By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – For an afternoon, at least, Tyler Russell got to feel what it would be like to be Mississippi State’s main man under center.
The redshirt freshman from Meridian took first-team snaps for the first time in spring drills on Tuesday. Normal No. 1 Chris Relf, who rushed for 500 yards last season in platoon duty, took mostly second-team snaps on Day 8 of spring practices.
Second-year coach Dan Mullen warned against reading too much into the swap.
“A lot of that is, they get kind of in a groove working with the group that they’re in,” said Mullen, who wanted to “give the opportunity to see how Tyler responds being in the first group, a little bit more pressure when you’re in that first group.
“Also to see Chris, his leadership skills and see him as an experienced guy to step in the huddle and have to work on his leadership with the second group.”
Relf and Russell were not available for comment immediately following practice because of meetings.
Tight end Marcus Green, a junior and MSU’s second-leading receiver last season, thought the 6-foot-5, strong-armed Russell acquitted himself well Tuesday.
“I never doubted Tyler from the beginning, I just thought that he had to mature and get used to the offense,” Green said. “So I think he’s kind of fit comfortable into it. And you know, Tyler is a passing quarterback, so I think he did pretty good today, but he’s got a lot more to work on.”
Mullen said he should get a better idea of who’s winning the race come the April 17 Maroon-White spring game. But even then, nothing will be set in stone.
“At the end of the day, it’s just about who comes out first in two-a-days (in August), so you’ve still got a camp to go through,” said Green. “Right now, Chris is listed as No. 1 and Tyler as No. 2, but in the end it don’t matter, because things could change up.”
Byrne reviews Mullen
– Tuesday was Mullen’s annual review with athletics director Greg Byrne – and his last with Byrne, who starts his new job as Arizona’s AD on May 3.
Byrne said the two had a productive 90-minute meeting, covering topics from academics to discipline to facilities to coaching styles. Byrne declined to get more specific than that but praised Mullen.
“He had some good ideas of things he could do to continue to improve, just like I do,” Byrne said. “And so we had a real good conversation about that.”
Said Mullen, “Greg and I have always had a great working relationship. It’s really too bad us losing him, that’s really going to hurt our program. And I know Dr. (Mark) Keenum (school president) will find somebody good to come in and fill his shoes.”
– Defensive lineman James Carmon, a junior college transfer, did not participate due to a “tweaked” knee. Mullen said Carmon was cleared to practice Tuesday but didn’t feel comfortable on the knee. … Running back Montrell Conner, a redshirt freshman, has a banged-up knee, too, but should return to full speed at Thursday’s practice.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.