Relf Steps Up To The Challenge

Thursday's practice was held in conjunction with the MSU Coaches Clinic so the team focused primarily on individual drills. The team still managed to get a lot done, especially the two quarterbacks Chris Relf and Tyler Russell who continued to battle it out for the starting job.

Offense

Quarterback Battle

Coach Mullen threw a curveball in the quarterback battle by giving Tyler Russell first team reps Tuesday. But neither quarterback seem to respond well to the move. Mullen switched things back on Thursday, showing the move was probably just a teaching tool.

And it appeared to work because Chris Relf seemed to respond to Mullen's challenge during Thursday's practice, looking like a much better quarterback. He completed 9 of 12 passes during 7 on 7s, including completing seven in a row at one point. He performed equally as well during 11 on 11s, connecting on 7 of 9 passes, including the first five. Among Relf's passes were a couple of great throws, a bullet pass to Brandon Henderson across the middle and a bomb to Leon Berry.

Tyler Russell also had a good day, completing 6 of 8 passes in the 7 on 7s. He also connected on 7 of 11 passes during the 11 on 11s.

Overall, both quarterbacks had a good day of practice with Relf pulling back out front in the quarterback competition.

Running Back

The running backs did mostly individual drills during the practice. They did do some passing drills against the linebackers and looked solid running routes and catching the ball. Montrell Conner returned to practice after being out for a week with a hamstring injury.

Wide Receiver Development

The development of the young receivers has been a pleasant surprise. Brandon Heavens is one guy who has had a good spring so far. Chris Smith has also look good at times and did once again during Thursday's practice. He had four catches and also looked solid in individual drills. He is making a strong case to be 1st on the depth chart at the X position coming out of the spring.

Arceto Clark, after a strong spring at cornerback, was asked to move to receiver after Sam Williams tore his ACL. Clark was still knocking the rust off but did have an impressive catch in traffic in 11 on 11s.

Heavens, Berry, and Bumphis continued to impress with 11 catches combined. The receiving unit is starting to take shape with the emergence of Chris Smith. Coach Mark Hudspeth now has an X (Smith), an H-Back (Bumphis), a Z (Berry), and another capable H-Back (Heavens). He now must find some players to fill some roles behind those players.

Defense

Defensive Line

The defensive line has been one of the most consistent units over the course of the spring. And they continued that trend during Thursday's practice, although they were limited to an extent due to not being allowed to tackle the ball carriers. But you can tell that they are definitely starting to buy into the attack first system of new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.

Of the defensive linemen, one player who made a true impact during Thursday's practice was Pernell McPhee who made three sacks on the day. In my opinion, he really looks primed to have another All-SEC caliber season. And, who knows, All-American honors might not be too far behind.

Defensive Backs

The secondary continues to get better every day. After a dominating practice Tuesday when they had five interceptions, they once again did well during Thursday's practice, nearly picking off several passes.

Maurice Langston, who is running first team at cornerback, is a player who is still trying to acclimate himself to the position after being moved to the position midway through last season. And he's showing the inconsistency you would expect. After having a strong spring, he had a poor day during Tuesday's practice. But he followed that practice with a good day Thursday, almost intercepting the first pass of 11 on 11s off of Relf.

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Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for GenesPage.com. He can be reached by email at moot2005@yahoo.com


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