August 14, 2009 9:00:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Nothing Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen saw Thursday in the team''s first full scrimmage of the season gave one quarterback an edge.
After observing the two-hour scrimmage, Mullen said senior Tyson Lee, of Columbus, and sophomore Chris Relf are "dead even."
Mullen went on to say it probably would be a three-man race if freshman Tyler Russell had enrolled at MSU in January and would have participated in spring practice.
"Just the fact that (Russell) is mentally behind everybody else hurts him a little bit," Mullen said.
Mullen expects the battle for the starting quarterback job to be wide open to the end of training camp, and that there always will be competition at every position.
"If the guys deserve to play, they are going to play in the game, no matter what their position is," Mullen said. "How much they practice and how they perform will determine how much they''ll play."
In the scrimmage, the first-team offense ran more than 50 plays and the second unit ran 45 plays. There also was time set aside for special teams.
No statistics were kept and Mullen wasn''t keeping score, but he thought the defense did well.
"I thought the defense performed better than the offense," Mullen said. "The offense made a couple of big mistakes that we''ve got to get fixed."
Mullen was anxious to see the film to see what happened on the field. The offense''s poor execution bothered Mullen.
Whether it was a receiver running the wrong route, an offensive lineman missing protection, or the quarterback making the wrong read, Mullen knows everyone must come together to make the spread offense work.
"When 11 guys do their job, that''s what makes football a beautiful game," Mullen said. "If one guy doesn''t do his job, the rest will fail."
Mullen singled out sophomore running back Robert Elliott and freshman receiver Chad Bumphis.
Bumphis and several other young receivers give the Bulldogs depth at that position, which is something they didn''t have in the spring.
The freshmen went through orientation this morning, and the team will get together this afternoon for a practice. MSU will work out twice Saturday for the final time at the intramural fields.
Sherrod''s knee improving
The knee injury for junior offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, of Caledonia, will keep him out a few more days.
Sherrod could return to practice as early as Saturday, but Mullen might hold him out until Tuesday.
"He''s played a bunch of football," Mullen said. "We know what he can do."
Mullen said the medical staff will know more about redshirt freshman offensive guard Tobias Smith, of Columbus, when he gets the cast off his surgically repaired ankle in another 10 days.
There were no other major injuries coming out of Thursday''s scrimmage.
Dixon still working hard
Senior tailback Anthony Dixon hasn''t let the poor decisions that led to his arrest last month keep him from working hard on the practice field.
Mullen said Dixon''s love for the game keeps him going.
"Anthony loves to play football," Mullen said. "He has very few issues when you walk out on the field. That''s the great thing about Anthony. He''s a great kid and everybody loves him."
Dixon was charged with driving under the influence, careless driving, and not having proof of auto insurance. He has a court date scheduled Monday.
Mullen said there would be no information released on any ongoing or pending punishment until the legal system has run its course.
"We''re still working it out," Mullen said. "It''s in the process and he''s serving punishment. At some point, we''ll release what all of his punishments were."
Gatling, McMillian rewarded
Mullen announced junior defensive back Emmanuel Gatling and junior offensive lineman John McMillian had earned full scholarships.
"Those are two guys that do everything we ask and do it the best they can," Mullen said. "Those type of guys will help us be a better football team."
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