Mullen Dismisses Quarterback Controversy Idea

Mullen Dismisses Quarterback Controversy Idea

It is assured hot-topic status everywhere else. Just don't expect Dan Mullen to acknowledge, much less take sides on, any perceived quarterback controversy. "I've never had a quarterback controversy in all my years coaching," said Mullen. "I've never had tailback controversy or a linebacker controversy or any of those."

What Mullen and Mississippi State do have at the moment is the regular updating of quarterback Tyler Russell's health and status. The senior went down, then out of State's season-opening game August 31 with a third-quarter concussion and has not set foot on the playing field since.

The practice field, yes. Russell was cleared for normal work over a week ago. "He practiced, he'll practice again today," said Mullen Monday. "He's cleared to go run, he's cleared to go throw, he's cleared to do what we ask him to do at practice."

But to play in this weekend's home game with Troy (6:38, FSN)? That word hasn't come through as of today. In fact, "I know we don't test until Tuesday, I think is the earliest they would test him again."

This past Saturday, in the hours prior to kickoff at Auburn, unofficial word circulated Russell had been cleared at that day's re-testing. It proved incorrect though Russell did practice pregame, even taking snaps from the starting center Dillon Day in drills. "We didn't get the clear to have him have any contact yet," Mullen clarified today. "And at practice he's always a non-contact guy."

Which means no need to update that week-day status. Russell will be in his usual practice green jersey (not the injured-player red) and doing the usual drills.

"So he'll go get the reps," Mullen said. "We'll prepare the same this week that we did last week and see what the doctor's report is as the week goes on." But, what of the weekend? Concussion tests are spaced-out for control purposes anyway. And as Russell is otherwise fine and working out, State need not know the veteran's status until practically game time.

Which was the case at Auburn in fact. "The tough one for me is I don't push the testing schedule, because unlike other player it's not going to affect a lot that goes on at practice for us in splitting reps, in how we do it. But I haven't looked to push that because we're going to kind of prepare like we did last week.

"If they give us the thumbs-up, he's cleared good to go, the only adjustment is going to be slightly adjusting reps during practice." Such adjustments are slightly more complicated now that true freshman Damian Williams has been activated and is in backup duty. He also has to get game-planning snaps now instead of running the scout team as he did opening week.

Mullen does not buy into the football philosophy that starters don't lose jobs to injury. But neither does he say clearance automatically translates into being #1 at earliest opportunity.

"I've always handled that, that's kind of my gut instinct that I usually feel. I want to see if Tyler is cleared how is he performing in practice for us? Is he as sharp as I want him to be when he gets cleared? Then if that's the case he's good to go for us.

"Anybody can lose their job at any time, I mean. I guess that sounds terrible. I have tremendous faith in Tyler, he's won a lot of games for us and he's our starting quarterback. But we always want to train those guys. I like having multiple starting quarterbacks because you feel pretty comfortable with guys being in that situation, ready to go play."

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