Relf-Russell Combo Best Option

November 2, 2011

News, Sports

Tyler Russell, QB, Mississippi State Bulldogs

Tyler Russell

Mississippi State came into the 2011 season with possibly its best quarterback situation in years. Chris Relf was coming off of a strong 2010 season and was getting some somewhat warranted Heisman hype.

The 2011 season came, and he did nothing to dispel the hype with two impressive performances to start the season. Everything started to go downhill soon after as Relf struggled against #1 LSU and was eventually pulled with ten minutes left in the game for Tyler Russell.  I harshly criticized Mullen for being shortsighted and not taking all the factors into account before pulling Relf.

What I thought would happen did happen:  Relf lost his confidence and was never the same again. He struggled the next three games and was pulled midway through the UAB game, where he was replaced by Russell at halftime. Russell sparked the offense throwing for three touchdowns and leading the Bulldogs to victory. Coach Mullen made the decision to replace Relf with Russell as the starter versus South Carolina. Russell had a solid debut as the starter having some good moments, but at the end of the day the offense only managed 10 points and the Bulldogs lost. The Bulldogs had lost another heartbreaker and went into the bye week looking for solutions to correct their sputtering offense. Two questions were asked during the bye week: Would Russell continue as the starter? If so would Relf play again in 2011?

Chris Relf, QB, Mississippi State Bulldogs

Chris Relf

The question was answered this past Saturday as Mullen decided to play both on the plane ride up to Lexington, Kentucky.  Russell and Relf performed terrific as a duo playing a part in all four Bulldog touchdowns. The debate continued as people still want to know more than ever who will start and would Mullen continue the quarterback rotation. I don’t know what Mullen will do, but I think he should stick with rotation as it’s the team’s best option for several reasons.

Other than Relf having the potential to scramble and make plays out of the pocket and Russell having a cannon for an arm, the first reason the combination would work is that competition breeds success. The two quarterbacks stepped up to the plate in practice, grading out fairly evenly trying to gain the start. I say keep the competition going to get the best out of the two quarterbacks.

The next reason is that it would give MSU a strategic advantage the rest of season. I think having to prepare for these two quarterbacks could give a defensive coordinator headaches. LSU rotates Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, but I don’t even think they come close to what Russell and Relf could do as a combo. Their skill sets are so different that it’s virtually impossible to prepare for them adequately. Defenses would always have to be on guard for a different quarterback entering the game at any time.

The last reason is that it would be good for team chemistry. The team clearly responds to both quarterbacks, and that is a rarity indeed.  Relf is their leader, who led them to a 9-4 season and a strong Gator Bowl finish, but Russell gets the receivers more excited because of his passing ability.  I think the players would be fine with either quarterback as the starter, but part of them will always want some part of the other guys skill set in the game.

Now I know it’s hard for everyone to wrap their head around the two quarterback system, but it’s the most sensible thing to do. The truth is the team will go 6-6 whether Relf or Russell starts. The quarterback rotation would give MSU their best chance to pull an upset which would be a critical next step the program needs to take. If they were to upset Alabama or Arkansas, whom I feel they match up with better than many realize, then it could be a huge impact for the Bulldogs.. and I mean huge. The big time recruits want to see a prospective team beat a contender as they want to win championships not win seven games every year.  MSU is a middle-of-the-road program in many people’s eyes and winning a big one late this season would go a long way toward changing that perception.

So, this is why I say that the Russell-Relf combo is the best option, as it critical to the immediate and long-term future of the program in which they both play.


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2 Comments on “Relf-Russell Combo Best Option”

  1. Dick Mahoney Says:

    Interesting analysis, and how do you think your scenario will translate at the end of the season? Granted that only two more wins will suffice for MSU to be bowl eligible, I feel they must win seven to merit serious consideration for a bowl that would send even MSU fans to the travel agencies. I feel they must beat both the Razorbacks and the Rebels as well as the Skyhawks. Of course, it they were to pull the upset of the year vs. Bama…who knows where they could go.


  2. Jeremiah Short Says:

    Good Momentum and people will forget the first part of the season. They will then be developing a level of consistency and that’s what the program needs right now.


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