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June 14, 2011
Mississippi State Bulldogs
2010 Record: 9-4, 4-4
Q&A with Logan Lowery of BulldogBlitz.com
Q - Chris Relf proved a lot of people wrong last fall. What makes him so effective?
A - "Initially Relf's only strength was running the football and was a real liability in the passing game. But as the season progressed so did his confidence and knowledge of the offense as a first time starter. He is basically a 240-pound wildcat quarterback that plays every down for the Bulldogs. If he can make as big a jump this offseason as he did in the last then he has a chance to do some special things behind center for State.
Q - With starters back on offense, including running back Vick Ballard, how much better can the offense be?
A - "Well it's year three of Dan Mullen's spread offense so the personnel is becoming more and more adequate to that style of play. Ballard set a single season touchdown record in his first year and teamed with rising sophomore LaDarius Perkins who came on strong late in the season as well as redshirt freshman Nick Griffin (probably the best of that trio) should be a solid stable of backs. What should be new this season is more of a passing threat thanks to Relf's progression and the Bulldogs have a bevy of young receivers that will have to prove themselves on a consistent basis."
Q - How bad will the Bulldogs miss Manny Diaz?
A - "Diaz was no doubt a great fit for MSU on defense but his departure for Texas should not be that much of a loss. Diaz created the defense with co-coordinator Chris Wilson who is now calling the shots. Mullen hired another up and coming coach from a smaller program when he brought in Geoff Collins of Florida International as Diaz's replacement. Like Diaz, Collins has an aggressive and attacking style and brings blitzes from all over and will also share the co-coordinator role with Wilson."
Q - What are expectations like at Mississippi State under Coach Mullen?
A - "I believe that Mullen has raised the expectations of the entire fan base each year that he has been in Starkville. Let's face it, MSU is not a traditional powerhouse in the SEC but Mullen has his players and the fans believing that there is certainly no reason why the Bulldogs can't be. His winning mentality that he brought from two titles at Florida seems to have rubbed off in Starkville."
Q - How close does Mullen feel his team is to taking that next step in the SEC West?
A - "That's the logical next step for them but it's certainly not an easy one. Last season the SEC West was the toughest division in all of college football. State won nine games a year ago but was one play away from knocking off Auburn and Arkansas which would have catapulted them to that next step. Those are the types of plays they will have to start making before they move up to that next level in the league."
Q - Prediction time: Where will the Bulldogs finish in 2011?
A - "Naturally any schedule in the SEC is difficult every year but the Bulldogs have a lot of proven talent returning. Mullen's motto for this season is taking his team "from good to great". Certainly nine wins and a Gator Bowl victory were special and I don't foresee State taking a step back in 2011. I don't make predictions but I do expect the Dogs to be in the upper tier of the Western Division."