SEC: Tyson Lee

Who's the best quarterback in the SEC?

November, 25, 2009
Who’s the best quarterback in the SEC?

There are all sorts of variables to consider when you set out to answer that question, but the best place to start is how a guy has fared against SEC competition.

That said, we've pulled out the numbers of the SEC starting quarterbacks in league games. Only the quarterbacks who started more than half the games are included, which eliminates Kentucky’s Mike Hartline.

Vanderbilt’s Larry Smith was injured in the fifth game, and Mackenzi Adams finished the season for the Commodores.

A few things of interest when you’re looking at these numbers:
  • Florida’s Tim Tebow has eight rushing touchdowns to lead all quarterbacks and has also rushed for 532 yards in SEC games. That said, only Auburn’s Chris Todd (four), Mississippi State’s Tyson Lee (three) and Smith (two) have thrown fewer touchdowns this season in SEC games than Tebow’s seven.
  • Georgia’s Joe Cox has thrown the most touchdowns (17), but he’s also thrown the second most interceptions (11). Ole Miss’ Jevan Snead has thrown the most interceptions (12).
  • The best touchdown-to-interception ratios belong to Mallett, Alabama’s Greg McElroy and Crompton, in that order. Mallett has 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. McElroy has nine touchdowns and three interceptions, and Crompton has 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. All three players still have one more SEC game remaining this week.
  • Mallett, who has 1,962 yards passing against SEC defenses, should surpass the 2,000-yard mark Saturday against LSU.
  • Of the guys who’ve played at least seven games, Snead has the lowest completion percentage (51.5).

So, who’s the best quarterback in the SEC? Make up your own mind, but here are the hard numbers (Quarterbacks are listed in order of passing yardage in SEC play):

Lunchtime links: Powe has a score to settle

November, 20, 2009
Taking the Friday temperature from around the SEC:

Lunchtime links: Officiating in the news again

November, 9, 2009
Posted by's Chris Low

Kicking off the week with some SEC linkage:

Second-half outlook: Mississippi State

October, 21, 2009
Posted by's Chris Low

Despite what happens the rest of the way this season, the fans in Starkville are genuinely excited about the future of Mississippi State football. They’re expecting a record crowd this Saturday night when No. 1 Florida comes to town. It’s the first of several daunting tests for the Bulldogs during the second half of the season. Alabama will visit in November, and Mississippi State still has to go to Kentucky and Arkansas and then ends the season at home against Ole Miss. As it turns out, the Bulldogs’ schedule has been even more difficult than it appeared back in August. Senior Anthony Dixon is having an outstanding season and is one of those guys who can take all the carries you want to give him, but he could still use some more help out of the passing game. It’s Tyson Lee’s show at quarterback, especially with Chris Relf remaining on suspension for the time being.

Best-case scenario: The Bulldogs man up defensively and find a way to squeeze out three more victories, most likely against Kentucky, Arkansas and Ole Miss, to get to 6-6 and become bowl eligible.

Worst-case scenario: The Florida game gets out of hand, and the Bulldogs go downhill from there. They don’t win again and finish with a worse record than a year ago at 3-9.

Prediction: The Bulldogs pick up two more wins behind a 1,000-yard rushing season from Dixon, but a 5-7 record keeps them out of a bowl game for the second straight year.

Lunchtime links: Green still the man for Dogs

September, 17, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

A glimpse of what's making headlines around the SEC:
  • Auburn coach Gene Chizik might be satisfied with being 2-0, but he's not necessarily satisfied with the way the Tigers are playing.
  • Quarterback Stephen Garcia and the South Carolina offense still have a few kinks to work out, but there's definitely been progress.

Mullen not biting on his quarterback

August, 26, 2009
Posted by's Chris Low

You gotta hand it to first-year Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.

He's not tipping his hand on who will start at quarterback for the Bulldogs in their opener Sept. 5 against Jackson State, and he said his choice may not be revealed until the first play.

Senior Tyson Lee and sophomore Chris Relf have been battling for the job. Lee has an edge in experience, while the 235-pound Relf is more athletic and gives the Bulldogs a little different look back there.

When Mullin says it's "irrelevant" who starts the game, he's being truthful. He told me two weeks ago that he anticipated both Lee and Relf playing in the first half of the first game.

In other words, it's going to sort itself out.

Whoever's back there is going to need more help from the players around him than any of the Mississippi State quarterbacks got last season.

And along those lines, getting freshman receiver Chad Bumphis back at practice Tuesday was key. Bumphis wasn't all the way back by any means, but at least he was back out there. He sprained his ankle last week.

Mullen surprised Lee hasn't separated himself

August, 14, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Dan Mullen has a little more than three weeks to go until his first game at Mississippi State, and he still doesn't know who his quarterback is going to be.

Mullen said following the Bulldogs' first full scrimmage Thursday that it was dead even at this point between senior Tyson Lee and sophomore Chris Relf.

Mullen went on to say that it would probably be a three-man race had true freshman Tyler Russell been enrolled in time to go through spring practice.

"Just the fact that he's mentally behind everybody else hurts him a little bit," Mullen said. "It will be a wide-open race until the end."

And, honestly, Mullen didn't see it going this way coming into the preseason. He thought Lee would have separated himself by now.

"I thought he would have been crisper, more consistent," Mullen said. "He's done some good things. He just hasn't done enough of them."

Relf's strength has been his athleticism, and he's made enough plays to hang around in the race. Mullen said it's all the other intangibles, such as being a leader, that he has to get better at if he's going to win the job.

Russell's suffering from paralysis by analysis right now because everything is so new. Mullen's not ruling out, though, that he can be ready to play at some point this season.

"Sometimes that light just clicks with a freshman, and he gets it," Mullen said.

Offense too 'herky-jerky' for Bulldogs' Mullen

August, 14, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen didn't keep score Thursday in the Bulldogs' first full scrimmage of the preseason.

But if somebody had, the defense would have won.

"Herky-jerky" is the way Mullen described his offense, which is not all that surprising considering the combination of the new offensive system and all the young players the Bulldogs are trying to incorporate.

While the news could have been better for the Mississippi State offense, it's pretty obvious that the Bulldogs will be able to stand their ground defensively this season. Mullen himself said he wouldn't trade the Bulldogs' starting linebacker corps of Jamar Chaney, K.J. Wright and Chris White for anybody. The addition of junior college defensive tackle Pernell McPhee just makes the Bulldogs that much stronger up the middle.

"I was hoping the offense would perform better than we did today and execute at a little higher level," Mullen said. "But I'm pleased with the consistent play of the defense."

The Bulldogs were also playing without two of their starting offensive linemen -- left tackle Derek Sherrod and guard Tobias Smith.

One thing's clear about where Mississippi State is on offense right now: Mullen isn't close to naming a starting quarterback. He said senior Tyson Lee and sophomore Chris Relf were pretty much dead even.

True freshman quarterback Tyler Russell still has his head spinning a little bit as he attempts to process everything the Bulldogs are throwing at him.

On a positive note about the offense, Mullen continues to be impressed with some of the freshman receivers.

"Chad Bumphis looked fast on a couple of plays, and [running back] Robert Elliott looked fast on a couple of plays," Mullen said. "One of the big things offensively was to try and find some playmakers. We'll go back and watch the film and see if we have a couple we can get the ball to."

Mullen won't push Russell before he's ready

August, 3, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

It would be a huge upset at this point if senior Tyson Lee wasn't Mississippi State's starting quarterback to open the season Sept. 5 against Jackson State.

The former walk-on is learning his third different offense in as many years, but his experience and work ethic will make him hard to beat.

"He's one of those guys who gives you everything he has every single day," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.

What nobody knows is how quickly heralded true freshman Tyler Russell will mature. He's been impressive with the way he's thrown the ball during summer workouts and is clearly the Bulldogs' quarterback of the future.

Mullen won't get ahead of himself in terms of determining when that future will be.

"If I think he's going to give us the best chance to win, I will play him. If not, then he won't play," Mullen said of the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Russell, who was one of the most coveted prospects in the state of Mississippi last year.

"I'm not going to just throw him out there. If I think he can help us this year, we will slowly work him in there. The quarterback position is all about confidence, and to play somebody at that position before they're ready can set them back more than it helps them."

Mullen will be much more liberal about playing true freshmen at receiver. The Bulldogs really don't have much choice when you look at their numbers at receiver. One of those guys they're still waiting on is Ricco Sanders of Duncan, S.C. He's yet to be cleared academically and didn't report with the rest of the team Sunday.

Also, junior college newcomer Maurice Langston will remain suspended until his legal issues are resolved. Langston, a defensive back, was arrested in February and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

A pair of injured players from a year ago -- receiver Brandon McRae and running back Robert Elliott -- say they're ready to go. McRae broke his leg in the season finale against Ole Miss, but has worked his way back close to 100 percent. Elliott tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee last season against LSU and says he's fully healthy.

Hope and concern: Mississippi State

June, 26, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Biggest reason for hope: Strength up the middle on defense

Mississippi State needed an enforcer on defense and got one in the form of junior college newcomer Pernell McPhee, who was dominant this past spring from his tackle position. He's athletic enough to play end, but was such a force inside that the Bulldogs will keep him there. There were times on the practice field that he wrecked everything the offense was trying to do. He has a chance to be one of those new faces in the league that everybody in the country knows by the end of the season. He also has a menacing cast of linebackers behind him, led by Jamar Chaney in the middle. Chaney is back for his senior season after breaking his ankle in the opener a year ago. He's flanked by K.J. Wright and Chris White, another impressive junior college newcomer. All three linebackers weigh 240-plus pounds and are fierce tacklers. It will be no picnic trying to run the ball on the Bulldogs this season.

Biggest reason for concern: Too much new on offense

Much of the spring was devoted to installing Dan Mullen's spread offense, and the truth is that it won't be fully installed until the Bulldogs can add some more firepower at receiver. A few of the freshmen enrollees will help this season, but you know what they say about first-year players in the SEC. Quarterback Tyson Lee isn't entirely new, but this will be his first season running this offense. It will also be the first time that he's entered a season as the starter, and that's assuming there are no surprises in preseason practice and somebody beats him out. Even though the new staff has had the spring and will also have the preseason to get a better feel for the personnel on offense, it's difficult to be sure who can do what until you see them in the games. All in all, the Bulldogs figure to be pretty limited in what they will be able to do on offense this first season under Mullen.

Mississippi State getting it done in the classroom

May, 13, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Dan Mullen's arrival at Mississippi State has done more than just pump renewed energy into the football program.

The Bulldogs also just completed one of their best semesters ever in the classroom. They posted their third-highest grade point average (2.62) since the school started keeping track of the scores.

Former coach Sylvester Croom also deserves credit for getting things pointed in the right direction academically. Mississippi State recently posted a 933 Academic Progress Report (APR) rate, its highest score since the NCAA initiated the APR program five years ago. According to Mississippi State, the Bulldogs are one of five SEC teams to improve its APR each of those five years.

What's really impressive about this last semester is that several of Mississippi State's highest profile players had some of the best GPAs. Quarterback Tyson Lee had a 3.44. Running back Anthony Dixon and offensive tackle Derek Sherrod each had a 3.25, while linebacker Jamar Chaney had a 3.06.

In all, 22 players had better than a 3.0, and 43 players had a 2.5 or better.

Mississippi State spring wrap-up

May, 5, 2009
Posted by's Chris Low

Mississippi State Bulldogs
2008 overall record: 4-8

2008 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense: 5, kicker/punter: 0

Top returners

QB Tyson Lee, RB Anthony Dixon, WR Brandon McRae, OT Derek Sherrod, LB Jamar Chaney, LB K.J. Wright, S Zach Smith

Key losses

OG Anthony Strauder, TE Nelson Hurst, DT Jessie Bowman, LB Dominic Douglas, S Derek Pegues, S Keith Fitzhugh

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Anthony Dixon* (869 yards)
Tyson Lee* (1,519 yards)
Brandon McRae* (518 yards)
Dominic Douglas (116)
K.J. Wright* (4)
Derek Pegues, Keith Fitzhugh, Karlin Brown* (2)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sept. 5 Jackson State
Sept. 10 at Auburn
Sept. 19 at Vanderbilt
Sept. 26 LSU
Oct. 3 Georgia Tech
Oct. 10 Houston
Oct. 17 at Middle Tennessee
Oct. 24 Florida
Oct. 31 at Kentucky
Nov. 7 OPEN
Nov. 14 Alabama
Nov. 21 at Arkansas (Little Rock)
Nov. 28 Ole Miss

1. Mullen sets the tone: The Bulldogs got their first taste of the way first-year coach Dan Mullen likes to do things thanks to the no-holds-barred offseason conditioning program coordinated by new strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis, who worked with Mullen at both Florida and Utah. Then came the high-octane pace of spring practice. There shouldn't be any surprises about what kind of tempo Mullen expects when preseason practice begins in August.

2. Strong up the middle: Jamar Chaney's return at middle linebacker after missing last season with a broken leg is huge for the defense. But the combination of junior college newcomer Pernell McPhee at tackle and Chaney at middle linebacker really makes Mississippi State formidable up the middle. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound McPhee can play both end and tackle and showed star potential in the spring.

3. Lean, mean Dixon: After ballooning up to 255 pounds, senior running back Anthony Dixon worked himself back into great shape and proved that the Bulldogs will be able to lean on him next season as Mullen's spread offense evolves. It's the best Dixon has looked and the best he's moved since his sophomore season when he rushed for 1,066 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Bulldogs need a similar season from him in 2009.

Fall questions

1. Lee or Russell?: If the Bulldogs were to play a game today, Tyson Lee would clearly be their starting quarterback. But the Bulldogs don't have to play a game today, and heralded freshman Tyler Russell arrives on campus this summer. Expecting Russell to come in and learn the offense well enough to be the starter in the opening game is probably a stretch. But he's a big-time talent and will no doubt push Lee, which only helps everybody.

2. Right stuff from offensive line: The good news for the Bulldogs is just about everybody from last season is back. The bad news is that the Bulldogs didn't play particularly well on the offensive line a year ago. It remains a work in progress for new offensive line coach and running game coordinator Mark Hevesy, who spent the spring teaching a different style to his guys up front. We'll see in the fall how much they've improved.

3. Freshman receivers: Junior college newcomer Leon Berry looks like he's a keeper judging by his spring. He's going to need some help from the group of freshman receivers arriving this summer. How well and how quickly the likes of Chad Bumphis, Dennis Thames, Chris Smith and Brandon Heavens pick things up will go a long way toward determining what Mississippi State can and can't do on offense next fall.

Recapping Mississippi State's spring game

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Dan Mullen's first spring at Mississippi State has come and gone. The spread offense has been installed, as well as the tone Mullen wants to set for the program.

How it all comes together in the fall, especially when you throw in several newcomers expected to play, remains to be seen.

But Mullen couldn't be more pleased with the response from the fans and the way the team responded to him and the new staff this spring. A record crowd of 31,606 showed up Saturday for the Bulldogs' Maroon and White spring game. As a comparison, the Bulldogs had fewer than 10,000 people at Davis Wade Stadium for last season's spring game.

It's going to take some time (and another recruiting class or two) before the Bulldogs will be able to run the spread the way Mullen wants to, but the offense moved the ball pretty well Saturday.

Senior running back Anthony Dixon will undoubtedly be the offensive staple next fall, and he led all rushers with 59 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

Quarterback Tyson Lee finished the game strongly, which was a good sign, and his backup, Chris Relf, hooked up with O'Neal Wilder on a 63-yard bomb to set up a touchdown. Wilder will be a key for the Bulldogs next season, and it looks like junior college newcomer Leon Barry heads into the fall as Mississippi State's go-to receiver. He had eight catches for 125 yards, and Lee looked for him often.

Incoming freshman receivers such as Chad Bumphis, Dennis Thames, Chris Smith and Brandon Heavens will get every chance to show what they can do when they arrive this summer.

Here's a link to the Mississippi State Web site, which has a roundup and stats from the Bulldogs' spring game.

Here's another link to an interesting story about Mullen and how he's gone out of his way to make Mississippi State football a family affair.

Lunchtime links: Lee braced for a battle

April, 16, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

Here's some of what's out there in the SEC two days before Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee play their spring games:

  • South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia suffers a minor ankle injury in an intramural basketball game.

Mullen eyes start of first spring at Mississippi State

March, 19, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

The unofficial kickoff to the Dan Mullen era at Mississippi State opens March 24 when the Bulldogs start spring practice.

Mullen gave his pre-spring State of the Cowbells address on Thursday, and here are a few highlights:

  • Wade Bonner, one of the more versatile athletes on the team, has moved from running back to safety and will try his hand there this spring. Mullen said it's been a productive offseason for his safeties, including Zach Smith and Charles Mitchell. Mullen said moving Bonner was a case of having a lot of depth at running back and the need to get Bonner on the field somewhere. "He's just a great athlete for us," Mullen said. "Whether we use him offensively or defensively, we need to find a place for him to make sure he's out there on the field."
  • Mississippi State offensive coordinator Les Koenning estimated last month that senior running back Anthony Dixon was down around 225 pounds. Mullen said Dixon is actually closer to 235 pounds, but has lost 20 pounds. Dixon reported in January weighing 255. "I want him to be as big and strong as he can be, being as fast as he can be ... whatever weight that is," Mullen said. "If he can handle 235, that's great. If he can bulk up and handle 245, that's great. If he can't, we'll have him drop down. There's not an exact weight I want him at."
  • Despite some of the stereotypes associated with a spread offense, Mullen said Dixon can expect to touch the ball often in 2009. The Bulldogs want to run the ball, especially with them being so top-heavy at tight end and fullback. "We're going to be a big running team," Mullen said. "I think the misconception sometimes of the spread is that you throw every down. Our version of the spread offense is that we're going to be balanced. Really, all the spread offense is about is trying to spread the entire field and trying to find matchups, whether it be in the run game, the pass game, whether it be with three tight ends and one receiver or four receivers and no tight ends."
  • Mullen joked that the biggest adjustment for him this spring would be keeping his cool. "I have high standards and expectations of what I want to see and how I expect things to be," Mullen said. "I think there's going to be a learning curve for the players, but I'll try to keep myself calm for the spring so I don't go too nuts." The Bulldogs' practices this spring will be open to the public.
  • Cornerback Anthony Johnson, receiver Arceto Clark and defensive back Maurice Langston, a junior college newcomer, will remain suspended from the team "until further investigation," Mullen said.
  • Among the players that will be out or limited this spring while recovering from injuries are receiver Brandon McRae, running back Robert Elliott and tight end Marcus Green. Receiver O'Neal Wilder, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will return to the practice field. "He'll be full go for what he can do," Mullen said.
  • Mullen has been particularly impressed with the way the players have bought into strength coach Matt Balis' conditioning program. "He's the best strength coach in the country," Mullen said of Balis. "When the kids see him at first, they think he's a little nuts. But they do buy in because they see progress. I think that's what happened, the kids started seeing the development and seeing their bodies change, seeing them physically improve, that it became a lot easier for them to buy in." Mullen said it's not uncommon for Balis to be in the office at 2 a.m. getting ready for an early-morning workout.
  • Similar to the Champions program at Florida, Mullen has implemented his own Champions Club at Mississippi State. The idea is to reward players who are "champions" on and off the field, in the weight room, in the classroom and in the community. Right now, (16 players) have made the cut. Among them: Jamar Chaney, Tyson Lee, Derek Sherrod, Marcus Washington, Mitchell and Bonner. "Those (16) have bought into what we are preaching," Mullen said. "What we need to do in this second quarter through spring ball is try to double that."
  • The biggest void Mullen sees heading into the spring is a lack of playmakers at the receiver position, although the Bulldogs signed several receivers in this class that they're hopeful can be immediate contributors in the fall. Freshmen Chad Bumphis, Dennis Thames, Chris Smith and Brandon Heavens will all get a chance to show what they've got when they arrive this summer. Junior college signee Leon Berry is already on campus and will go through spring ball. "Hopefully, we'll find some guys in the spring that are playmakers," Mullen said.