September 9, 2009 7:48:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State''s football program can be thankful for a high school field trip.
Otherwise, Mississippi State might not have been able to sign quarterback Chris Relf.
Relf grew up in Montgomery, Ala., a fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
He grew up 45 minutes away from Auburn, but the Tigers never recruited Relf.
He probably would have opted to play football at Alabama if the Crimson Tide had paid more attention to him.
One day former Alabama coach Mike Shula tried and visited Relf at Carver High School.
The meeting never happened because Relf was away on a field trip.
Mississippi State and former coach Sylvester Croom had better luck.
Croom persuaded Relf to become a Bulldog, and the quarterback gave a verbal commitment to MSU as a high school junior in May 2006.
"Coach Croom told me I had a good chance at starting my first year, so I picked Mississippi State," Relf said.
Relf didn''t get immediate playing time for the Bulldogs as he had hoped.
After redshirting his freshman season in 2007, Relf played in two games as a reserve last season.
But the hiring of a new coaching staff gave Relf a new opportunity, and Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning have been more open to using Relf''s talents.
Relf got off to a good start in Saturday''s 45-7 season-opening win against Jackson State. He was 7-for-10 for 75 yards with three touchdowns. He also led the team with 82 yards rushing on 12 attempts with one touchdown.
"I was really proud of what Chris did, and I think our team was also," Koenning said. "The best thing you can say about players is you put them in a position to make plays and he makes them. Anytime that happens, the outcome is pretty good."
Relf was satisfied with his performance and said it was the result of hard work in the offseason and teamwork.
"I would like to thank my (offensive) line and defense because they played a big part in the game," Relf said. "Without my offensive line blocking and my receivers catching the ball, I couldn''t have made any big plays."
Mullen believes Relf can play quarterback every snap, but he''s not ready to commit to that.
Senior Tyson Lee, of Columbus, said his sore shoulder is getting better. If that''s the case, MSU will use a two-quarterback system at 6 p.m. Saturday against Auburn.
"If we had to play Chris every play, I''d be fine with that, but I think both guys did decent," Mullen said. "I still think the best way to do it is to divide the load between both of them."
Mullen wants his quarterbacks to manage the game, to be efficient, and to complete a high percentage of passes.
Relf received a passing grade on all of those points Saturday.
Lee, who looked on from the sideline as Relf led the Bulldogs to a 31-point second half, was impressed with how Relf handled himself.
"I was proud of him," Lee said. "We talked about it and he understood everything that was going on."
n Loud, tough practice: Mullen sent his team out for a nearly three-hour practice Tuesday that was complete with band and crowd noise from loudspeakers that was used to help the Bulldogs prepare for their first road trip of the season.
"If you can hear it from (the Shira Complex), stand in the middle of those speakers 5 feet from you," Mullen said. "I don''t think it''s going to get much louder than that, or you can make a situation louder than that."
Mullen was pleased with how the players responded in a tough practice.
"It was a nice warm day and we put a lot of work in," Mullen said. "We give hard looks Tuesday and try to put them in tougher situations they might face."
Lee''s shoulder allowed him to do more things at practice, but junior tight end Brandon Henderson (sprained ankle) didn''t participate.
Mullen said it''s still too early to tell if redshirt freshman offensive guard Tobias Smith (ankle), of Columbus, will play Saturday.
A decision on Smith''s status could be made today.