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August 20, 2011

BDJ quarterback breakdown

Over the next few days the staff at BDJ will breakdown every position on Mississippi State's roster. Today Michael, Logan and Bob take a look at the Bulldogs quarterbacks.

Bob's overview: The question for the last few years at Mississippi State's quarterback position was 'Who?' Sometimes it was 'Who is this guy?' and others it was 'Who is going to start?' For the first time in a while, no one around the program is asking 'Who?' And while Dan Mullen may have said otherwise previously, this is probably the first year in Starkville he would actually be comfortable if the No. 2 guy had to step in for an extended period of time. I've seen and heard the question asked if this is the best group of quarterbacks MSU has ever had at once. I won't go so far as to answer that, but I'll say this: it's a very good question to be asking.

Chris Relf: To me, the difference in Relf is subtle. We've all seen his improvement on the field, but I've noticed a change off the field, too. I remember talking to him when he was battling with Tyson Lee in August of 2009 to be Mullen's first starting quarterback. He didn't say much, and he still doesn't now, but it was the little things. When he talked to reporters then, he was nervous. It would take him a few seconds to decide what to say. He avoided eye contact. When he was on the field as a quarterback, we saw some of the same traits. He was nervous, sometimes taking a while to process what was going on. That was understandable, of course. He was a sophomore.

Now, when Relf does interviews, he answers quickly. He answers confidently. He's not thinking, he's just talking, even if he still doesn't say much. His play on the field and in practice is the same. The game is natural to him now. The game has slowed down. He is confident, not nervous, and has command of his offense. His progress and growth has been fun to watch and I expect big things in his senior year.

Tyler Russell: You know that program-saving, game-changing quarterback everybody thought MSU was getting when Russell signed with MSU? Yeah, I think saw him in fall training camp. The program doesn't need saving, but for much of camp Russell looked not only like the best backup, but even the best overall quarterback on the team. Ideally, a quarterback doesn't start until his redshirt junior year and he gets two seasons. That's exactly where Russell is headed. Much like Relf, Russell looked natural in practice, and offensive coordinator Les Koenning agreed with me on that. Russell was sharp, confident, accurate, perhaps an improved runner and to use coach speak, the game was coming to him. The future is bright with this guy.

Dylan Favre: I think Mullen said it best when he once said, "Dylan Favre is…Dylan Favre." You know that friend you have who everybody loves and he is always the life of party? He makes everybody laugh, but sometimes his antics go a little too far. You shrug it off and say, "Oh, that's just Brandon being Brandon (or whoever)." Favre is that guy at quarterback. He has all the buzzwords: Moxie, charisma, escapability, leadership, it. He just has to learn to harness it. At least half the plays he makes blow your mind, but not all of them are because they're good. With maturation, he will cut down on the bad and be a lot of fun to watch (though he already is).

Dak Prescott: Given time to develop, he will be a better passer than Relf. Given time to develop, he will be a better runner than Russell. Prescott has all the physical tools he needs, and he is the future at the position. Just like any freshman, he needs time. He needs to learn the offense, learn to make reads and find a way to slow down the game. Luckily, he's got time. He's also got two great quarterback developers in Koenning and Mullen.

Michael's overview: It is no secret that Relf is "the guy" under center this season. What may be hard for some to realize is that the depth behind him isn't that far off. For the first time in recent memory the Bulldogs have three quarterbacks that I wouldn't cringe at the thought of seeing them take the field.

Chris Relf: Remember the guy you saw run up and down the field in Jacksonville? How about the guy that took to the air against Michigan? Well if you can believe it, Relf has improved on that performance. Confidence is the key for Relf. The more he knows the more confidence he has and that improves the on the field performance. I know this sounds simplistic…but that's the case with Relf. That's why he is the top QB.

Tyler Russell: He's close. Really close. He is simply missing what Relf has… confidence. And the confidence will only come with time and experience. Russell has improved his accuracy and his running ability. No, he isn't Relf carrying the football, but he isn't going to shy away from carrying the ball either. When his time comes to lead MSU… he will be ready for the challenge.

Dylan Favre: I'll say this… guy has guts! Favre plays football with zero fear. He plays as if he can make all the throws all of the time. Wide open. I love it. It is fun to watch. But I'll stop short of saying he is the guy I would like to see under center. He has a strong arm with a funky throwing motion. It is hard to fault a guy who leaves it all on the field, but right now State needs a quarterback that isn't a gunslinger. They need a guy who can manage a game, control the game, and find ways to win. Favre just isn't that guy yet.

Dak Prescott: He's got all the tools. When his time comes he could be special. But today, he's a freshman. Like all freshman he's swimming in information right now. When things slow down for him and his athleticism takes over… it is going to be fun to watch.

Logan's overview: Let's face it, Mississippi State has never been known as a quarterback factory. But this crew of signal callers could be as talented as any group to ever pass through the Bulldogs program. How talented are they? Well two Parade All-Americans are among the crop-and both are backups. I'm expecting to see Relf, Russell and Favre on the field this season and believe they all have the ability to compete at a high level.

Chris Relf: I never thought I'd see Chris Relf as a starter, much less a multi-year starter. I can remember dodging overthrown balls on a daily basis inside the Palmeiro Center when Relf was a freshman. He's always had the ability to run with the football but the jump he's made over the last 18 months has been truly remarkable. I think you could see late in the 2010 season that the passing game finally started to click for him and he had big games the final three outings of the year. But as much as he has improved on the field he may have developed more off it. Relf has become the leader the offense needed and believes in. If he can stay healthy, I feel like Relf will be the true definition of a dual-threat quarterback this season.

Tyler Russell: Perhaps no quarterback has stepped on campus with more expectations than Russell did in 2009. Luckily Russell got the opportunity to redshirt and played in a reserve role last year to get his feet wet in some key SEC games. A few weeks ago I had Russell as my top offensive player during camp and I stand behind that. I still think Relf is and should be the starter but Russell is now a more than capable backup poised to take over the starting job next season. He no longer has that deer in the headlights look that he had in 2010. He's not out there thinking anymore but just simply reacting which is a sign that he's maturing in the offense.

Dylan Favre: I, like many others, was concerned about Favre's height when I first found out Mississippi State was recruiting him. But after seeing him play for the first time in high school I was hoping the Bulldogs would offer and sign him - he's that fun to watch. Something is going to happen when Favre's on the field. He's just a playmaker. Right now some of those plays are good and some are bad but as he continues to grow under Mullen and Koenning's guidance the good will outweigh the bad. I know there are obvious comparisons to his uncle Brett with his gunslinger style of play but even if Dylan didn't have "FAVRE" on the back of his jersey, that would still be the quarterback you'd compare him to. He's not lacking in the confidence department either.

Dak Prescott: Talk about looking the part. Prescott is a specimen and does not physically look anything like a true freshman quarterback in the least. Truthfully, Prescott was third on my list of quarterbacks I saw last summer in the 2010 class behind Jacob Coker and Timmy Byerly. But the fact Prescott was able to graduate early and go through spring practice is so valuable and something I didn't factor into the equation. He's the total package. He can throw, run and has the size to be effective at both. I'm expecting a redshirt season from him which only further proves how deep the Bulldogs are at quarterback. I've got a feeling Prescott has a very bright future ahead of him.


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