September 10, 2013 10:04:25 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State University football coach Dan Mullen said he expects fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Russell to practice even though he hadn't taken a concussion test as of Monday afternoon.
Mullen opened his Monday news conference in the Seal Family Football Complex by saying everybody who hasn't suffered a season-ending injury (right guard Justin Malone, safety Jay Hughes, and tight end Gus Walley) should be available at 6 p.m. Saturday night (ESPN2) for MSU's game at Auburn University.
Russell, who missed the team's 51-7 victory against Alcorn State University on Saturday due to a concussion, did "some things" with the MSU medical and training staff Sunday, according to Mullen. Since MSU doesn't allow its quarterbacks to have any contact in practice, Mullen felt confident Russell would be able to return to practice and begin preparations for Auburn.
"I'd expect him practicing, doing some things today, and we're going to kind of build him back into it," Mullen said. "You can put the red jersey on him and say, 'Nobody touch him,' but he already has the green one on, so nobody gets near him anyway."
Dr. Bob Collins, longtime MSU team physician and Longest Student Health Center director, told the media last week the concussion test is just one element the team's medical staff uses to determine if a player is physically ready for a game at the end of the week. Players are given the concussion test at the start of fall camp to establish a baseline when they are fully healthy status. That baseline is measured against the test results after a concussion is sustained.
Russell wasn't made available to the media for the second-straight week according to the school's policy of not allowing injured players to speak publicly before they are medically cleared to participate. MSU's practice session Monday evening was restricted from public viewing, so media members were unable to verify if Russell participated in team drills.
Russell was 20 of 29 for 222 yards and three touchdowns last year in a 28-10 victory against Auburn at Davis Wade Stadium. MSU (1-1) is looking to defeat Auburn in consecutive years for the first time since it won three straight in the series from 1998-2000.
"No matter what happens with Tyler, I'm going to prepare like I'm the starting quarterback, and that's what my job is each and every week," MSU sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott said. "I feel I performed at a high level Saturday and would like the opportunity to improve on some of the things I didn't do consistently in my first start."
Mullen said he feels confident in giving Prescott his second start of his career against Auburn (2-0) based on his performance in the first half against ASU. Prescott, who showcased his athletic ability on designed rollouts and scrambles in the first half, was 12 for 19 for 174 yards and three touchdowns.
"I'm very confident with Dak, and our team is very confident with Dak," Mullen said. "I think a lot of that is just the leadership role he has. You don't prepare a starting quarterback and a backup quarterback. You prepare starting quarterbacks, so Dak prepares to be a starter, we prepare for Dak to be the starter, and we have since last year."
In the first half, Prescott spread the ball around to seven receivers. His two touchdown passes showed his ability to put the football only where MSU receivers could make the catch.
"You don't want the team sitting there and not having confidence as a guy steps on the field and comes into a game and you're one play away from that happening," Mullen said. "I think Dak really took on that approach, and I thought he did a good job preparing himself as a starting quarterback."
Russell had a head set on Saturday, so he was able to listen to the play calls and the conversation between the coaches and to see another quarterback's reads and play calls against the defense. Mullen, who has stressed the advantage of being able to communicate with Russell in between plays, said he felt that dynamic could help Russell when he returns to the starting lineup.
"He's sitting back, listening, and watching a different viewpoint of the field," Mullen said. "You get a chance to see plays unfolding without having guys come and try to hit you. It's much easier to make reads standing on the sideline and you don't have to get rid of the ball."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.