True, the record was 5-7, but the Bulldogs were just a couple of plays from being 6-6 or 7-5. Even in the losses to such highly touted teams as Florida and Georgia Tech the Bulldogs were in the games. And the new attitude was evident each time the Dawgs took the field in 2009.
Mullen brought his youthful enthusiasm and never-say-die outlook to a group of hungry young men and a yearning fanbase. The result was a team that believed they could beat the best in the land, and a fanbase that on two occasions broke Mississippi State attendance records. The season ended with Coach Mullen raising the Golden Egg over his head. From day one the MSU head man preached the importance of winning the game versus "That School Up North", and his team did it in dominating fashion. The Bulldogs performance in the 2009 Egg Bowl has many fans excited about 2010.
GO AHEAD AND SMILE; THERE'S REASON TO BE OPTIMISTIC
I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Mullen will lead the Bulldogs to a 10-2 record in 2010. And I'm not going to tell you that our beloved maroon and white clad players will be in contention for a New Year's Day bowl. Is it possible? You better believe it, but truthfully we are not there yet. We are, however, a team that could finish with a winning record. And after our last trip to Memphis, I'm sure that Liberty Bowl officials would love to have us back.
BREAKING DOWN THE 2010 BULLDOGS
With Tyson Lee graduating the Bulldogs will look for a new starter in the spring. Many fans held out hope that heralded junior college signal caller Cameron Newton would give a pledge to the Bulldogs and fill this need. Instead, Newton chose to give his signature to Auburn. Still, there is no need to worry. With three quarterbacks on campus and one of the nation's most prolific passers on the way, the Bulldogs have options.
After a strong showing in the 2009 Egg Bowl, Chris Relf received much praise from the Maroon Nation. The Mississippi defense seemingly had no answer as Relf ran the option to perfection. The 6'3, 235-pounder will be a junior in 2010 and looks to be a guy the staff will go to. There is no question that Relf can be a battering ram runner from the QB spot. The questions that surround him lie in his ability to pass the ball. Relf possesses a strong, live arm and throws the deep ball well. The big knock on the Montgomery native is his accuracy in the short to intermediate passing game. If Mullen and company can deal with the inaccuracy issues and polish his ability to throw the ball then Relf could be the every down quarterback next season. That is unlikely though as right behind him is the talented freshman gunslinger Tyler Russell.
After redshirting his true freshman season, Tyler Russell looks to see action in 2010. The Parade high school All-American spent 2009 on the sidelines learning the offense and adjusting to the speed of the college game. It has been noted on several occasions that in the last month of practice Russell looked "stellar" and that "the light came on." Some have said that in the closing stretch the former Meridian High School Wildcat may have been the best quarterback on the team. Some even seem to think that the nation's top juco signal-caller, Cameron Newton, signed with Auburn because he was told he'd have to compete with Russell for the starting quarteback job at Mississippi State. After seeing the 2008 Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year in action all during his senior campaign, I can tell you that he is a natural born passer. In Tyler Russell you are getting a true leader, a man of faith and character, and an athlete that knows how to win. Will he be a Heisman contender someday? Who knows. I just know that I fully trust Tyler Russell with our future in his hands.
Also on campus is walk-on Daniel Stegall. Stegall originally signed with Miami (FL) out of Greenwood High in Arkansas, but elected to sign with the New York Mets organization after being drafted in the MLB draft. After a couple of years playing minor league baseball, he is in Starkville chasing his gridiron dreams once again.
Joining the Dawgs in the 2010 signing class will be Dylan Favre, Mississippi's 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year. The St. Stanislaus product broke seemingly every record in the books for passing in the state of Mississippi, and put his name in the national record books as well. Like Russell before him, Favre is expected to redshirt next season.
That's a look at what to expect out of the quarterbacks in 2010. Look for an in-depth look at who will be replacing running backs Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre in the next few days.
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Joe Cumberland is one of the creators and a columnist for the Maroon Nation website, a blog that offers opinions about Mississippi State sports. He can be reached by email at email@example.com