Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
Go back to national signing day of 2009. It was the first signing day after Croom was fired and Mullen was hired. Croom had put together a solid recruiting class, and Mullen was successful in getting most of them to stay on board. The gem of that class was Tyler Russell.
I don’t know if he was the highest rated player in that class, but he was the most important because he was the quarterback. He wasn’t just any quarterback, but he was a top notch, high caliber prospect. For the first time, Mississippi State had landed a quarterback that had the potential to be big time passing threat. In his senior year, he ended the 6 year winning streak of South Panola in the state championship game. Much was expected of him, and to a certain extent, he has delivered.
Tyler Russell is the record holder for most passing statistics at Mississippi State, and he probably will be for the foreseeable future while Mullen is the coach. That being said, he doesn’t give us our best chance to win. It’s not his fault really. He is a traditional drop-back quarterback who is stuck in the middle of spread option offense that favors a two dimensional quarterback. He just doesn’t fit. I’m not going to make a bunch of arguments about why or why not Dak Prescott needs to see the most playing time from here on out, those have been debated incessantly for the last several weeks. I’m more concerned with how this is going to affect the future of our program.
No disrespect to any of our previous quarterbacks, but when you start talking about the greatest QBs in school history, we may be having a debate between John Bond and Wayne Madkin. Quarterback play has never been a strength at our school. We have always been a school that, when we have good years, relies on a ground and pound running game and an aggressive defense. Whatever we got from our quarterback would just be icing on the cake. Russell was supposed to change all that.
In his senior year, what should have been the crowning jewel to his career at State, he is relegated to a quarterback controversy. Here is my concern: coaches from other schools can use this to convince recruits that Mississippi State will never successfully develop a NFL caliber quarterback. Negative recruiting happens all the time, that is obvious. But this is the first time we have ever had a QB who actually had a shot at making it to the NFL and he is probably going to spend most of his senior year on the bench. I do believe Prescott gives us our best chance to win, but if we try to convince ourselves that Russell not developing into the player many thought to be won’t have a negative impact, we are only fooling ourselves.
To his credit, Russell has handled this extremely well. It would be easy to start bad mouthing the coaching staff or fans in his situation, but he has shown a great amount of grace and poise. I hope he is able to have a successful career doing something football related. I do fear though that this will come back to bite us. There is one way that won’t happen.
Prescott needs to be amazing. I think he can, but it is really early in his career. If Prescott can develop into a dynamic dual threat quarterback, the negative recruiting that will happen because of Tyler Russell’s role on the team will easily be diminished. Coaches can just say that he wasn’t a good fit, but dual threat quarterbacks, like Elijah Staley in this year’s class, will have evidence of how they can thrive. Tyler Russell will haunt us, but Dak Prescott could become the best Ghostbuster on the team if he becomes great.