HOOVER, Ala. — No matter how you look at it, Dak Prescott is one of the biggest icons in the history of Mississippi State football.
The program and university reached new heights with Prescott under center, peaking during the 2014 season when they jumped to No. 1 in the polls.
Prescott was not only Mississippi State’s best player in the last couple of years, but he was also the program’s biggest leader.
“Dak was such a strong leader that there is a little bit of that missing,” Mullen said. “You know, one of the things that, good and bad, he was almost such a strong leader that other guys didn’t have to step up and even younger guys to step up in the leadership roles. So, there’s a lot of new things going on.”
Mullen put some of the onus on the Bulldogs coaching staff. With so many new players, Mullen believes the coaches may have to step in more while the players find their voices and roles.
“Our coaching staff has to step up and help fill whatever void of leadership there is, left by Dak, and hope either we’re filling it, that void, and as we’re filling it, we’re developing people to take that place or — I don’t know,” Mullen said.
“I think this year’s team, looking at this offensively, that we might not have that one leader, but there is the opportunity to have more leaders. Kind of two years ago, we had a great group of strong leadership throughout the team, and I think this year’s team has that opportunity to have that take place.”
Replacing Prescott on the field may be even tougher than filling the leadership void. Over his career, Prescott threw for 9,376 yards and 70 touchdowns.
Wide receiver Fred Ross will be one of the players helping the new quarterbacks. Ross caught 88 passes for 1,007 yards and five touchdowns last season.
“It has definitely been different without Dak,” Ross said. “All of the quarterbacks have been working hard and doing things the coaches have asked of them.”
Mullen said the quarterback battle would be “interesting.” Nick Fitzgerald, Nick Tiano, Elijah Staley and Damian Williams are the four guys competing for the opportunity to replace Prescott under center.
“I’m not trying to hold back or play it close to the vest with our quarterback. We had four guys competing for the job in spring ball,” Mullen said. “All of them were still in contention for the job. No one really separated themselves to pull away from one of the other four at that position. I’m hoping over the summer that someone does do that.
“I will be a happy guy to name a starting quarterback and find somebody that has separated themselves from the other three, throughout the summer, whether it’s all of the extra work they put in over the summer, if it happens in the first week of training camp, great. If it has to happen game week, fantastic.”