As expected, Gators coach Dan Mullen's upcoming return to Starkville, where he led Mississippi State to national relevance, emerged as the dominant subject during his regular Monday press conference. Here's what he had to say about his de facto homecoming.
When asked if the familiarity with the Bulldogs personnel gives him an advantage:
"I think you have an understanding of the personnel on the team…and familiarity with the players. So as you're watching them do things, that helps a little bit. Instead of having to spend a lot more time studying every strength and weakness of the guy on the field, you have a good idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are."
When did he fall in love with "Stark Vegas?"
"The people of Starkville were great to me and my family. … It's a great place to have kids. Both my kids were born there. It's a great community to live in. The fans, unbelievable. … It was a place I went to and asked them on Day One, told them we need you to show up and sell out the stadium, and if you do that we can build a program here. And you know what? The fans believed in that. The fans bought into that. My first year there, we went 2-5 at home and they sold out; you couldn't get a seat for games."
On the biggest adjustment to living in Mississippi:
"I guess, for me, I don't know. I go to work. I get up and I go to work and I go home (laughs). For my wife, probably a lot of online shopping. We get a lot of catalogs to the house. … There wasn't like, a Target or a lot of stores close to Starkville. There are some local stores and all that stuff but I think that was an adjustment for my wife."
On the atmosphere he expects to encounter Saturday:
"I spent nine years creating the atmosphere. So I get to see what it's like…what type of atmosphere we spent nine years creating."
Does he think he'll get booed?
"I think this: I think there will be a lot of passion on Saturday night with people there. But I think most of the people, the majority of people and everybody that I knew in that fan base…when I think of the fans and I think of the former players and the people of the town of Starkville, I think for the most part they were appreciative in what we were able to accomplish in the nine years that we were there."
On the reception he expects from his former Bulldogs players:
"Well, I think it'll be different before and during than it will be afterwards. But that would be my guess."
Mullen is asked how he'll handle this game, where he'll be a lot of the focus: "I guess it takes pressure off everybody else."— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) September 24, 2018
Has he sold his house up there?
"No, it's in the process. I officially own a house, yeah. It's closing one of these days."