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April 12, 2011Continuing our series profiling Mississippi State's quarterbacks, we take a look now at the relationship Chris Relf, Tyler Russell and Dylan Favre have with each other, both through their eyes and their coach, Dan Mullen. Dak Prescott, as a true freshman who has never played, is off-limits to the media, so naturally, there will not be a profile of him. You can expect that story in March of 2012. Tomorrow the five-part series wraps up with a look at Dan Mullen, the self-proclaimed quarterback developer.
Generally, competitors do not have strong, positive relationships with each other. Dan Mullen and Houston Nutt likely won't be attending each other's Memorial Day parties. The Energizer Bunny probably won't go to the Duracell offices asking for advice, and Nike would never be happy to see Adidas have the best sales numbers in a fiscal year.
Not so, however, for the three young men competing for Mississippi State's starting quarterback spot.
"All three, we have a great relationship," Dylan Favre said. "There's no kind of hostility or anything like that. I'm one of Tyler and Chris' biggest fans, and it's vice-versa."
Favre is the freshman of the group, though his swagger and confidence may lead onlookers to think otherwise. Tyler Russell, entering his redshirt sophomore season, is the most heralded member of the group, and he arrived at Mississippi State with, perhaps, the highest expectations of any quarterback recruit for the Bulldogs. Chris Relf is, of course, the senior and most experienced one, and he seems to be the starter for 2011.
Relf, Russell, Favre and even Mullen say that with their varied backgrounds, personalities and level of experience, they learn a lot from each other.
While none of the three are stars at this point, each of them have characteristics prized in quarterbacks. Russell is the polished passer and the natural quarterback, Relf is the runner and Favre has the natural confidence and leadership abilities. Mullen said each one tries to learn from the strength of their peers.
"I think they all feed off of each other," Mullen said. "I mean, Tyler is going to go out there and try and drop his shoulder and run somebody over because Chris does. Chris is gonna be 'ra-ra' because Dylan is. All of them kind of try to feed off each other. When you spend that much time together as a group, that's what's going to happen."
Relf has gone from being the freshman seeking guidance from older teammates, to now being the go-to guy for Russell, Favre and true freshman Dak Prescott. Despite being a senior, he echoed Mullen's words and said they all have something to offer each other in their development.
"Basically, they feed off me and I feed off them," Relf said. "It's just a matter of us coming out here and working."
In particular, Russell said Favre's attitude on the practice field has been infectious to the two veterans who have typically been less than outspoken.
"Me and Chris are pretty quiet, but Dylan brings a little ra-ra to the offense, and stuff like that," Russell said. "He gets me and Chris up, so he's started doing stuff like that. It makes us want to get pumped up. It all works out."
Russell said he tried to lean on Relf and then-senior Tyson Lee when he arrived at MSU after his senior year of high school, but he said it was hard because they were doing the same thing he was - trying to learn Mullen's offense. He is grateful for the time they gave him and said he and Relf are happy now to take in Prescott under their wings.
While it may sound like team-speak, Russell said they all have a strong relationship and one common goal - winning games. He said that while they are competitive, they still support each other in working toward that goal.
"Oh man, we love each other," Russell said. "We're like brothers. I can critique Dak, Chris and Dylan, and they tell me what I'm doing wrong. In the end, the best players are going to play, but we want what's best for the team. We're not selfish. We were sharing snaps out there today, and nothing was going through my head like, 'Chris, he got this many reps,' or, 'Dylan got this many reps.' We pretty much even it out."
Favre, who said he probably annoyed Relf by asking for so much help when he first got to Starkville, said the three quarterbacks have a very constructive relationship that results in each of them improving their game.
"I mean, obviously, we're out there competing for a job every single day, but at the same time, we help each other out," Favre said. "If I see something that I think they could have done better, I'll let them know. It's the same thing with Chris, if he has a question, or I have a question, we just all help each other out. A lot of people might think that we don't really talk much because of the competition that's going on, but it's not like that at all."
Again, while there are no superstars - at least not yet - at the quarterback position, MSU in better shape now with Favre, Russell, Relf and Prescott than it has been in a long time, and some would say it is the deepest group the Dawgs have ever fielded.
Mullen often likes to reminisce about being in the meeting room at Florida with Tim Tebow, John Brantley and Cam Newton as his three quarterbacks. He knows he was lucky to have three players of that caliber all together, but he hopes MSU's quarterbacks have the same affect on each other as his three Gators did. They made each other better.
It's clear Mullen knows the individual strengths of each of his guys, and he thinks having them see each other do well only encourages them to improve themselves.
"They are competing against each other, and they know, hey, you know, 'boy this guy's really throwing the ball, putting the ball in some tight spots, so I better be able to do that,' And, 'wow that other guy, he's a pretty physical guy, I better be able to do that.' 'Boy, this guy's going and getting the team celebrating and fired up, I better go do that.' I think as a group it makes them better," Mullen said.
Mullen is certainly hoping the old adage holds true: competition breeds success.