January 3, 2010 12:03:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
Now that junior college quarterback Cam Newton has decided to play at Auburn, Mississippi State''s football team looks to move forward with the signal callers it already has on the roster.
Newton, who led Blinn (Texas) College to the junior college national championship, signed with Auburn on Thursday.
MSU was in the running for Newton''s services all the way up to New Year''s Eve, but Auburn came through the back door in the final days of the year to snatch him. Newton visited Auburn right before Christmas.
Although the signing of Newton would have created more competition at the quarterback position for MSU, coach Dan Mullen was already ready to see if junior-to-be Chris Relf and redshirt freshman Tyler Russell could take their games to a higher level in the off-season.
"The quarterback position will be wide open," Mullen said. "The thing that will make it different this year is I''m going to expect greater things out of our quarterbacks because they are not learning the system. They are developing. What we''re going to expect out of our quarterbacks is going to be a lot greater in year two than year one."
Mullen was never comfortable putting Russell into a game last season and the two met to determine his role.
Once they decided that being redshirted was the best thing, Mullen said Russell finished the season well in practice.
"Like many freshmen, he started great, then hit that little freshman lull in the middle and finished great," Mullen said. "After (we had that meeting), he picked it up and really improved. He wasn''t worrying about playing as much and worked on fundamentals and improving himself. We''re expecting a lot out of him when he gets back and taking that next step of being an all-around quarterback."
As far as Relf, Mullen said he gained momentum going into the off-season with his performance against Ole Miss.
Relf carried 15 times for 131 yards with one touchdown and was 3 of 5 passing for 43 yards and two more touchdowns as MSU beat Ole Miss 41-27.
"It was a great way to finish off (for Relf)," Mullen said. "It was a good jump into the off-season for him, but we''re going from the 100 level classes at quarterback to graduate level classes this off-season. It gives him a great confidence boost."
Relf finished the season with an even 500 yards rushing on 76 carries and was 22 of 41 passing for 283 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.