Bulldogs work on new parts of playbook

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s offense is going in a slightly different direction this season, but Dan Mullen doesn’t expect that to make fall camp much more challenging.
With Tyler Russell as the full-time quarterback, the Bulldogs will take to the air more often this season, which means opening up different parts of the playbook. MSU began fall camp Thursday, and after the closed practice, Mullen said he doesn’t foresee problems with the schematic transition.
“We didn’t add much. It’s all stuff that’s already been in,” Mullen said. “So I think there’s a great comfort in it, the emphasis on where you go.”
He then delved into some math.
“Every single year, if you take 100 percent of our offense, we use about 70 percent of our offense in each given season. I would say 50 percent never changes, so it’s that last 20 percent that is about a fit on your team.
“It’s really that last 20 percent that has been in the offense before, but it’s a bigger emphasis than in years past.”
Russell, a fourth-year junior, has been a part-time QB the past two years. He’s expected to make State a more formidable passing team than it’s been in years, and Mullen likes what he sees in Russell.
“I see a Tyler that’s very comfortable. (He’s) not a guy that’s thinking on the field. I see a guy who is obviously going to make mistakes, but when he makes a mistake, he knows the mistake he made.”
One concern is depth behind Russell, with Dak Prescott the only other scholarship QB on the roster. Mullen said Prescott, a redshirt freshman, “is going to play early in the season because I have to get him reps in case he has to become the guy, I want to make sure we broke him in a little bit.”
No injury talk
In the past, Mullen has cited a policy to not talk about injured players, but he’s not always stuck to that policy. On Thursday, he was adamant about not speaking of injuries.
In fact, he nearly cut the interview short after a handful of questions about right guard Tobias Smith and safety Nickoe Whitley, both of whom are recovering from injuries.
A team spokesman told the Journal earlier in the summer that both players would be 100 percent by the season opener, which is Sept. 1 versus Jackson State. Mullen would only say on Thursday that Smith and Whitley are “working with the team.”
Also injured is starting tight end Malcolm Johnson. Mullen has not revealed the nature of that injury, but he said last month that it was “an extended injury.”
Solid Day 1
So how did Day 1 go? Mullen seemed pleased with the level of retention from the spring.
“We weren’t, like, crisp on every single play, offense or defense, but it wasn’t confused looks on people’s faces. We put a lot in on them today,” Mullen said.
As for evaluating players, especially newcomers, it’s a bit too soon for that. MSU will put on shoulder pads for the first time on Sunday, then full pads on Tuesday.
“I’ve got a lot of learning I want to get accomplished, and so here in day one just in helmets, it’s just repetitions for guys, getting comfortable,” Mullen said. “It’s hard to evaluate guys until they’re fully comfortable with what we expect them to do. Lotta, lotta teaching over the next few weeks.”

For more coverage on Mississippi State football check out Brad Locke’s blog Inside Mississippi State Sports or read more in the NEMS Daily Journal newspaper sports section each day. Click here for more at Brad Locke’s blog.

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