April 8, 2011 9:15:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Two days before the Maroon-White Spring Game (5 p.m. Saturday (CSS), the Mississippi State football team worked out the remaining kinks in an extended scrimmage session Thursday evening.
The Bulldogs started 30 minutes earlier than usual and spent approximately 45 extra minutes on full-team work to get younger players additional repetitions in preparation for Saturday''s full-team format.
The idea before the third spring game for coach Dan Mullen was to "clean things up." That will be important because Mullen expects first-year players to be nervous in their debut at Davis Wade Stadium. He saw it last season with quarterback Tyler Russell, and he expects to see similar struggles in decision-making with freshmen Dylan Favre and Dak Prescott.
"You''re gonna put 40,000 people in the stadium, and it''s a little different than being out here at practice one day," Mullen said. "There''s a lot of guys who are going to have to play that have not been in live-game situations in front of big crowds, and I want to see how they respond."
West Point High School''s Curtis Virges, Aberdeen''s Jamerson Love, and West Lowndes'' Brandon Hill are eager for their first appearance at Davis Wade Stadium. Virges expects butterflies and admits it has been hard to contain the excitement.
"I can imagine it''s going to be pretty amazing," Virges said. "I''m ready for it. My high school coaches are coming. My moms and pops are going over, so I''m ready to show out in front of my family."
The Bulldogs finalized rosters Thursday, which will see athletic department donors and alums Lee and Leo Seal coach the Maroon team and Jim Rouse coach the White team.
The Maroon squad will feature Chris Relf, Vick Ballard, and Fletcher Cox, while the white team will include Chad Bumphis, LaDarius Perkins, Quinton Saulsberry, and Charles Mitchell.
Relf full of confidence
There was a time Chris Relf was wide-eyed and looking for answers to playing quarterback in the Southeastern Conference.
He recalls seeking knowledge from Wes Carroll, Tyson Lee, Josh Riddell, and Mike Henig and trying to find a way to slow things down as he tried to learn an offense that was the opposite of what he ran in high school.
Some five years later, he''s the last of the aforementioned quarterbacks left on MSU''s roster and the unquestioned leader of a team looking to take the next step after a 9-4 season.
"Every day I come out here to practice, I do think I got a lot to prove," Relf said.
Relf, an unheralded recruit from Alabama, said he feels good being the leader of the quarterback pack, which includes former Parade All-Americans Russell and Dylan Favre.
The hard work Relf has put in, especially since Mullen arrived at the end of 2008, has seen him develop into one of the SEC''s top returning quarterbacks.
"It was just so fast when I first got here," Relf said. "I remember when I first started playing football, I was clumsy and everything. It was just something I had to work at. My dad used to have my out there throwing into trash cans and hanging on monkey bars to keep my hands strong. Just a lot of stuff I did to get to this point."
While Relf has made tremendous strides entering his senior season, Mullen is ready to see him become a complete leader.
"He was a great leader on Saturday (MSU''s last scrimmage)," Mullen said. "When things were going well for the offense, he kept them going well. It''s can he, when adversity strikes, get everybody locked back in. That''s gonna be the key, and that''s the hardest part as a leader. When things go bad, can you stop it? That''s what he''s working on."
1. Ole Miss relishes opportunity against MSU COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Starkville boys top Murrah to reach Class 6A quarterfinal round HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Veteran coaches reflect on Ole Miss-MSU rivalry COLLEGE SPORTS
5. West Lowndes bows out of girls basketball playoffs HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS