Lee Counts Down And Works Up For '09 Kickoff

Well sure, if one goes strictly by dates there are eight whole weeks before anything organized and official starts up. Talking with Tyson Lee, though, it's evident he is thinking—and working—a couple of pages ahead on his 2009 calendar. "It'll be here before you know it!"

‘It' of course meaning the beginning of pre-season camp for Mississippi State. Or should we make that the formal beginning? Because in Lee's mind the pre- to '09 season is already underway, an impression shared with teammates here for a long hot summer of pre-pre-season workouts.

"I'd say sense of urgency is the overall factor," the senior quarterback explained. "Coach says a lot of times to have sense of urgency each day and that's what we're trying to do. And by doing that I feel we get better."

That sense of summer urgency is easy enough to explain. After their first spring session with Coach Dan Mullen, staff, and new systems veterans like Lee recognize potential for the success that evaded them last fall. Redshirts and newcomers see opportunity to play. All understand what is to be done over those couple of calendar sheets in-between. I.E., work as if the season were in-progress, which Lee reports is indeed the June approach.

For that matter he can scarcely tell any difference to summer intensity from spring's strength/conditioning program. In both the requirements, and the results. "They've been just like normal, we didn't miss a beat coming back. We started hard and hopefully we'll continue that way."

Speaking of hard… For this summer Lee has taken on some pretty serious senior duty, befitting the fellow who will direct the offense as well as set a leadership-tone for the entire team. In his particular case this means signing up for Coach Matt Balis' morning session in the workout schedule; seeing to upperclassman academic duty which includes a night class; and in-between going to the practice field to call plays and throw the football.

A lot.

"We have different times each day guys meet up and we throw," Lee said. Different because the starting quarterback may throw in the morning after workouts, or in the afternoon when more teammates are available, or even both. That's quite a bunch of chunking the pigskin, and no coach is near to enforce the football equivalent of a pitch count. Lee is assumed wise enough to know when to call it a day…except that there's always the felt need to make one more toss, have his targets run one more pattern. This reflects the potential State's offensive squad perceived in themselves during spring ball.

"The routes, they change every day," Lee said. "But usually we try to get between 100 and 150 throws in a day. I throw every day. And it's going well so far."

It's always worth reminding that during June and July player contact with their coaches, both position and coordinators, is effectively nil per NCAA regulations. Certainly there can be no hands-on instruction. In this 2009 case this makes things more MSU-interesting with the Bulldogs on both sides still soaking up new schemes and sets and only their spring experience to call upon.

That, and some older Dogs who have been through the SEC circuit and have a first-hand idea of how the game must be played. Which means Lee has even greater need, and opportunity, to step to the fore and become something of a coach on the practice field. One of many, he clarifies quickly.

"The biggest thing is stay in the playbook and get better every day. Go watch the film of practice in the spring and continue watching to see how we can get better. Then bring guys in so we can coach each other and kind of know what we're doing on the field even before it happens." This includes, by the way, the five brand-new freshmen who are being introduced to Mississippi State's way of work earlier than usual. Naturally fans wonder, is senior Lee giving any tips yet to rookie Tyler Russell?

No, not yet in these first three days. "We've kind of been off-balance, he's got afternoon stuff and I have morning stuff so we haven't really been able to meet up yet. But we'll get up soon!" Who Lee has been more immediately involved with this opening June week has been a couple of veterans who had their '08 seasons end with injury and surgery. Both running back Robert Elliot and wide receiver Brandon McRae are being counted on to provide play-making and game-breaking abilities this fall after (so far) successful rehabilitations, and Lee says they are both looking good.

"Rob was able to do drills the other day moving laterally and cutting and he looked really, really good. That's encouraging. And Brandon is continuing to get better and I think in the next few weeks he'll be to cut really hard. Any time you can have guys that can make plays after the catch, those are the ones you want. Brandon has shown he can do that, and Robert is a guy who is going to give 150% all the time. If you want somebody to have the ball, you want Robert Elliot to have the ball."

Of course somebody has to get the ball to those and other State skillsters. Lee, the eight-game starter as a junior transfer, maintained his top status in spring and improves with every snap taken and pass throw, official or otherwise. It's not lost on him that one June ago he was the new quarterback on campus, looking up the depth chart and wondering what his real role would become. Look at him now.

"It's humbling," Lee said. "First of all I can't believe a year has already passed! But even to look back and see how things have gone through this year, it's encouraging." And, demanding. Because Lee is now in better position to grasp what still needs doing before the Bulldogs can tap into potential. "We realize we have a lot on our plate this year, and it's exciting too. We're getting ready for a big year and it all begins right now.

"Every day it's a maximum effort from the time you walk in to the time you walk out. And that's the one thing I try to encourage the guys to do, when you leave be able to look in the mirror and know you gave it your all that day." Days which, by Lee's calendar-calculating, are flying by since every dawn is one step closer to kicking it off for real.

"The season is right around the corner so we can't wait too long!"


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