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 yards and what to expect from Tyler Russell
Throughout the week here on the HailState Beat we’ve talked about how things with the Mississippi State offense are going to be different this year, and how, given MSU’s history, that offense could end up breaking a lot of records.
The only problem with the newness, though, is not knowing what to expect. In Dan Mullen’s previous three years at State there is, obviously, no point of reference, nor is there much of one in the school’s history.
Our best bet then, maybe, is to look in Mullen’s past, before MSU. Now, comparing Tyler Russell and Tim Tebow would be like comparing a Corvette and a Hummer. Both are good cars with their particular uses, but they are worlds apart in their functionality.
The closest thing we have is also a first round NFL Draft pick, just not with quite the same fanfare and attention as Tebow.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith not only had Mullen as a part of his wedding, he had Mullen as his quarterback coach when he played at Utah on his way to becoming the top pick in the 2005 draft.
Smith was very quick and able out of the backfield, but he was primarily a pocket passer, a good one to boot, giving us something of a reference point for how Mullen may use a signal caller with Russell’s size and skills.
Russell stands 6’4”, 220 pounds. Smith measures in at 6’4”, 217 pounds. Smith is a pocket passer with deceptive wheels on the run. Russell, well, you get the point here.
So, let’s take a look at Smith’s two years as the starter for Mullen in Utah, fitting as Russell will (probably) have two years at MSU.
2003: Completed 173-266 passes for 2,247 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. Rushed 149 times for 452 yards and five touchdowns.
2004: Completed 214-317 passes for 2,952 yards, 32 touchdowns and four interceptions. Rushed 135 times for 631 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Both seasons had good numbers for Smith, and it should also be noted that those were his sophomore and junior years, as he left early for the NFL after the 2004 season.
While Russell is a better runner than most would like to give him credit for, I’d be surprised if he has anywhere near 150 rushes. Those carries, I’d imagine, will be going to running backs like LaDarius Perkins and Nick Griffin.
The passing numbers, however, may give us a good idea, or at least a rough one, of what to expect from the junior quarterback in his first year as the starter at MSU.
If his first run at the helm of the offense comes out like Smith’s, then 2,247 passing yards would give Russell the third best season ever at MSU, just ahead of Derrick Taite’s 2,241 in 1995 and a little bit behind Don Smith’s 2,332 yard season in 1985. He would also be second in passing touchdowns, as we discussed Tuesday.
If Russell has a season more like Smith’s second and final campaign, then he would break every record in the book, including Dave Marler’s 2,422 yards in 1978 and Taite’s 16 passing scores in 95.
Of course, Smith went on to be picked first in New York for the NFL Draft a few months after that season. Now, I’m not saying Russell will leave early for the NFL, but the numbers put up by Smith under Mullen may be a realistic guide on what to expect from him this year.
As always, if he does that, records will fall.