Two years ago, Chris Relf was the established starter at quarterback for Dan Mullen, and Tyler Russell was the bright-eyed, change-of-pace freshman passer for the Bulldogs.
Now, Russell is the signal-caller and leader for Mississippi State, while a freshman – Dak Prescott – has assumed his old role of the situational backup.
In the first game he ever played, Russell lit up the scoreboard. He was only a freshman, though the success had him convinced he was ready to be a star.
Confidence is good, but in that case, Russell said, it was mistake.
“My first game, I went in and threw four touchdowns,” Russell said. “Maybe that wasn’t the best thing for me to do. I thought I had accomplished so much and I already knew everything.”
Luckily for Prescott, he’s got Russell to guide him.
If the dual-threat freshman waits his turn, he could be in line to be the starter in his junior season, while playing a complimentary role along the way.
The exact same thing Russell did.
The two have a strong relationship and friendship, and the similarities in timelines have not gone unnoticed between the pair. Prescott said they talked about it as recently as last week. It’s part of the process. It’s part of maturing.
“He took me under his wings,” Prescott said. “I’ve just been trying to follow the things he does.”
Naturally, the two aren’t the same type of QB, as Russell is a pocket passer and Prescott is adept in the run game.
The difference has played in MSU’s favor, as Mullen has brought bigger and younger Prescott on the field in short-yardage and red zone situations with much success, giving opponents a different wrinkle to account for.
“We like to call it the two-headed monster at quarterback,” Prescott said with a smile.
When he threw his first touchdown pass of his career against Tennessee last Saturday, Russell was the first one to find him on the field and celebrate, sprinting over from the sideline as soon as Prescott crossed the goal line.
“Coach Mullen was like, ‘What are you doing?’” Russell said. “He just laughed.”
Not only was it a big play for Prescott, it was the first one of its kind. Sure, the freshman has passed before. But that close to the endzone, and with the outcome of the game still in relative doubt, Prescott had previously been nothing but a runner.
This time, he faked the run, fooling anyone who was watching, then pulled back up and tossed up a touchdown pass to a wide open Marcus Green.
“Tim Tebow created that pass,” Prescott said of Mullen’s former pupil, “the fake to yourself.”
Said Russell, “We’ve been working on that play for a while. We were waiting on the perfect time to use it.”
It seems that moment against that team may have been that perfect time.
They don’t watch TV, play video games or do homework. They go over the playbook. Together. If Prescott has a question, he asks Russell. If both have a question, they go find one of their coaches.
As one grows so does the other. And the better each does, the better MSU can be.
“It’s no selfishness,” Prescott said. “We both want each other to do great.”