December 28, 2012 9:14:31 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE - After the entire Mississippi State University football team arrived in Jacksonville, Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen addressed the staff adjustment in the secondary.
Mullen, who is facing a similar situation to the last time his team was practicing for the Gator Bowl, said Wednesday MSU assistant coach Tony Hughes will be responsible this week for both the cornerbacks and safeties this week.
"One voice is sometimes a good thing but then again, we have a nickel and dime package in our system where at that point one guy is watching six guys at one time," Hughes said Thursday. "There's certainly pluses and minuses to both having one or two voices in a secondary staff."
Hughes, who normally just coaches the safeties along with being a recruiting coordinator on the MSU staff, has increased responsibilities due to former assistant Melvin Smith leaving the Bulldogs for the same position at Auburn University on Christmas Day.
"They work together in the secondary all the time anyway so I think it's a real adjustment to Tony having the entire secondary as opposed to the split," Mullen said. "Tony is a great coach and I trust in him the ability to take core of all the things needed for this week."
Mullen said he'll evaluate "what direction" MSU (8-4) wants to take with the coaching vacancy after the 2013 Gator Bowl vs. Northwestern University on New Year's Day (11 a.m., ESPN2) is over. The Bulldogs fourth-year head coach did leave the door open for Hughes to handle both duties heading into the 2013 season.
"There's still a lot of options out there," Mullen said. "Absolutely we could leave Tony as a secondary coach."
Two years ago MSU saw Mark Hudspeth leave the MSU program as a wide receiver coach to take the head coaching position at the University of Louisiana where he's now won back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history. During that week of preparation before MSU's 52-14 victory over the University of Michigan, graduate assistant Angelo Mirando took over the position group in Jacksonville and then was promoted to full-time assistant coach less than a month after the game was concluded.
Smith's departure is the sixth assistant coaching position change on the MSU staff since Mullen took the job in 2009.
Russell, who will make his first start in a bowl game in his college career on New Year's Day, said last week that he'd be "100 percent" healthy for the 2013 Gator Bowl against Northwestern.
Russell, who finished the Egg Bowl loss at Ole Miss 18-of-33 for 268 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, was sacked three times and hit hard on numerous occasions thanks to a aggressive Rebels pass rush.
Russell was seen needing immediate help off the field for the first few steps by the MSU training staff but then was able to walk off on his own without being able to put much pressure on his right leg.
Russell missed the 2011 Music City Bowl to complete last season after suffering an undisclosed injury to his left knee in the practices before the victory over Wake Forest University.
The former Parade All-American out of Meridian High School was one of just three quarterbacks with 15-plus touchdowns and just one interception through seven games. Russell finished the regular season with 2,791 yards passing and 22 touchdowns spread out to seven different receivers.
"It's a great opportunity to take charge of the offense in a Gator Bowl," Russell said. "The fact of the matter about our offense this season has been when we're on, we're real good but when we're off a little bit whether it's a throw, play call or line adjustment that was off, I have to take total responsibility for that."