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QB race far from decided


David Miller



STARKVILLE -- Dan Mullen isn''t budging on who he expects to be Mississippi State''s starting quarterback.  


The race between Tyler Russell and Chris Relf, only a week into fall practice, hasn''t produced a front-runner and there doesn''t appear to be light at the end of the tunnel, Dan Mullen hinted during Saturday''s team media day.  


When asked if either quarterback has distanced himself in the race, Mullen was less than certain. 


"I don''t'' know if there''s much (difference)," Mullen said Saturday. "Each of them has their strengths in certain things, and I see certain things out of both of them that are really good. And then you''ll see them make some glaring mistakes still as young players will in their development.  


"That''s gonna be a battle that wont be decided for quite a while." 


Much like last year''s media day, when the position had a relatively experienced player and an untested option, the popular topic was quarterback play and if Mullen foresees one of the two making a quantum leap to the starter''s seat.  


Mullen did offer a slight indication the current quarterback race could produce a full-time starter. 


"We''re going to continue to put them both in a lot of different situations and hopefully it prepares both of them to be ready to play," Mullen said. "To where if we get in a situation where there''s a one and two, the number two guy''s going to jump right in there and not miss a beat." 


Russell, who redshirted last season, came to Starkville with a long trail of prep accolades, including Parade All-American status. He''s yet to throw a college pass, or see action in a college game.  


And while Mullen said the race is basically neck-and-neck, Russell was direct about where he stands.  


"I feel like I''m still trying to keep up," Russell said. "[Relf] does have some game experience, and I don''t. So I don''t know what to expect when I get out there on the field. Only thing I can do is take what I get in practice and use that in game situations." 


In the first week of fall practice, Russell acknowledged he''s struggled to deliver crisp, accurate passes under pressure from State''s defense. 


"It just goes back to everybody being on the same page with guys blitzing," Russell said. "The offensive line has to be on the same page, running backs have the same responsibility, and I have responsibilities.  


"Trying to figure out what the defense is going to be before they show their keys [will help]." 


Neither Russell nor Relf have the advantage of working with a veteran group of receivers, though both are excited about the natural talent and the options they have. The experience where Russell, and to a great degree Relf, could help the passing game grow at a quicker rate just isn''t there at this point. So in a sense, both groups are at the same stage of development, both as players and in Mullen''s system.  


"I would say as a young quarterback, I have to know a lot more stuff than if you had a veteran quarterback who already is in his fourth year in the system and can tell the new guys what to do," Russell said. "I''ve still got to go back to my playbook, and I''m still learning like they''re learning. But we can learn together, and that''s a good motivation tool, too." 


Seemingly lost in all shuffle is true freshman Dylan Favre -- he himself a prolific high-school quarterback who''s looking to start.  


Mullen likes the youngster''s fire and competitiveness and alluded to the position battle being a three-man race. That scenario leaves open the door for multiple guys seeing time under center. 


Still, Mullen said he doesn''t think any of the quarterbacks "settle" on the idea of being part of a quarterback rotation. 


"I think we have a third guy [Favre] there who wants every snap and is expecting to be the starting quarterback this year," Mullen said. "That''s the attitude you want in that position. But how we handle that position -- like we do with every other one in coaching quarterbacks -- their responsibility is to run on the field as fast you can and be a great leader. Doesn''t matter if you''re with the first, second or third offense. 


"How they handle the situation will never be an issue. I don''t want players who want to sit on the bench." 




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