Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott trades dual-threat tendencies for polish
It was little surprise that Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott was the talk of the SEC teleconference Wednesday. Coming off of a game at Missouri where he threw for more than 300 yards, ran for almost 50 more and collected four touchdowns through the air, the senior’s name has resurfaced in a fair number of recent Heisman Trophy discussions, as well.
As a result, Prescott had the majority of SEC coaches doling out praise over the phone. Just don’t ask coach Dan Mullen what he thinks.
“You guys vote on that stuff,” Mullen said when a reporter asked if Prescott should be a Heisman contender. “I don’t look at that. You guys look at that and see if he’s worthy.
“I like to wait until the end of the season and look at what everyone’s done and produced. If he plays really well, I wouldn’t see why (he’s) not (a contender).”
So, Coach, is Prescott playing really well?
“I think Dak has done a fabulous job of continuing to develop and really do (what I call) unspectacular things,” Mullen said.
A strange way of saying yes, but a yes nonetheless. During a stellar 2014 campaign, Prescott’s name appeared more in highlight plays than it did on the back of jerseys in Davis Wade Stadium. This year’s Prescott has lacked the same flair. It’s a shame for highlight reels everywhere, but Mullen couldn’t be happier.
Statistically, signs of Prescott’s improvements are somewhat elusive. In most categories, he hasn’t shown much growth since last year. Through nine games, his QBR is one tenth of a point lower than it was for all of last season, he’s thrown for just as many touchdowns per game (two), he’s averaging four yards fewer throwing per game and under two tenths of a yard fewer per rush.
But there are three categories that highlight a conscious, profitable change by the senior quarterback:
- As one of the nation’s premier dual-threat quarterbacks, Prescott rushed an average of 16 times per game last year. This year, that number is under 10. Naturally, fewer rushes lead to fewer rushing yards (46 per game this season as opposed to last year’s 76), but that change has not come without an upside — Prescott’s decision-making has improved drastically.
- His completion percentage is up to 67 percent from 62 percent last year, and while Prescott’s junior campaign saw him throw 11 interceptions in 400 attempts, the quarterback has given the ball up just once in 300 passes as a senior — a bad pass in a game against Kentucky where he was otherwise perfect, accounting for six total touchdowns.
- But while Prescott’s heightened maturity and his near-total eradication of mistakes are certainly substantial improvements, there is no denying his duality — the main factor that made him part of the Heisman discussion last season — has fallen off some this season.
That hasn’t made the senior any less threatening to opposing coaches, though. Just ask Kentucky’s Mark Stoops.
“I told him after our game, ‘Thank goodness you’re done, because I’m tired of playing against you,'” Stoops said Wednesday.
Even Alabama coach Nick Saban — whose team heads to Starkville Saturday — tipped his hat to Prescott Wednesday.
“He’s really an outstanding passer and is always a threat to run, whether it’s on designed runs or scrambles,” Saban said. “I’m sure he’s worked hard on becoming a more efficient and effective passer, and he’s certainly been able to do that.”
Whether Mullen is looking at the discussions or not, Dak Prescott is certainly in the running for the Heisman, if a little towards the back of the pack. But a solid game — running, passing, or both — against Alabama Saturday would go a long way towards making the senior a favorite once again.