Obviously, and naturally, most of those watching Mississippi State play Jackson State on Saturday (two days!) will be anxious to see junior Tyler Russell as he begins his first season as a starter.
But, as always with quarterbacks, there is plenty of interest in the backup. Not because the faithful fans aren’t sold on Russell, of course, but there is a heightened level of curiosity at the position, whether it’s a first-stringer or walk-on bench-warmer.
Dan Mullen has told us a few times that we’ll be seeing Russell’s primary backup on Saturday evening, the 6’2″, 230-pound dual-threat redshirt freshman Dak Prescott.
Some of the natural intrigue with Prescott is the fact we’ve never seen him play a down of college football. We’re also curious how Prescott will be used, as Mullen has varied his quarterback rotations over the years, sometimes using two or even three in a game, while at other times he went with just one from start to finish.
In whatever capacity, we know for sure Prescott will see the field.
“It might not even be for a whole series,” Mullen said. “It could be situational. It might just be for a couple plays here and there.”
“Situational” seems to be the key word for Prescott’s appearances. As a freshman, he’s obviously not as polished of a passer as Russell, but his thick frame and quick feet could give him an advantage in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
If the coaches are comfortable with it, Prescott could be a candidate to run the option Mullen executed so often with Chris Relf the previous three seasons.
But here’s the other question: when Mullen says Prescott may not even get a whole series, is that coach speak, or does he plan on keeping Russell in for the entire game no matter the outcome?
After all, it was in 2010 when Russell was the redshirt freshman backup who came into the game late in the season-opener after Relf had built up a considerable lead against Memphis.
Russell then went on to complete 13-of-16 passes for 256 yards and a school-record tying four touchdowns.
No one, especially the coaches, would presume anything, but if the Bulldogs find themselves leading significantly over the FCS Tigers, might we see Prescott for an extended period of time? Perhaps a full quarter? Indeed, the same thing happened last year in the season-opener, again versus Memphis, with Russell entering late for the remainder of the contest after Relf got the lead.
Then again, Mullen could keep Russell in if such a situation arose, allowing him to boost his numbers, perhaps garnering more attention, and certainly giving Auburn something to think about for the following Saturday in Davis Wade.
Either way, we can expect to see both, and at this point, I think we’ll all just be thrilled we’re watching real, live football.