Les Koenning: Quarterbacks

Mississippi State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Les Koenning talks about the quarterback position, about his players individually and incoming freshman quarterback Tyler Russell.

What are your thoughts about the quarterback position overall?
"One of the things was very obvious to all of us was the different things the quarterbacks could do. But something that was tough in the spring was that we had so many different wide receivers. We never had a consistent group of wide receivers because they were either hurt or there were academic issues. That was really a struggle for us in the throwing game. I think that really made it tough for some of the quarterbacks to get a good feel for what was going on. And we were also learning a new system."

What are your thoughts about each quarterback?
"(Senior) Tyson Lee is an extremely intelligent young man who does a lot of good things. I really like what he brings to the table. He puts you in the correct situation with your protections and other things like that. And he can manage a football game. He has some good leadership qualities and our team follows him.

"His shoulder came around as the spring started. When he first came out there he was a little tentative due to the shoulder surgery he went through after the season.

"This summer has been really good for him because he's gotten stronger and he's put on more weight. Those issues as well as his durability were some things we were concerned about but he has responded well to what has been done in the weight room in the summer.

"(Sophomore) Chris Relf had a good spring. At times he was really good and other times he was really bad. His inconsistency was what hurt him the most. One of the things we talked about that he needed to improve on during the summer was his throwing. There are a lot of inconsistencies in his delivery. At times he comes over the top and other times he comes across his body. You have to be more consistent and he knows that. Running the football, he's definitely a threat. He's 240 pounds and can move. When he pulled the ball down you saw some explosive plays.

"We also have (freshman) Riley Saunders, a walk-on, and (junior) Aaron Encalade, another walk-on. They both have done a good job, but they are very young and inexperienced. Aaron came to us in the middle of the spring. Riley is ahead of Aaron in all aspects of a football game because he has here all spring."

You have one newcomer coming in, freshman Tyler Russell.
"We are really excited what Tyler brings to the table. It will be interesting to see how quickly he learns the offense. One thing that has helped him by coming in this summer is he is getting into football playing shape. The concerns with Tyler coming from high school to college were the physical part of it and all that we are going to throw at him mentally. We are getting the body aspect of it taken care of this summer so that we can really put a push on the mental part of it. We'll then see how he retains it and see if he's ready to play."

Tyler was at four or five of your spring practices. Did that help him that much?
"It did help but it's such a new system, such a new learning curve. A little bit of what Tyson and Chris went through during spring training is what he will be going through in our two-a-days when we show up (for fall practices)."

Is it possible that he will get some snaps in games this fall?
"It depends because we wouldn't want to put him in a situation where he couldn't be successful. As a coach, we are going to limit those times. It's just like with some of the other quarterbacks that we have. There are some things that they do well that the others don't. You want to put all of them in situations where they can be successful. With Tyler we will learn in two-a-days what he can do well, what he grasps. If he grasps the entire offense it would obviously be a great tribute to him and give a lot of flexibility to us."

If you had your druthers would you prefer to redshirt him?
"It doesn't matter which team you are on in the SEC if a freshman comes in to play then usually that's not good. Obviously, you would want the freshman to have the ability to work himself in if he's ready, but you can go to any school in the SEC and if they are penciling in a freshman to play that's not a good deal."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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