Ready to go: Russell earns coaches' confidence … is a start next?

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – For all the fog surrounding the Mississippi State quarterback situation, this much is clear: Tyler Russell is ready if called upon.
The third-year sophomore made a strong case to be the starter with his stellar two quarters of play last week, when he went 11 of 13 for 166 yards and three touchdowns in MSU’s 21-3 win over UAB. That set off an avalanche of questions about whether Russell would end Chris Relf’s 19-game starting streak.
Head coach Dan Mullen hasn’t publicly said that Relf has lost the job, and Relf said after the game that he was still the starter. Mullen reiterated Monday that who gets the nod depends on how practices go this week.
He then further clouded the issue by saying Dylan Favre could even play.
One telling tidbit: MSU’s updated depth chart has the word ‘or’ between Relf and Russell’s names for the first time since the spring.
“I think it’s wide open,” Mullen said. “For every position, go out and earn a starting spot.”
Looking good in practice
Russell did more than enough last week in practice to give coaches confidence in him. He’s been recovering from a knee injury and hadn’t played in three weeks, but Russell was crisp from the first snap.
“I think he completed over 90 percent of his passes throughout practice,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “So that’s an exceptional week. It shows you somebody was ready to play.”
The gap between Russell and Relf seems to be shrinking. Koenning said coaches “chart everything every week” and that it’s evident things are starting to click into place for Russell.
While praising Russell’s preparation, Koenning said, “When that happens, the game slows down for a quarterback. Suddenly he sees things he hadn’t seen before – ‘Wow, that’s pretty easy.’ ”
Mullen is prohibiting his quarterbacks from speaking with the media this week, but the coach said Relf, a senior, had a “good attitude” during Sunday’s practice and is focused on winning.
But as the game comes more easily to Russell, it’s going to be harder to keep him off the field.
brad.locke@journalinc.com