The most important position on the field: quarterback. Dan Mullen has a great history of producing solid QBs. Say what you will about his first three years, but he got the most out of Tyson Lee and Chris Relf as he could. Now comes the talent for 2012.
Chris Relf had a fine career at Mississippi State. He was the winningest QB since Wayne Madkin, and he will always be remembered as the man who slain the Bears thrice. He hands the baton (full time) to Tyler Russell. A high school standout, it is now Russell's moment in the spotlight as the quarterback of the Bulldogs.
|6'4", 220 lbs
|Meridian, MS (Meridian)
Key Members to Replace
Chris Relf: 114 of 190 for 1,212 yards, 10 TDs, 9 INTs; 123 rushes for 375 yards and 2 TDs.
Key Members Returning
Tyler Russell: 69 of 129 for 1,039 yards, 8 TDs, 4 INT; 33 rushes for 45 yards and 1 TD.
Newcomers to Watch
Dak Prescott: 6'-2", 230 redshirt freshman
2011 Position Performance
Chris Relf came into 2011 with big expectations, and you might say he was up to the task for the first two games of the season vs. Memphis and Auburn. But that Auburn game really took it out of him, and from LSU on he just wasn't the same. Tyler Russell hurt his knee in the LSU game and missed LA Tech and UGA, but came in for the 2nd half at UAB to lead MSU to victory. From there Russell was pretty much the guy, but Mullen gave Relf every opportunity to play as a senior including the Egg Bowl.
You might think to yourself, 2011 was a bad passing year - we couldn't get anything going. It sure seemed that way. But by MSU historical standards, it was pretty good. 2011 is tied with 2001 for the 7th best passing season ever at 2,364 yards. Sigh.
Also a good sign was more passing TDs than INTs. 18:13; that certainly doesn't always happen around Starkville.
What to Expect in 2012
You have to assume that Mullen is going to pass more with Tyler Russell playing QB in 2012. In last Friday's scrimmage, State threw the ball 57% of the time. Russell will be in his 4th year under Mullen, so he ought to have things figured out pretty well by now.
Everyone is excited about the potential of Dak Prescott. With Dylan Favre heading out of town, Prescott takes over as the backup. There's been plenty of talk about using Prescott in a 2006 Tebow role. Mullen was the O.C. at Florida when Chris Leak was a senior, and Tim Tebow a freshman. Leak was the quarterback of the team no doubt, but Tebow would come in to run over folks, and occasionally pass. (Just spit-balling, but I would say the Leak:Tebow ratio was 85:15 in terms of being on the field). Of course, Florida won the national championship that year.
3rd string will likely be true freshman Nick Schuessler. MSU didn't want to take a QB in the 2012 class, but after Favre transferred it left them with no option. Schuessler is 6'-4" 180, and rated as a 2-star. He will not get to campus until the summer. Perhaps a walk-on will assume the 3rd string role if Mullen doesn't feel comfortable, or really wants to redshirt Schuessler.
Like I said in my WR/TE's preview, I think MSU will break the all-time single season passing record of 2,637. Russell will be throwing more than State usually does, and the receivers are experienced with young talent as well. Will Russell be able to throw the ball 30-35 times per game without getting picked off too often? If he can keep it to one INT per game we ought to be in good shape. That sounds like a lot, but I'm also looking for 15-18 TD passes.
And as always, leadership is key at the quarterback position. Luckily, Tyler Russell has starting experience and he even played a good deal in his redshirt freshman season. In his fourth year as a Bulldog, hopefully he has command of the team. That is also why it is important to have Russell out there, Prescott is only in his second year, even though he was on campus spring '11.
I certainly don't expect a drop off here. I'm actually looking for a slight increase of production at QB. Hoping against hope these two guys stay healthy. If Russell, who has had some nagging injuries, gets hurt State could be in trouble.