Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen came away from the Bulldogs' first full scrimmage of the spring last Saturday with mixed emotions.
It's obvious his defensive line, led by Pernell McPhee, has a chance to be dominant. But Mullen was disappointed in his offensive line, particularly in the running game. In open-field situations, running backs Robert Elliott, Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins were held to 20 rushing yards on 12 carries.
What's more, the Bulldogs' front seven had three sacks during the first part of the scrimmage and added to that total during the third-down and red zone work.
"The defense won the day," Mullen said. "They were really winning big in the open field, but the offense did a nice job of getting in the end zone when they had scoring chances late in practice. We'll go back and watch the film and get a better idea of where we stand as a whole."
Quarterback Chris Relf worked with the first team and had a 62-yard touchdown run on an option play. Redshirt freshman Tyler Russell worked with the second team. He led a scoring drive following Relf's touchdown run, tossing a 34-yard touchdown pass to Perkins.
Relf finished 7-of-11 for 33 yards, while Russell completed 12 of 17 passes for 156 yards and a pair of touchdowns. To open up a portion of practice focusing on third downs, Relf hit Chad Bumphis for a 60-yard score.
Mullen will almost certainly play both quarterbacks next season. Relf's running ability makes him a perfect complement to Russell and his ability to throw the ball.
Even though Mullen was disappointed in the way his offensive played, it's pretty obvious that the Bulldogs are going to be stout on the defensive line. Sophomore tackles Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox will be greatly improved their second time around in the SEC, and massive junior college newcomer James Carmon (6-foot-7, 345 pounds) will make the Bulldogs that much stronger in the middle.
McPhee was one of the best defensive ends in the league last season, his first in the SEC.
In 2010, he'll be right there at the top again along with Alabama's Marcell Dareus and South Carolina's Cliff Matthews.