By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Tyler Russell will have his say this year.
The fifth-year senior has ample experience under his belt, having played in 30 career games with 17 starts at quarterback for Mississippi State. He knows the offense, knows his receivers, and perhaps most importantly, knows himself.
As MSU’s coaches mold the 2013 offense, Russell will have plenty of input. He’s reached a new level of understanding, according to offensive coordinator Les Koenning.
“As a quarterback you go through learning processes – what to do, how you do it and why you do it,” Koenning said. “Tyler’s at the ‘why we’re doing it’ phase of learning, and so now he can come in and say, I understand why we’re doing it, I don’t feel real comfortable with it. I’d rather do this.
“And it makes it so much easier for us, because we’re trying to figure out with kids, we don’t want to put them in bad positions.”
Russell is past the point of simply doing as he’s instructed. He said he feels comfortable telling coaches what he thinks will work and what won’t. That opens up more possibilities for the offense.
“It’s just a trust level,” Russell said. “That’s where I’m at this point of my career here at Mississippi State, is just being able to do things like that.”
Russell started all 13 games last season, his first as a full-time starter. He completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 2,897 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and is writing his name in the MSU record books.
Beyond the production, Koenning saw signs of Russell’s maturing last season, such as when he recognized his mistakes or showed a strong understanding a concept.
“Part of learning and understanding to be successful is learning what you can and can’t do, and also learning when not to do it,” Koenning said. “Because you win football games that way, and he has that maturity process that he’s went through.”
Russell has a new set of receivers to break in this spring, because MSU lost four seniors from that group, including all three starters. There is some experience returning in the forms of Robert Johnson, Jameon Lewis and Joe Morrow, but it’s not a ton of experience.
So it’s on Russell to bring the receivers along and make sure they’re on the same page with him. There already seems to be a mutual trust developing.
“We love Tyler,” Morrow said. “Tyler has gone ahead and told us, ‘I’m going to throw to all of y’all, it doesn’t matter. Whoever gets open.’
“We tell him, we’ve got you, Tyler. We’re going to get it. Just put it up there, we’re going to make something happen.”