September 4, 2009 8:29:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- There doesn''t appear to be a quarterback controversy between Mississippi State''s Tyson Lee, of Columbus, and Chris Relf.
That doesn''t mean there''s not competition.
Lee, the senior who started for the Bulldogs last season, and Relf, the sophomore, have worked in the spring and into fall camp to see who will get the most playing time in coach Dan Mullen''s spread offense.
"Anytime you can create competition at a position, they are going to get better because they are going to compete against each other," MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. "The neat thing about it is they''ve been helping each other. It hasn''t been one of those bitter battles where it has been a he said, he said type of situation. It''s been a helpful battle, and they are looking for the best player for our football team."
Neither Mullen nor Koenning have announced a starter going into the season opener against Jackson State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The play call and starting field position will determine that.
Mullen, who wants consistency at quarterback, likes things Lee does in the passing game and Relf in the running game.
The plan for the Jackson State game is to play both quarterbacks, and Mullen will look to use both of them in the first half.
Mullen plans to treat the quarterback position like any other on the field.
During the preseason, Lee and Relf have rotated at practice, sometimes by play, sometimes every three plays, and sometimes by series.
"When we have this situation, I look at it a lot like our tailbacks," Mullen said. "If Christian (Ducre'') is in the game, he''ll come out and Anthony (Dixon) goes in. It doesn''t change the tempo, the expectations or the mind-set of the team. That''s how we view the quarterback position.
"(The quarterback''s) job is to run on the field as fast as he can, do his job to the best of his ability, then the other guy comes in, runs off the field as fast as he can and go listen to the coach."
Having a two-quarterback system doesn''t bother Lee, who played in 11 games and started eight last year.
"(In the spread) it''s not that big of a deal," Lee said. "As long as we execute, are moving the ball down the field, and are putting points on the scoreboard, that''s all that matters."
Just as he did when he entered the season backing up Wesley Carroll in 2008, Lee''s main concern is to do what is necessary to help MSU win games.
He said the competition is there just like it was last year, and trusts the coaches to make the best determination for the good of the team.
"We''re looking to see who coach wants to play," Lee said. "Whoever he wants out there and whoever he feels is the best for the job, that''s who will play."
After Lee replaced Carroll in the fifth game last season, he finished the year 153 of 260 passing for 1,519 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
Relf played against Southeastern Louisiana and Ole Miss last season, and would love to get on the field.
"I really don''t care if I play or not," Relf said. "I just want to win, that''s the main thing."
Koenning has noticed a bond between Relf and Lee. He uses the term "neat" as he observes the two quarterbacks on and off the field.
Relf doesn''t want his desire to play hurt his relationship with Lee, and he values their friendship.
"Tyson and I are real cool," Relf said. "We motivate each other out here on the field. We try to pick each other up. It''s a brother thing. We''re all brothers."