Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Russell new-found star for MSU
Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell is not the same player he was when he faced Arkansas last season, according to Bulldogs Coach Dan Mullen. “He’s just grown up a lot,” Mullen said. “His sophomore year he was on the field and he realized how unprepared he was and what the commitment is you need. He understood that, and really worked through the offseason to make himself prepared to play every single week.”
STARKVILLE, Miss. Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell wasn’t a factor against Arkansas last season when he completed 7 of 15 passes for 55 yards as the Razorbacks pounded the Bulldogs 44-17 in Little Rock.
Russell, a redshirt junior, is starting for the Bulldogs again today when they play Arkansas at Scott Field, but he’s not the same quarterback the Razorbacks faced a year ago.
“He’s just grown up a lot,” Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen said. “His sophomore year he was on the field and he realized how unprepared he was and what the commitment is you need. He understood that, and really worked through the offseason to make himself prepared to play every single week.”
Russell has completed 182 of 301 passes (60.5 percent) for 2,249 yards and a schoolrecord 17 touchdowns with 4 interceptions. He’s 173 passing yards shy of Mississippi State’s season record after having a career-high 295 at LSU last Saturday.
“I don’t know if they have had the play from their quarterbacks that they are getting from this guy,” Arkansas Coach John L. Smith said. “I really think the guy they have now is giving them great play and opportunities to win.”
Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said that after studying each of Mississippi State’s game tapes and talking to other coaches, Russell “is the one thing that has them going right now” in a 7-3 season.
“He’s getting rid of the ball quick,” Haynes said. “He’s doing a good job of not taking sacks. He’s controlling the offense and knows the offense very, very well because he has played so much and started so much for them.”
Russell has played in 28 games for the Bulldogs with 14 starts.
“Tyler’s always been a guy that can throw the football. He’ll stand in the pocket. He’s got a lot of toughness,” Mullen said. “But he really just understands not just our offense, but what defenses are doing to try to stop us, and that allows him to make quicker decisions.”
Senior Chad Bumphis is Russell’s top target with 43 receptions for 676 yards and 8 touchdowns.
“He’s helped me a lot in just being on the same page, knowing what I’m thinking,” Russell said.
Mississippi State receivers coach Tim Brewster, the former Minnesota head coach, said Russell has developed confidence with his receivers.
“Quarterback and wide receiver relationship of having trust that they are going to be where they are supposed to be, and once they are there they are going to catch the ball,” Brewster said. “We are catching the ball very well.”
Brewster, an assistant for six seasons with the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos, said he believes Russell is going to be an outstanding NFL quarterback.
“He has all the qualities that you look for,” Brewster said. “His upside is through the roof.
“He is going to continue to grow as a player the more snaps he gets and the more live looks he gets, and he can make all the throws.”
The Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger contributed information for this article
Sports, Pages 23 on 11/17/2012