January 11, 2014

Top 5 Most Influential Athletes of 2013: #3 Tyler Russel

Now that the season has come to a close, it's time to look back at the year that was Mississippi State football. The Bulldogs finished the season 7-6 after three-straight wins ending the year and their fourth-consecutive trip to a bowl. Even with just one less win than the year before, the Bulldogs season was far more successful considering the circumstances.

Reflecting back on the year, we have come up with the top five most instrumental players for the Bulldogs in 2013. Some of these might surprise you.

Number Five: Gabe Jackson:

Number Four: Jameon Lewis:

Number Three: Tyler Russell:

Many people looked at the roster returning for the Bulldogs in 2013 and felt that senior quarterback Tyler Russell was bound to break every record in Bulldog history. The talented passer was a quarterback that MSU had never had on campus. Russell had an elite arm and accuracy and great pocket poise that sometimes was almost too cool because of the shots he was bound to take.

The Bulldog offense never fit Russell, however, making the accomplishments that he reached even bigger. Running a read-option style offense, Russell would eventually take one too many hits. The fifth-year thrower got a concussion in the first game of the season giving way to Dak Prescott for the next few games.

While Prescott shined on the field in the offense, Russell was inserted once every few drives and eventually would be set to finish out the season after Prescott encountered his own injuries. It was Russell who wouldn't finish out the year, however. Russell took a hit on an interception against Alabama and the hit would prove to be the deciding fate for his MSU career.

But that one hit wasn't enough to keep him from making an impact. Being the tough competitor that he is, Russell gave it one more shot the next week against Arkansas knowing that his team needed him as Prescott healed. Russell took shot after shot but still delivered the ball down the field. It would prove to be one of the biggest games of his career as the Bulldogs faced bowl elimination at 4-6.

Russell struck receivers down the field and on the sidelines picking apart the Arkansas defense to the tune of 263 yards on 18-28 passing with two touchdowns. With the ball game tied and five minutes left in the game, Russell started from his own nine. He completed four passes and rushed for a first down getting the Bulldogs down to the 25 yard line but took a shot to his shoulder on the final pass and it would eventually end his Bulldog career.

The Bulldogs ended up winning the ball game in overtime thanks to true freshman Damian Williams' 25-yard touchdown run, but Russell's performance will be forever remembered as a huge part to the Bulldogs' season.

Russell ended the year 71-109 with 875 passing yards and five touchdowns in just seven games. While Prescott will be remembered for his on the field production, Russell meant more to the team than most realize. Helping develop Prescott and Williams were part of his duties as the senior quarterback and he did that as well as possible.

Russell ends his illustrious career as one of the most decorated players in school history despite just one year as a full time starter. He ends 1st in passing touchdowns (42) and passing efficiency (137.29); 2nd in completion % (.587); 3rd in passing yardage (5,441), completions (410), interception % (.0330) and total touchdowns (45); 4th in 200-yard passing games (10), total offense (5,558) and yards-per-attempt (7.784); 6th in pass attempts (699).

Russell might not have put in the work on the field as much as expected this season, but he was certainly one of the most influential players on the squad.

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