Over the next several weeks here on the HailState Beat, we’ll be running a new football-related series each week, a series of series, if you will. We continue today with The Record Book: highlighting the records to watch this fall as old Dawgs climb up the all-time lists while others will have chances for single-season greatness.
Today in The Record Book: Passing Touchdowns
He’s only started two games in his college career, but Mississippi State quarterback Tyler Russell enters his junior season with a chance to re-write the offensive record books.
Rather than tip-toe around things, let’s just start with this: Bulldog quarterbacks accounted for 19 passing touchdowns in 2011. If Russell matches that total, or even falls one or two short, it will be the best single season a quarterback at MSU has had in terms of scoring passes. Ever.
In 1995, then-MSU quarterback Derrick Taite set the record of 16 touchdown throws in a season for the Bulldogs, a number the historically run-oriented Maroon and White teams have yet to pass.
But if I’m a betting a man (and I occasionally am, but generally not a good one), that record comes down in 2012 with No. 17 on the roster getting magic No. 17 on the field, and I’m not sure it will even be close.
With eight TD passes last year, Russell got halfway there and he only started two games for a team that ran the ball constantly and generally struggled in the passing game.
Give Russell a full year as the unquestioned starter, an opportunity to actually get into a real rhythm, five senior receivers, downfield and red zone threats with Joe Morrow and Malcolm Johnson, running backs who are adept out of the backfield and a [hopefully] healthy offensive line?
Well, if I haven’t made myself clear through that – as well as several other posts related to the passing game recently – I’m expecting a pretty big year for the former high school Parade All-American. And by “pretty big,” I mean probably the best year a quarterback has had at MSU.
Admittedly, the record book of passing stats at State is not exactly a shining scroll of history’s elite quarterbacks. As we all know, MSU has always run the ball, and generally run it well. Those are records that measure up against the best in the country. But that won’t make what Russell could do unimpressive.
And not only does Russell have a chance to claim some single-season greatness, he’s on path to set quite a few career records, as well.
Even if he somehow doesn’t improve on his numbers as a part-time option last year, eight touchdown passes per season the next two years would move Russell to fifth all-time at 29 total. Oddly enough, he’d be moving past Chris Relf, whose career total at MSU stands at 28, No. 5 overall.
If Russell merely matches last year’s total of 19 combined passing touchdowns, he’ll be fourth all-time before the world ends in December of this year (Right, Mayans?).
In fact, Russell only needs four TDs through the air this season to pass Matt Wyatt (16 passing touchdowns) for 10th all-time. Just 13 scoring passes per season over the next two years would move him ahead of Derrick Taite (38 passing touchdowns) for No. 1 all time by the end of his career.
Sure, on the surface, it’s a bit premature to go off predicting that a quarterback entering his first season as a starter could have the best season for MSU since man landed on the moon. But the pro-style Russell has everything working for him. So long as the line stays healthy, the offensive planets have aligned for the junior quarterback.
Dan Mullen will pass more this year than in any of his other three seasons in Starkville, and he’s got the best arm yet under center to accommodate that. Whether or not he will proclaim it so strongly in public, Mullen seems to think he’s got the real deal in Russell. He plans to use him.