April 17, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Run, run, run.
Tyson Lee, of Columbus, and the other Mississippi State quarterbacks have heard those words shouted at them several times this spring.
In coach Dan Mullen''s new spread offense, there are opportunities for the quarterback to call his number for a running play.
Don''t expect Lee, Chris Relf, and signee Tyler Russell to run as much as Tim Tebow did under Mullen''s guidance at the University of Florida, but there are situations where a quarterback-keeper is in the playbook.
"When the defense drops back into coverage, if we don''t see (a receiver) open, we tuck it and get a few yards," Lee said. "If we get a few yards and it puts (the offense) in a manageable second down and 5, 6 or 7 (yards), it really helps out."
The Bulldogs will wrap up the spring at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (Comcast Sports Southeast television) with the Maroon-White Game as part of Super Bulldog Weekend.
Mullen said the quarterbacks are they are finishing well down the stretch despite some ups and downs in practice.
"They are picking up the offense really good," Mullen said. "I think it was slow for them at first with the play calls and tempo of the offense that we were running was tricky. What we''ve seen is them taking huge steps the last three or four days.
"Now they kind of understand the offense and how the receivers are going to run the routes and how to read the coverage. You are seeing major improvements by the day with those guys in the last week."
Lee had an advantage going into the spring because he had experience running the offense at Columbus High School and Itawamba Community College, but that doesn''t mean grasping Mullen''s scheme has been easy.
"There have been a lot of challenges, but we''ve done a good job of accepting those challenges," Lee said. "It''s a matter of taking what we''ve learned and put it into practice on the field."
Mullen said the offensive line, which was an issue last season, running backs, and wide receivers also have progressed.
As MSU looks to its final practice today before the spring game, Mullen said it will be important to tie up loose ends before summer.
"We (want to) have a real solid foundation to build on going into summer conditioning and going into fall camp where we come back executing at a much higher level," Mullen said.
The challenge after spring practice, especially for the quarterbacks, will be to take what they''ve learned and brush up on things individually.
"Timing is going to take a lot of work between the quarterbacks and receivers on their own all summer," Mullen said.
With rain in the weather forecast, Mullen hopes rain won''t be a problem Saturday afternoon so fans will come to Scott Field to see what the Bulldogs have learned.
The game will feature four 15-minute quarters with a 15-minute halftime. The offenses and defenses will go full speed, but there will be no kickoff or punt returns. The offense will start at its 40-yard line after scores and at the point of a fielded punt.
After winning online auctions to coach in the game, MSU supporters Bud Thompson and Richard Adkerson will call plays and give pregame speeches.
Adkerson said it is great to be back on campus to experience the excitement Mullen and his new staff are bringing to the program.
The team''s practice Thursday reaffirmed that point.
Near the end of the workout, tailback Anthony Dixon took a direct snap from center and ran for a touchdown.
Mullen plans to monitor and restrict the number of trick plays Adkerson and Thompson can run, but the men plan to make it interesting.
Thompson said Wednesday he was planned to throw the football, run reverses, and try almost anything.
On Thursday, Adkerson had only one thing to say in return.
"We''re going to win the game," he said. "We''re going to do whatever it takes to win the game."
Mullen wants everyone to support every aspect of Super Bulldog Weekend.
"I hope we get a beautiful, sunny day with all of the activities on campus," Mullen said. "You can''t ask for a more family-fun weekend than the one we''ll have in Starkville. There''s going to be all kind of things happening on campus."