STARKVILLE – Tyler Russell is a quarterback willing to take risks. But they are very calculated risks.
The Mississippi State junior had a tendency in the past of being less than judicious with his throws, often thinking he had to chuck it deep when there were better options available. Through two games this season, and particularly in Saturday’s 28-10 win over Auburn, Russell has picked his spots and come through big.
One play that caught head coach Dan Mullen’s eye was a 21-yard completion to Jameon Lewis in the third quarter. With pressure closing in, Russell stepped up in the pocket and delivered a strike with four defenders within five yards of Lewis.
When Russell and Mullen reviewed the film Monday and that play came up, Mullen turned to his QB and said, “You’re not making a living on making that throw all year long.”
Russell explained that as he stepped up, he saw a “tight window,” noticed the safety playing a little deep, and, “I took a shot to fire it in there.”
He wasn’t merely throwing it hoping the play would work.
“He could explain exactly what happened and understand what happened, and when you have that confidence, he’s going to make more plays,” Mullen said.
Russell was 20 of 29 for 222 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against Auburn. He was named the SEC offensive player of the week, and the decision-making he’s shown could reap him even more rewards down the line.
His ability to learn and adjust during a game has impressed offensive coordinator Les Koenning, who recalled a play Saturday on which Russell had to throw the ball away.
“He got caught in a blitz, and we went over it on the sideline, and he adapted to it really, really well the rest of the day,” Koenning said. “It wasn’t a problem. That’s a sign of maturity.
“When things like that happen, a kid sees something one time and it’s new and then he can adapt to it, that’s great.”
Russell, who was not made available to the media at Monday’s press conference, has thrown no interceptions this season.
In 247 career attempts, he’s thrown 10 interceptions.
“The chances he takes are very educated chances of why he’s going to do it,” Mullen said, “and that prevents and hopefully continues to prevent turnovers.”
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