Mississippi State senior quarterback Tyler Russell will make it in the NFL.
So says Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, whose team opens the season Saturday in Houston's Reliant Stadium against Russell and the Bulldogs. Russell certainly has the size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), the throwing arm, and a strong junior season on his resume to back up Gundy's prediction. Yet, there is little discussion of Russell among the top passers in the college game.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt ranks 11 quarterbacks on his list of the top 100 seniors in the college game, Russell not among them. So do we chalk up Gundy's praise to standard coachspeak lauding the opponents, no matter their merits? Perhaps not this time.
Gundy pointed out to newsok.com that he made the same prediction for an off-radar quarterback last year, and to this point, has been validated.
"I said the same thing about the guy at Arizona last year," Gundy said. "I think this guy's an NFL quarterback."
The guy at Arizona last year was Matt Scott, who has emerged as an undrafted free agent to the brink of making the Jacksonville Jaguars' regular-season roster. Scott has survived enough cuts to be one four Jags quarterbacks, needing to beat out Mike Kafka to earn the No. 3 quarterback job. Jags coaches called 11 pass attempts for Scott against the Philadelphia Eagles over the weekend, eight more than Kafka.
OSU offensive coordinator Glenn Spencer on Russell: "He's performed. He's moved the ball up and down the field on people ... just his experience to know he can make the throws and he's not going to get flustered, that's a concern."
So does Gundy's next stop need to be as an NFL quarterback evaluator? If Russell torches the Cowboys the way Scott did last season, perhaps the answer is yes. Scott shredded Oklahoma State for 320 yards and two touchdowns on 28 of 41 passing in a 59-38 win.