Should there be a QB Controversy in Starkville?


You would think having a quarterback who broke every major single-season passing record in his junior year would elicit excitement among the fanbase about his senior year, right? Well, not so much around MSU this summer. Not in a huge percentage of fans, but there were rumblings about how Dak Prescott is a better fit for Dan Mullen’s offense, and while Tyler Russell is a good QB – we would be a more productive offense with Dak. After the debacle in Houston, it’s getting even louder. After this weekend, when Dak Prescott will play Alcorn State for the injured Russell, it’s likely to reach a fever pitch next week: which QB gives us the best chance to beat Auburn?

I don’t want to get ahead of myself and dismiss the Alcorn State game. But if we even come close to losing that game we’ve got much bigger problems than who should be the QB. MSU has a good team and both quarterbacks should be able to handle the weaker teams on the schedule – it’s beating the better teams, and competing against the elite teams that we are talking about. That starts with Auburn on the 14th. And I’ll go ahead and dive into the debate that has engulfed Bulldog nation.

Most folks believe the issues on offense stem from play-calling. I agree that the crux of the issue is play-calling. I think there are three possible reasons for this:

  1. the coaches (Mullen and Koenning) don’t have faith in Tyler – that if they take chances he may throw an INT. This may explain some of his problems with holding the ball too long and inability to decipher what an open receiver is…something that Relf did as well.
  2. the coaches just aren’t imaginative and can’t, or too stubburn and won’t, develop plays that suit Tyler’s strengths – Mullen knew he had a talented pro-style QB coming up for 3 years before he was to become a starter so no excuse here.
  3. we just do not have a good play-caller and one way or another Urban Meyer/Tim Tebow/Mark Hudspeth masked Mullen’s deficiencies.

From everything I’ve heard and putting all the information I’ve gathered together, I believe Mullen did call the plays Saturday. I’m not sure how much he called last year, but in just talking to people and what Mullen said in the press conference this week I think he did call them. Not to mention I heard all off-season he would be. So, this is very concerning as I had hoped him calling the plays would improve that area.

So with all that being said, I think Dak Prescott could open up the play book, and help Mullen do what he does best: the spread option. With Dak it opens up so many more options (with the option). His ability to run keeps linebackers and safeties honest. We have seen how much more effective this offense is when we have a mobile QB who is a threat to run.

I say all that, however, I believe Tyler can be successful. But if we don’t trust him (hand off on 3rd & 8?) or aren’t willing to create plays for him then we are putting ourselves at a disadvantage. So if that’s how it’s going to be, maybe Dak would do better. I’m not really sure what would happen with Dak running the offense, so whether he is a better choice running the system Mullen is more comfortable with or Tyler running the current system we’ve seen, we’ll have to wait and see.

As far as performance, Tyler Russell has had some trouble in his last few outings. I’ve tried to erase the Egg and Gator Bowls from my memory but what’s left is a the stain of some pretty poor performances, and he was pretty inaccurate in Houston. The accuracy may not be a trend, but his inability to get rid of the ball is. As a senior, you have to expect that he would be able to correct this – he simply does not recognize what an open receiver in college is. Guys are not going to get three feet of separation every time, you have to thread the needle sometimes. He watches a receiver waiting and waiting for him to get open but you either have to make the decision that he is not open and move through your progression or let it fly.

It has been said that Dak Prescott is more of a precision passer. Would he be able to make the throws Russell seems unwilling to try? One question I have is are these players being coached that way, because Relf had similar struggles with not wanting to release the football (although I always assumed it was because he wanted to run unless they were wide open). But, it could be Mullen feels like Russell doesn’t have the accuracy to thread the needle so he wants him to make sure the receiver has some separation.

It remains to be seen how good of a QB Dak Prescott is at this point, Saturday’s game will be interesting for sure…if for nothing else than to see his talent on display. It’s always easy to throw the starting QB under the bus for his deficiencies, so I’m not going to jump to conclusions and say Prescott is absolutely better for this offense right now. Russell has not been a bad QB, and hopefully he fully recovers from his concussion, but is he the best guy for MSU right now?

We’ve got to find a way to keep the defense on their heels, and call plays to set up other plays, etc. We have to make adjustments as well. It’s not all on the QB – the coaches play a major role. To be honest though, I’m not sure Mullen is the great offensive mind we thought he was (sorry to feed the Ole Miss trolls). I think he’s a pretty good one, but not we may have to stick with what he’s best at in order to succeed. He may prove that statement wrong – we’ll find out this year.

The sad part is it seems our quarterback’s senior years are cursed, and in some instances the entire backside of their career. The underclassman always take over:

  • Sleepy Robinson in ’92 (Todd Jordan)
  • Derrick Taite in ’96 (Matt Wyatt)
  • Matt Wyatt (Jr. year) in ’98 (Wayne Madkin)
  • Wayne Madkin in ’01 (Kevin Fant)
  • Omar Conner (Jr year) in ’05 (Michael Henig)
  • Michael Henig (Jr year) in ’07 (Carroll)
  • Tyson Lee in ’09 (Chris Relf)
  • Relf in ’11 (Tyler Russell)

Here’s an article from two years ago from this site when we were debating Relf vs. Russell. It’s just one of those things at State it seems.

One sliver of hope, however. The only Sr QB’s to remain relatively unchallenged were Todd Jordan in ’93 and Fant in ’03. And since those years ended in ‘3’… well maybe? Caveat to the hope: we were 3-6-2 in 1993 and 2-10 in 2003. Don’t want that.

Tyler can sling it so maybe even if we switch to Dak he can still come in during the 4th quarter if we are a couple of touchdowns behind and try to stage a comeback – although we NEVER stage a comeback under Mullen so that might just be some Matt Wyatt circa 1999 wishful thinking.