Backups eagerly pushing QB Relf

STARKVILLE – Chris Relf walked off the practice field Monday as the rightful owner of Mississippi State’s starting quarterback job. That doesn’t mean others aren’t angling for the deed.
Tyler Russell and Dylan Favre, who know as well as anyone that Relf is the No. 1 guy, have nevertheless adopted the approach that the job is still theirs for the taking. In coach Dan Mullen’s universe, it remains an open competition of sorts – in theory if not in reality.
“To me, I’m still battling for a No. 1 job,” said Favre, a redshirt freshman, “so until somebody tells me something different, I’ll go from there.”
Two days after the annual Maroon-White spring game, the Bulldogs held their final spring practice Monday, and now the quarterbacks head toward a summer full of throwing thousands of footballs and preparing for August camp.
Russell, a third-year sophomore and, like Favre, a Parade All-American in high school, is the No. 2 QB for now. He saw action in nine games last fall, completing 39 of 67 passes for 635 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions.
He’s taking essentially the same approach as Favre, noting that the “competition” is a healthy thing for all three of them.
“Me and Dylan, our job is to push Relf,” Russell said. “Our job is to try and be the No. 1 quarterback, and once we do that, I push Chris, Dylan pushes me, and you have great competition.”
Heading into last season, it was still an open question as to whether Relf or Russell would start and get most of the snaps. Neither player had started a college game, and Relf was considered a stronger runner, Russell a stronger passers.
Few foresaw the leap Relf made in the passing department, and that, plus a willingness to come out of his shell and be a leader, gave him a firm grip on the No. 1 job.
Relf is quite comfortable as the offensive general.
“There’s no pressure on me,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there and lead and try to be focused at every practice. I hope what we learned this spring we can take into the fall and be better.”
Relf completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,789 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. In his final three games of the season, he completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 793 yards and six TDs.
He also rushed for 713 yards, second on the team, and that ability to effectively carry his 240-pound frame downfield gives Relf just one more advantage over Russell and Favre.
If Relf is going to be challenged come August, it will be by Russell, who’s put in just as much time learning Mullen’s offense as Relf has. That’s why he remains No. 2 on the depth chart as Favre tries to catch up on the playbook.
“As soon as I think I know it, coach Mullen or coach (Les) Koenning will hit me with a question that I don’t have an answer to,” Favre said. “I’m more comfortable within the offense, but at the same time there’s a whole lot I don’t know.”
The surest sign that Relf’s job is relatively safe: He played only three series in the Maroon-White game, looked sharp, and then got to watch the other QBs get much-needed snaps.
“We didn’t need to see much,” Mullen said. “He’s played a lot of games in this stadium, and will play a bunch more next year, so we didn’t need to put him in the adverse situations.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or brad.locke@journalinc.com.

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal