A Q&A With Quarterbacks Coach Les Koenning

Mississippi State quarterbacks coach Les Koenning talks about his QBs, how they did this past spring and who is projected to be on the 1st team and who is his immediate backup.

Chris Relf wound up as the starting quarterback at the end of the spring. Talk about his improvement since last fall.
"Chris has improved his throwing. His reads, progressions, footwork, grasping concepts have all improved."

What are your expectations for Chris going into the season?
"I want him to keep progressing, not only on the field but off the field, too, as a leader. He's not a big vocal leader. But I think that has improved because his confidence has improved. There is a lot of trust in that position."

When he plays his first couple of games what will probably be the biggest surprise that Mississippi State fans will see from Chris?
"I think the biggest thing will be his execution. Last year, when we had Tyson Lee and Chris, Tyson could get everybody lined up, put them in the right position, make the checks and get everything done. Chris was still in a learning process. He was worried about Chris. He wasn't worried about where Anthony Dixon lined up. He was just trying to make sure he was lined up correctly. Now, he knows what he is doing and he can now progress."

It seemed like it took him awhile to get to that point. Why do you think that was the case?
"Chris was going through the same learning process that Tyler (Russell) is going through now. He had not played when we came here. Now, he has played and gotten the chance to go out and do the things that have helped him become a better quarterback. As you saw, Chris got better at the end of the year because he was playing."

What are your thoughts about Tyler Russell?
"Tyler is learning our system. He's about where Chris was last year.

"The biggest thing with Tyler and he'll laugh about this but every time I was around Tyler he said, 'I got it, I got it,' then, when he got in he didn't have it. That's the mental aspect of it. This spring he started off really good but by the end of the spring he really started to grasp things. You could say he really started understanding it. Once you can figure out what to do and how to do it, then the third part is why did you do it? Chris has learned what to do, how to do it and is learning why we did it. Tyler is learning what we do and how we do it, but he doesn't understand why we are doing it in the learning process. I'm not saying Chris has all the whys down but he's farther along than Tyler in that area."

Are you at the point where you feel it will be ok to play Tyler in any game next season?
"If everything was perfect you would want to play him in every game to give him experience. That way, if Chris should get hurt, you would like to have him in the game. We did the same thing with Chris last year. We would play him a few plays or a series. And we knew the plays that Chris could run and felt comfortable running. We will do the same thing with Tyler. We wouldn't put him in the situations where we say here's the playbook, let's go. We want to progress with him. We were very fortunate to redshirt him last year. It wouldn't have been real pretty to play him but we would have learned with him."

We all know that Tyler has a really good arm, but how has his running ability improved?
"He's taken the fact that people say he can't run as a challenge. He wants to show you that he can. That is a good attribute to have. But the concern with that is when they start running they aren't used to getting hit a lot and ball security becomes a concern. There were a couple of times last year we didn't put Chris in the game because we didn't want the ball on the ground. We knew Tyson would take care of the football. Now, we feel a lot more comfortable with Chris and he feels more comfortable with himself as well."

But I noticed in spring practice your quarterbacks wore red jerseys which meant the other players couldn't tackle them.
"In some drills we made them live."

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.

Gene's Page Top Stories