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By MATTHEW STEVENS
The simple, one-word description of the spring football game is showcase.
It's the period where Mississippi State will attempt to evaluate how its young players react to performing with over 40,000 fans in the stands at Davis Wade Stadium.
â€śThereâ€™s a lot of guys that are going to have to play for us (in 2011) in situations that have not been in live game situations and I want to see how they respond,â€ť Mullen said.
Admission to the Maroon-White spring game, scheduled to kickoff at 5 p.m., is free and it will also be televised live by CSS Sports and ESPN3.com.
MSU backup quarterback Tyler Russell knows exactly what the Bulldogs third-year head coach is talking about as his spring game was a roller coaster ride that started from his first throw.
After being redshirted his first year, Russell's first pass in last year's spring game was intercepted and the former Parade All-American selection was forced to rebound from impatient fans in the stands.
However, the Meridian native did settle down and completed a four-touchdown performance the next fall in the season-opening win against Memphis.
â€śFor the new guys, thatâ€™s going to be a big challenge and what I had to realize what the key is just remembering what you did in practice,â€ť Russell said. â€śItâ€™s amazing how pumped up you are when you see the crowd and for me as a quarterback, I start to settle down on the first snap and then it all goes away on the first hit.â€ť
Russell, who is on the white roster, and projected starting quarterback in the fall Chris Relf will be on opposite rosters.
"I'd be shocked to see Tyler rattled (Saturday)," Mullen said. "It was essentially a guarantee that he'd be rattled last spring. At the quarterback position Saturday, you'll probably see (Dylan) Favre and (Dak) Prescott rattled this time."
The MSU spring roster was split into two with a Thursday draft conducted by the two honorary coaches (athletic donors Lee and Leo Seal, who donated the majority of the money for the new football-only facility and Jim Rouse, who donated the majority of the money for the football weight room) and the Bulldogs coaches.
In what has become a tradition in the Mullen era, the losing team including the coaches and players must wake up early today and clean the stands at Davis Wade Stadium.
"If you're going to put 40,000 people in a stadium, it's a little different than doing what you're doing out here in practice," Mullen said.
Today will be the first spring game for sophomore wide receiver Michael Carr after the West Point product failed to get to campus until the summer in 2010. The three-star prospect has been looking solid as he hopes to earn more playing time and build off the touchdown catch he had in the 52-14 victory over Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl on New Year's Day.
"Michael has a much better understanding about coming in late and there's still things we've got to clean up," MSU receivers coach Angelo Mirando said. "Each scrimmage he has to develop into a five more snaps a game guy. He needs to be competing for a starting job this summer."
Another player MSU fans may want to pay attention to this afternoon is walk-on sophomore fullback Adrian Marcus as the 21-year-old transfer from the Naval Academy has been used during the entire spring as the offense's utility player at fullback, tailback, h-back, tight end and even some special teams work.
"My role is whatever they want me to do this year," said Marcus. "Hopefully next time this year, you'll be talking about my scholarship."
Marcus has already had success at Davis Wade Stadium with some big carries in last weekend's scrimmage at the stadium, including a 38-yard touchdown run to cap a 82-yard afternoon on just five carries.
"I actually got my first carry against Memphis in last year's season opener and another one at LSU so I've seen some big crowds," Marcus said. "Hopefully, I can earn more playing time now this season."