When Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen started evaluating film of Auburn quarterback Sean White, his mind went to an eyebrow-raising comparison — former Bulldogs signal-caller Dak Prescott.
At first glance, there might not be much in common between the 6-foot Auburn sophomore quarterback and the 6-foot-2 rookie starter for the Dallas Cowboys.
But Mullen sees a similarity between the two in one key area of their skill sets, and it has nothing do with their arms.
“(White is) a very, very willing runner. And by that, I mean a productive, willing runner,” Mullen said Monday afternoon in his weekly press conference. “He might not be the game-breaker that some guys are. He reminds me a lot like how Dak Prescott was as a runner for us. He’s going to get you some tough, gritty yards when he needs to. He is going to extend plays and make things happen with his legs.”
Thanks to sacks, White has just 57 yards on 34 carries this season for Auburn and has only finished two games with positive yardage — blowout wins against struggling Sun Belt programs Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe. His first career touchdown on the ground came last Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe on a 3-yard scramble.
Prescott rushed for 2,521 yards and 41 touchdowns in his four record-breaking seasons at Mississippi State. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL draft and was thrust into the starting job after Tony Romo suffered a preseason injury.
This season, Auburn has relied on White to lead the offense with efficient passing. He has completed 68.4 percent of his passes through five games for 983 yards, 5 touchdowns and just 1 interception.
“They’ve been able to put some stuff together that he does well and executes,” Mullen said. “Good decision-maker. Accurate passer.”
White has had some opportunities to make plays on the ground for Auburn, but designed quarterback runs have mostly gone to backup John Franklin III.
Franklin, who played his junior-college ball in Mississippi, is definitely the type of game-breaker Mullen referred to in his press conference. He’s averaging 12.69 yards per carry this season, thanks in large part to his 80-yard touchdown in Week 5.
“I think they bring (Franklin) more as a Wildcat quarterback, it seems like,” Mullen said. “He’s coming in to run the football for them. Give a change of pace when they want to run the quarterback some and protect their starter, not let him take those hits.”
Here are some more highlights of what Mullen had to say about Auburn in his Monday press conference.
On when his team started preparing for Auburn: “At the end of last week. We did a lot of recruiting in the bye week for the coaches, and then you do a little bit of evaluating our program and what we need to improve, what we need to work on. That’s done at the beginning of the week. Thursday, Friday, started looking at Auburn just to get a little jump-start ahead. We haven’t practiced it. Nothing in practice. Just more of game-planning.”
On Kevin Steele’s Auburn defense: “Obviously they’ve got a great defensive front. You take No. 1 for them — probably would’ve been an easy first-round pick last year. When you get a guy like that back that sets the tone… defensive end, No. 55, is healthy. They’ve got a couple of guys who were No. 1 recruits in the country on the defensive line. A lot of talent that way helps.
“They’ve got some great corners outside on the edge to shut you down. You can shut people down, you can cover, and you have one of the best d-lines in the country — you’re going to be pretty salty on D.”
On Gus Malzahn’s confidence in White: “You watch Game 1, I think they rotated a bunch. They played a bunch of different quarterbacks and rolled in. They’ve kind of settled down on Sean, so I think that gives him some confidence out there on the field. He’s been in the system a little bit longer. I think he understands the offense.
“With Gus, they’re going to build around his strengths. With him being the guy, they’re going to do things that he does well. You’ve seen him when they do that. I guess like all of us, you kind of get a couple weeks into the season and see what type of direction and what type of team you’re going to have this year and then you start building in that direction.”
On what he remembers from Mississippi State’s 2014 home victory vs. Auburn: “Winning. That was a great game. It was an unbelievable atmosphere. Best atmosphere here that I’ve seen since I’ve been the head coach. A lot of people have said that was the biggest game in the history of this school. To win that game was fantastic, just with the crowd and everything.
“I don’t know, all kinds of little things. I remember, I think we jumped up 21-0, and I looked at the clock and went, ‘All right, we’re in good shape.’ We jumped to a really fast, really early lead. Holy cow, we’ve got to make sure we stay focused. They’re an excellent football team, and you’ve got to play a four-quarter game. Then all of a sudden, you look up and say, ‘We’re in good shape,’ … the second you do that, you’re in trouble.
“It was a great day. It was a special day here on campus, getting a big win like that. It’s a great memory that everyone involved in that game will have.”