August 5, 2009 8:51:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- It''s too early to tell about Tyler Russell.
That''s the impression most people had about the Mississippi State freshman quarterback after his first practice Tuesday with the full squad.
The freshmen and varsity held separate workouts to open preseason drills Monday.
Russell seemed to hold his own with the other quarterbacks in the near three-hour session that lasted into the night.
MSU coach Dan Mullen said it''s hard to critique Russell, of Meridian, or any of the newcomers after one practice in helmets and shorts.
"He''s still trying to figure out how to call a play," Mullen said. "Until he can do that, it''s hard to tell if he can do anything else.
"We''ll watch the film and get a better idea. We''re still in helmets, so we have no idea about the freshmen. We''ll find out a couple of days from now."
Russell and the other quarterbacks started and finished practice mainly throwing short pass patterns to the running backs.
Redshirt freshman fullback Sylvester Hemphill caught passes from Russell and he likes his potential.
"He''s a real good quarterback and puts it right on the money," Hemphill said. "He''s got a strong arm, and I think he''ll do a lot for this program. I can''t wait to see him get on the field."
Senior wide receiver Brandon McRae said Russell has a great deal of power in his arm and predicts four good years for him with the Bulldogs.
Russell is competing for playing time at quarterback with senior Tyson Lee, of Columbus, sophomore Chris Relf, freshman Riley Saunders, and junior Aaron Encalade.
Lee said Russell came out with confidence that a quarterback has to have, but he still has a lot to learn.
"The biggest thing for him is going the pace we are going," Lee said. "It''s hard going from learning in the film room to coming out there, but overall I think he did well."
Mullen appeared to be hands on with Russell throughout the practice and instructed him where the throws needed to be.
"We''re going to jam the installation right down their throat and see what they can learn," Mullen said. "The faster they learn, the faster they''ll have an opportunity to get on the field."
Mississippi State offensive coordinator Les Koenning said Russell needs time to learn the system, but he liked how the quarterbacks practiced.
Koenning said Lee and Relf appeared to make all the throws.
"Tyson and Chris have come in really well," Koenning said. "We''re throwing one-on-ones out there and they are not missing."
Mississippi State will hit the practice fields at 4:45 p.m. today. It will be the first with shoulder pads.
Mullen anticipates a more lively atmosphere that will help him and his coaches to perform a better evaluation.
"They''ll have a little more energy and a little more juice coming out here," Mullen said. "You get to see a little bit more. "