March 25, 2013 1:38:12 PM
STARKVILLE - After two days of spring practice, there's not a lot that can be dissected from players that aren't wearing shoulder pads so The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog decided to watch the preparation process of the Bulldogs only healthy scholarship quarterback - Tyler Russell.
With Dak Prescott's left foot in a cast after having offseason surgery on his big toe, Russell is taking all the first team snaps and most of the positional drill throws to a completely new-look wide receivers group.
Here's the feature in Sunday's Dispatch that I did on the impact before the game or even the snap that Russell will have on the MSU offense starting this spring - http://cdispatch.com/sports/article.asp?aid=23091&TRID=1
Here's some observations as to the physical changes to Russell's game heading into his final season at MSU:
1. Russell is under center much more - this is the biggest key that I noticed in Saturday's 11-on-11 drill work. In his first three years at MSU, Russell has been used much more out of the shotgun in a much more familiar position that would be anticipated by the spread-option offense that Dan Mullen brought to Starkville from the University of Florida and University of Utah. It's easy to see Russell is under center at least 95 percent of the time right now in anticipation for the skill set of the 2013 offense for MSU. Russell will have the freedom to not only change the play or the blocking scheme at the line of scrimmage. The pro-style, single-back or I-formation sets that were shown in early spring also allow tailbacks LaDarius Perkins and Josh Robinson to have a running start through the hole instead of starting flat footed on a handoff. More importantly, Russell mentioned in a post-practice interview (that can he seen in the video above) that Mullen suggested he be under center more this season in order to not only properly adapt his skill set but also make him more valuable in scouting video for NFL personnel directors.
"(Mullen) actually came to me and said it was something that I should be doing more to prepare for the next level of football more than anything," Russell said. "When you're in the gun, defenses can line up and know at least where the play is coming from. When I'm under center, our offense has lots of options."
2. To add on to the first point of Russell being under center much more, you could tell the emphasis for Russell is for him to get rid of the football immediately after his 3 or 5-step drop is completed. In the 11-on-11 work, it's clear that when I mean immediately after the drop - when his back foot is planted, the ball is on the way out in his motion. Mullen and MSU offensive coordinator clearly do not want Russell holding on to the ball, second guessing himself and then having the pocket break down for two reasons: 1) Obviously holding onto the ball waiting for the perfect completion allows for defensive backs to recover and 2) The coaching staff continues to say the one thing they like about Russell is his first instincts are usually more than solid. So, the clear result from this emphasis is once Russell's back foot hit the ground, the throws were normally in one of three locations: 1) a dump-off to the tailback coming out of the backfield; 2) a quick slant to one of the two tight ends that can athletically win jump balls with linebackers; 3) A deep route like when Russell found Robert Johnson down the sideline for a touchdown on a coverage breakdown over the top.
"Well, the Chad Bumphis' and Arceto Clark's are gone now at wide receiver so when in doubt you go to the targets that you feel most comfortable with," Russell said. "The fact is (the tight ends) so athletic that they they know how to find the football and get open for us."
So...for all the MSU football fans wanting deep throws down the field might be disappointed because MSU seems to be focusing on high percentage throws that allow receivers the opportunity of yards after the catch. We'll have more in-depth observations Tuesday in the first practice with shoulder pads in the spring.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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