In a less than newsworthy Southeastern Conference media teleconference, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen revealed a nugget of information about redshirt freshman Tyler Russell and his playing status last year.
When asked by ESPN.com’s Chris Low about how the redshirt year helped Russell’s development, Mullen admitted he nearly played Russell as a true freshman during last year’s 31-24 Homecoming loss to Houston. The SDN Bulldog Blog is going to let the second-year head coach tell the story:
“There were times last year we almost played him,” Mullen said. “I went over and told him ‘go get ready, you’re going in the next series – we’re done you’re going to be our guy’ because we were turning the ball over too much. Our defense held them to three-and-out on that next series and I didn’t think he was ready to run on the field in such short notice. By that time our offense went back on the field, I’d calmed down.”
Under NCAA rules, if Russell had participated in one snap last year he would’ve been ineligible to redshirt in 2009. In that home loss to Houston last year, Chris Relf was inactive due to a violation of team rules and senior starter Tyson Lee went 15-of-23 for 160 yards but had two interceptions. In that week after that loss to the Cougars last October, Mullen described his quarterback situation this way:
“So a lot of me, at the mid-way point of the season, if we wanted to put Tyler Russell in to play, it would be because Tyler Russell is gong to play,” Mullen said. “And, you know, you expect him, hopefully, to be the starter for the rest of the season in that situation, because he needs to go do the whole thing. He’s not a package quarterback, so that’s where he is right now.”
Mullen also said Wednesday morning that Relf will be the starting quarterback for the Thursday night matchup against No. 21 Auburn (6:30 p.m., ESPN) but that Russell would see snaps early in the first half.
MSU’s second-year head coach was pleased with the shortened week of practice as Mullen looks to continue his impressive record as member of coaching staffs in mid-week games while at Bowling Green and Utah (7-0 in Thursday or Friday matchups with those two school).
“I felt like our guys really understood the plan and understood how to prepare for a short week,” Mullen said. “That’s a real critical deal. You have to be organized, you have to be ready for that. Our guys knew what the plan would be before the week even started and really embraced it.”
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