A couple of different times since the end of spring practice, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen has heard references to the Bulldogs’ so-called quarterback controversy.
He doesn't quite see it that way.
He sees two quarterbacks with very different skill sets who proved this spring that they’re ready to help the Bulldogs win football games.
And with that, Mullen said he’s prepared to play them both, if that’s the way it shakes out in the fall.
At this point, junior Chris Relf would probably be the starter, but redshirt freshman Tyler Russell gives the Bulldogs a whole different dimension in the passing game that Mullen is eager to see play out on the field next season.
“If both of these guys were the same, I could see random issues arising with having two quarterbacks,” Mullen said. “But they’re not the same. They have different skill sets and bring different things to the table. We’ll play to the strengths of each player. I don’t see that as a controversy.”
Mullen isn’t guaranteeing that the Bulldogs will play two quarterbacks in 2010. There’s still a chance that one may completely separate himself in fall camp.
But right now, they both have played well enough and improved enough that Mullen is certainly intrigued by the idea of playing them both.
It worked out pretty well for him at Florida in 2006 when Tim Tebow was the goal-line and short-yardage guy and Chris Leak was the manage-the-game guy. The Gators won the national championship.
Relf, at 240 pounds, is a freakish athlete who rushed for 500 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry last season. Relf also improved his passing tremendously this spring. Russell is more of a pure passer who can beat teams from the pocket.
“I’ve been through playing multiple quarterbacks on several occasions, and I know how to handle the situation,” Mullen said. “It’s not going to be a big stress for us if we play two. Both have worked hard and are deserving.”
Mullen pointed out that by playing Tebow situationally in 2006 that it really helped build his confidence to be an every-down quarterback that next season, a season in which he won the Heisman Trophy.
“So not only can it be a big benefit for you in that game with two different guys who give the defense different looks, but it can also be a long-term benefit to the program,” Mullen said.