September 9, 2013 3:23:10 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University coach Dan Mullen opened his Monday media conference in the Seal Family Football Complex saying everybody who hasn't suffered a season-ending injury (Justin Malone, Jay Hughes and Gus Walley) should be available for Saturday night at Auburn University (6:30 p.m., ESPN2).
As usually the case, follow-up questions clarified that statement as it pertained to the starting quarterback and senior Tyler Russell's status as he tries to recover from a opening week concussion.
Mullen later said Russell, who missed last weekend's 51-7 victory over Alcorn State Saturday, hasn't taken his concussion test from the MSU medical staff (which is of course just one of the factors to determining a athlete's fitness to compete) but is expected to practice Monday and "do some things" on the field despite not receiving contact.
"(MSU medical and training staff) did some things with him yesterday, and I'd expect him practicing, doing some things today, and we're going to kind of build him back into it," Mullen said. "He doesn't get any contact in practice and no one is allowed near him anyway at practice. So you can put the red jersey on him and say nobody touch him but he already has the green one on. So nobody gets near him anyway."
Russell was 20 of 29 for 222 yards and three touchdowns in last year's 28-10 victory over Auburn at Davis Wade Stadium where he took nearly ever snap of the contest. MSU (1-1) is looking to defeat Auburn in consecutive years for the first time since they won three straight from 1998-2000.
Mullen did say Monday he feels confident in giving sophomore Dak Prescott his second start of his career versus Auburn (2-0) based on his performance in the first half against Alcorn State last week. Prescott, who showcased his athletic ability on designed rollouts and scrambling throughout the first half, finished 12 for 19 for 174 yards and three total touchdowns.
""I'm very confident with Dak, and our team is very confident with Dak," Mullen said. "I think a lot of that is just the leadership role that he has. One thing I always try to do, you don't prepare a starting quarterback and a backup quarterback. You prepare starting quarterbacks. So Dak prepares to be a starter, we prepare for Dak to be the starter. We have since last year. This time last year we were doing the same thing, because that is one thing you don't want. You don't want the team sitting there and not having confidence as a guy steps on the field and comes into a game and you're one play away from that happening. So I think Dak really took on that approach and I thought he did a good job preparing himself as a starting quarterback."
Russell had a headset on Saturday in the home opener so he was able to listen to the play calls, conversation between the coaches and see a different perspective of reads on plays based on the defensive alignment throughout the afternoon. Mullen, who has stressed the advantage of being able to communicate with Russell in between certain plays before, said Monday he felt that dynamic could help Russell once he gets back in the starting lineup this season.
"He's sitting back, listening and watching a different viewpoint of the field," Mullen said. "You get a chance to see plays unfolding without having guys come and try to hit you. It's much easier to make reads standing on the sideline and you don't have to get rid of the ball."
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.
2. Columbus tree lighting to have new look, locale ENTERTAINMENT