Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen says he has no idea who will be the starting quarterback in 22 days when the Bulldogs open the 2010.
The winner of the battle between junior Chris Relf and red-shirt freshman Tyler Russell and even true freshman Dylan Favre, at least publicly coming from the head coach, will not be announced for “quite awhile.”
“Each of them have their strengths and I’ll see things out of both of them that are good,” Mullen said. “If there is a one or a two and something happens to our number one quarterback, the number two guy will jump in there and not miss a beat.”
Mullen made it clear a month ago at the Southeastern Conference media days that he is certainly not adverse to playing two quarterbacks and the only time he hasn’t done so is when he was handing the game over to a future first round draft pick in Alex Smith and Tim Tebow.
“None of them is an incumbent starter coming back, not that that would prevent them from having to compete for their job,” Mullen said. “With the job being wide open, there's so many practices.”
Relf and Russell, a former Parade All-American, were separated during the split-squad practices during the first week of the preseason giving both signal callers the opportunity to work with a first-team unit and receive a majority of the snaps.
“Relf has taken his game to the next level and I have no problem going to war with him,” MSU center J.C. Brignone said. “Tyler Russell is still learning some things and I’d have no problem if something happened, he came in and we had to use him.”
Relf looks to be the favorite to be take the first snap when MSU opens its 2010 season on Sept. 4 against Memphis but the fourth-year junior has also taken on the role as leader in helping the developmental process of Favre.
The gun-slinging newcomer from Bay St. Louis with an extremely famous name has arrived on the Starkville campus trying to figure out how his skills that earned him Mr. Football in the state of Mississippi.
“As a freshman coming in, I feel I can teach him a few things but the weird thing is I’ve found I can learn a few things from him already,” Relf said. “I think it’s about both of us helping each other.”
Brignone, who went to the same high school as Favre, has already been constantly asked by his friends and family about how Favre’s doing on and off the field. It certainly makes it easier that the true freshman has somebody in that first-team huddle that’s known him and his competitive attitude for years.
“He’s got a swagger to him,” Brignone said. “After winning a state championship, that’s the kind of mentality you want to have. He wants to play and try to get on the field and I don’t blame him because this is a fun game as a freshman to play in front of 90,000 people.”
No matter how unlikely it seems, when asked if the two quarterbacks were prepared to split snaps during the season, Mullen reminded the media that the Bulldogs have three quarterbacks vying for that spot.
“I can guarantee we have more than two – there’s a third guy that wants every snap that’s expecting to be the starting quarterback this year,” Mullen said. “They are to run on to the field as fast you can and be a great leader while you’re on the field. It doesn’t matter if you’re first, second or third offense.”
The way Mullen is handling practice is attempting to give all three players practice time with all three units on the MSU offensive depth charts to get a feel for throwing and working with every receiver and offensive line group.
“Each of them will run with the first, second and third offense so I can see how they perform with that group,” Mullen said. “How they handle the situation won’t be an issue.”