By now I'm sure you've heard plenty about how Dan Mullen still plans to start Tyler Russell vs. LSU next Saturday. Well, I don't really believe that he believes that to be true, and for this simple, obvious reason this article is about.
We cannot beat quality teams running the same vanilla offense we have done with Tyler Russell previously.
If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times - Dan Mullen never designed an offense to suit Russell's strengths and that is on him, not Tyler Russell. For him to be successful at Mississippi State (not Alabama, Georgia or LSU, but MSU) we would have to run some type of air raid offense where we are spreading the field with receivers and creating a lot of 1-on-1 matchups in space. But we haven't done that. Instead we've run a vanilla, generic offense, and while that will get the job done against Kentucky, Middle Tennessee or a SWAC team, it won't cut it against the big boys of the SEC.
Since our offensive coaching staff is incapable or unwilling to run this system (and it's too late now) with Russell we must start Dak Prescott against LSU. Look, if you want to start Russell against Bowling Green and Kentucky in exchange for this favor then by all means go ahead. But if we want to have any chance at all to win - Dak must start (and play the whole game)!
When we're facing a good defense like LSU has, and seemingly always will have, we can't control the line of scrimmage. I admit, I had hoped our offensive line would be one of the top 3 or 4 in the SEC this year because of the experience they have - but they aren't. Now, they are serviceable, but they are going to lose more battles against a D-line like LSU or Alabama than they are going to win. So you can forget about running any type of pro-style attack because we can't run the ball against these teams. Take a look at our rushing totals in these type of games last year...
|Game||Total Rushing Yards|
Yeah, those are pretty bad. It's especially bad when you consider that in the other nine games MSU averaged 183 yards rushing.
Our offensive line can't grade the road as well in these games which allows for the opposing defense to drop another man in pass coverage. Since they're already able to stop the run anyway, logically there's no use in loading the box. So now the asset Russell gives you, the pass, is made more difficult with an additional defender that isn't there against the lesser teams (because they do have to load the box to stop the run). To compound the problem Tyler has issues holding onto the ball and not recognizing what an open receiver is.
With Prescott in the game the defense has to account for his ability to run the ball. That extra defender that is helping in pass coverage against Russell is now spying Prescott because he could take off at any moment, so it opens up the passing game. What's more, having the option running game available allows you to have a wider variety of play calls and will likely open up the run game as well.
Basically what needs to happen is to make LSU stop the run on 3rd down, and Prescott will have to beat them with his arm. I'm not sure he can do that - but I've seen this story unfold with Russell before, and I'm willing to take my chances with Dak. Force Chavis to play man on our receivers because of Dak's running ability and I think he can move the ball through the air enough to give us a chance.