By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
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STARKVILLE – The Tyler Russell era begins this week.
Mississippi State kicks off the 2012 season Saturday against Jackson State, and it will be the first game for Russell as the full-time starting quarterback. Sure, he’s started games before, but this is different, and his coaches expect him to be different this week.
During the preseason, the redshirt junior has acted like he’s ready to take over the offense. Now is the time to prove it.
“You just see how he carries himself with everything. I expect to see that today in meetings,” coach Dan Mullen said Monday at his weekly press conference. “Game week, he dives into the game plan instead of being wide-open general now.
“You go in and take 95 run calls and cut them down to 25. You take 120 pass calls and cut them down to 30 when you get into the game of what you’re focusing on this week and how it applies to this opponent. I really expect to see him jump all over it and be very comfortable in the plan.”
Russell, who was not available to the media Monday, has 17 career games under his belt and drew four starts last season. He’s currently the school’s career leader in pass efficiency, and Mullen said he’s expecting there to be more big plays in the passing game because of both Russell and an experienced receiving corps.
There’s plenty of confidence in Russell among the coaches.
“He’s been in SEC football games, so it’s been pretty good to have him under control under the center,” offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “He understands the tempo and what it’s like and what we need done.”
While the job is clearly Russell’s, redshirt freshman Dak Prescott will get some playing time, starting this weekend. He’s the only other scholarship QB on the roster, and coaches will make a concerted effort to give him experience early.
They’ve not yet figured out exactly how Prescott will get snaps, whether it will be for a series or in certain situations. But he’ll get in the game.
Koenning said he expects to have a plan in place by Thursday or Friday.
“We’ll play it as we see it, as it goes,” he said. “It’s so hard in the first ballgame, because there’s the unexpected.”