MSU Monday Notebook: State to still play both Relf and Russell Thursday

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen

During his weekly media conference at the Bryan Building Monday, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen again said that after they both played impressively Saturday night junior Chris Relf and redshirt freshman Tyler Russell will get significant playing time during Thursday’s night contest against No. 22 Auburn (6:30 p.m., ESPN).

“We’ll see how practice goes,” Mullen said. “I plan on us playing both quarterbacks and they’re doing a nice job. When you’re on the sidelines with the headphones on and you hear the play called, you might see some of the things that you don’t always see while you’re standing out there with a 300-pound guy coming at you trying to hit you.”

Russell met with reporters Monday afternoon and compared the situation to his sophomore season at Meridian High School when he was one of two quarterbacks that received playing time in the Wildcats Class 5A program.

Tyler Russell

“My sophomore year in high school, we did the two-QB system so it’s really no big deal to me,” Russell said. “When Chris goes in and he’s doing good, it gets my confidence up because I feel like I should be doing good.”

Russell’s play Saturday (13-for-16, 256 yards and four touchdowns) was a complete turnaround from the spring game were he struggled to maintain any consistency moving the football and threw two interceptions.

“Probably one of the best learning experiences he could’ve ever had was the spring game,” Mississippi State offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. “In the process of quarterbacks learning, one thing you find out is all of them have confidence. There’s a fine line between arrogance and confidence. (Tyler) comes to college and I can remember sitting in a room and it was ‘I got it, I got.’. Well, I got it turned into oh no when he got on the field. He felt embarrassed.”

Russell point out Monday some of the improvements he’s made as a quarterback have been in situations off the field.

“It feels good to have a college game under my belt,” Russell said. “It’s something I’ve been looking forward to after not playing too good in the spring game. I wanted to show what I could do in that first game and I think I was able to do that.”

Mullen opened his media meeting Monday that the right ankle injury to senior linebacker K.J. Wright was minor enough that the second-year head coach said “he’ll be fine to play in the game Thursday” after participating in a quarter and a half against Memphis Saturday.

The SDN Bulldog Blog asked Mullen the question involving one of the elephants in the room: Dan Mullen’s recruiting of Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton. After winning a junior college national championship and being heavily recruited by his former college offensive coordinator at Florida in Mullen, Newton chose to play the final two years of college football at Auburn.

“I’m never confident until we get a paper come through the fax machine on a recruit,” Mullen said. “I recruited him hard when I was at Florida out of West Lake High School and we recruited out of Blinn. He decided I guess to go closer to home.”

Auburn QB Cameron Newton

When he met with reporters roughly around the same time Monday, Newton described the scene on New Year’s Eve night when he had to tell Mullen and his wife Megan.

“It was probably one of the hardest decisions I have made in my recent life,” Newton said. “Not just telling him because we had a good relationship but having to tell his wife – Ms. Megan – that was one of the hardest things because I don’t know we had such a close relationship. This decision wasn’t just merely all my decision. I have to clear it with the whole nine yards. Not just how I feel but I got to go through so many people to see what they think whether it be my family and the close people towards me.”

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