have a good team. Leave the galaxy to Captain Kirk, Spock, and crew of the Enterprise. We know our way around The Swamp.

  2. Nice comments from his players in Starkville. Says a lot about the program CDM and Co. are developing. The young men that leave may be not be putting forth the effort or may not like putting forth the effort. But the proof of what CDM can do was in the results of Mst while he was there. We have a better recruiting pond than they had. I know the * thing is going to come up again but if we can develop 3* and 4* players to the level we need then the 5’s will come but sometimes that comes with an attitude that may be problematic as well.

    • I don’t think it’s an effort issue with a lot of them. Honestly, it just doesn’t work out sometimes — especially during Years 1 and 2 of a new coaching regime. I don’t think you can ever claim Brian Edwards doesn’t put forth enough effort. He simply just wasn’t ever able to get a starting spot, no matter how much effort he put in. Although, I guess the alleged domestic violence incident may have had something to do with him dropping on the depth chart. That’s never a good issue to keep around a program. And absolutely no one on this planet can claim TJ McCoy does not put forth effort — but 6-foot tall is 6-foot tall and Mullen simply recruited and developed talent that a 6-foot tall center could not overcome. Many kids left because they wanted to start somewhere, and maybe even get the necessary exposure for the NFL to give them a look. I don’t think they should be faulted.

      • Right you are TJ I should have been clearer that not all where in that boat. Also I am for all of the guys with good character making the most of themselves. I think the real question they should ask the coaches (the only ones that know) “This is where I want to play what do I need to do to get there? And the blunt question, Will you coach put me there if I play to that standard?” If the coach says there is better developed talent in front of you and doesn’t think you can get there (I would think the coaches would be honest) I would say moving is in their best interest. Thanks for keeping me fair to all. I was thinking more along the line of the homesick/ off-field issue/ fail to launch crowd and not the there are so many talented players in my position crowd.

  3. Right you guys are, as always (Phil & 65) — and in this age of “competitive hate”, it is indeed a real pleasure to hear these young men speak truth to power. What do I mean by that? Simple. It is likewise an era of unbridled power of the media — even the sports media, I’m sad to say — where the media is free to irresponsibly tease out and lead/demand/provoke respondents to get quickly to the phenomenon of “If It Bleeds It Leads”. These guys resisted that temptation to be instant celebrities and respond to the disappointment of losing a great coach to a rival. Truly refreshing to see that type of character in that age group — it gives me hope for the future.

  4. Usually, players ‘dis on the coach who recruited them, then left for another school. I think these state players really respect Mullen and what he brought to a bottom-feeding SEC school. They had good years under Mullen, something they never had before.