September 3, 2013 11:11:12 AM
STARKVILLE -- For the first time in his Mississippi State University football career, Tyler Russell likely won't be on the active roster for a game due to injury.
MSU coach Dan Mullen announced Monday that Russell, MSU's fifth-year senior quarterback, is "doubtful" to play at 2:35 p.m. Saturday (CSS) against Alcorn State University due to the concussion he sustained in the third quarter of a 21-3 season-opening loss to No. 13 Oklahoma State University in the Texas Kickoff Classic at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.
On a first-down scramble by Russell, defensive tackle James Castleman dragged the Bulldogs' quarterback down while sophomore linebacker Ryan Simmons finished the play. Replays appeared to show inadvertent contact between Simmons' leg and Russell's head. Minutes later, members of MSU's training staff led Russell off the field. The school's medical staff took Russell into the tunnel, where he was evaluated.
"We're always going to be extra cautious with that stuff," Mullen said Monday in his weekly media conference. "It will be something we'll probably test those guys late in the week, Thursday or Friday, to see where they're at and see if they're going to be able to dress."
MSU now must rebound from just the third game in the Dan Mullen era where it failed to score a touchdown. It also needs to get sophomore Dak Prescott ready to make his first career college start. The preparation began Monday with Prescott behind center for a majority of the snaps and Russell watching and encouraging a player he called "the second starting quarterback" in fall camp.
"(Tyler) just told me to go improve myself this week and he's supporting me 100 percent," Prescott said. "I'm sure he'll be in my ear (Saturday) letting me know as I come off the field what he saw. He'll be right there with me."
Russell has never officially missed a game at MSU due a injury, but he didn't play in the 2011 Music City Bowl after wearing a boot on his foot for the two weeks of preparation. Chris Relf took every snap of MSU's 23-17 victory against Wake Forest University, but Russell was dressed and listed as the backup quarterback.
In situational and mop-up duty last season as a redshirt freshman, Prescott was 18 of 29 for 194 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 118 yards and four touchdowns while playing in every game but one.
Against OSU, Prescott failed to move the offense and was 7 of 17 for 89 yards and an interception.
"We kind of stepped on our own foot," Prescott said . "We may have missed some shots (down the field). It's one of the mental errors we made, and we will correct those."
Against Alcorn State, Prescott will get a chance to show Mullen's comment Monday that MSU's playbook won't change for Prescott is true.
"It's a great opportunity for him," Mullen said. "It wasn't like, 'Oh goodness. What do we have to take out of the game plan? What can't we call?' It was, 'Hey, Dak is in. Dak, you just go run the offense.' Stepping into the huddle, that confidence he brings and the leadership he brings, there wasn't a panic in any of the coaches and not a panic in any of the players. He has a lot of trust in his teammates."
MSU team physician Dr. Bob Collins said Monday concussion testing is "just one of the factors in making a determination" to clear a player for contact in practice or a game. He said one of the issues with the extensive concussion tests is determining if the player is responding favorably throughout the week or doing a better job of taking the test.
"They do concussion testing and everyone on the team gets kind of tested on it before the season starts," Mullen said. "I haven't done it in a while. I probably should do it just to see. They said it's really hard to pass if you're healthy, so it's a tough deal."
Prescott has spent a majority of fall camp running the offense with the second-string unit. He spent the first part of open practice last month regaining his rhythm after having offseason surgery.
"Getting him to know the whole game plan is important," MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said last week. "It's not just about having a Dak specific package anymore, but having the whole game plan ready for him to do it."
Mullen said last week it wasn't as critical to get Prescott in the game because he'd experienced a lot of different elements to the higher level of college football last year. Russell's injury has changed that thinking.
"Tyler is more of the business approach, and Dak is more of the rah-rah guy, so Dak has had a big leadership role on our team already," Mullen said. "When Dak goes to rally the team, they're used to seeing that. Tyler is the leader in the Xs and O' of how he wants me to run this route. When Dak goes in, it's not like, 'OK, who is this new guy coming in to lead us' because he's done it all year."
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Prescott is known mostly for his running ability. Last season, he was used primarily in short-yardage situations or on drives inside the 10-yard-line. Prescott tried the shotgun quarterback sneak twice against OSU and was stuffed both times, which forced MSU to punt.
"He's very much a precision passer," MSU junior tight end Brandon Hill said. "He's just a little more physical, so he's got that option (to run) more than Tyler does. But they're pretty much the same."
Hill should know about Prescott's skills. He has been working with the second-team unit and Prescott since he arrived at MSU. Against Alcorn State, Prescott likely will make his first career start.
"It's the opportunity I've been waiting for," Prescott said. "I'm sure my emotions will be high, but I'm going to be mentally focused, stay calm, and go out there and execute."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.
1. Starkville Academy beats Heritage Academy to reach title game HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. MSU seniors earn rousing send-off COLLEGE SPORTS
3. Moorhead adds coach; MSU baseball team promotes Brown COLLEGE SPORTS
4. MSU softball team splits first two games in California COLLEGE SPORTS