Everybody can calm down: Wright said Relf has banged up a finger, but he should be OK for Mississippi State's season opener against Memphis on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPNU).
That's the best that could be gleaned from Monday's press conference. Relf, MSU's junior quarterback, was rumored to have injured his hand in practice last week. While coach Dan Mullen said Relf was not injured, Wright said otherwise.
"He's just got a little hurt finger, but he should be out there on Saturday," said Wright, a senior linebacker.
When giving the Bulldogs' injury report Monday, Mullen did not mention Relf. When asked if Relf was injured, Mullen said, "I gave the injury report, and he's not injured."
Adding fuel to the speculation was that Relf missed Saturday's fan day due to what Mullen called a "family issue."
There is no confirmation that the finger was what kept him away.
Relf was not made available to the media on Monday. Safety Charles Mitchell said Relf was active during all of last week's practices and that he expects him to start against Memphis.
Perhaps Mullen considers Relf's finger issue too minor to qualify as an injury. He did say he expects to play more than one quarterback on Saturday - Relf and redshirt freshman Tyler Russell have been battling for the starting job all year.
"We've got to get the experience going at that position," Mullen said. "Our guys have competed well, so we'll have a plan, and you can plan on seeing more than one quarterback in the game Saturday."
Relf's physical well-being aside, his mental readiness isn't a question to Mullen. The second-year coach said when he called up Relf about something Sunday, the QB was down the hall watching film.
"The mental preparation for him and the maturity level's completely changed for Chris this year," Mullen said. "I think last year he'd look at Tyson (Lee), and he'd watch him and see what he did but didn't really understand the commitment level that it took.
"I think after having a successful last game of the season last year (in a 41-27 win over Ole Miss), really the pressure on him is it's now or never for you at the quarterback position."
Updated depth chart
- On MSU's 26-position depth chart released Monday, the conjunction "or" appears seven times.
That would indicate that the many position battles waged throughout preseason camp are still too close too call.
A handful of players who've yet to start a college game are listed as starters for this week: sophomore receiver Arceto Clark, senior strongside linebacker Emmanuel Gatling and redshirt freshman free safety Nickoe Whitley. All three of those players were considered leading candidates at their respective positions.
Among the undecided spots, besides quarterback, are left guard (Gabe Jackson and Quentin Saulsberry), tailback (Vick Ballard and Robert Elliott), right defensive end (Nick Bell and Sean Ferguson), left cornerback (Johnthan Banks and Maurice Langston) and placekicker (Sean Brauchle and Derek DePasquale).
Depth still a concern
- Depth has been a big issue for MSU, and while it's getting better, a rash of injuries could easily derail the Bulldogs' season.
"Just with your limitations on numbers, it makes it pretty hard to manage that," Mullen said. "Injuries at any position can be pretty devastating. I think we have maybe a little bit more depth than we had last year, and I think that helps on the competition aspect of things, but certainly not the depth where I could sit and say we can handle a bunch of injuries and still come out OK."
- On the injury report, Mullen said defensive lineman Joshua Jackson is doubtful, while receiver Malcolm Johnson, receiver Sam Williams and punter Baker Swedenberg are probable. None of those four are starters. ... Mullen was asked if any players would miss the opener for academic or disciplinary reasons, and he replied, "There may be, but we'll announce that on Saturday." ... New Memphis coach Larry Porter named former Olive Branch standout Cannon Smith his starting quarterback on Monday. Smith, a transfer from Miami and son of FedEx founder Fred Smith, beat out true freshman Ryan Williams.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org