Mullen on QB Russell: ‘We expect him to have a huge year’

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – As Mississippi State’s Road Dawgs Tour winds its way around the region and the state this week, Dan Mullen keeps hyping Tyler Russell hard.
That continued Thursday, when the tour made a stop in Tupelo at the BancorpSouth Conference Center. Mullen, who’s 29-22 in four years as head football coach, reiterated that he’s expecting big things from his quarterback.
“That’s what it’s going to be when you’re a fifth-year senior,” Mullen said. “I think he’s ready. … He knows he has the whole coaching staff behind him, the team’s behind him, and we expect him to have a huge year this year.”
As a junior, Russell passed for 2,897 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, putting his name in the MSU record book along the way. But the season ended poorly for him, as he threw two interceptions in an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss and four more in a Gator Bowl loss to Northwestern.
“It’s something that really frustrates him,” Mullen said. “Unfortunately, quarterbacks are always going to have some off days, and the worst thing to do is to do it the last game of the season, because you get a long break before you get to go prove yourself.
“I think he would’ve liked to have played a couple of days later, gotten back out there on the field. Being an older guy, I think he knows how to handle that adversity.”
Ray adjusts
Rick Ray’s first season as men’s basketball coach was an injury-riddled one. The Bulldogs went 10-22, often playing with only six healthy scholarship players.
Those injured players are healing up, including freshmen Jacoby Davis and Andre Applewhite, both of whom sat out the entire season with knee injuries. Ray expects them to be big contributors next season, but he’ll still treat them like first-year players.
“Guys always are taking notes and observing from the sidelines, but until you get thrown into the fray, you really don’t have an understanding of what it takes,” Ray said. “I’m just going to treat those guys like they’re true freshmen.”
Expansion update
Expansion work at Davis Wade Stadium remains on schedule, and athletics director Scott Stricklin said Thursday that even though construction will continue into 2014, no seating capacity will be lost for the 2013 season.
MSU is bowling in the north end zone and renovating the west side concourse. The latter should be ready by September, and Stricklin said some seating will be available in the north end zone this season.
brad.locke@journalinc.com