We've collaborated with Brett at All Things Maroon for a Q &A:
(1) Chris Relf: Will he or won't he? If not, what does Tyler Russell bring to the table that Relf might not?
Relf has the tools to lead theMSU Offense, the question is will he, as you asked. In my opinion, it depends on what the UGA Defense throws at him. Relf has the ability to take over a game with his running ability. He's smart in the option game, and has the potential to take the ball to the second level, every time he touches the ball. Passing is his weakness, though he is greatly improved from last season. I think that if we are going to use him to pass, the play calls need to resemble a run, and we need to use the short and intermediate passes. Former MSU QB Matt Wyatt, had an excellent point about Relf earlier this week, and that's that he is much better on the run, and moving in the pocket. So, if I were Mullen, I would look for ways to roll him out, more than we have. If Relf can't cut it, then Russell is a quality option. Both QBs have suffered from poor OL play, and last week was no exception. With Russell, you trade Relf's legs-for Tyler's arm. He has the ability to throw opposite-hash to sideline with ease, usually throws a good deep ball, and in my opinion, is the better QB before and after the snap.
Many in the MSU camp, are going back and forth, but it's clear that we are searching for an identity. As cliche' as it sounds, I really think that which ever QB fits the 'moment', will be in the game at that time.
(2) What are the chief causes for hope for the Bulldogs this week?
I have hope in our veteran OL, and our Defense. I know the coaching staff, and myself, have been critical of the OL's play thus far, but they can only play this bad for so long. Two of our Off. Lineman were on preseason award lists (Brignone and Sherrod), we are 2 deep at each spot, and that's where our leadership and maturity has to lie. I really think that if we can clear up the communication issues, pick up
a block here, and a blitz there, we could start controlling some ball games. The Defense has been pretty strong to start the year. At times, they bend but don't break, but long story short, we have to clean up our 3rd down Defense, land our blitzes, and force the opposing Offense to make mistakes. But, I feel good about the potential of both groups, and their importance to this team success.
(3) What has MSU done well? Not well?
Well, we've done a lot of good things, but in spurts. One thing that we have really done well, would be scoring right out of the gate, to start the 2nd half. 3 games in,
we are 3 for 3, with 3 TDs. I think the next step, is to replicate that success from beginning to end. The Defense is the strength of the team thus far, and we are not far away from turning into a very opportunistic bunch. Both QBs have had their moments, but our Offense lacks consistency. Our OL has yet to play up to their potential, which is a reflection of our overall record, and our inability to score
points. If there was anything that I have really been unhappy with, it would be (A)the play of our Special Teams, especially on kick offs. We thought we had two solid kickers in Brauschle and DePasquale, but kicking the ball out of bounds, and not being able to at least place the ball inside the 5, has killed us on kick offs . On the flip-side, our return game has been non-existent. WRs Chad Bumphis and Leon Berry, were a very dynamic force last year. I think we returned 2 kicks for TDs in '09, and it seemed that either guy could take one to the house at any time. It's completely different this season, and we are lucky to start at our own 20. Our lanes are closing, and both returners are running in a very timid manner. (B)I'd really like our DL step up. When you look at the players on that line- McPhee, Boyd, Cox, Ferguson, Carmon, McKenzie, it makes you wonder why we don't hear their names more. They have to start getting penetration, and disrupt the back field, to fit our Defensive philosophy. And finally, (C)we haven't gotten our play makers the ball enough. Such as: WRs Chad Bumphis, Brandon Heavens, and RB LaDarius Perkins. We have to get these guys the ball more in open space, where they can use their speed and shiftiness to make plays. Amongst those 3, you need 20-24 touches a night.
(4) What is the sentiment about Dan Mullen in Starkville?
It's amazing how he resurrected the fan base last season. He brought back that pride and passion that had been missing, and somehow, made the nation pay attention to Starkville, MS again. Even as a 5 win team, we had some swagger, and didn't back down to anyone. His energy is contagious, he knows the game, and it's very evident that we are headed in the right direction. The students and alumni continue to respond well to Mullen, our funding is higher than ever, we sold 43,000+ season tickets, and he has done everything in his power, to make Davis Wade Stadium, a tough place to play again. For some, the honeymoon is over, but I'd say that's among 10% or less of our fan base.
(5) What is the legitimate season outlook for the Bulldogs?
I'd say finishing 6-6, and making a bowl game. Last year, we had numerous chances to get that 6th win, and fell inches short in some cases. At this point, we are 1-2 overall, 0-2 in the SEC. For MSU, we have to win our home games, and the ones we are supposed to. If we do that, we can find ourselves playing football after Thanksgiving, and that's what we want to do. If we were to beat UGA on Saturday, that would be a huge boost to our morale, and propel us forward. I picked us to win
8 games, and I still think that's a possibility (bowl win included). If our OL and D can really make strides, then there's no reason why the Bulldogs can't ease into the bowl season. Otherwise, it will be fighting tooth and nail.
My thanks to Brett for participating.