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Russell takes charge of MSU behind center

August 7, 2012

MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell talks while being video-taped by a reporter during Tuesday's media day on campus. (Photo by Michael Wardlaw, SDN)

The patience of Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell has been rewarded.

After being heavily recruited out of Meridian High School, there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the Bulldog coaching staff and head coach Dan Mullen to play Russell early.

Russell came in as a Parade Magazine All-American, the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Mississippi and was ranked as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country by Scout.com.

He had the look of a quarterback and proved in high school that he could throw the football with 3,284 yards passing and 40 touchdowns as a senior in leading Meridian to the Class 5A State Championship.

With all of those numbers, Russell was expected to contribute significantly right away at MSU.
When that didn't immediately happen, there was a little bit of nervousness in the fanbase.

Russell ended up having to wait his turn with the Bulldogs behind Tyson Lee and Chris Relf.

Although it had to be difficult to stand on the sideline and hold a clipboard longer than he wanted, Russell's time has come.

As Mississippi State continues fall camp, Russell appears to be the solid No. 1 quarterback.

While speaking at the school's preseason media day on Tuesday, Russell realizes that the waiting was all a part of the plan.

"Everybody made it a big deal when I didn't play right away," Russell said. "I had to learn how to be patient. I learned from Chris, Tyson and coach (Dan) Mullen. I've matured over the years and I'm very comfortable with this offense."

The coaching staff has done a good job of easing Russell into the gameplan.

After redshirting in 2009, Russell played in nine games as a freshman behind Lee and Relf. He completed 39-of-65 pass attempts for 635 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions.

Russell played a little bit more last season and started four games and his statistics improved slightly. He completed 69-of-129 pass attempts for 1,034 yards with eight touchdowns and only four interceptions.

It's hard to predict exactly what kind of season Russell will have as a junior now that he's not having to play behind someone. There's going to be a different kind of pressure on him as the starter.

Just as Russell has been the last two years, the backup quarterback on the depth chart this season is Dak Prescott.

Mullen founds ways to get Relf and Russell into the game to spell Lee and Russell last year to give Relf a breather. Now it's Prescott looking to get some time on the field and Mullen will find a way to get that done.

If something were to happen to Russell and he had to come out of a game because of an injury, Prescott needs to gain some experience so he won't be overwhelmed by a situation.

Prescott is more of an athletic signal caller who can make plays with his feet so it will be interesting to see what ways the offensive coaches use his talents in games.

Russell wants to help Prescott any way he can and said it's working both ways.

"He's kind of in the same position I was a few years ago, being an older guy in front of you," Russell said. "I tell him if he's doing something wrong and he does me when I do something. We help each other out. It's about competition, but also about getting better."

As fall camp continues, it will be important for Russell and Prescott to get enough reps to provide MSU the best possible situation at quarterback this season.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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